Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni kept his cards close to his chest when quizzed 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 give right full-back Nahuel Molina support against France’s lightning-fast star player Kylian Mbappe.
“We already decided the strategy and we will play in a way in which we think we can hurt our rivals the most and suffer the least,” Scaloni told a news conference.
“We have our gameplan, we know how to play them and now we just have to execute, and I hope we can play a similar game as we did against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals – but win the match without having to go through the pain of a penalty shoot-out.”
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Scaloni made key changes after Argentina suffered a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia in their World Cup opener and brought in youngsters Enzo Fernandez and Julian Alvarez – who have been brilliant since. He has also made changes to his system, using three defenders against the Netherlands and three holding midfielders to neutralize Croatia’s great Luka Modric.
If Scaloni decides he doesn’t want Molina facing Mbappe on his own could opt to go back to the tactics he deployed against the Dutch, which would mean Tottenham Hotspur centre back Cristian Romero helping to fend of the explosive French forward.
“To stop Mbappe you need a collective effort. But France is more than just Mbappe. We need to focus on making a good game collectively,” 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 plenty of players who can decide the game.”
After Argentina booked their 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 match for his team and his country: “Let’s hope that if it’s Leo’s (Messi) last game, that we can win the title. It would be great and the important thing is to enjoy it… What better scenario than in a World Cup final.”