AND so, the greatest show on earth comes to a logical conclusion, France will play Argentina in the World Cup Final later today.

For all the hope of upset or of a real ­outsider making it to the big stage, the final will be contested by two of the ­pre-tournament ­favourites, two ­substantial football ­behemoths drawn from the big football continents of Europe and Latin ­America.

Both are previous winners both rich in talent, both with a story to tell.

Argentina can win the remarkable Lionel Messi (below) a World Cup winner’s medal – one of the very few baubles still missing from his illustrious collection. A young man with roots in distant Caledonia called Alexis Mac Allister may yet help him get there and might possibly provide the assists.

The National: Argentina’s Lionel Messi celebrates his sides victory in the penalty shoot out following the FIFA World Cup Quarter-Final match at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar

Since Denzel Dumfries and the ­Netherlands were knocked out by ­Argentina, it is the Mac Allister family name that leaves us with our last clinging hope of Scottish significance.

France can become the first nation to retain the title since Pele’s Brazil in 1962, having opened their defence with a ­substantial injury crisis. They will bring an astonishing array of talent to the ­final not least the elegant ­playmaker ­Antoine Griezmann, the formidable Kylian ­Mbappe and for me, one of the ­tournament’s unsung heroes the right wing-back Ousmane Dembele.

The last hope of a measurably different ending came when France overwhelmed the resilient Morocco, the first Arab and African nation to venture so far in the competition.

I watched that game in an ­extraordinary way via a web stream featuring an electric crowd banging drums and waving flags at a so-called “watch party”, at the Michael A Guido Theater, in Dearborn, ­Michigan. Dearborn is one of the biggest Arab ­cities in North America, and one that was ­cruelly demonised in the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

There is a tired old trope that follows high-performance sport around the globe – that politics and sport do not mix. Fifa boss Gianni Infantino (below) tried to resurrect the dying embers of that argument when he hoped to wish away all the self-evident corruption and cruelty of Qatar.

The National: Gianni Infantino

But what Fifa cannot control is the ­serendipity of a former colony like ­Morocco meeting France when in ­recent living memories unrest erupted in ­Clichy-sous-Bois, a large public banlieue, on the outskirts of Paris, and spread across urban France.

Many of the communities that rose up were populated by Moroccans, ­Algerian youth and immigrants from French ­Africa. Some like Dembele and Mbappe, have been triumphantly absorbed into the French international team, while others remain permanent outsiders, still exiles in their own tower blocks.

For Scotland, missing yet again, there were a few tiny morsels. Many players from our league clubs, several of whom had been born and raised in Scotland made it to the finals Harry Souttar the towering centre-back who shone in Australia’s group matches had been raised in Luthermuir in ­Aberdeenshire and was a Brechin City fan who qualified for Australia through his mother.

St Johnstone’s David Wotherspoon from Perth had fought a year-long ­battle to overcome a cruciate injury to join ­Canada’s squad, again qualifying through his maternal lineage.

He became the first St Johnstone player to feature at a World Cup finals, unless you counted the ebullient Ally McCoist (below) who by some distance was ITV’s most successful media figure in Qatar.

The National: Ally McCoist

These were small threads in a global backcloth of change.

The World Cup finals are always a lens through which we see global politics adapting around us. This time the most prominent issues were the environment and human rights.

Qatar was about the worst choice for the finals, as football pursues diversity across all fronts the laws and customs of the host nation came under intense scrutiny. The first few nervous days of the tournament were fraught with a backlash, particularly from gay rights groups and from women’s teams around the world who in the years prior had lightened up the global game.

Human rights and racial justice ­wrestled with environmental politics for centre stage and now the long cold ­scrutiny of Qatar’s claims come under the microscope. It is almost certain that they have substantially exaggerated their ­carbon neutrality. Having failed to ­complete the predicted number of new hotels, they were forced to shuttle fans from surrounding Gulf states by plane. The migrant workers will now ­begin the ­dangerous job of ­dismantling the ­temporary infrastructure.

With boundless inevitability, England went out. It wasn’t so much a matter of when but how, this time with the cruellest twist in the psychosis of the Three Lions – missed penalties.

Harry Kane scored the one that didn’t quite matter and then missed the one that did.

I cannot fully rationalise the ­cultural coercion that surrounds England’s ­presence in these big tournaments. An inevitable moment always seems to come, when Scots are supposed to fall in line with some cross-border consensus.

It is a period of insecurity that lasts for about 10-14 days and seems to be the ­easiest time of the year to place a look-at-me journalistic feature – “Why I’m ­Supporting England”, “Why It’s Time to Get Behind Our Neighbours” and endless variations of “Why the ABE Brigade Have got It Wrong”.

The most recent is – “Look These ­Millionaires Are Something Special, ­Marcus Rashford Is Doing More Than The Politicians”.

The National: Marcus Rashford

I like Rashford (above) too but what is ­significant is that he is not unique. ­Almost all the stars of this world have elected charities, networks of community ­workers and many divert billions of dollars back into their communities. Some from Iran’s World Cup party face long jail sentences or torture when the circus moves on.

Iranian soccer player Amir Reza Nasr Azadani was arrested last month and is standing trial in Iran over his ­participation in anti-government protests. He was not part of the Iran squad but those that went to Qatar and defied the national anthem are also at risk.

The World Cup group stages are a near perfect time for columnists desperate for a new take on indyref. It is an opportunity to get out the fishing rod and cast another line for the easily riled. Say how much you want England to win and watch them bite.

Hardened football fans raised on the cult of club rivalry are rarely spooked by this over-imposing detente, they see it for what it is, a minor anxiety generated by brief visitors to football and who will soon drift off again when the World Cup ends.

I have come to understand that this rush to cuddle up to England is not some dastardly Unionist plot, because there is never the same pressure to cleave to Wales or to follow Northern Ireland through their qualifying games, it is principally a phenomenon connected to the volume of coverage gifted to England via the media networks tournament.

Forget most of the live match coverage, which comes from a Fifa host broadcaster pool and is all but identical around the world. What differentiates coverage here, is the telly-furniture built around it by the BBC and ITV. There’s the studio analysts and their jokey bonhomie, the half-time features and the toe-curling glimpses into the England camp.

One classic came to screen this time round courtesy of a Radio 5 Live broadcaster who riffing on a previous tournament, asked the England and ­Manchester United defender Luke Shaw if he had brought his lucky slippers to Qatar.

Sheepishly, Shaw had to admit that the slippers were not lucky at all, since ­England had lost the Euro 2021 final to Italy on penalties.

It was a moment of jaw-dropping telly. Although it will never rate alongside ­Kane’s blazing miss, Messi’s cat-and-mouse contests with Croatia’s Luka Modric or even the multi-ethnic flamboyance that took France to the final.

A bit of me will always cherish Shaw’s lucky slippers, as a cosy and very BBC symbol of defeat.

They only scenario that could possibly upstage those slippers would be if Shaw had lost his travel bag at the airport, and despite all the hype not even his toilet-bag is coming home.

Enjoy the final; you deserve to.