France vs Argentina: Will the Physical Battle Define Who Becomes World Champion?
Both France and Argentina have world-class footballers who have produced big moments during this World Cup. Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi are the superstars whom the world will focus on ahead of such a game given their status as two of the best players on the planet while also being club teammates. However, at top-level football, there has been an increasing focus on the physical battle between sides in recent years as pressing and overall distance-covered statistics intrigue coaches and fans alike.
STATSports, the world’s leading GPS sport tracker, have reviewed FIFA’s physical data of the two World Cup finalists, France and Argentina ahead of Sunday’s match. Interestingly, they believe that it is the battle of Messi and Antoine Greizmann who could define which team becomes World Champions as Head of Sport Science at STATSports, Barry Watters detailed when speaking to me ahead of the final.
“Antoine Griezmann’s performances are particularly interesting when you take his physical stats into context. Normally playing as a ten, Griezmann has been covering huge distances in games, almost like a box-to-box midfielder. The Atletico Madrid star has broken the 11km barrier in 4 of his 5 starts and is making high-speed runs (730m) and sprints (227) similar to a wide player (high-speed run = 20-25 km/h and a sprint is 25+ km/h).”
“His performances have been physically all-encompassing – a hybrid of a dynamic, all-action central midfielder and of an explosive wide forward. Comparatively, Argentina’s Lionel Messi is playing in a similar number 10 role, but in a much more traditional sense, positionally. He only broke the 9km barrier once, hitting 11,760m over the 120+ minutes in the quarter-final victory over the Netherlands.”
“Messi’s high-speed runs (478m) are significantly lower than Griezmann’s but their sprints (213m) are relatively closer in number. This is likely to indicate that while both are playing in a ‘free role’, Griezmann is being tasked with working across the entirety of the pitch, helping his team wherever he can. While in Messi’s case, he is concentrating on conserving his energy to hurt teams in the final third of the pitch.”
Sunday’s match-up at the Lusail Stadium promises to be an epic final: either France will become the third team to win back-to-back World Cup trophies after Italy ’34-38 and Brazil ’58-62, or Argentina will end a 36-year drought for the biggest trophy in football in what promises to be the final World Cup for Messi, Nicolas Otamendi, Angel di Maria and several other key players on the Albiceleste.
By: Callum McFadden /@Callum7McFadden