Messi, Mbappe: Who will make Sportsmail’s France-Argentina combined squad ahead of the World Cup finals?
Having highly talented attackers of the caliber of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi at their disposal will always remain a dream for most managers (unless you get the job at Paris Saint-Germain).
But imagine not only having these two at your disposal, but the entire roster of reigning world champions and defending champions of South America.
With France and Argentina clashing in the World Cup final in Qatar on Sunday and a chance to make the history books, Les Bleus coach Didier Deschamps and Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni face several difficult decisions when choosing their starting XI .
And under, sports mail‘s Max Mathews introduces his joint Franco-Argentine team ahead of this weekend’s tournament spectacle.
Kylian Mbappe’s France and Lionel Messi’s Argentina will contest the World Cup final on Sunday
The PSG teammates will go head-to-head, but what if you could pick both on the same team?
Below, Sportsmail’s Max Mathews unveils his joint Franco-Argentine XI ahead of the final
THE LINEUP (4-3-1-2)
Goalkeeper – Hugo Lloris
The position of the goalkeeper is a close decision.
Argentina’s Emiliano Martinez has come a long way since his one-game loan at League Two Oxford United 11 years ago and is a penalty taker who leads from behind in terms of the Albiceleste’s combative, fearless style.
But Lloris is hugely experienced at the highest level, leading his side to World Cup victory in 2018 and – some forget this – pressured England’s Harry Kane to miss the second penalty in the quarter-final win by going down the right path.
Right-Back – Nahuel Molina
With all the (legitimate) brouhaha about the World Cup’s best assist, Lionel Messi’s lovely slide rule back pass leading up to the opening set in the four-goal quarter-finals against Holland, it’s easy to forget the goalscorer.
But Nahuel Molina was quietly effective for Scaloni, switching between a back four and a back five, neutralizing opposing threats – like Ivan Perisic in the semis – and even finishing at the end of that beautiful Messi pass to finish calmly.
He’s also a more natural right-back than France’s man filling in there – one of the centre-backs mentioned below in this team.
Versatile, combative defender Nahuel Molina (right) is named as a right-back on our writer’s team
Centre-Back – Cristian Romero
It’s always entertaining to watch Romero. Not always a good thing for a centre-back who constantly offers fans a roller coaster of emotions. But the 24-year-old has enjoyed a resurgence after the country’s hugely disappointing opening game.
His side started very soon after recovering from injury and were stunned in a 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia – the Shock of the entire competition – and the Spurs star was probably to blame for both goals.
He was replaced by Lisandro Martinez before the hour mark and many thought his tournament was over. Not so. How successfully he ties up Mbappe and striker Olivier Giroud on Sunday could decide the final.
Centre-Back – Jules Kounde
A surprising inclusion about Bayern Munich’s Benjamin Pavard as a previous right-back in this World Cup and perhaps also a surprising inclusion as a central defender in this team.
But Nicolas Otamendi, 34, is prone to hasty challenges and a trio of French defenders, Raphael Varane, Ibrahima Konate and Dayot Upamecano have all been stricken with illness.
Pictures show all three – and indeed all players who have been struggling with a virus returned to training on the eve of the final, meaning they can play on Sunday.
But it’s not guaranteed and Deschamps could decide to move a fully fit Jules Kounde to central defense to fill a gap in his defence. With this in mind, the versatile Barcelona defender gets the nod alongside Romero.
Jules Kounde is called up to center half amid doubts over the fitness of three French defenders
Left-Back – Theo Hernandez
France’s squad density borders on the ridiculous. Didier Deschamps could well build a competitive World Cup squad made up of the players he left out of the 26-man group and that depth was proven in their opening game.
A superbly talented left-back named Hernandez is ruled out 13 minutes into the tournament opener with a nasty knee injury? No problem, the boss has another highly talented left-back by the name of Hernandez.
Substituting seamlessly for brother Lucas, Theo pulled off a fine improvised acrobatic performance in the semi-final win over Morocco to score the first goal and bonded really well with Mbappe.
Defensive Midfield – Aurelien Tchouameni
It took a lot to surpass England’s Declan Rice in the quarter-finals, but Real Madrid’s Aurelien Tchouameni pulled it off.
It’s telling how little France have missed out on injured world-class players like N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba, the engineering pair who spearheaded their world-champion squad in 2018, and much of that is thanks to the defensive midfielder.
Whoever plays alongside him in midfield, maybe Youssouf Fofana, maybe Adrien Rabiot, knows he has Tchouameni’s protection alongside and behind him. The future of Los Blancos midfield, along with high-flyer Eduardo Camavinga.
Center Midfield – Rodrigo De Paul
Calling Rodrigo De Paul ‘Lionel Messi’s protector’ does him a huge disservice. Sure, he’s on the lookout for the little wizard, and he will fight you (without being sent off) if you foul his teammate.
But he is a wonderfully gifted playmaker, able to handle both sides of the game – silks and steel – with similar ease and has the tactical acumen and awareness to fill various roles in midfield.
For example, if this team wanted to switch to a 4-4-2, De Paul could easily switch to the nominal right side of midfield, with Griezmann on the left. They want to be in the trenches with a player like De Paul.
Middle Midfield – Enzo Fernandez
Of course, there are many more talented opportunities for our team to play in midfield. Camavinga, Rabiot, Leandro Paredes, and Alexis MacAllister. But are any of them as fun as Enzo Fernandez?
The 21-year-old, who is being targeted by Premier League club Liverpool and may be the next star to leave Benfica in a million-dollar deal, has won just nine caps and made just 13 league appearances in Europe.
His namesake is Enzo Francescoli (one of Zinedine Zidane’s idols as a child along with Michel Platini) and if he can emulate a third of the career of either of those players, he will be a player. Keep an eye on this kid.
Argentinian duo Enzo Fernandez (left) and Rodrigo De Paul are chosen as central midfielders
Attacking Midfield – Antoine Griezmann
Griezmann is often underestimated at the highest level. He has never won a LaLiga title, they say. He didn’t really do it at Barcelona. Managers don’t know what his best position is. He don’t know what his best position is, they add. ignore her
Griezmann is a little reminiscent of Kai Havertz, another lithe left-footed attacking midfielder who drifts seemingly aimlessly across the pitch before summoning a stunning game-changing ability out of nowhere.
Exhibit A: Giroud’s cross against England. Exhibit B: Mbappe’s cross against Denmark. There are many other examples. You don’t play 73 games in a row for the world champion if you don’t have something about yourself.
Forward – Lionel Messi
The potentially least controversial decisions of the entire team are forwards. Sure, I could knock out a midfielder and have Olivier Giroud as my central figurehead instead, while Messi cuts to their stronger sides on the right and Mbappe on the left.
But Messi can play as a two-man forward like he did with Manchester City’s Julian Alvarez. He can do anything, anywhere. If you put aside all his career achievements ahead of this World Cup, you still have plenty of magic moments.
Messi (left) and Mbappe (right) form an all-star attacking pairing in Sportsmail’s team
A goal against Saudi Arabia, a goal against Mexico, a brilliant performance against Poland (although he missed a penalty), a goal against Australia, a goal and an assist against Holland, a goal and two assists against Croatia. At 35 years old. Absurd.
Forward – Kylian Mbappe
Mbappe and Messi, PSG teammates, the best of the current generation (don’t come for me Cristiano Ronaldo fans) and the best of the next, the two current top scorers at the World Cup and the top two on my team.
I shouldn’t have to justify myself – he’s just really, really good at football. Even in a “calmer” game against England in the quarter-finals, England’s (largely successful) plan to stop him opened up time and space for others.
The 23-year-old has already achieved what Ronaldo and possibly Messi may never achieve in their careers – win a World Cup. Can he lift another on Sunday? Don’t blame him.
Sportsmail’s last final combination France-Argentina XI, playing in a 4-3-1-2 formation
https://www.dailymail.co.uk/sport/football/article-11546631/Messi-Mbappe-makes-Sportsmails-combined-France-Argentina-XI-ahead-World-Cup-final.html?ns_mchannel=rss&ns_campaign=1490&ito=1490 Messi, Mbappe: Who will make Sportsmail’s France-Argentina combined squad ahead of the World Cup finals?