The 2022 World Cup became the highest-scoring edition in tournament history following Argentina's thrilling final triumph over France on Sunday.

The Albiceleste won the tournament for a third time in remarkable fashion at Lusail Stadium, with Gonzalo Montiel converting the decisive spot-kick in a penalty shoot-out following an end-to-end 3-3 draw.

Kylian Mbappe became just the second player to score a hat-trick in a men's World Cup final as Les Bleus twice fought back, and his third goal of the game ensured the tournament made history.

By taking advantage of Montiel's handball to net his second penalty in the second half of extra-time, Mbappe scored the 172nd goal of this World Cup.

That ensured the tournament surpassed the previous record of 171, held jointly by the 1998 and 2014 editions. 

Meanwhile, Sunday's final – which also featured a brace from victorious captain and Golden Ball winner Lionel Messi – was the first tournament showpiece to feature at least three goals from both teams.

Lionel Messi has won the World Cup Golden Ball, becoming the first man to do so twice, after inspiring Argentina to a penalty shoot-out victory over France following a scintillating Qatar 2022 final.

Messi, who steered La Albiceleste to their first world title since 1986, scored a double in an undulating classic that finished 3-3 after extra time, before scoring in a shoot-out that Argentina won 4-2 to make history in Doha.

Having been named the Golden Ball winner eight years ago at Brazil 2014, when Argentina were edged by Germany in the final, the 35-year-old twice looked poised for heartbreak again after Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick.

But after Emiliano Martinez saved Kingsley Coman's spot-kick, Gonzalo Montiel's decisive penalty ensured he claimed the greatest prize of all in his last World Cup game.

It means Messi emulates countryman Diego Maradona once more, too, with Maradona the player of the tournament in Argentina's previous triumph 36 years ago.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner departs World Cup football after one of the most influential tournament performances of all time on a match-to-match basis, taking his total of Player of the Match wins to 11 across five tournaments.

He was named the Player of the Match in five games, including all of their prior knockout fixtures and the final, besting the record of four he previously jointly shared with the Netherlands' Wesley Sneijder after his performances in 2014.

Mbappe, meanwhile, won up the Silver Ball and Croatia's Luca Modric - the previous Golden Ball winner at Russia 2018 - was named the recipient of the Bronze Ball.

Kylian Mbappe clinched the World Cup Golden Boot with a dramatic hat-trick in Sunday's final, though his efforts were in vain as Lionel Messi's Argentina triumphed on penalties.

Mbappe entered Sunday's game level with Paris Saint-Germain team-mate Messi on five goals, and twice fell behind in his battle with the Argentina captain in a thrilling contest.

Messi became the first player to reach 20 World Cup goal involvements when he opened the scoring with a penalty following Ousmane Dembele's trip on Angel Di Maria, who then capped a flowing move to put Argentina 2-0 up.

However, Mbappe was gifted a route back into the battle atop the goalscoring charts with 10 minutes remaining, tucking a penalty home after Nicolas Otamendi fouled Randal Kolo Muani.

Mbappe then moved clear in the race for the Golden Boot in incredible fashion 97 seconds later, lashing a first-time volley beyond Emiliano Martinez to force extra time.

Messi looked to have sealed the award – and the trophy for his country – once again when he prodded Argentina back in front in extra time, but Mbappe responded with yet another spot-kick when Gonzalo Montiel was penalised for handball.

That made Mbappe just the second player to score a hat-trick in a men's World Cup final, and the first since England's Geoff Hurst did so against West Germany in 1966.

Mbappe followed up his heroics by converting the first penalty of the shoot-out, but misses from Kingsley Coman and Aurelien Tchouameni saw his campaign end in heart-breaking fashion as Argentina claimed their third title. 

Having netted in 2018's win against Croatia, Mbappe is now the highest-scoring player in World Cup final history with four, while his overall tally of 12 goals at the tournament puts him level with three-time champion Pele.

Mbappe's total of eight goals in Qatar is the joint highest at a single World Cup since Gerd Muller scored 10 times in 1970 (also Ronaldo, eight in 2002), but that will come as little consolation to the forward following France's painful defeat.

Lionel Messi and Argentina won an all-time classic World Cup final despite Kylian Mbappe's hat-trick taking France into a penalty shoot-out following a 3-3 draw on Sunday.

Gonzalo Montiel converted the winning spot-kick to clinch a 4-2 shoot-out success for Argentina at the end of a thriller at Lusail Stadium, with goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez having saved Kingsley Coman's attempt and seen Aurelien Tchouameni fire wide.

France, aiming to become only the third side to ever retain the trophy, battled back from two goals down in normal time after Mbappe converted an 81st-minute penalty and scored a delightful volley 97 seconds later.

Messi had opened the scoring, before Angel Di Maria rounded off a delightful counter-attacking move, and the Albiceleste number 10 restored his side's lead in the 108th minute, only for Mbappe to respond again two minutes before the end of extra time.

That teed up penalties, with both Mbappe and Messi converting before Argentina gave their captain a fitting World Cup farewell. 

Kylian Mbappe became the youngest player to score 10 World Cup goals on the way to dragging France level with Argentina in Sunday's Qatar 2022 final.

The forward gave Les Bleus hope from the penalty spot in the 80th minute, before a stunning volley squared things up just 97 seconds later at Lusail Stadium, where Lionel Messi's spot-kick and a goal from Angel Di Maria had seemingly put Argentina in control.

Taking his World Cup tally to 11 goals, Mbappe is the youngest player to reach double figures at the finals – aged 23 years 363 days – surpassing Gerd Muller's record (24 years, 226 days).

The Paris Saint-Germain star also became the fifth player to score three times in a World Cup final, having also netted against Croatia in the 2018 showpiece, along with Vava, Geoff Hurst, Pele and Zinedine Zidane.

France became the first team ever to fail to have a shot during the first half of a World Cup final, forcing Didier Deschamps into a historic double change with Argentina 2-0 up.

Deschamps became the first boss to make two substitutions before half-time in a World Cup match, with the reigning champions on the ropes and failing to have a solitary attempt on goal.

Ousmane Dembele and Olivier Giroud were hauled off after just 41 minutes, with France having a mountain to climb after a Lionel Messi penalty and a wonderfully worked Angel Di Maria strike.

Dembele was at fault for Argentina's opener, bringing down Di Maria in the France area before Messi coolly slotted home his sixth goal of the tournament, and Di Maria added a second shortly after.

With France well off the pace, Deschamps was forced into drastic measures as he replaced Dembele and Giroud with Randal Kolo Muani and Marcus Thuram.

Deschamps' decision to take off Giroud will be a big talking point, after the France head coach declined to bring back Ballon d'Or winner Karim Benzema for the final.

Benzema was ruled out of Qatar 2022 with a thigh injury, but there had been suggestions the Real Madrid striker could link back up with the squad for the final on Sunday.

But Deschamps did not call upon Benzema, who posted an ambiguous message on social media in the following days that was translated as "I'm not interested".

Deschamps chose to start Giroud despite the Milan man struggling with an injury in the days prior to the final.

Giroud was clearly unhappy at being substituted, throwing a water bottle on the sidelines with Les Bleus' status as world champions under serious threat.

Lionel Messi became the first player in World Cup history to score in every round of a single edition of the tournament after putting Argentina ahead against France in Sunday's final.

The Argentina captain opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the 23rd minute when he calmly sent Hugo Lloris the wrong way after Ousmane Dembele felled Angel Di Maria.

Messi is the first man to net in the group stage, the round of 16, the quarter-finals, the semi-finals and the final at one World Cup.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward also became the first to 20 direct goal involvements at the finals (12 goals, eight assists), while no player has scored or assisted in more different matches (14) than the 35-year-old, whose sensational campaign showed no signs of slowing.

Lionel Messi will break the record for most World Cup match appearances in Sunday's final against France after being named in Argentina's starting XI.

Messi's outing in the semi-final win over Croatia took his World Cup games tally to 25, level with Lothar Matthaus.

But he was unsurprisingly named among the starters for Sunday's showpiece at Lusail Stadium, with Messi aiming to win the World Cup for the first time.

Another lesser record is within his grasp as well, as Messi will be become the first player to score in the group stage, last 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single edition of the tournament if he nets against Les Bleus.

That would also ensure he becomes the first player (since 1966) to record 20 goal involvements in World Cup tournaments, as he goes into the game with 19 (11 goals, eight assists).

Messi and nine others retain their places in the team from the semi-final, with the only change seeing Angel Di Maria come in for Leandro Paredes.

France's major concern ahead of the final had been the virus being spread around their camp.

However, they appear to have come through the worst of it, with everyone available for selection.

As such, Didier Deschamps reverts to his preferred starting XI, with Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot returning to the line-up – the former was only fit enough for a bench role against Morocco, while the latter missed out entirely.

There had been reports of additional players contracting the illness during the week, while Aurelien Tchouameni, Theo Hernandez and Olivier Giroud were said to be struggling with injuries.

But all were deemed fit enough to start as France aim to become the first European nation since Italy in 1938 – and just the third country ever – to retain their World Cup crown.

Drake, known for his frequent jinxes on sporting teams, has staked $1million on Argentina to beat France in Sunday's World Cup final.

With Lionel Messi set to face off against France in what will be his last attempt to finally achieve World Cup glory, the Canadian rapper is backing Argentina to be victorious at Lusail Stadium.

But this may not bode well for Messi and Argentina, with Drake having previously shown a propensity to 'curse' teams he is supporting, especially when it comes to gambling.

Just last month, Drake lost $2m when he heavily backed reigning UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya against Alex Pereira at UFC 281, only for the Brazilian fighter to win by TKO and take Adesanya's belt.

The 'God's Plan' rapper also recently found himself $649,000 down when part of his accumulator had Barcelona to beat Real Madrid in October's El Clasico, which the latter won by a 3-1 scoreline.

Drake's record label OVO had its logo displayed on Barcelona's kit during that match as a celebration of him hitting 50 billion streams on Spotify, which currently sponsors the Spanish giants, where Messi is a club legend.

Drake was seen backing Argentina in Sunday's showpiece match on a video posted online with a friend, saying: "I'll take Argentina, he'll take France. That will be a vibe."

The 36-year-old has now put his money where his mouth is by placing the eye-watering amount on La Albiceleste to come out on top against the current holders.

Argentina fans and Drake will be hoping that Messi finally gets his hands on international football's elite prize, with the latter set for a total payout of $2.75m if Lionel Scaloni's men lift the trophy.

Joel Matip has heaped praise on Liverpool team-mate Ibrahima Konate ahead of Sunday's World Cup final between France and Argentina.

Konate has featured in four of France's games en route to the final, earning plaudits for his display in the semi-final win against Morocco after replacing former RB Leipzig centre-back partner Dayot Upamecano.

The 23-year-old has started three games in Qatar and is averaging 6.9 tackles and interceptions per 90 minutes, the most of any player with three or more starts at the 2022 World Cup.

Speaking to Liverpool's official website, Matip added to the praise Konate has been receiving, with the Frenchman having played a big role in the Reds winning the EFL Cup and FA Cup last season after his move from Leipzig.

"He's so young and [he has] so much quality already," Matip said. "He's showed that now again with the national team – with an amazing team. 

"He's shown the class he's got. He's self-confident, nice, and a really kind person.

"Especially [at] this age, it's amazing what he can do. He's strong in challenges, in the air, on the ground, the pace, [he's] comfortable with the ball – it's everything you need [as a defender]."

Konate was among the France players to have suffered from illness in recent days, but reports suggest he has recovered in time to be available for the final against Lionel Messi's Argentina, and Matip said his club team-mates will be rooting for him as the only Liverpool representative involved.

"Of course, he is the only team-mate left, so there is no hard choice for us to make when he is the only one," he said.

"I hope he comes back with a big smile – this will be a win then!"

Sunday's World Cup final will not be the first time Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi have met on this stage.

If the encounter at Lusail Stadium is half as good as the instant classic witnessed in Kazan four years ago, then we'll be in for a treat.

France won 4-3 in their last-16 duel, a game that was defined by Argentina's fragility and Les Bleus' ruthlessness.

Didier Deschamps' men of course went on to win the tournament; Argentina soon sacked Jorge Sampaoli and Lionel Messi went into a self-imposed international exile.

It was a seismic contest in a variety of ways.

Mbappe elevated to superstardom

The final of Qatar 2022 is of course being billed as Mbappe versus Messi. Ahead of their meeting in Kazan, this wasn't really the case, with the latter undoubtedly the focus for many.

But at full-time, there was almost a sense of this game being Mbappe's 'arrival' as a global superstar.

 

While his talent was already well known having joined Paris Saint-Germain in 2017, Mbappe's performance against Argentina brought his prodigious ability to a worldwide audience.

He was devastating.

Argentina couldn't handle his speed and ability on the ball, with Mbappe tearing the Albiceleste's slow – and high – back-line to shreds.

First, he darted through them, drawing a foul from Javier Mascherano that resulted in Antoine Griezmann striking the crossbar.

Then he just ran away from them, leaving Mascherano and company in his tracks before surging past Marcos Rojo and winning a penalty that Griezmann coolly slotted home.

It wasn't just about his speed, though. Twice he delivered the decisive touch.

 

Somehow making space for himself in the box, he slammed a left-footed strike through Franco Armani to open his account.

Then he rounded off one of the most memorable goals of the tournament. An intricate counter-attack led to Mbappe steaming up the right flank and latching on to Olivier Giroud's prodded pass before emphatically finding the bottom-left corner with a first-time effort.

It made him the first teenager to score twice in a World Cup match since Pele in 1958.

"When you are to meet a player like Kylian or Leo, of course you make a plan to control them," Sampaoli said. "But if they have a day like Mbappe did, it's very difficult to make the plan work."

Mbappe had truly arrived.

Messi engulfed by the gloom

Just as Mbappe provided an utterly terrifying glimpse of what he'd go on to become, it seemed Messi was on his way out.

Having recently turned 31, there was a perception this was Messi's last tango at the World Cup; after all, he had already retired from international football once before.

And, to be fair, his performance offered little in the way of a response to the idea that he was done.

He did get a couple of assists. The first wasn't exactly one for the highlights reel – it was a tame shot that hit Gabriel Mercado on its way in. Then, his deep cross found Sergio Aguero to head home late on, but Messi was missing the inner fire he's so clearly embraced in Qatar.

At the point of Mercado's fortunate goal, everything was looking quite positive for Argentina as it put them 2-1 up, but they simply weren't defensively sound enough to keep Les Bleus at bay.

 

Similarly, Messi was unable to shoulder the burden of individually inspiring a team that was essentially in crisis, with prominent reports of rifts and a player mutiny against the coaching staff.

Exile followed for Messi.

Lionel Scaloni was appointed – initially as caretaker head coach – in August 2018, with Messi's future unclear. He was left out of Scaloni's early squads, but after a nine-month absence he did eventually return.

He's not looked back. Messi led Argentina to their first major title in 28 years in 2021 as they won the Copa America, and he's been the key figure in the Albiceleste's route to the final of Qatar 2022.

But can he finally win the biggest title that's eluded him?

Eat my goal

There was more to the Kazan classic than just Mbappe and Messi, however.

A topsy-turvy encounter that encapsulated Argentina's roller-coaster campaign had almost everything: drama, engrossing wider narratives, incredible players and some outrageous goals.

Griezmann's penalty opened the scoring, but the match truly came alive with Angel Di Maria's equaliser.

Given space about 30 yards out, he unleashed an unstoppable piledriver out of Hugo Lloris' reach up to his left, sparking maniacal celebrations from Argentina.

 

Those celebrations were matched – and the goal arguably trumped – when France brought the game back to 2-2.

Lucas Hernandez's cross fell kindly to Benjamin Pavard just outside the box and the defender met it with one of the most satisfying half-volleys you're ever likely to see, slicing across the ball to send it spinning with venom into the top-left corner.

Mbappe's exceptional second had Argentina 4-2 up, and even Aguero's ultimate consolation was a goal of real quality, particularly Messi's pass.

But the legacy of this game was Mbappe's elevation to a new plain, and it's from there that he's plotting to deny Messi's bid for immortality this time.

Lionel Messi "can play until he is 50", according to Brazil legend Ronaldinho.

Argentina can lift their third World Cup on Sunday, when they take on reigning champions France at Lusail Stadium in a highly anticipated match that will crown the tournament's winners.

At 35-years-old, Messi has played a vital role for Argentina in Qatar as he seeks a first World Cup crown, scoring five goals to become La Albiceleste's record goalscorer in the competition, surpassing Gabriel Batistuta.

Messi can cap his spectacular career against France, who are looking to make their own history as the first nation to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

Ronaldinho, who was part of the Selecao team that won the 2002 World Cup and like Messi is a former Barcelona star, is not surprised that the forward is still performing at the highest level at his age.

When asked if he expected to see Messi playing at this high standard in Qatar, Ronaldinho told L'Equipe: "For Messi, this level is normal, isn't it?

"He has been the best in the world for many years already. 

"It's his last World Cup, but I was sure he would come back and do whatever it takes to win it. 

"For me, he can play until he is 50 because he has a lot more qualities than all the others."

Standing between Messi and international football's elite title are France, who beat Morocco 2-0 in the semi-finals to reach a fourth World Cup final, all of which have come since 1998.

Forward Kylian Mbappe has once again impressed with five goals at the tournament, joint-most with Messi, and at 23 he could become the youngest player since Pele to lift the World Cup twice.

Ronaldinho spoke of his admiration for Mbappe, as well as Didier Deschamps, who can become just the second head coach to lead a team to victory at two separate World Cup editions after Italy's Vittorio Pozzo.

"I love Didier Deschamps, he is very good," Ronaldinho added. "He is a lord, who was a very good player and who knows football very well. 

"I like the way France play under him. In Brazil, he has a very good image and we appreciate the way Les Bleus play.

"France are too strong really, even if before the competition they were among the favourites, so it's only a half surprise. I'm happy to see France in the final.

"I love watching him [Mbappe] play. He does everything very well and he is still very young. 

"He has all the qualities, the speed, the dribbling and, in front of goal, he has the composure. 

"These are the type of players that we Brazilians love to see play. He seems like a strong personality too."

Ronaldinho's Brazil were the pre-tournament favourites to lift a sixth World Cup in Qatar, but they crashed out after a penalty shoot-out defeat to Croatia in the quarter-finals.

He hopes the Selecao's current group can learn from their disappointment.

Ronaldinho added: "I think Brazil had a very good team too, but things didn't turn out the way we thought. Brazil are still under pressure because when we think football, we think Brazil. 

"It was a very good group with a lot of talent, though. I hope this generation will gain something [from their Qatar campaign]."

Lionel Messi is already set to make history in Sunday's World Cup final. It is up to France to ensure he does not also take home the trophy.

Messi, in likely his last World Cup match, will set the outright record for finals appearances (26) as he gets his second shot at glory.

The Argentina captain was part of the team defeated 1-0 by Germany in the final eight years ago. Their title tilt at Russia 2018 then ended at the last-16 stage, beaten by France.

But Messi has guided his side through to the Lusail Stadium showpiece this time, where France are again their opponents.

France have won only three of 12 meetings with Argentina in all competitions and lost two of three World Cup clashes, but that epic 4-3 victory at the previous World Cup set Didier Deschamps' men on course for the title.

 

Indeed, Les Bleus have won seven World Cup knockout games in succession – two shy of Brazil's record – as they look to become only the third side (after Brazil in 1962 and Italy in 1938) to successfully defend their title. Hugo Lloris could become the first player to captain a team to triumphs in consecutive finals, while Didier Deschamps could become the first coach to do so since Vittorio Pozzo oversaw both Italy successes in the 1930s.

Other omens are more positive for Argentina: the last time the two World Cup finalists had both lost earlier in the same campaign – Messi and Co. were stunned by Saudi Arabia, while France lost to Tunisia – the Albiceleste beat the Netherlands to the 1978 title. Cesar Luis Menotti, in charge of Argentina in 1978, was the last coach younger than Lionel Scaloni to lift the World Cup.

But it is the other Lionel who is understandably hogging the limelight.

Messi would be a popular winner just about everywhere – except in the country where he plays his club football with Paris Saint-Germain.

"We are the team of France in the final of the World Cup. We fight for our team, our country," said Ousmane Dembele of the possibility of he and his team-mates playing the role of party poopers.

"All the players and the French want to win the World Cup and bring back a third star. It would be good for his career if Messi won the World Cup, but we also want to win the World Cup.

"Every football player wants to win the World Cup. He has had a great career and he lacks this trophy, but we represent our country. We want to win the World Cup. I hope France will win this World Cup."

Dembele also spoke of the importance of France keeping the ball away from Argentina's "exceptional" talisman, someone he knows well from Messi's time at Barcelona.

Antoine Griezmann, another of their then Barca team-mates, may have a key role to play in that sense, although his new posting in midfield has done little to slow his productivity in the final third.

Griezmann has created more chances (21) with a higher expected assists value (3.5) than any other player at this World Cup. He has been vital to France's tournament-leading non-penalty expected goals total of 11.9, although Argentina have allowed just 5.7 shots worth 0.4 xG on average in Qatar – two 2022 lows.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lionel Messi

There can only be one man, so influential has Messi been for Argentina to this point. His five goals and three assists at this tournament have boosted the 35-year-old to a joint-record 19 goal involvements across his World Cup career. Do not count against him reaching a landmark 20 with a goal in the final; he would become the first player ever to score in every round at a single World Cup.

France – Kylian Mbappe

Whatever Messi can do, PSG club-mate Mbappe will hope to do also. Of course, unlike Messi, he has won a World Cup, scoring in the final against Croatia in Russia. Should Mbappe net again, he would become the youngest player to get on the scoresheet in multiple finals at 23.

Either Griezmann or Mbappe have the opportunity to become the fifth man to score in two finals and the second (after Brazil's Vava in 1958 and 1962) to score in two in a row.

PREDICTION

It is very, very nearly too close to call. Just 0.1 per cent splits the two teams, according to Opta's prediction model, which probably matches the public perception of the fixture.

The supercomputer gives Argentina the slightest of edges at 35.1 per cent, with France rated at 35.0 per cent. With that in mind, do not discount extra time and penalties, with the draw considered a similarly strong 29.9 per cent shot.

Lionel Messi is the greatest player of all time, which will give Argentina the advantage over France in the World Cup final, according to Emiliano Martinez.

Messi's appearance in Sunday's clash at Lusail Stadium will make him the all-time record appearance maker in World Cup history (26), while he could also become the first player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single edition of the tournament. 

Having also played a key role in Argentina winning the Copa America last year, Martinez thinks Messi will again be the difference maker.

"I see him very happy as does every Argentinian, he feels very well on the pitch," the Albiceleste goalkeeper said. 

"I saw a great Messi in the Copa America, he was exceptional and one of the best undoubtedly in the Copa America, and in this World Cup he took [another] step forward. 

"He's playing better, both physically and in football terms. It was quite difficult to get that Messi from the Copa, but he did it.

"He's playing very well and it gives so much energy to the squad, because we have the greatest player. He's excited, he's full of joy and it helps us very much."

Messi was joint-top scorer at the 2021 Copa America with four goals, and is also joint-top scorer at the World Cup with five, level with France's Kylian Mbappe.

Martinez thinks defending champions France will be the favourites on Sunday, but believes Messi could tip things in his team's favour. 

He added: "Obviously when we won [the Copa America] in Brazil, they were the favourites.

"It is the same now, people can say France are favourites. But we have the advantage, to have the greatest player of all time.

"We always like to hear that the opponent is the favourite, because we don't feel inferior or superior to anyone. But as I said, we have the greatest of all time and with a good defence we have a big chance to reach our goal."

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni had a more succinct view of Messi ahead of the game, with many expecting it to be the 35-year-old's final World Cup of an illustrious career.

"We hope this will be his final match and that he can lift this trophy, but the most important thing is to enjoy Messi," he said.

While the game is being billed as Messi v Mbappe, Scaloni does not want to focus on individuals, but thinks it will have to be a complete team effort for Argentina to lift their first World Cup since 1986.

"I think tomorrow's game will be more of a collective effort, not an individual effort," he said. 

"Mbappe is a top player obviously but France also have a number of great players, they work for [Mbappe] and that makes him even better. Obviously he's one of the top players, he's still young so can improve for sure.

"The upcoming match will be beyond [Messi v Mbappe]. We have weapons, strengths, and the match will be defined by every player, not just these two.

"Messi is doing very well and we hope we win, but this is Argentina v France and there are many players who can define this game."

Lionel Messi's stunning performances at the 2022 World Cup "show the evolution of modern sport", according to former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Wenger made the observation while speaking alongside Germany legend Jurgen Klinsmann at a press conference for FIFA's Technical Study Group.

The tournament in Qatar has seen a number of older players feature in starring roles for their national teams, with 35-year-old Lionel Messi set to lead his Argentina team out against France in the World Cup final.

Luka Modric, 37, impressed for Croatia as they reached the semi-finals, while Olivier Giroud will likely lead the line for France on Sunday having broken Thierry Henry's record as Les Bleus' all-time top goalscorer at the age of 35.

At the other end of the scale, 19-year-old Jude Bellingham was a driving force in England's run to the quarter-finals and Kylian Mbappe, at 23, can become the youngest player to win two World Cup finals since Pele if France are victorious against Argentina.

Wenger feels this World Cup is demonstrating how modern sport is advancing, with new technology helping participants to lengthen their careers.

"I managed [Arsenal] in 2006 against Barcelona in the Champions League final and Messi was already starting to play," Wenger said at the press conference.

"That’s 2006, we are in 2022 – that’s 16 years later and he’s still in contest for being player of the tournament.

"This tournament shows the evolution of modern sport.

"This tournament is the tournament of young players who are ready earlier and earlier in top-level sport, and as well the tournament of players who last longer and longer than ever before.

"We have not experienced World Cups with 35-year-old players being dominant, but we have Giroud, we have Messi, Modric – 37 – dominant players at this tournament.

"It shows that despite all the negativity about health and welfare of players, the life of a top-level sportsman lasts longer. They are ready earlier and they finish later."

Sunday's match likely represents the final chance for Messi to get his hands on the World Cup, the trophy that has eluded him for so long, including a heartbreaking extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 final.

With Messi potentially about to crown his career, Klinsmann believes there is a strong desire in the game for Argentina's star man to finally lift international football's top prize.

"Messi - everybody wants him to do well," Klinsmann stated. "We talked before the tournament about the big superstars who will put their stamp on the tournament and most of them delivered.

"Most of us are Messi fans no matter what. We want him to win the World Cup and be seen on the same level in his home country as [Diego] Maradona.

"We all know that for [Cristiano] Ronaldo and Messi it could be the last tournament. They have established themselves on the world stage for the last 15 years."

Klinsmann cited Mbappe as the potential heir to Messi and Ronaldo's throne, adding: "We talk about those big superstars towards the end of their career but also who is the next one taking over.

"Mbappe has the advantage because of his age.

"I was amazed about a lot of young players coming through, like [Cody] Gakpo from the Netherlands, or even with Germany going home early, there’s a special kid coming up with [Jamal] Musiala."

The World Cup in Qatar has come under intense scrutiny, particularly on the host nation's treatment of migrant workers and views on same-sex marriages.

With the end in sight, FIFA president Gianni Infantino labelled it "the best World Cup ever", with Klinsmann agreeing it had been a great tournament.

"It’s been wonderful," Klinsmann declared. "[A] huge success off the field and on the field.

"We all have many moments with people here, the atmosphere, the stadiums, the organisation itself.

"Every time you are at a World Cup you think it’s the best. I’ll leave that up to other people. It’s been an unbelievable experience and tomorrow will be an amazing final."

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