It’s going to be a Master v Apprentice superstar showdown in the World Cup final next Sunday between Messi-inspired Argentina and Kylian Mbappe’s France.

That’s the confident prediction of Paul Parker ahead of the two semi-finals in Qatar between Argentina and Croatia, followed 24 hours later on Wednesday by England’s conquerors France against underdogs Morocco – the pre-tournament 300/1 outsiders at Betfred to win the tournament outright.

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Parker told Betfred TV that Messi doesn’t need pace to beat an opponent but he believes Argentina do rely on him. Therefore ex-Manchester United defender Parker, who suffered World Cup semi-final heartache for England himself in Italy in 1990, predicts that it will be France with the better overall team who will be crowned 2022 champions.

And that will make history for the French who are the holders, having won in Russia – and consequently will be the first nation since Brazil (’58 and ’62) to win successive World Cups.

Reflecting on England’s agonising 2-1 quarter final defeat, Parker reckons keeper Jordan Pickford “could have done better” for Aurelien Tchouameni’s long-range opener, and said France’s second goal was “very poor” to concede.

On that Olivier Giroud header, Parker said: “Giroud had a poor game but he got across Harry Maguire. It was the only thing he did in the whole game.” Parker thought England looked the more likely to score but were not clinical enough, and need to take more control of games.

He thinks the pressure got to skipper Harry Kane, particularly over the missed second penalty. “I can’t understand how he missed like that. For the first one he adjusted the ball which I have not seen him do before, and then for the second one pulling his socks over his knees … it just got to him.”

He hailed the performance of French playmaker Antoine Griezmann who he said ” played a leading role,” having reinvented himself as a number 10. ” Every time he got the ball he was neat and tidy, and never gave it away.”

Looking ahead for England, Parker says Gareth Southgate has earned the right to carry on and finish his contract. And of the players, he went on during his in-depth Betfred interview to say Bukayo Saka was England’s best player and Phil Foden needs his international teammates to believe in him like they do at Manchester City.

Regarding the centre halves, Parker praised City’s John Stones but was critical of Manchester United’s Maguire, who needs to play the ball quicker into midfield.

And finally he identified the leadership skills of 19-year-old Jude Bellingham, who was first to console Kane after his penalty howler that ultimately sent England packing.

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