Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni kept his cards close to his chest as he was questioned about his likely line-up as he prepares to face holders France in the World Cup final on Sunday.
Scaloni was evasive on Saturday when asked if he would deploy a three-man defence, as he did for the quarter-final against the Netherlands, to support right-back Nahuel Molina against France’s lightning fast star player Kylian Mbappé.
“We have already set the strategy and we will play in a way where we think we can hurt our rivals the most and suffer the least,” Scaloni told a press conference.
“We have our game plan, we know how to play them and now we just have to execute it. I hope we can play a similar game as against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, but win the game without having to go through the pain of a penalty shootout.”
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Scaloni made significant changes after Argentina suffered a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their World Cup opener, bringing in youngsters Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez – who have been brilliant ever since. He has also made changes to his system, using three defenders against the Netherlands and three defensive midfielders to neutralize Croatia’s great Luka Modric.
If Scaloni decides he doesn’t want Molina to face Mbappé on his own, he could opt to go back to the tactics he used against the Orange, which would mean Tottenham Hotspur centre-back Cristian Romero defeating the explosive French attacker would help fend off.
“To stop Mbappé you need a collective effort. But France is more than just Mbappé. We have to focus on making a good game together,” Scaloni said.
“Sunday’s game is much more than Lionel Messi against Mbappe, it’s Argentina against France, it goes beyond that.
“We both have the necessary weapons so that the game can be decided by other players and not necessarily the two of them. Let’s hope it falls on our side, but there are enough players who can decide the game.”
After Argentina secured a ticket to the final with a 3-0 win against Croatia, Messi confirmed Sunday would be his last game for Argentina.
Scaloni said that made it an even bigger game for his team and his country: “Let’s hope that if it’s Leo’s (Messi) last game, we can win the title. It would be great and the most important thing is to enjoy it… What better scenario than in a World Cup final.”