Dec. 17—Croatia vs. Morocco

Saturday, 10 a.m. (Fox29, Telemundo 62, Peacock)

Jonathan Tannenwald: The third-place game only matters for bragging rights, so I'd like to see both teams go out and have fun. Unfortunately, I don't think this Croatia team will want to play that kind of game. So I'll take Morocco to give its legions of fans one last present: a win over Luka Modrić, as masterful a midfield conductor as the modern soccer world has seen. Morocco 2, Croatia 1.

Andrea Turner: I think of Croatia as being the team equivalent of that meme clip of Denzel Washington saying, "I'm leaving here with something." Those players would like to finish with a victory. On the other hand, Morocco's historic run was propelled by unbelievably supportive fans that embraced the team across the entire Arab and African diaspora. That makes for a powerful drive in a match that's otherwise essentially meaningless. Morocco 1, Croatia 1 (Morocco wins the shootout 7-6)

Kerith Gabriel: I don't know what to think of this matchup, because I don't know what to think of a Croatia side that was outplayed and outclassed by Argentina. Take away the penalty for the first goal: Argentina's quick counterattack for its second, and Lionel Messi's magic in the box for the third made Croatia, a team that bullied its way into the final four appear as if they had no business being on the pitch.

If that's the Croatia that comes out against Morocco, then we're in for quite the game. I wouldn't be surprised if Hakim Ziyech, Achraf Hakimi, or anyone else really, slips one past Dominic Likakovic, who would be playing in just his third match of the tournament. However, if the Croatia that got itself to one match away from a finals repeat emerges, I don't think the Moroccans can withstand that. Croatia has something to prove after that loss and despite Morocco being darlings, I think they fall short. Croatia 2, Morocco 1

Argentina vs. France

Sunday, 10 a.m. (Fox29, Telemundo 62, Peacock)

Tannenwald: You could scarcely dream of a better final for this or any men's World Cup. My heart says Argentina once more; my head says France's midfield and defense are simply too good. Antoine Griezmann could win the Golden Ball for the tournament's outstanding player, though if Kylian Mbappé scores or assists a big one he'll get it. We will witness history either way: Lionel Messi's coronation if Argentina wins, or the first repeat men's World Cup champion since Pelé's Brazil if France prevails. France 2, Argentina 1.

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Turner: Sure, I picked Argentina to get here, but definitely not France. The defending champion usually has a let-down in the next cycle, but on the contrary, France has looked stronger in many ways this tournament than it did four years ago. They've also been somewhat overlooked, partly because so many, like I did, assumed they'd slump as defending champions. Barcelona fans are probably wondering why World Cup Griezmann never seemed to show up the same way for their club. Argentina's players have the pressure of sending Lionel Messi out of the World Cup on a high note. Besides that weight, Argentina should match up well with France, especially if Angel DiMaria is healthy enough to start. Argentina 2, France 0

Gabriel: Here we are. The magic of Lionel Messi in a FIFA World Cup final is what the world wanted to see. As I said before and I'll say again, there is no soccer player on the planet more deserving of this than Messi for what he's brought to the Beautiful Game. The soccer fan in me wants to see him win this.

So it's why I hope my prediction is wrong, but I'm going to say I don't see it happening — for the second time in a row.

Of course, I was wrong in saying Croatia would dispatch Argentina, 2-0, but I also didn't expect the Croats to be as listless as they performed in the semifinal. The French are playing some really good soccer right now with very few holes especially down the flanks (looking at you, Antoine Griezmann) and up top with Olivier Giroud and Kylian Mbappe. Those are the stars, but even French role players have been strong in midfielder Aurielien Tchouameni, and defensively with the play of Raphael Varane supporting Griezmann. Also, Hugo Lloris has continued to be an impossible presence to beat in goal.

I think we'll witness Messi magic for sure in addition to the pressure Andrea mentioned of Argentina wanting to win one for him, but Les Bleus have been the team of the tournament and I don't think Argentina is going to change that.

Here's hoping I'm dead wrong for Messi's sake. France 1, Argentina 1 (France wins in overtime)


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