France looked fine without starting centre-back Dayot Upamecano in the semifinal. When asked if he would return for the final, French coach Didier Deschamps indicated he could. Upamecano's return may not be vital to France, given the quality options at Deschamps's disposal. But, if he does not play, statisticians will surely be taking note.
Why? Because, Upamecano is the Bayern Munich player with the best chance of playing this World Cup final. The France squad has three other Bayern players in Kingsley Coman, Benjamin Pavard and Lucas Hernandez. Hernandez is injured, Pavard has not played a minute since starting France's tournament opener against Australia and Coman has only made cameo appearances and remained an unused substitute in the semifinal. If none of these four players feature, this could become the first final in 40 years without a Bayern Munich player.
Similarly, if Argentina striker Lautaro Martinez does not feature, this will become the first final in 40 years without an Inter Milan player.
It is not surprising that these two clubs have had players in many finals. After all, Italy has won four World Cups and finished as runners-up twice. Germany has also won four World Cups and has finished as runners-up four times (including as West Germany). So, it is natural for two big clubs from these nations to have been represented in finals. But, what is interesting is that Italy and Germany have played each other in a World Cup final only once. That was, you guessed it, 40 years ago. Therefore, since 1986, both Inter Milan and Bayern Munich have, remarkably, managed to find representation in the final even when their countries did not make it.
For instance, in the 1986 final—Argentina vs West Germany—German captain Karl-Heinz Rummenigge was the lone Inter Milan player. In 1990, as Argentina and West Germany, faced off again, Inter was represented by three German players—Andreas Brehme, the scorer of the winning goal, and captain Lothar Matthaus had left Bayern for Inter in 1988, and striker Jurgen Klinsmann had joined Inter in 1989. In 1994, as Italy played Brazil in the final, Bayern found representation through Brazilian right-back Jorginho.
In 1998, for the first time since 1982, neither Italy nor Germany reached the final. But, the two superclubs continued their streak—Inter was represented by "The Phenomenon" Ronaldo and French midfielder Youri Djorkaeff, and Bayern by French left-back Bixente Lizarazu. In 2002, Germany returned to the final, but so did Brazil and Ronaldo (who only left Inter to join Real Madrid after the final). In 2006, Bayern's French right-back Willy Sagnol played against Italy.
In 2010, both Italy and Germany failed to reach the final. And all the Spanish players who played in the final were based in Spain or England. But, the Netherlands saved the streak, with Mark van Bommel, Arjen Robben and substitute defender Edson Braafheid all contracted to Bayern and Wesley Sneijder with Inter. In the 2014, Inter's Rodrigo Palacio came on for Argentina in the 78th minute of the team's eventual loss to Germany. And in 2018, Inter's Ivan Perisic and Marcelo Brozovic started for Croatia and Bayern's Corentin Tolisso came on as a 73rd minute substitute.
Will 2022 finally see this streak end? Only one of three French players—Upamecano, Coman or Pavad—need to play a minute for Bayern's streak to stay alive. But, Inter's hopes of representation rest on the out of favour Martinez.