World Cup 2022: France boss Didier Deschamps praises 'scintillating' Lionel Messi ahead of final

France manager Didier Deschamps speaks during a press conference after France beat Morocco 2-0 in the semi-finals of the FIFA World Cup 2022 in Qatar
(Image credit: FIFA via Getty Images)

France (opens in new tab) manager Didier Deschamps has acknowledged Lionel Messi's 'scintillating form' as he prepares his side for Sunday's World Cup 2022 (opens in new tab) final against Argentina (opens in new tab).

Les Bleus are aiming to become the first team since Brazil in 1962 to retain the World Cup, and standing in their way are the Messi-inspired Albiceleste – for whom victory would provide the perfect ending to their legendary captain's international career.

Deschamps' France crossed paths with Messi's Argentina en route to glory at Russia 2018, winning a 4-3 thriller in the last 16 – so the 54-year-old knows all too well what to expect from Messi: the unexpected.

Speaking after Wednesday's 2-0 semi-final win over Morocco, Deschamps – who captained France to their first World Cup triumph, on home soil in 1998 – said:

"Lionel Messi has been in scintillating form. Four years ago at the World Cup, he played as a centre-forward against us, which caught us by surprise – whereas now, he's playing behind the [centre-forward], picking up the ball a lot and running with it.

"We're going to try and counter Messi's threat and stop him influencing the game – and they'll [Argentina] try to stop the influence of some of my players."

This final is being billed as a battle between Kylian Mbappe and Messi (opens in new tab) – and rightly so: France and Argentina's respective star men have been the two standout performers of this tournament.

Entering this enticing encounter, the pair are tied at the top of the Golden Boot standings with five goals apiece. France's Olivier Giroud and Argentina's Julian Alvarez are both one further back on four.

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Tom Hancock started freelancing for FourFourTwo in April 2019 and has also written for The Analyst and When Saturday Comes, among others. He supports Wycombe Wanderers and has a soft spot for Wealdstone. A self-confessed statto, he has been known to watch football with a spreadsheet (or several) open...