If Lionel Messi lifts the World Cup trophy it will not only represent a victory for Argentina’s diminutive captain but his unlikely new benefactor: Saudi Arabia. The team may have inflicted a shock, humiliating defeat upon Argentina in their opening game of the tournament, but Messi, paid to be an ambassador for Saudi under a reported £25m contract, could deliver a long-term prize worth far more – a chance to emulate Qatar and host the 2030 World Cup.
Fifa’s World Cup final press conference, featuring Gianni Infantino, is moments away. How far off-piste is he willing to go?
Over on Sky Sports News, Patrice Evra gave a blast of La Marseillaise while signing off from an interview looking ahead to Sunday’s final.
Which reminds me of this excellent article by Alex Marshall from 2015:
“The Marseillaise meant everything to the French again during the second world war, when it was sung by the resistance, having been banned by the Vichy government. Afterwards it somehow kept that vitality, becoming a rallying cry to rebuild the devastated country, with “To arms, citizens” proving just as useful in motivating bricklayers as it had been in galvanising soldiers.
“But since then, there is no denying that the song has become uncomfortable. It was often sung during France’s occupation of Algeria and its brutal, eight-year-long war of independence. The Beatles’ use of it in All You Need is Love and Serge Gainsbourg’s brilliant reggae cover – the hilarious Aux Armes et cætera – gave it a brief respite from that image, even for a few years making the anthem cool, but the fact that French nationalists tried to beat up Gainsbourg for his cheek says a lot about its political associations.
“In 2001, it was booed by French-Algerians in the first match between the two countries. In 2002, Corsicans booed it so loudly at a cup final that the then president, Jacques Chirac, stormed out and the match was allowed to restart only after he had calmed down. The booing has not really stopped since.”
First things first – or second, in truth – have a peek at today’s World Cup briefing. Sub-plots aplenty are to be enjoyed in Sunday’s final, writes Will Unwin:
Morning all and welcome to Friday’s World Cup 2022 blog. Just two matches and two-and-a-half days remain of this unique tournament, with Croatia and Morocco battling for third position on the podium tomorrow, before the small matter of Argentina v France in the World Cup final on Sunday.
There’s the golden boot to be decided too with Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappé locked on five goals apiece, with Julián Alvarez and Olivier Giroud both on four before the big one on Sunday.
Meanwhile, the Fifa supremo Gianni Infantino will be having a chat with the media in a few minutes’ time. Lucky us!
Now, I’ve made it this far in the tournament without watching Alan Partridge’s iconic World Cup Soccermeter … there’s no time like the present, is there?