FIFA Men's World Cup
France is ready to rain on Lionel Messi's parade
FIFA Men's World Cup

France is ready to rain on Lionel Messi's parade

Updated Dec. 17, 2022 2:29 p.m. ET

DOHA, Qatar — The sound was sort of haunting. Following Argentina's decisive 3-0 win over Croatia in the World Cup semifinal on Tuesday, the words "Messi … Messi" echoed through the nearby metro station.

Thousands of fans dressed in the iconic blue and white striped Argentina jerseys with Lionel Messi's name and No. 10 on the back chanted the name of the greatest player of all time in a drawn out, slow burn kind of way.

This probably wasn't unique to that postgame experience as Messi and Argentina supporters have had a presence in Qatar for the last five weeks. Now, though, as other fan bases have returned home with their teams out, it seems like Doha is filled with only Argentinian supporters. In fact, walking down the streets of the city's downtown, day or night, you seldom see French flags or groups of people wearing Kylian Mbappé jerseys.

And these aren't just fans who have flown across the world from Argentina, by the way. These are people from around the world, from the Middle East to Europe to Asia that have come to Qatar hoping to see Messi make history.


So it wasn't surprising that on Saturday morning, the day before the highly anticipated World Cup final between football powerhouses France and Argentina at Lusail Stadium, that French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris was asked if he feels like this match gives off France against the world vibes.

"As long as we have the support of our fans, and we know the French people are behind us, then nothing else really matters," Lloris said. "Very few believed in us at the outset, at the beginning of this adventure. But now we are in the final four years after our last final, and we are going to pull out all the stops to try and win the game.

"Of course we know what Lionel Messi means in the history of football. But this is a match between France and Argentina at the end of the day."

France's Hugo Lloris reflects on how special it is to advance to the 2022 FIFA World Cup final

Hugo Lloris talked with Jenny Taft about how special it is to advance to the 2022 FIFA World Cup final with the France team. 

France hopes to become just the third team ever to win back-to-back titles (with Italy 1934-1938 and Pelé's Brazil in 1958-1962). Heading into this tournament, though, many doubted Les Bleus chances to repeat. Injuries to big-name players were among the reasons, but more than that was recent history which proves that World Cup champions usually disappoint four years later.

Take France in 1998, Italy in 2006, Spain in 2010 and Germany in 2014. None advanced out of the group stage at the next World Cup.

"We're looking forward to writing our own history and creating our own story," Lloris said. "It's going to be the toughest match of the tournament, it's the final. That goes without saying."

Defending champion France may be the bookies favorite, but Messi is the overarching storyline. The 35-year-old legend, who has said this would be his final World Cup, is one massive game away from doing what he's wanted to do most in his career. And that's to hoist the World Cup trophy as a champion. 

So how does Lloris, as France's captain, temper the emotions and all of the anticipation that must be running through his team?

"I believe the event is too massive to just focus on one player," he said. "It's a final between two big nations of football, between Argentina and France. Obviously when you face that type of player, you need a special focus on him. But it's not only about him. It's a strong team with a lot of talented players with a young generation of players, and you can feel that they are all dedicated to Leo Messi. But we will try to find the key to success in this game."

France beat Morocco in its semifinal match on Wednesday inside an Al Bayt Stadium that was jam-packed with an overwhelming majority of rowdy Atlas Lions fans. Feeling like they're playing a road game is nothing new for Les Bleus.

"Of course we'll have French fans in the stadium, but yes, it's true that most fans will perhaps support Argentina," manager Didier Deschamps said. "I think it will be a very festive atmosphere. I think Argentinians are a very passionate people and support their team as you'd expect. 

"But our opponents aren't in the crowd. Our opponents are the team we're facing on the pitch and they're a good team for us to be worrying about more than the fans."

Even if Deschamps, who has been France's manager for 10 years, sort of downplayed what the environment will be like at Sunday's final, he also understands the reality. And that is yes, most people watching at home and inside the stadium will be cheering for Messi. 

"I know that many people around the world, and perhaps some French people as well, hope that Lionel Messi wins the World Cup," Deschamps said. "But we're going to do everything to achieve our objective."

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Laken Litman covers college football, college basketball and soccer for FOX Sports. She previously wrote for Sports Illustrated, USA Today and The Indianapolis Star. She is the author of "Strong Like a Woman," published in spring 2022 to mark the 50th anniversary of Title IX. Follow her on Twitter @LakenLitman.


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