Rio Ferdinand reckons “the stars are aligning for Lionel Messi” as Argentina prepare to take on France in the World Cup final on Sunday.
Argentina comfortably overcame Croatia in the semi-finals 3-0 to reach Sunday’s finale but it hasn’t all been plain-sailing with Lionel Scaloni’s side losing to Saudi Arabia in the group stage and needing penalties to scrape past the Netherlands.
France won Group D before beating Poland, England and Morocco in the knockout rounds to make the showpiece event at the Lusail Stadium in Qatar.
But Ferdinand is leaning towards victory for Argentina on Sunday after watching France struggle at times against Morocco.
“I think the stars are aligning for Lionel Messi,”Ferdinand said on BBC Sport when asked about his take on the World Cup final.
“We saw him reach 1,000 [competitive] games during this tournament. When the question is asked – who is the best, Maradona or Messi, and people say Messi has not won a World Cup. This could be his moment.
“Fairytale wise we wanted Morocco to win [the semi-final against France], but now we’ve got a two final with two megastars in Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe. It could be the passing of the baton. Who knows?
“There are so many different sub plots to what could be a great game. As good as France are, I think Lionel Messi and Argentina will be sat there licking their lips a little bit.
“They will be thinking there are areas they can get at France, particularly down the left-hand area of their defence.
“When France were run at they did panic a little bit and with Julian Alvarez and Messi dancing and wiggling around, it is going to be a great game.”
Morocco were the biggest dark horse in the tournament, with fans all over the world supporting them as their second team, and BBC Sport pundit Alan Shearer said they can be “very, very proud” of reaching the semi-finals and making history for African football.
“Morocco can be very, very proud of what they’ve done and achieved and the effort that they’ve put in, not just today but in the whole tournament,” Shearer added.
“Their fans have had a fantastic time and really enjoyed it. They have just come short because of their lack of quality in the final third.
“They got into so many good positions and just couldn’t find that killer touch to put the ball in the back of the net. Morocco had France rocking at times.
“But there was a different quality to France. Without playing really well they’ve found a way. They are tough team to beat.”