Messi vs Mbappe: Comparing PSG stars ahead of World Cup final

The Argentina great meets his younger club teammate in Sunday’s showpiece

Pa Sport Staff
Wednesday 14 December 2022 21:05 GMT
Kylian Mbappé runs to crowd to apologise for hitting fan with ball

Paris Saint-Germain team-mates Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe will go head-to-head in Sunday’s World Cup final as Argentina take on reigning champions France.

Messi, at the age of 35, is looking to win his first World Cup at – in all probability – his last tournament while Mbappe, 12 years his junior, will join an elite group of players to have successfully defended the title should France repeat their feat of Russia 2018.

Messi and Mbappe jointly lead the race for the Golden Boot with five goals apiece.

Messi has failed to score in only one of his six starts, although three goals have come from the penalty spot. He has also produced three assists.

Mbappe has scored twice on two occasions and one of his two blank games was as a 63rd-minute substitute in the defeat to Tunisia.

Messi’s spot-kick in the semi-final win over Croatia was his 11th World Cup goal in total and took him above Gabriel Batistuta’s 10 as Argentina’s record scorer at the tournament.

He needs one more to equal Pele’s tally of World Cup goals while Sunday’s final appearance will see him surpass Germany’s Lothar Matthaus’ record of 25 appearances at the tournament.

With nine goals over two tournaments to his name Mbappe has already moved ahead of Pele for most World Cup goals scored before the age of 24.

If France retain their title he would become the first player after Pele in 1962 to win two World Cups by the age of 23. He is four behind Just Fontaine’s French record of 13 – although he scored all of his at the 1958 tournament.

Messi has long since been the undisputed talisman for Argentina but the pressure on him to deliver at the tournament was great even before the opening shock defeat by Saudi Arabia.

He has scored the first goal four times and only once – against Saudi – has it not resulted in victory.

Two brilliant assists, one a visionary pass for Nahuel Molina against the Netherlands and a dazzling run from halfway to set up Julian Alvarez against Croatia, have only enhanced his importance.

In the absence of Karim Benzema there was more focus on Mbappe and he responded by scoring both goals against Denmark – including an 86th-minute winner – and with the game against Poland still in the balance he grabbed a double in the last 16 minutes to make things safe.

His two assists for Olivier Giroud, an enticing cross and clever through-ball, highlighted his all-round game.

Mbappe was kept largely under wraps as Morocco impressed despite going a goal down early in the semi-finals, but eventually the PSG star was given enough room to take aim, with his shot deflecting into the path of newly introduced Randal Kolo Muani for him to tap home in the 79th minute.

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