Chad Songalia, Mike Limpag and Neil Montesclaros are three football fanatics (out of the 3.5 billion who follow the sport) whom I asked to comment on tonight’s World Cup final:
SONGALIA: What have stood out in the World Cup in Qatar? You don’t need big name players to be successful. Look at Morocco. Who would have thought they’d reach the semis? What has stood out also is the emergence of young players: Bellingham, Gavi, Pedri, Gakpo, Musiala and Tchouameni and the strong performances of the goalkeepers (Yassine Bounou and Dominik Livakovic).
LIMPAG: This year’s World Cup, at least for Asians, can be best remembered for the success of the continent: Japan, South Korea, Australia (in football, Australia is considered Asian). Saudi Arabia started it with that shock win against Argentina; Japan beat Germany and Spain to top their group.
MONTESCLAROS: Lower rank teams beating higher rank teams. Upsets. Last minute goals and drama that impact results. Penalty saves. Goal keeping: spectacular and critical saves. Messi’s brilliance and exceptional skills. Asian and African teams’ rising competitiveness. The game-changing VAR. Ronaldo’s fading popularity.
SONGALIA: Whoever can slow down Messi or Mbappe have a good chance of winning. Regardless if Argentina wins or not, Messi is “one of the greatest.” The argument of who is the GOAT is subjective. Let’s not forget Maradona, Beckenbauer, Zidane, Pele and Ronaldo.
LIMPAG: France vs. Argentina will boil down to one man for each: Lionel Messi for Argentina. He hasn’t scored in previous appearances in the knockout stages in four previous World Cup appearances but has already scored in each of the knockout games this year. He has four Man of the Match awards this year, 10th overall, but I think there’s only one title he’s after. Whether he wins it or not, will depend on how their defense will cover Mbappe, who has three Man of the Match awards this year, a testament to how important he is for France.
MONTESCLAROS: Both teams have equal chances to win. I don’t see one really dominant than the other. But Messi is the game changer. He can create something out of nothing. My pick is not a matter of an estimated superior strength. I just prefer Argentina to win as a crowning glory for Messi’s unparalleled impact to the sport.
SONGALIA: Argentina or France? Hmm. This is a tough one. Argentina, so Messi can cement his legacy but my grandson River Killian was named after Mbappe so whoever wins I’ll be happy.
LIMPAG: I don’t want to jinx my favorite team but I still remember the emotional and financial heartache of watching France beat Brazil in a girlie bar (the only place in town that showed the World Cup live) back in ‘98 so I hope Mbappe and company will have that medal they’d rather not display after Sunday’s final.
MONTESCLAROS: Even if Messi does not win the World Cup his football exploits are off the charts. Considering the great footballers as Messi’s contemporary and he out performs them, he is the greatest so far. The World Cup will just be a confirmation of what he already is.