Qatar 2022

Qatar 2022 (965)

Luka Modric has decided to play on for Croatia after the veteran captain helped his team to bronze at the Qatar World Cup.

That could mean Modric remains at the heart of the Croatia midfield at Euro 2024, by which time he will be approaching his 39th birthday.

Real Madrid playmaker Modric is not looking quite that far ahead for now, but crucially he has not ruled out extending his career for his country through to that point.

The first step for Modric will be a tilt with his country at the Nations League Finals in the Netherlands next year, with Croatia joined in that four-team tournament by the hosts, plus Italy and Spain.

Thrilled with another World Cup medal, after a silver four years ago in Russia, Modric told beIN SPORTS: "This medal is very important for us, for me, for Croatia as a national team and as a country.

"We confirm with this medal that Croatia is playing an important role in the world of football, and we are leaving Qatar as winners.

"About my future, I don't know if I will be at the Euros in Germany. I need to go step by step.

"I'm enjoying the national team, I feel happy, I still think I can perform on a high level, and I want to continue at least until the Nations League, and then after there'll be more time to think about the Euros.

"But now it's go step by step and continue at least until the Nations League, and after we will see."

There had been concern in some quarters that Modric would retire from international football after this World Cup, but coach Zlatko Dalic expressed optimism he would play on through to the 2024 European finals in Germany.

Now, after Saturday's 2-1 win over Morocco in the third-place play-off, Dalic's wish is close to becoming a reality.

Croatia have Wales, Armenia, Turkey and Latvia in their Euro 2024 qualifying group, and they would be strongly favoured to come through that and reach the finals.

It remains to be seen whether Dejan Lovren plays on, with the 33-year-old centre-back left with some thinking to do about his own future.

Lovren said getting a World Cup bronze was "something special" and paid tribute to Modric, his long-time colleague in the national team.

"I get emotional, because it's for us the last World Cup, and I lived so many great memories with him," Lovren said.

He said it was "an honour" to play in the company of such a top performer, with Modric having won the Ballon d'Or award after Croatia's run to the 2018 World Cup final.

Lovren even said Modric had proven himself a superior performer to Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi in the latter stages of World Cups.

Messi may have something to say about that after Sunday's final, when Argentina take on France.

"He's better than them in these moments," Lovren said of Modric. "There's not too many players who took the silver and the bronze.

"He can be proud and he knows that. He's a special guy."

As for his own future, with a view to the next Euros, former Liverpool defender Lovren said: "I wish I can tell you what will happen in two years. I'm just enjoying this moment, and we will see."

Gio Reyna's alleged fallout with United States head coach Gregg Berhalter at the World Cup was "a non-story", according to team-mate Tim Ream.

USA reached the knockout rounds on their return to the competition after eight years away, but saw their stay at Qatar 2022 curtailed after a last-16 loss to the Netherlands.

There was a limited role for Reyna, widely considered one of their best players, with just two appearances off the bench throughout the USMNT's run.

Reports pointed to a disagreement with Berhalter over a lack of effort in training, but Ream has moved to settle the story once and for all as the team continue to decompress.

"For us, it's a non-story," he said on his podcast Indirect. "We dealt with it in camp, things moved on, we moved past it and that's where we are. We can put that to bed.

"We addressed it in camp and [Reyna] did what he had to do, and obviously came on against the Netherlands and helped to drag us back into the game. For us, that's it. That's the end of it."

Meanwhile, USMNT team-mate Christian Pulisic also disclosed he has no current plans to leave Chelsea as it stands, though that could change further down the line.

A coaching turnover between Thomas Tuchel and Graham Potter at Stamford Bridge is yet to improve Pulisic's playing time, but speaking on the podcast, the forward stated he is not plotting an exit.

"Right now, I'm absolutely back at Chelsea," he said. "That's where my mind is at, ready to finish the season. But you know in football, things change. Anything can happen."

Luka Modric signed off his World Cup career with the consolation prize of a Qatar 2022 bronze medal as Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the third-place match on Saturday.

Goals of real wonder from Josko Gvardiol and Mislav Orsic meant the runners-up from four years ago in Russia finished this campaign on a high, following the blow of losing to Argentina in the semi-finals.

Croatia are hopeful captain Modric, at the age of 37, will decide to play on and take part in their Euro 2024 campaign, but this was a World Cup farewell for the Real Madrid midfielder.

Gvardiol gave Croatia a seventh-minute lead at Khalifa International Stadium. Although Achraf Dari swiftly brought Morocco level, Orsic's brilliant finish just before half-time proved to be the match winner.

Gvardiol's goal was a super header into the left corner after Lovro Majer's free-kick into the penalty area was skilfully nodded towards the penalty spot by Ivan Perisic.

Morocco were level just 112 seconds minutes later, though, with Dari applying a close-range finish with his head after Hakim Ziyech's free-kick from the right flank was sent looping up by a heavy touch off Croatia's Majer.

Yassine Bounou had almost sliced a pass into his own net early on, but the Morocco goalkeeper was sharp enough to keep out a low strike from Modric. However, he was beaten in the 42nd minute by an exquisite finish from Orsic, who arced the ball over the goalkeeper from just inside the left edge of the penalty area, the shot going in off the far post.

A deflected Orsic strike from 20 yards rippled the side-netting early in the second half as Croatia searched for a third goal against the team that became Africa's first World Cup semi-finalists.

Gvardiol later wanted a penalty after going down under a challenge from Sofyan Amrabat, before Morocco had their big chance, with Youssef En-Nesyri denied from close range by Dominik Livakovic. They were left to settle for fourth, still a huge achievement.

Resignation never entered Hansi Flick's thoughts following Germany's early World Cup exit, as the coach lamented "unacceptable" mistakes.

A premature departure from Qatar means four-time champions Germany have suffered back-to-back group-stage exits at the World Cup, having also been eliminated early in Russia four years ago.

A 2-1 defeat to Japan in their opening match was followed by a 1-1 draw against Spain, while a 4-2 win over Costa Rica in their final Group E game was not enough.

Despite those shortcomings, Flick's focus remained on his post and he says the idea of leaving was never considered.

"No. It was never an issue for me to resign," he told SID.

"I am absolutely convinced. And the communication and cooperation with Bernd Neuendorf and [Hans-Joachim] Watzke are very good, we have a good understanding."

Germany's exit from the competition came despite having an expected goals (xG) of 10.4 from the group stages, higher than any other side, though only six goals were scored from 69 shots – showing Flick where improvements are needed.

"If you put the data on top of that, we were one of the teams that created the most scoring chances. But we lacked efficiency," he added.

"Defensively it was only average, so we didn't have enough compactness. The opponents took advantage of this, they had the efficiency that we lacked.

"We didn't have the consistency over 90 minutes to pull through our match plan 100 percent. But we need that for the future, which is enormously important.

"Mistakes like the last 30 minutes against Japan are unacceptable at this level."

Germany will now look to build towards Euro 2024, which they are hosting, and Flick knows exactly what his side need to work on.

"We have to generate enthusiasm again. Every player and every coach wants to be supported by the fans," he added.

"But we know that the general mood, which was depressed by the last tournaments anyway, was not improved by our performance in Qatar.

"We want to change that. We want to show attractive football and prove to the fans: 'we get it'.

"We're proud to be able to play for Germany and we're looking forward to the European Championships at home. Everyone has to give their all to show top performance in every game."

As the host nation, Germany's spot at the 2024 European Championship is already secure, with friendlies likely to be played in March's international break.

Lionel Messi "can play until he is 50", according to Brazil legend Ronaldinho.

Argentina can lift their third World Cup on Sunday, when they take on reigning champions France at Lusail Stadium in a highly anticipated match that will crown the tournament's winners.

At 35-years-old, Messi has played a vital role for Argentina in Qatar as he seeks a first World Cup crown, scoring five goals to become La Albiceleste's record goalscorer in the competition, surpassing Gabriel Batistuta.

Messi can cap his spectacular career against France, who are looking to make their own history as the first nation to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962.

Ronaldinho, who was part of the Selecao team that won the 2002 World Cup and like Messi is a former Barcelona star, is not surprised that the forward is still performing at the highest level at his age.

When asked if he expected to see Messi playing at this high standard in Qatar, Ronaldinho told L'Equipe: "For Messi, this level is normal, isn't it?

"He has been the best in the world for many years already. 

"It's his last World Cup, but I was sure he would come back and do whatever it takes to win it. 

"For me, he can play until he is 50 because he has a lot more qualities than all the others."

Standing between Messi and international football's elite title are France, who beat Morocco 2-0 in the semi-finals to reach a fourth World Cup final, all of which have come since 1998.

Forward Kylian Mbappe has once again impressed with five goals at the tournament, joint-most with Messi, and at 23 he could become the youngest player since Pele to lift the World Cup twice.

Ronaldinho spoke of his admiration for Mbappe, as well as Didier Deschamps, who can become just the second head coach to lead a team to victory at two separate World Cup editions after Italy's Vittorio Pozzo.

"I love Didier Deschamps, he is very good," Ronaldinho added. "He is a lord, who was a very good player and who knows football very well. 

"I like the way France play under him. In Brazil, he has a very good image and we appreciate the way Les Bleus play.

"France are too strong really, even if before the competition they were among the favourites, so it's only a half surprise. I'm happy to see France in the final.

"I love watching him [Mbappe] play. He does everything very well and he is still very young. 

"He has all the qualities, the speed, the dribbling and, in front of goal, he has the composure. 

"These are the type of players that we Brazilians love to see play. He seems like a strong personality too."

Ronaldinho's Brazil were the pre-tournament favourites to lift a sixth World Cup in Qatar, but they crashed out after a penalty shoot-out defeat to Croatia in the quarter-finals.

He hopes the Selecao's current group can learn from their disappointment.

Ronaldinho added: "I think Brazil had a very good team too, but things didn't turn out the way we thought. Brazil are still under pressure because when we think football, we think Brazil. 

"It was a very good group with a lot of talent, though. I hope this generation will gain something [from their Qatar campaign]."

Lionel Messi is already set to make history in Sunday's World Cup final. It is up to France to ensure he does not also take home the trophy.

Messi, in likely his last World Cup match, will set the outright record for finals appearances (26) as he gets his second shot at glory.

The Argentina captain was part of the team defeated 1-0 by Germany in the final eight years ago. Their title tilt at Russia 2018 then ended at the last-16 stage, beaten by France.

But Messi has guided his side through to the Lusail Stadium showpiece this time, where France are again their opponents.

France have won only three of 12 meetings with Argentina in all competitions and lost two of three World Cup clashes, but that epic 4-3 victory at the previous World Cup set Didier Deschamps' men on course for the title.

 

Indeed, Les Bleus have won seven World Cup knockout games in succession – two shy of Brazil's record – as they look to become only the third side (after Brazil in 1962 and Italy in 1938) to successfully defend their title. Hugo Lloris could become the first player to captain a team to triumphs in consecutive finals, while Didier Deschamps could become the first coach to do so since Vittorio Pozzo oversaw both Italy successes in the 1930s.

Other omens are more positive for Argentina: the last time the two World Cup finalists had both lost earlier in the same campaign – Messi and Co. were stunned by Saudi Arabia, while France lost to Tunisia – the Albiceleste beat the Netherlands to the 1978 title. Cesar Luis Menotti, in charge of Argentina in 1978, was the last coach younger than Lionel Scaloni to lift the World Cup.

But it is the other Lionel who is understandably hogging the limelight.

Messi would be a popular winner just about everywhere – except in the country where he plays his club football with Paris Saint-Germain.

"We are the team of France in the final of the World Cup. We fight for our team, our country," said Ousmane Dembele of the possibility of he and his team-mates playing the role of party poopers.

"All the players and the French want to win the World Cup and bring back a third star. It would be good for his career if Messi won the World Cup, but we also want to win the World Cup.

"Every football player wants to win the World Cup. He has had a great career and he lacks this trophy, but we represent our country. We want to win the World Cup. I hope France will win this World Cup."

Dembele also spoke of the importance of France keeping the ball away from Argentina's "exceptional" talisman, someone he knows well from Messi's time at Barcelona.

Antoine Griezmann, another of their then Barca team-mates, may have a key role to play in that sense, although his new posting in midfield has done little to slow his productivity in the final third.

Griezmann has created more chances (21) with a higher expected assists value (3.5) than any other player at this World Cup. He has been vital to France's tournament-leading non-penalty expected goals total of 11.9, although Argentina have allowed just 5.7 shots worth 0.4 xG on average in Qatar – two 2022 lows.

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Argentina – Lionel Messi

There can only be one man, so influential has Messi been for Argentina to this point. His five goals and three assists at this tournament have boosted the 35-year-old to a joint-record 19 goal involvements across his World Cup career. Do not count against him reaching a landmark 20 with a goal in the final; he would become the first player ever to score in every round at a single World Cup.

France – Kylian Mbappe

Whatever Messi can do, PSG club-mate Mbappe will hope to do also. Of course, unlike Messi, he has won a World Cup, scoring in the final against Croatia in Russia. Should Mbappe net again, he would become the youngest player to get on the scoresheet in multiple finals at 23.

Either Griezmann or Mbappe have the opportunity to become the fifth man to score in two finals and the second (after Brazil's Vava in 1958 and 1962) to score in two in a row.

PREDICTION

It is very, very nearly too close to call. Just 0.1 per cent splits the two teams, according to Opta's prediction model, which probably matches the public perception of the fixture.

The supercomputer gives Argentina the slightest of edges at 35.1 per cent, with France rated at 35.0 per cent. With that in mind, do not discount extra time and penalties, with the draw considered a similarly strong 29.9 per cent shot.

Lionel Messi is the greatest player of all time, which will give Argentina the advantage over France in the World Cup final, according to Emiliano Martinez.

Messi's appearance in Sunday's clash at Lusail Stadium will make him the all-time record appearance maker in World Cup history (26), while he could also become the first player to score in the group stage, round of 16, quarter-final, semi-final and final in a single edition of the tournament. 

Having also played a key role in Argentina winning the Copa America last year, Martinez thinks Messi will again be the difference maker.

"I see him very happy as does every Argentinian, he feels very well on the pitch," the Albiceleste goalkeeper said. 

"I saw a great Messi in the Copa America, he was exceptional and one of the best undoubtedly in the Copa America, and in this World Cup he took [another] step forward. 

"He's playing better, both physically and in football terms. It was quite difficult to get that Messi from the Copa, but he did it.

"He's playing very well and it gives so much energy to the squad, because we have the greatest player. He's excited, he's full of joy and it helps us very much."

Messi was joint-top scorer at the 2021 Copa America with four goals, and is also joint-top scorer at the World Cup with five, level with France's Kylian Mbappe.

Martinez thinks defending champions France will be the favourites on Sunday, but believes Messi could tip things in his team's favour. 

He added: "Obviously when we won [the Copa America] in Brazil, they were the favourites.

"It is the same now, people can say France are favourites. But we have the advantage, to have the greatest player of all time.

"We always like to hear that the opponent is the favourite, because we don't feel inferior or superior to anyone. But as I said, we have the greatest of all time and with a good defence we have a big chance to reach our goal."

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni had a more succinct view of Messi ahead of the game, with many expecting it to be the 35-year-old's final World Cup of an illustrious career.

"We hope this will be his final match and that he can lift this trophy, but the most important thing is to enjoy Messi," he said.

While the game is being billed as Messi v Mbappe, Scaloni does not want to focus on individuals, but thinks it will have to be a complete team effort for Argentina to lift their first World Cup since 1986.

"I think tomorrow's game will be more of a collective effort, not an individual effort," he said. 

"Mbappe is a top player obviously but France also have a number of great players, they work for [Mbappe] and that makes him even better. Obviously he's one of the top players, he's still young so can improve for sure.

"The upcoming match will be beyond [Messi v Mbappe]. We have weapons, strengths, and the match will be defined by every player, not just these two.

"Messi is doing very well and we hope we win, but this is Argentina v France and there are many players who can define this game."

Lionel Messi's stunning performances at the 2022 World Cup "show the evolution of modern sport", according to former Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger.

Wenger made the observation while speaking alongside Germany legend Jurgen Klinsmann at a press conference for FIFA's Technical Study Group.

The tournament in Qatar has seen a number of older players feature in starring roles for their national teams, with 35-year-old Lionel Messi set to lead his Argentina team out against France in the World Cup final.

Luka Modric, 37, impressed for Croatia as they reached the semi-finals, while Olivier Giroud will likely lead the line for France on Sunday having broken Thierry Henry's record as Les Bleus' all-time top goalscorer at the age of 35.

At the other end of the scale, 19-year-old Jude Bellingham was a driving force in England's run to the quarter-finals and Kylian Mbappe, at 23, can become the youngest player to win two World Cup finals since Pele if France are victorious against Argentina.

Wenger feels this World Cup is demonstrating how modern sport is advancing, with new technology helping participants to lengthen their careers.

"I managed [Arsenal] in 2006 against Barcelona in the Champions League final and Messi was already starting to play," Wenger said at the press conference.

"That’s 2006, we are in 2022 – that’s 16 years later and he’s still in contest for being player of the tournament.

"This tournament shows the evolution of modern sport.

"This tournament is the tournament of young players who are ready earlier and earlier in top-level sport, and as well the tournament of players who last longer and longer than ever before.

"We have not experienced World Cups with 35-year-old players being dominant, but we have Giroud, we have Messi, Modric – 37 – dominant players at this tournament.

"It shows that despite all the negativity about health and welfare of players, the life of a top-level sportsman lasts longer. They are ready earlier and they finish later."

Sunday's match likely represents the final chance for Messi to get his hands on the World Cup, the trophy that has eluded him for so long, including a heartbreaking extra-time defeat to Germany in the 2014 final.

With Messi potentially about to crown his career, Klinsmann believes there is a strong desire in the game for Argentina's star man to finally lift international football's top prize.

"Messi - everybody wants him to do well," Klinsmann stated. "We talked before the tournament about the big superstars who will put their stamp on the tournament and most of them delivered.

"Most of us are Messi fans no matter what. We want him to win the World Cup and be seen on the same level in his home country as [Diego] Maradona.

"We all know that for [Cristiano] Ronaldo and Messi it could be the last tournament. They have established themselves on the world stage for the last 15 years."

Klinsmann cited Mbappe as the potential heir to Messi and Ronaldo's throne, adding: "We talk about those big superstars towards the end of their career but also who is the next one taking over.

"Mbappe has the advantage because of his age.

"I was amazed about a lot of young players coming through, like [Cody] Gakpo from the Netherlands, or even with Germany going home early, there’s a special kid coming up with [Jamal] Musiala."

The World Cup in Qatar has come under intense scrutiny, particularly on the host nation's treatment of migrant workers and views on same-sex marriages.

With the end in sight, FIFA president Gianni Infantino labelled it "the best World Cup ever", with Klinsmann agreeing it had been a great tournament.

"It’s been wonderful," Klinsmann declared. "[A] huge success off the field and on the field.

"We all have many moments with people here, the atmosphere, the stadiums, the organisation itself.

"Every time you are at a World Cup you think it’s the best. I’ll leave that up to other people. It’s been an unbelievable experience and tomorrow will be an amazing final."

David Trezeguet admits Sunday's World Cup final will be "difficult personally" as the France World Cup winner with Argentine roots finds himself pulling for Lionel Messi.

Former Juventus star Trezeguet is torn by his loyalties to each country, but his feeling is that Messi deserves to be a World Cup winner and needs this more than Kylian Mbappe.

The Paris Saint-Germain team-mates are shaping to be the principal players in the Lusail Stadium drama that will unfold, with 35-year-old Messi seeking his first triumph at this level while 23-year-old Mbappe chases his second winner's medal.

Trezeguet was a champion with Les Bleus in 1998, having elected to play for France, where he was born, over Argentina, from where his parents hailed.

Looking at the position Messi finds himself in, Trezeguet told TyC Sports "I repeat it continuously, for me emotionally, knowing that it will be his last World Cup, Leo deserves to be champion.

"He makes people dream, this does not take away from France's ambition to want to keep the title.

"France came to be world champion, there is no doubt. Here the difference is age, Leo is at the end of his career, Mbappe has just started and will set all kinds of records.

"Together at PSG they are the perfect combination, but Argentina plays for Messi, everything goes through him.

"It's difficult personally, emotionally. Something I didn't want, but hey, this has to be a party and it's a great final. 

"It is what we all expected, due to characteristics, history, they are the two best teams in the World Cup."

Trezeguet could be overtaken by Mbappe on the list of France's all-time highest goalscorers on Sunday.

Presently, Mbappe has 33 goals for his country from 65 games, one shy of Trezeguet's career haul of 34 in 71 international matches.

While Trezeguet will be able to celebrate either victory, there will be broken-hearted players on one side come the end of the final.

His admiration for Mbappe is fulsome, and Trezeguet believes the forward and his bullish ways only bode well for his long-term prospects.

"He has a healthy ambition, he wants to be better than Messi, that's his motivation," Trezeguet said. "Living in everyday life with Leo and Neymar [at PSG] makes him learn."

France coach Didier Deschamps is unperturbed about the prospect of Les Bleus playing the role of party poopers in Lionel Messi's quest to finally win the World Cup in Sunday's final.

Messi has already confirmed the showpiece game at Lusail Stadium will be his last ever outing at the World Cup.

In that sense, it is the last opportunity he has to win the only major trophy he is yet to lift, potentially cementing his status as the "greatest of all time".

For many, Messi needs to win the World Cup to ensure his legacy outstrips that of Albiceleste great Diego Maradona.

As such, there is undoubtedly huge anticipation surrounding Argentina's prospects in the final, but Deschamps – whose France side are bidding to become the first European side to retain the World Cup since 1938 – is not worried about the likelihood of it feeling like it is France against the world.

Asked if he got the feeling France were "alone" in that respect, Deschamps said: "I often get that feeling, but I'm fine being alone, that doesn't bother me. These uncertainties always arise.

"We are here, we've done all we can to be well-prepared for the game against Argentina.

"Lionel Scaloni has also had some challenges; they lost their first match to Saudi Arabia, of course, but they are still here.

"And like us, we haven't had to face everyone in this tournament, but in the games we've played, we've managed to come out as victors.

"I don't have any particular worries or stresses for [the final]. I think when you prepare for a game like this, you need to keep your focus, remain composed, and with a World Cup final in particular you have the match but also the context around it.

"The objective is to come out with the title. I know Argentina and many people around the world, perhaps some French people as well, will hope Messi will win the World Cup, but we will do everything we can to achieve our objective."

Ahead of the World Cup, there was uncertainty around the future of Deschamps.

Despite leading Les Bleus to the Euro 2016 final, Russia 2018 success and the final in Qatar, Deschamps is not universally popular among France fans.

There was a feeling before the tournament that an unimpressive campaign would lead to Deschamps' departure, with Zinedine Zidane lying in wait to replace his former team-mate.

French Football Federation (FFF) chief Noel Le Graet said at the start of the week that he wants Deschamps to stay, with Euro 2024 only 18 months away.

Regardless of what the future holds for Deschamps, he does not think everything hinges on the final.

"Being France manager has always been the most wonderful thing that's happened to me in my career," he said.

"I played for France and that was a wonderful achievement, but to be a coach for so long has been a tremendous opportunity.

"I'm delighted to be France coach but the most important thing is the team, not me, I'm at their service.

"It's all about the team, not me, I'm not the most important person here. It won't depend on tomorrow's result, that's not what I'm thinking about.

"I'm just focusing to ensure we do everything we can to win the World Cup."

© 2022 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.