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Saul 'Canelo' Alvarez has issued an apology to Lionel Messi after he accused the Argentina forward of disrespecting the Mexico flag in the World Cup.

The boxing superstar reacted furiously after a video from the dressing room following Argentina's 2-0 victory over Mexico appeared to show Messi catching a Mexico shirt with his foot during the celebrations, which was on the floor.

Canelo declared "I ask God that I don't find him" but, having attracted criticism following his comments, has now backtracked and issued an apology to the Argentina captain.

"These last few days I got carried away by the passion and love I feel for my country and made comments that were out of place for which I want to apologise to Messi and the people of Argentina," he posted on Twitter. "Every day we learn something new and this time it was my turn.

"I wish both teams much success in their matches today and here we will continue supporting Mexico until the end."

Both sides went into the final round of matches in Group C with hopes of advancing to the knockout stage of the competition, with Argentina tackling Poland and Mexico taking on Saudi Arabia.

Fernando Hierro has hailed a "great generation" of youthful Spain and England talent shining at the World Cup, referencing the likes of Jude Bellingham and Gavi,

Bellingham, 19, and 21-year-old Saka have impressed in Qatar for England as Gareth Southgate's side secured progression to the knockout stage as Group B winners after Tuesday's 3-0 victory over Wales.

Spain are within touching distance of the knockout stage in the Middle East as well, needing to just avoid defeat against Japan on Thursday to qualify, while victory will take them through as Group E winners.

Bellingham has been ever-present and Saka scored twice for England in a 6-2 win against Iran, with Pedri, Gavi and Ferran Torres leading the way for Luis Enrique's side, much to Hierro's delight.

"I am surprised at the number of young kids with enormous talent who are feeling important in a World Cup, who are 19 or 20 years old, and that's incredible," Hierro told Stats Perform.

"It's something that I find hard to think about, that kids are so prepared with just 19 or 20 years in them and that they are playing as if they are 27 years old.

"They are very young players. Bellingham, Saka, Pedri, Gavi and Torres. It's incredible, unbelievable.

"The great generation of young boys. That speaks very well of the grassroots work that England and Spain have."

David Villa, a 2010 World Cup winner with Spain, echoed Hierro's sentiment but insisted Enrique's current crop should not be compared against the La Roja side that won FIFA's top tournament in South Africa.

"It would be a mistake if we compared the team all the time [to the 2010 one]," Villa told Stats Perform at the Adidas house in Doha.

"They are all good players, they are talented players, young players, they are great. They have a great team and if all the time we try to compare to the 2010 side, it is a mistake for me.

"We need to believe in these guys and believe they can do it."

On teenager Gavi, Villa added: "He is 18 years old. It is incredible the way that he has been playing, not just now, but the last year with the national team and with Barcelona at this age.

"So, his future is bright. I don't know what will happen with this player, but he will have an amazing career because at 18 years old, it is very difficult to show the things he is doing."

The likes of Andres Iniesta, Villa and Xavi have made way for Pedri, Gavi and Torres in Spain's youthful and exciting side, but one face remains the same.

Spain captain Sergio Busquets was part of Vicente del Bosque's World Cup-winning side and remains a key cog in Enrique's team – though that comes as no surprise to Villa.

"I think Busquets is the best player playing this position, for me, of all time," Villa continued.

"He showed in this World Cup that he has continued to be important for the national team, he continues to be important for the world of football. But you never know, to still be playing in four years' time is a lot."

While Villa believes Spain "have a chance" to win their second World Cup, the former La Roja striker suggested England are among the favourites for global glory.

"They have great players, they have a strong team," the 40-year-old said. "For me, I’ve said from the beginning, England are one of the favourites to take the trophy because the squad they have is amazing."

Australia forward Mitchell Duke said "bring on whoever" when asked about taking on Lionel Messi or Robert Lewandowski in the World Cup round of 16.

The Socceroos progressed to the knockout stage of a World Cup for only the second time in their history, 16 years on from first doing so in 2006, by beating Denmark 1-0 on Wednesday.

Australia's victory at Al Janoub Stadium was required, with Tunisia stunning a much-changed France side in Group D's other game.

Messi's Argentina or Lewandowski's Poland are the most likely candidates to face Australia on Saturday, though Saudi Arabia could yet sneak through as Group C winners.

But whoever Australia have to face, Duke said they will be ready.

"Bring on whoever, I feel like we could take on anyone right now," he told reporters. "That's the belief, we go out with that mentality.

"Don't write us off. You can see there's something special building here, there's lot to be excited about."

Duke, who scored Australia's winner against Tunisia on matchday two, wants to make more history in Qatar, with the 31-year-old adding: "It doesn't really feel like it's sunk in quite yet.

"That's what some of the boys were saying when they walked in. 'Do we realise what we've just done?'

"Playing a part in history right now, we've got two clean sheets, six points out of a group with two world class teams. It's unbelievable, a lot of people would have written us off but the belief in our team is unbelievable.

"Everyone wrote us off, we've finished second in the group, it's massive and we're not done yet – we want to make history."

Australia captain Mat Ryan added that the team's unity is what has pushed them to successive World Cup wins for the first time.

"The pride of the whole group, we have such a great team – youngsters, leaders," Ryan said.

"The togetherness is our backbone, our identity and the foundation. The world keeps giving us reasons to be proud of ourselves.

"It's great to see we’re an ambitious group. We're enjoying the victory but the comments are already coming out – we want to keep going, keep having victories like this and go as deep as we can, make the nation as proud as we can.

"Everything's a collective, from front to back, the commitment from everyone. The ones who haven't got on yet, the ones who have, the ones who haven't played as much as the others, the mentality and attitude has been top class and that's what we strive for. Everyone sets the standards high."

Wahbi Khazri conceded it was a bittersweet evening after his winning goal against France proved insufficient for Tunisia to qualify for the World Cup knockout stages.

Khazri was named man of the match after a wonderful display capped by a 58th-minute goal that handed Tunisia a 1-0 win at Education City Stadium.

Unfortunately for Jalel Kadri’s men it was not enough to secure a place in the round of 16 as Australia beat Denmark 1-0 to finish second in Group D behind Les Bleus.

Khazri, who plays his club football in France for Montpellier, said: "It's a mixed feeling. We are happy to beat a team like France, we gave a very good performance and we leave with our heads held high but it's bittersweet as it would've been perfect to win and go through.

"Ultimately, it’s our fault as we didn’t do enough in the first two games."

Roared on by a boisterous support, Tunisia dominated a France team containing nine changes from that which beat the Danes on Saturday. Khazri had already tested Steve Mandanda in the France goal before, 13 minutes into the second half, he slalomed his way through a static backline and slotted into the bottom corner.

France thought they had found an injury-time equaliser but Antoine Griezmann, introduced off the bench by Didier Deschamps alongside Kylian Mbappe, was adjudged to have been offside before volleying past Aymen Dahmen.

Khazri had no excuses and blamed Tunisia’s display in their 1-0 defeat to Australia at the weekend as the reason why they are heading home.

"When I came off [in the 59th minute] I saw the score in the other game," he added. "We were hoping for a goal from Denmark but that’s what happens when you depend on others in football, and in life in general.

"I am sure the Tunisia fans are proud of us, it's a shame we cannot celebrate properly."

Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri echoed Khazri’s sentiments but backtracked on an earlier claim that he would resign if his side did not progress.

"I don't know why you insist that I resign," he said. "We have been able to continue our work and the contract I have in Tunisia is based on objectives. The objectives were not fulfilled but we still have to do the analysis, and it will be up to the Tunisian Federation to decide if I have achieved the targets or not.

"We beat the defending champions and did our best. It wasn't easy to collect four points. We played well for five and a half halves with only one – against Australia – not being good enough."

Deschamps defended his decision to make so many changes with his second-string side producing a disjointed display.

He said: "We came up against a strong squad and were timid, late into the one on ones and made technical errors. But when we brought on the more experienced players, we had a couple of goalscoring opportunities and thought we'd equalised at the end of the game.

"The first objective was to secure a place in the round of 16. We took this game into consideration but [our approach] will pay off in a few days' time.

"We need all 24 players to be available to play on Sunday. We needed to juggle the squad.

"Say if we'd won, it wouldn't have changed the fact we play in four days' time and we topped the group."

Deschamps was mystified by the decision to disallow Griezmann's goal, with VAR intervening after New Zealand referee Matthew Conger had already appeared to have blown the final whistle.

"I need to look at the rules maybe but why did the referee blow the final whistle and then look at VAR?" he added. "I'm not sure this is allowed."

France will play the team that finishes second in Group C on Sunday – one of Poland, Argentina, Saudi Arabia or Mexico.

Cristiano Ronaldo's future is of no concern to the Portugal squad amid reports of a mammoth deal being offered to the 37-year-old, according to team-mate Andre Silva.

Portugal's World Cup campaign has endured the sideshow of Ronaldo's next destination following the mutual termination of his contract with Manchester United, leaving him a free agent for the tournament.

On Wednesday, ESPN reported that Ronaldo has been offered a mouth-watering deal by Saudi Arabian side Al Nassr worth £100million per year, with a contract said to last for three-and-a-half years.

Ronaldo will reportedly only decide his future after the conclusion of the World Cup, though that has not stopped many of his team-mates being asked about his situation.

Silva was the latest to find himself front and centre for the barrage of questions and offered a blunt response, suggesting the significance of Ronaldo's situation was far from influential.

"Does the market end tomorrow? Oh, just checking," the striker said. "Those questions concern nobody apart from Ronaldo. It does not affect the group at all.

"And in Ronaldo's case, he is a very experienced player and knows very well how to deal with these kinds of situations. The group is not affected at all."

While Ronaldo's second stint with United ended with an unceremonious exit, Silva made it clear that his worth on the international stage remains as high as ever.

"Regarding Ronaldo, Cristiano is our captain. He is a very, if not the most important figure in Portuguese football," he added.

"And of course, it's very important to be on our side and it makes the group stronger too."

Portugal have already booked their spot in the knockout stage of the World Cup, while a point in their final group match against South Korea on Friday will secure top spot in Group H.

Ben White has left England's World Cup training base and returned home for "personal reasons".

The 25-year-old defender is yet to play a single minute in Qatar, where England sealed their place in the last 16 after Tuesday's 3-0 win over Wales ensured they topped Group B.

White – who has been in impressive form for Premier League leaders Arsenal this season – is unlikely to return to Qatar before the tournament ends. 

A statement released by the Football Association on Wednesday read: "Ben White has left England's training base in Al Wakrah and returned home for personal reasons.

"The Arsenal defender is not expected to return to the squad for the remainder of the tournament.

"We ask that the player's privacy is respected at this moment in time."

Gareth Southgate's Three Lions face Senegal in their last-16 tie at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.

Spain control their own destiny and also that of Germany in their final Group E match against Japan, but Koke insists La Roja are not paying any mind to the wider consequences of a potential victory.

Luis Enrique's men only need a point to make sure of their place in the last 16, while a win over Samurai Blue at the Khalifa International Stadium will ensure they go through as group winners.

The latter outcome on Thursday would suit Germany down to the ground, as Die Nationalelf – who face Costa Rica simultaneously – can clinch a spot in the next round if they win and Japan lose. If Spain are held and Hansi Flick's men win, goal difference will come into play for the 2014 champions.

There is undoubtedly a perception that Germany crashing out would be good for Spain in the long run, given La Roja's designs on winning the tournament.

But Koke is adamant Spain – who have won their final group game in eight of their past nine World Cup appearances – are only focused on themselves.

"Our only strategy is to go out and win the next game against Japan," he told reporters.

"We've always done it. Obviously, you do the maths on how the classification would look, but our idea is to respect our opponent by going in to win the games.

"It's the only way to prepare for the game and qualify."

Providing Spain finish the job and qualify, they will face either Croatia, Morocco or Belgium in the next round.

But winning the group would put them on course to face Brazil in the quarter-finals, assuming both make it that far.

Koke shrugged off such concerns.

"I don't think we fear anyone," he continued. "We have the utmost respect for all the national teams.

"We don't think about the quarter-final because first we have to win against Japan. Our idea is to win and then we'll see who will come.

"If Brazil face us in the quarter-finals and we have the fortune to get that far, we will try to get there in the best way. We have the same idea of ​​going to win every game."

Japan's position in the group is somewhat precarious.

Hajime Moriyasu's side followed up their shock Germany win with a similarly surprising loss to Costa Rica, meaning they will need at least a point against Spain if they are to qualify for the knockout stages at consecutive World Cup tournaments for the first time ever. Even then, a draw might not be enough.

Moriyasu is not downplaying the task facing his team, rating Spain as the world's best.

But he believes they can repeat the heroics of their win over Germany.

"[Spain] are the best team in the world," Moriyasu said. "They demonstrate their skill by working together even in ferocious battles. We want to win and get past them.

"We shouldn't be on an emotional rollercoaster. The victories and defeats are in the past and now we start preparing for the next game.

"We can have a big win [against Spain] like we did against Germany by making incremental strides."


Japan – Maya Yoshida

The odds are stacked firmly against Japan for this game. If they are to get the result they require to go through, Samurai Blue will presumably need to be effective defensively.

At the back, Japan will look to the experienced Yoshida, who was excellent on matchday one. And he could be particularly key if Alvaro Morata comes into the Spain starting XI after scoring against Germany.

Yoshida won five of his six duels last time out and also plays a key role in Japan building out from the back, as he recorded 122 touches against Costa Rica – Wataru Endo (113) was the only other Japan player to register more than 83.

Spain – Dani Olmo

RB Leipzig winger Olmo was heavily involved against Germany. The only non-defender to have more touches than his 70 was Pedri (82), whereas Olmo's 17 passes in the final third was the most for Spain.

On top of that, his two key passes was only bettered by Jamal Musiala (three), and Olmo also hit the crossbar with a fierce first-half strike.

He may not have played much in the lead up to the tournament, but he has looked sharp in Qatar – Japan would be wise to pay close attention.


Anything other than a Spain victory would be a surprise. La Roja go into the contest with a 67.1 per cent chance of taking all three points, and therefore winning the group.

Japan's win probability is just 12.3 per cent and the draw comes in at 20.6 per cent – Moriyasu would probably settle for the latter, however.

Thomas Muller wants more support from his Germany team-mates as he bids to ensure Thursday's clash with Costa Rica is not his final World Cup game.

Germany must beat Costa Rica at Al Bayt, and rely on Japan failing to beat Spain, if they are to qualify from Group E.

History is on Germany's side – they have won six of their eight World Cup matches against CONCACAF nations, while Costa Rica have won just one of their last 11 such games against European sides.

But, should Germany fail to get the win they need to stay in the competition, 33-year-old Muller might well have played at a World Cup for the last time.

The Bayern Munich forward is putting that concern to one side, for now, however.

"I had that thought briefly after the [defeat to] Japan," said Muller in a press conference.

"[But] since that Costa Rica win against Japan, there was a spark going through our camp when we watched the game. That game's result was important for us.

"We managed to transport these emotions to the Spain game and now we know that with a win, we have a good chance to proceed. So the thought of playing my final World Cup has faded a bit now."

Muller, who has 10 World Cup goals to his name, has started both of Germany's games in Qatar, but he is yet to have a single shot. Indeed, against Spain on Sunday, he managed just 18 touches in his 70 minutes on the pitch, with his replacement Niclas Fullkrug netting the equaliser for Hansi Flick's side.

While admitting his frustration at his lack of proficiency, Muller has asked for more from the players around him.

"My role over the last years has always been the same. I'm trying to share information with my team-mates and a willingness to perform," said Muller, who is now without a goal in his last 10 World Cup appearances.

"This is how I want to set an example. In the end, as I know, you will be evaluated as an offensive player by your goals or goal involvements. Having no shots on goal in two games, I am not happy.

"Especially when I am scoring a lot in training. But the games happen as they do and when a chance is coming, you have to be on it.

"We don't have many players like Jamal Musiala who in any zone of the pitch can create their own chances. I don't see myself like that, I need some support."


Costa Rica – Keysher Fuller

Keysher Fuller scored from Costa Rica's very first shot on target at this World Cup, after more than 184 minutes of football played (including added time).

Fuller could become the fourth Costa Rica player to score more than once at a single World Cup after Bryan Ruiz in 2014, Paulo Wanchope in 2006 and Ronald Gomez in 2002.

Germany – Jamal Musiala

Bayern prodigy Musiala has been the bright spark for Germany at this tournament, and provided the assist for Fullkrug's equaliser against Spain, becoming the youngest Germany player to set up a World Cup goal since Muller did so against Australia in 2010.

Musiala has created five chances across his two games in Qatar, which is a joint-high in Germany's squad, alongside David Raum.



Germany beat Costa Rica in their only previous match, which came at the 2006 World Cup.

Opta's model gives Costa Rica, who could sneak through with a win, just a 13.4 per cent chance of an upset, while Germany are the big favourites at 66 per cent. 

Graham Arnold suggested Australia could have a "new golden generation" on their hands after they qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup.

The Socceroos' 1-0 win over Denmark on Wednesday meant they finished second in Group D behind France, despite the defending champions losing 1-0 to Tunisia.

Mathew Leckie's goal on the hour-mark was enough for Australia, and head coach Arnold was beaming with pride at his post-match press conference.

"I'm just so proud of the players," he said. "The work ethic, their commitment, their fight, the way they played.

"Denmark are a very good team, they're top 10 in the world for a reason - defensively, I thought we were outstanding."

After their victory against Tunisia, Australia's win meant they achieved consecutive victories at a World Cup for the first time, while they progressed from the group stages for just the second time in six tournament appearances (also 2006).

Thousands of fans gathered at Federation Square in Melbourne to watch the game and celebrate the win, and Arnold believes it shows the impact of football in the country.

"I truly believe the Socceroos are a team that unites the nation," he added. "When the Cricket World Cup is on you don't see Federation Square like that.

"I'm so proud we've been able to put smiles on people's faces. Maybe we should be talking about a new golden generation now, after the golden generation of 2006 who got four points [at the World Cup in Germany], we got six."

Goalscorer Leckie admitted he had "no idea" that Tunisia had scored against France moments before he did against Denmark, meaning Australia had briefly been on course to head out themselves. 

Speaking to reporters, the 31-year-old described his thinking for the goal, saying: "We won the ball, I had one more man to beat, I wanted to cut inside but the defender went that way too, so just in the moment I went left again and swung the left boot.

"For the celebration I didn't really know what to do. I got slapped in the head [by team-mates and substitutes] about 100 times. It shows how much of a team we are. Everyone's here for each other, it's so nice to be a part of this team."

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand did not want to speak too much about his team's performance, preferring to wait until he had a chance to process it, but did admit: "We did not reach our level, no doubt.

"We did not produce the quality we can. It is my responsibility that when you come to the World Cup that you reach your best level and we didn't do that."

The Danes had 68.8 per cent possession and created 13 chances, but hit the target just three times at Al Janoub Stadium as they crashed out of the tournament.

"We haven't played with the tempo and rhythm," Hjulmand added. "We started well, but our structures went out of the match. There was too little quality.

"We shouldn't have gone in with such emotion, but should have shown more quality. Our quality was good against France, but in the two other games it was not good enough."

Lionel Messi is set to break Diego Maradona's record of the most World Cup appearances for Argentina after being named in their starting XI against Poland.

The late, great Maradona played 21 games at World Cup tournaments and Wednesday's match at Stadium 974 will be Messi's 22nd on this stage.

But Messi will be hoping that is not the only way he can eclipse Maradona at the 2022 World Cup.

Argentina find themselves in a tricky position heading into the Group C encounter, with elimination a real possibility.

If La Albiceleste lose, they will be knocked out, while a draw may not be enough to take them through to the last 16 either.

Although regarded by many as the greatest player ever, Messi's legacy will forever be tinged by World Cup failure if he does not lift the trophy Maradona inspired his nation to in 1986.

On the other hand, success in Qatar would arguably see Messi conquer the final frontier of the "GOAT" debate.

Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni made subtle changes elsewhere in his starting XI, with Julian Alvarez coming in for Lautaro Martinez up top, while Lisandro Martinez was replaced at centre-back by the fit-again Cristian Romero.

Enzo Fernandez, scorer of a stunning clincher in the 2-0 win over Mexico last time out, was named among the midfielders, while Scaloni swapped out Gonzalo Montiel at right-back for Nahuel Molina.

Argentina will be looking to progress to the knockout stages for a 13th time in their last 14 World Cup appearances, with their only group stage elimination during this period coming in 2002.

Meanwhile, Messi is only two short of Gabriel Batistuta's record of the most World Cup goals scored for Argentina (10).

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