Andrea Pirlo was untouchable at the height of his playing career, a footballer whose grace and prowling presence drew widespread admiration and struck fear into rival teams.

As a coach, we can surmise but really it is a guessing game as to what we will be getting from Pirlo as the dugout rookie leads Juventus into the 2020-21 season.

On Sunday evening in Italy, the man who was a World Cup winner in 2006 takes charge of his first Serie A game with Juve, who play Sampdoria in Turin.

Maurizio Sarri's Juve reign lasted just one season, albeit another Scudetto-yielding campaign for the most successful club in the league's history. Pirlo will be expected to deliver at least that level of success, and encourage a swagger too.

He joins a host of significant former players plucked for leadership roles at an elite level, typically on a hunch rooted in familiarity, the chosen ones often still fresh from their playing days and with scant experience to call on. Top marks in coaching exams provide no guarantee that success will follow.

Many times, the gamble on a colt coach has paid off, with presidents and owners rightly sensing the novice harbours the innate expertise to lead and to inspire, and crucially to bring results. On other occasions, it has ended in frustration and tears, and in some instances the jury remains out.

Here is a look at just some of those cases, illustrating how there are no guarantees attached to such appointments.

PEP GUARDIOLA

The go-to example for any club that wishes to justify appointing a club legend to sudden seniority on the coaching side, former midfield general Guardiola was just 37 when he took charge at Barcelona in 2008, after a year coaching the B team. He departed four years and 14 trophies later, including three LaLiga titles and two Champions League triumphs, and was vaunted as the world's best coach.

Further successes have come with Bayern Munich and Manchester City. Plainly, Pep was born to lead and Barcelona were wise to the fact.

ZINEDINE ZIDANE

How would Zidane, the mercurial playmaker – the only rival to Brazil striker Ronaldo when assessing the greatest player of their generation – take to coaching? Could the erstwhile Galactico tease out the best from those who can but dream of matching the twinkling feet and god-gifted balance with which he was blessed? Could the former Real Madrid maestro really be a suitable fit for the Bernabeu job that has swallowed up many an experienced coach?

Three Champions Leagues and two LaLiga titles later, we probably have a decent idea of the answer to those questions. There have still been ups and downs, and a brief split along the way, but 18 months in charge of Madrid's B team – Castilla – hardened Zidane for the obstacles he would face in the top job. His Madrid sides have at times lacked the verve that was his signature as a player, but they have delivered results and abundant trophies, and ultimately that is what counts.

MICHEL PLATINI

Before there was Zidane, France had Platini. A wonder of an attacking midfielder with Nancy, Saint-Etienne and Juventus, Platini was also a goalscoring titan of the France team that won Euro 84 and reached semi-finals at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups. It followed, to those that knew him, that Platini would go on to become a great national-team coach too, and at the age of 33 he was appointed to lead France, having retired as a player a year earlier. Platini took over with France already at a low ebb and defeats under his charge against Yugoslavia and Scotland meant they missed out on reaching the 1990 World Cup.

Could Platini bounce back? It seemed he might when France reached Euro 92 in style, with eight wins from eight qualifiers, Platini nurturing the likes of Didier Deschamps and Laurent Blanc, but Les Bleus flopped at the tournament itself as they and England bowed out of a group from which Sweden and Denmark advanced. Platini resigned not long afterwards, began to forge a solid reputation in football administration, and by the late 1990s had built a strong, ultimately fateful, alliance with the then FIFA secretary general Sepp Blatter. He would never coach again.

DIEGO MARADONA

If there were ever a case of being blinded by celebrity, then some of the presidents who have given Diego Armando Maradona coaching work surely have fallen victim. The biggest star of his generation, Maradona retired from playing in 1997 and, with barely a sniff of coaching experience and just about as much baggage as an airport carousel, was named boss of his native Argentina in 2008, tasked with taking the Albicelestes to the World Cup two years later. Argentina scraped their way into the finals and were thumped 4-0 by Germany in the quarter-finals. Maradona's contract was not renewed.

He has continued to pick up coaching work, one curious-looking appointment after another, most recently with Gimnasia in the Argentinian top flight. Maradona the coach has been no match for Maradona the player, and it was naive surely for anyone to think that was ever remotely possible.

FRANK LAMPARD

Pirlo was an artist of the 21st century game, and he is considered a deep thinker, while the common theory is that English midfield counterpart Lampard achieved much of his success through hard graft and maximising his rather more rudimentary talent. Whether either categorisation fits the bill is a moot point, but Lampard has a wiser head on his shoulders than many footballers, was top of the class in his school days, and his IQ is reputed to be through the roof.

Derby County gave him a first break in coaching but it took Chelsea just a year to pounce and parachute Lampard into his first Premier League manager's job. A Stamford Bridge great as a player, Lampard had an acceptable first season as Blues boss but the acid test comes in this new term after a spree of big-money signings. A high-stakes London gamble will play out in the coming months.

ALAN SHEARER

As Pirlo takes charge of those in the Bianconeri stripes he once wore – Cristiano Ronaldo and all – it bears remembering that returning black and white messiahs can fail. Former Newcastle United striker Shearer returned to St James' Park in April 2009, the club's record goalscorer aiming to rescue the team from the threat of relegation, but a dismal return of five points from eight games saw them sink out of the Premier League.

Shearer left and has not coached since, happily staying in his niche as a television pundit. There are pressures but also a certain comfort to that studio role. Two months at Newcastle was the sum of Shearer's coaching career: as Pirlo may yet find out, that can be all it takes to destroy the notion of it being a natural next step.

FIFA president Gianni Infantino expressed joy at the announcement of ground-breaking law changes that should improve the rights of workers in Qatar, host nation of the next World Cup.

It was confirmed on Sunday that the Emir of Qatar had abolished certain restrictions in place for migrant workers in the country, with two new laws passed by authorities.

The changes mean workers are no longer unable to change jobs without their employer's permission, while a monthly minimum wage of 1,000 Qatari riyal – plus basic living allowances for some workers – has been introduced.

Human rights organisation Amnesty International hopes these steps will "strike at the heart of the abusive kafala system", a practice that requires so-called unskilled labourers to have a sponsor – predominantly their employer – in the country.

The kafala system had been widely criticised by campaigners for allowing some employers to exploit workers.

Qatar won the right to host the 2022 World Cup in December 2010, though their selection was shrouded in allegations of corruption, while the country's use – and reported exploitation – of workers in the meantime has led to moral objection to the tournament and uncomfortable questions for FIFA.

But world football's governing body sees these changes as a significant step in creating a positive legacy and lasting change in the region.

"We sincerely congratulate the State of Qatar on this significant step," Infantino said in a statement released on Tuesday.

"Since the FIFA World Cup 2022 was awarded to Qatar, there has been a major collective effort from the local authorities, our partner the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy and the ILO [International Labour Organisation] to bring about positive change, and we are really pleased to see that this has materialised into concrete major progress in the area of workers' rights.

"Well before kick-off, this important milestone demonstrates the capacity of the FIFA World Cup to foster positive change and build a lasting legacy.

"There is definitely still room for further progress, and we will continue to work closely with the authorities and all stakeholders to promote a progressive agenda that should be of long-term benefit to all workers in Qatar, whether involved in the preparation of the event or not."

The Reggae Boyz have done well to push their CONCACAF rankings and make it directly to the final round of World Cup qualification.

But I don’t believe that this has helped them. I believe it would have been better had the Reggae Boyz not done so well up to this point.

The brand, Reggae Boyz, is not what it used to be and as it stands, the team hasn’t been getting high-quality opponents during friendlies.

I believe that the match windows the team could have used to get sharp and stay sharp will be wasted on teams not of the quality to prepare the Reggae Boyz for the harsh realities of the Octagonal they are to face in June of 2021.

So far, the Reggae Boyz, the number four team in CONCACAF, will play against the United States, Mexico, Costa Rica, and Honduras. Three other teams will join the Reggae Boyz in the final-round fight for a place at the World Cup in Qatar.

The Reggae Boyz, if properly prepared, can compete against any of these teams, but without having to play in further qualifiers before the final round, I fear they may not be.

Outside of a 3-1 defeat to the United States in June of 2019, in the last year, the Reggae Boyz have played against Curacao, Panama, Antigua & Barbuda, Guyana and Aruba.

No disrespect to these teams, but as far as oppositions go, they may not be good enough to accurately prepare the Reggae Boyz for high-quality opposition in the Octagonal.

With no international football since the spread of COVID-19 and attempt to cauterize it from creating further devastation, the Reggae Boyz have been, in a word, idle.

You might say this applies to all the teams in the final round, however, these teams have a greater history of being successful at this level.

It is the Reggae Boyz who need to step up, improve to their level.

The team, I believe, has all the requisite talent to do so. The Reggae Boyz performance in making the second Gold Cup finals in their history is proof of that.

However, coach Theodore Whitmore and standout centre half Damion Lowe, have pointed to one thing while noting the excellent chances of this team of making it to Qatar in 2022.

The two have said the preparations need to be on point.

One of the ways of preparing is to play friendlies against high-enough quality opposition to ensure, match readiness and to figure out how to diminish your weaknesses.

While the opposition the Reggae Boyz have faced over the last year may provide them match readiness, these teams do not adequately show up the Reggae Boyz’ weaknesses.

Those weaknesses will not be shown up because, again, no disrespect to the opposition so far, the Reggae Boyz are better.

The Jamaica Football Federation has kept its plans for the months preceding the Octagonal close to its chest but if the nature of friendlies in the recent past is anything to go by, the Reggae Boyz might find themselves short of work come June.

Despite a rich history in football, the Caribbean has not had many moments to savour on the World stage, making them, interestingly, all the more special.

Cuba provided the first of the moments, making the quarterfinals of the FIFA World Cup all the way back in 1938.

Cuba had always been a little special island, long proving itself self-sufficient and able to compete with the rest of the world, despite any political or financial issues that could serve to slow its development.

That self-sufficiency and ability to achieve despite significant odds meant that Cuba’s entrance to the FIFA World Cup was not a emblematic moment and the rest of the Caribbean felt no closer to the possibility of making it on the world stage.

Thirty-six years later, Haiti provided the second moment, getting to the FIFA World Cup in 1974.

That feat, for a country, which had long-standing political issues and an overbearing poverty problem, was immense.

Now the rest of the Caribbean began to take note. Maybe now other islands could dare to dream.

While Haiti’s football has ebbed and flowed and they have not quite gotten back to those heady heights, the moment was important.

All of a sudden, the possibilities for Caribbean football were immense.

But it took another 20 years before the Reggae Boyz were on a similar journey. For the first time, CONCACAF had more than the obligatory two spots that would go to Mexico and the United States.

Now there was hope for someone else to join the fray. Still there were obstacles.

In 1997, the Reggae Boyz were up against it. In the final round they were winless, until a series of three games, 1-0 wins over each of El Salvador, Canada, and Costa Rica.

After finishing winless in the first four games of the final qualifying round, Jamaica recorded three 1–0 wins over El Salvador, Canada, and Costa Rica, giving them a chance at history.

Jamaica were on the cusp of becoming the first English-speaking team from the Caribbean to make it to the World Cup.

But standing in their way was the mighty Mexico. Jamaica needed to avoid losing to a team they had lost to 6-0 earlier in those qualifiers. There was hope but it was slim.

History has a funny way of staying the same and no matter how many times this story gets told, the 0-0 draw the Reggae Boyz achieved against the attacking juggernauts that were Mexico still seems unlikely.

An entire nation celebrated, but so did the rest of the Caribbean. After all, there were other countries in the region that had proven worthy adversaries for the Reggae Boyz and that meant somebody else could make it too.

In 2006, somebody else did.

Trinidad and Tobago, still with two of its legends, Dwight Yorke and Russell Latapy, in tow would take an ageing team, and prove the Caribbean were now becoming a force to be reckoned with.

Until 2018 when Iceland made their World Cup bow, T&T were the smallest nation to ever play in the tournament.

But it wasn’t easy either, and Trinidad and Tobago, after finishing fourth in the final round had to contend with the unknown quantity that was Bahrain.

The tiny twin-island republic had to play against a team, which had financial resources that would dwarf it.

Things looked even more bleak for T&T after the first leg of the home-and-away tie on November 12, 2005, played at the Hasely Crawford Stadium, ended 1-1.

This meant, T&T had to go away to win against a team they couldn’t get the better of at home.

Again, the Caribbean beat the odds and a 1-0 win at the Bahrain National Stadium on the 16th of November 2005 again changed the course of history for the Caribbean side and the region around it.

The Caribbean has, since those moments made great leaps in the transport of its players all over the world, even if those marginal improvements have yet to bare fruit in terms of consistent Caribbean representation at the ICC World Cup.

But the improvements continue as can be seen with the large number of locally grown players, now turning out for the national teams of countries all over the region.

Today there is more and more competition from the rest of the Caribbean and neither T&T nor Jamaica have a free run of the region anymore.

It is interesting that the success of the three over the last 46 years, is what has created a competitive Caribbean and destroyed the spectre of their unquestioned dominance.  

Trinidad and Tobago head coach Terry Fenwick is in a no-nonsense mood ahead of World Cup qualifiers, newly adjusted to make up for lost international windows after sports shut down in the last few months.

Fenwick, who has been training with a local-based contingent since travel restrictions stopped the movement of overseas-based players, says he will not be tolerating any players who do not have the right attitude.

“If you’re not doing it, I put somebody in the wings ready to step in and step up,” he said.

Fenwick reduced an 87-man squad to 27 over the course of two months and will do so again for the start of World Cup qualifiers in three months, before adding the overseas contingent of players.

According to Fenwick, players will not get comfortable in his team and will not believe they have automatic spots. The coach says he believes in healthy competition for players as being the way to extract the most effort from them.

“I will be making them changes, so that I do not have people on the inside thinking ‘hah, I’m good’,” said Fenwick.

“I want it competitive, all the time, every time.”

Reggae Boyz central defender, Damion Lowe, continues to maintain that his side stands a very good chance of finding its way to the World Cup in Qatar, even with the changes of the final round from the traditional six teams to an eight-team format.

CONCACAF has three and a half spots, meaning the top three from this group earns an automatic berth to the World Cup, while the fourth-placed team plays in a play-off for a chance to join them.

With two additional teams in the final round for which the Reggae Boyz have already qualified should mean more competition for the the three and a half spots but, according to Lowe, the performance of the team in its recent past suggests it has the tools to get over the line nonetheless.

“I believe the teams ranked ahead of us is because they play bigger opponents and more games, but if you look at tournaments where we play against each other, Jamaica are second or third and we can challenge Mexico and anybody else when we are prepared properly,” said Lowe during an interview with local newspaper, the Jamaica Observer.

By preparation, Lowe means further improving on the personnel in the squad coached by Theodore Whitmore, as well as getting top-class opposition to warm up against.

“We maybe fourth ranked now, but we have to scout properly in order to find the right pieces. When we find the pieces, we have to now play top opponents to help us prepare for the qualifiers,” he said.

CONCACAF announced the following on Monday:

The new Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 comprise of three rounds and provide all participating Member Associations with the chance to compete for the Confederation’s three and a half World Cup spots.

The First Round (30 teams) will be played between the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 6-35 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16, 2020.

The 30 men’s national teams will be drawn into six groups of five in a seeded draw. The six highest-ranked teams, El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago will be pre-seeded into groups A to F respectively.

Each team will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches; two home and two away. These games will be played in the FIFA match windows of October 2020 and November 2020.

At the end of the First Round, the six group winners will progress to the Second Round.

The Second Round (six teams) will be played between the group winners from the First Round, with the matchups pre-determined as follows:

 

Group A winner vs Group F winner

Group B winner vs Group E winner

Group C winner vs Group D winner

 

The teams will play home and away in a direct elimination format in the FIFA match window of March 2021. The three winners will progress to the Final Round.

The Final Round (eight teams) of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will see the three winners from the Second Round join the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 1-5 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16th, 2020. The national teams ranked 1-5 had already gained enough FIFA ranking points to guarantee their place in the Final Round prior to the development of a new format.

Final Round teams: 1. Mexico 2. USA 3. Costa Rica 4. Jamaica 5. Honduras 6. Second Round Winner 7. Second Round Winner 8. Second Round Winner.

The Final Round will begin in the double FIFA match window in June 2021 and continue in the FIFA match windows of September, October, November 2021 and January and March 2022.

The eight teams will play each other home and away, with each team playing 14 matches.  

CONCACAF president Victor Montagliani has described the adjusted World Cup qualifiers format, settled on by the region, as having benefits for all member nations, in light of the havoc caused to the schedule by the coronavirus pandemic.

With the pandemic effectively shutting down international football, several match days were lost, and some teams were not afforded the chance to improve their rankings.  The governing body was therefore forced to come up with a new format for the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

The new format comprises three rounds and provides all participating member associations with a chance to compete for the Confederation’s three and a half World Cup spots.

 The first round will be played between the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 6-35 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16, 2020.

The 30 men’s national teams will be drawn into six groups of five in a seeded draw. The six highest-ranked teams, El Salvador, Canada, Curacao, Panama, Haiti, and Trinidad and Tobago will be pre-seeded into groups A to F respectively.

 The teams will play every other team in their group once, playing a total of four matches; two home and two away.  At the end of the round, the six group winners will progress to the second round.

The second round will be played between the group winners from the first round, with the matchups pre-determined as follows:

 Group A winner vs Group F winner, Group B winner vs Group E winner, Group C winner vs Group D winner.

The teams will play home and away in a direct elimination format. The three winners will progress to the final round.  The final round of the Concacaf Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 will see the three winners from the second round join the Concacaf Member Associations ranked 1-5 based on the FIFA rankings as of July 16th, 2020.  The national teams ranked 1-5 had already gained enough FIFA ranking points to guarantee their place in the final round prior to the development of a new format. 

The final round teams are Mexico, USA, Costa Rica, Jamaica, and Honduras.  At the end of the final round, the top three finishing teams will qualify directly to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. The fourth-placed team will qualify for the FIFA Intercontinental Playoff.

“Everybody’s world changed in the middle of March with the pandemic.  Then we had lost the March windows, the June windows and now the September windows, so a lot of things were factored in,” Montagliani told the SportsMax Zone, in an interview on Tuesday.

“It’s not just about the World Cup qualifiers.  We had to look at the entire men’s calendar.  We had to look at the Gold Cup qualifying that is still under way.  We had to look at the Nation’s League final four, which is yet to be completed and we also had to look at Nation’s League 2.0, which was set for ‘21 but will now be played in ’22,” he added. 

“We looked at the number of games that needed to be played and the old format, which was not able to be completed in full because not everyone was able to complete their ranking requirements.”

Montagliani explained that the organisation also noted that the old format was not economically viable, and all the games squeezed into a tight time period would have proven to be an additional burden.

“I think it has something for everyone and I’m quite happy and proud of our group in coming together in a difficult time and coming up with an excellent solution.”

 

Lionel Messi is a "competitive beast" who will definitely play at the 2022 World Cup according to Xavi, who has reiterated his desire to one day coach his beloved Barcelona. 

Argentina great Messi will be 35 by the time the next international global showpiece is held in Qatar across November and December. 

Messi has suffered more than his fair share of heartbreak with La Albiceleste, losing three Copa America finals and the 2014 World Cup final to Germany. 

Despite turning 33 last month, Messi's numbers continue to be phenomenal and he topped LaLiga's goalscoring and assists charts with 25 and 21 respectively this term. 

Xavi, who played alongside Messi in Barca's first team from 2004 until his Camp Nou departure in 2015, is coaching Qatari side Al Sadd and fully expects to see his former team-mate involved at the next World Cup. 

"I see Leo playing until he wants to. On a physical level, he is fast, strong, he is a competitive beast, physically an animal," Xavi told Marca.  

"I have no doubt that he will play in Qatar 2022."

Xavi won eight league titles and the Champions League four times during a glittering Barca career. His name was heavily linked with the coaching vacancy at Camp Nou when Ernesto Valverde was sacked and while Quique Setien got the job, there is now speculation over his future too. 

Xavi has made no secret of his desire to one day return to Barca but says respect must be shown to Setien, who he feels has done some good work despite missing out on the league title to rivals Real Madrid.  

"I do not hide, and I have always said, that my main goal, when it occurs, is Barca. It is my home and it would be a dream," he said. 

"But now I am focused on Al Sadd, looking forward to the new season. When Barca has to come, in the short or long term, it will come. Above all, Quique Setien must be respected and I wish the team all the best. 

"Sometimes Barca plays very well, others well, and others not so well. But I like the idea of Setien, now and with his previous teams - dominate and make an attractive game.  

"Sometimes it is not possible, it is true, but the rival makes it difficult for you. We have seen very nice and very good games of Barca with Setien. Definitely."

It was revealed over the weekend that Xavi had returned a positive test for coronavirus, which meant he was not on the bench for Al Sadd's 2-1 victory over Al Khor. 

The World Cup winner says he is doing well but expects the transfer market to suffer as a result of the global health pandemic. 

"I am fine, although logically isolated, and wanting to train soon," he said. 

"It [coronavirus] will lower the level [of the market], like everything after this pandemic. It will be very damaged. There will be a reorganisation of everything, of clubs and players. It is a shame, but it will be so." 

Xavi has been in charge at Al Sadd for a little over a year, during which time they have won the Qatari Super Cup and Qatar Cup, while they also reached the AFC Champions League semi-finals last term. 

He spoke of the difficulty of trying to compete against other wealthy teams in Qatar and welcomed the arrival of former international team-mate Santi Cazorla to Al Sadd. 

"When you are in a winning club, like this one, the goal is to win everything, although you have to be aware of our rivals," he added.  

"In Qatar, we have ahead of us Al Duhail, who has twice the budget of us and Al Rayyan, who has made a great financial effort.  

"With them it is difficult to compete. At the Asian level, we want the Champions League. We have reached the semis two years in a row [as player and coach].  

"In 2020, I have the hope of reaching the final. For that we have signed Cazorla, to make a good team." 

Recently Theodore Whitmore spoke about carrying momentum from the CONCACAF Gold Cup into the region’s World Cup Qualifiers and it got me thinking.

Far more Jamaican footballers get opportunities today to go abroad and ply their trade as professional footballers than ever before. The island had always had a smattering of professionals but today, that dream is not nearly as far-fetched for those who grow up playing the game there.

But first, Jamaica got some help from overseas-born Jamaicans, who made up a significant portion of the squad that made a historic visit to the World Cup in France in 1998.

On that squad, though, there was an 18-year-old local, Ricardo Gardner, who had cemented his place at left-back during those qualifiers.

And while many may not see it that way, it was his performances at the World Cup and later, his professionalism at Bolton Wanderers, where he spent his entire career, that would kick the door open for Jamaican players.

But the moment that caught the eye of Sam Allerdyce, Bolton Wanderer’s coach at the time, could very well have been missed because it was literally, a moment.

Jamaica were down 1-0 to fellow debutants Croatia in their World Cup opener.

Truth be told, nobody expected anything less because even though Croatia were newcomers, their players were well-known professionals playing in big clubs all over Europe. Their ‘newness’ to World Cup competition really stemmed from the recent birth of their country.

Croatia was part of the country known as Yugoslavia, well-known for producing international teams and players of repute.

So Croatia weren’t really newcomers.

Gardner was, in all senses of the word, but he never played like one. He was confident on the ball and made good decisions throughout the game, even as Croatia proved dominant in a 3-1 win.

They would take the momentum from that victory all the way to the semi-finals of the World Cup, eventually finishing third behind winners, France, and runners-up Brazil.

But before that, they did have to go through a moment of worry against the ‘lowly’ Jamaicans.

Trailing 1-0 courtesy of a Mario Stanic tap in at the 27th-minute marker, Jamaica were not overawed and stayed in the game.

On the stroke of half time, an attempted dribble down the left-hand flank was broken up by Croatia, but the interception came to the feet of Gardner who struck a perfect left-footed cross onto the head of Robbie Earle.

Earle rose high and powered home his header, Jamaica’s first of the World Cup, and Croatia now had work to do to get ahead in the game once more.

Gardner’s assist was noted. The vision to make the pass without a second touch, the timing, the accuracy, were noted by Allerdyce.

And when against Japan, who Jamaica beat 2-1, Gardner went on a mazy run, showcasing some fleet footedness before collapsing from sheer exhaustion from the effort, his contract with the then Championship outfit, was assured.

Today, 22 years later, Jamaicans are still benefitting from that cross.

FIFA has confirmed the match schedule for the 2022 World Cup, which will take place in Qatar from November to December.

The tournament will start on November 21, with Qatar kicking off the competition at the 60,000-capacity Al Bayt Stadium at 13:00 local time (10:00 GMT).

The final will take place at Lusail Stadium on December 18 at 18:00 local time (15:00 GMT), while it has also been confirmed there will be four games per day during the group stage.

With the group stage lasting 12 days, the final round of group fixtures will take place at 18:00 and 22:00 local time (15:00 and 19:00 GMT), as will the knockout games.

FIFA has also announced the group-stage matches will only be allocated to a stadium following the draw for the finals, which is planned to take place after the March 2022 international match calendar qualifying window.

Once the draw has been made, FIFA will consider changing kick-off times to provide a more beneficial experience for audiences watching from around the globe.

Another week, another Lionel Messi milestone.

The Barcelona forward has scored his 700th career goal just a little over two years since reaching 600 for club and country.

It's another remarkable feat for a footballer who continues to break new ground after turning 33.

Here, we look at the details behind the incredible numbers to see when, where and how he tends to find the net, who likes to set him up, and who is sick of the sight of him...

 

FOR BARCELONA:

- Messi has scored 630 goals in 724 appearances for Barca in all competitions - that's 0.87 per game on average. 

- His first goal came on May 1, 2005 against Albacete in LaLiga. Since then, he has reached 441 goals in 480 matches in Spain's top flight, at least 130 more than any other player in history.

- He has scored 114 goals in the Champions League, 53 in the Copa del Rey, 14 in the Supercopa de Espana, three in the UEFA Super Cup, and five in the Club World Cup.

 

FOR ARGENTINA:

- Messi has scored 70 senior international goals. His first came on March 1, 2006 in a friendly against Croatia, and his most recent was in a friendly last November against Uruguay.

- He has scored 34 goals in international friendlies, 21 in World Cup qualifiers, nine at the Copa America, and six at the World Cup.

 

PER YEAR:

- In each of the past 11 calendar years, Messi has scored at least 40 goals for club and country. In nine of the last 10, he has reached at least 50.

- His best record in a single year came in 2012, when he scored 91, breaking the previous record of 85 held by Germany great Gerd Muller. He already has 12 in 2020, despite the COVID-19 disruption.

 

HIS FAVOURITE OPPONENT:

- Messi has scored 37 goals in 39 games against Sevilla in all competitions. Next up are Atletico Madrid (32 in 41 games).

- He has managed 26 in 43 games against Real Madrid, making him the all-time top goalscorer in Clasico history.

- Messi has faced 40 different LaLiga teams and scored at least once against 37 of them. Last November, he became the first player to score against 34 different Champions League opponents, surpassing Cristiano Ronaldo and Raul on 33.

 

HIS LEAST FAVOURITE OPPONENT:

- Only three LaLiga teams have ever avoided conceding a goal to Messi: Xerez, Real Murcia and Cadiz.

- Xerez are the only team Messi has faced more than once without scoring. He has played against them twice.

 

WHEN AND HOW HE SCORES:

- Messi has scored 43.32 per cent of his goals in the last 15 minutes of the first half or last 15 minutes of the second.

- He has scored 142 times from set-pieces: 90 penalties and 52 free-kicks.

- Only 24 of his career goals are headers. The most recent was back in March 2017 against Sporting Gijon. 

- Messi has scored 83.1 per cent of his goals (582) with his left foot, and 82.8 per cent (580) from inside the box.

- He has scored 36 LaLiga hat-tricks, which is a record. He has scored three or more times in 54 different matches, the most being five against Bayer Leverkusen in March 2012.

- His tally of 50 for the 2011-12 LaLiga season is a record.

 

WHO SETS HIM UP:

- Luis Suarez has assisted more Messi goals than any other player: 47 in six seasons with Barcelona. Messi has returned the favour 36 times. (CHECK WHO SETS UP ATHLETIC GOAL)

- The other players with the most assists for Messi are Dani Alves (42), Andres Iniesta (37), Xavi (31), Pedro (25), Neymar (22) and Jordi Alba (20).

- Messi has 247 assists for Barca. Since his first goal for the club, he has been involved in 879 of their 2,183 goals in all competitions, or 40.2 per cent.

Lionel Messi's cheeky, chipped penalty against Atletico Madrid on Tuesday took him to 700 career goals for club and country.

The Barcelona and Argentina star has been the scourge of defenders in Spain and across the globe since making his debut professional debut at 17 and his career has now yielded another incredible landmark.

In the process, the forward has collected 34 club trophies and a record six Ballons d'Or, but international honours have eluded him since he won gold at the 2008 Olympics.

To celebrate Messi's latest century, we take a look at 10 of his very best and most important goals.

 

Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already had one goal wrongly ruled out for offside - an audacious chip from the edge of the box - Messi's confidence was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete stopper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for a club.

 

Getafe (H): April 18, 2007

In the 12 years since he first got on the scoresheet, only one of Messi's strikes was ever going to top this list: his Diego Maradona-esque solo goal against Getafe. Messi picked up the ball in his own half and danced around two players before turning on the pace, beating two more defenders and going around the goalkeeper, capping it with a right-footed finish.

Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, Messi's strike against Real Zaragoza seemed to take him from very good into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in this goal, which began when he won the ball from a tackle on halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling the ball into the far corner - leaving Pep Guardiola speechless.

 

Real Madrid (A): April 27, 2011

This was the height of one of the fiercest Clasico rivalries in decades, as Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid waged war on Guardiola's Barca. They met four times in three competitions in less than a month, including in the Champions League semi-finals, when Messi faced pretty brutal treatment as Madrid tried to shackle him. He scored twice in a 2-0 first-leg win at the Santiago Bernabeu but it is the first goal people remember: the tension of the match, the bitterness of the rivalry, the ducking, weaving slalom through the defence and the composed finish past Casillas, all from the most nonchalant Sergio Busquets assist you will ever see.

 

Iran (N): June 21, 2014

Prior to the 2014 World Cup, Messi had only scored one goal in eight appearances. Seemingly determined to step up for Argentina, he netted in his side's opening match before going on to score one of the goals of the tournament in the second against Iran. With the score at 0-0 heading into stoppage time, Messi took control of the ball and bent a powerful strike past the despairing arms of Alireza Haghighi to break Iranian hearts.

Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

Having already opened the scoring three minutes earlier to give Barca a 1-0 advantage over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, Messi doubled his tally with a sumptuous effort. Ivan Rakitic's pass sent Messi on his way, before the little maestro's trickery put Jerome Boateng on his backside and allowed the Argentine to casually lift the ball over the onrushing Manuel Neuer.

 

Athletic Bilbao (N): May 30, 2015

The second part of a treble-winning season for Barca came in the form of the Copa Del Rey against Athletic Bilbao. With 20 minutes gone and the score deadlocked, Messi set off on a marauding run down the right wing and soon found himself trapped amongst three defenders. Naturally, Messi was able to float past the trio as if they weren't there, before cutting into the box and beating Iago Herrerin at his near post.

Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Real Madrid the title, and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in the 92nd minute gave Jordi Alba the chance to square it to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

 

Ecuador (A): October 11, 2017

Romario Ibarra's first-minute goal in the last match of CONMEBOL qualification left football fans across the globe staring at the prospect of the unthinkable – a World Cup without Messi. Enter the man himself, who dragged Argentina out of a bumbling stupor to single-handedly tear Ecuador apart with a sensational hat-trick. The shift of pace and stunning, dipping finish into the top corner to claim the matchball was the best of the bunch and a grateful bench spilled on to the field to mob their hero.

 

Real Betis (A): March 17, 2019

Messi has never won the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal of the year, although he has twice come second, most recently for this effort against Real Betis in a 4-1 win last season. He sent the ball left to Ivan Rakitic and hurried to the edge of the box for the return ball, then - having shaped for a powerful strike towards the near post - chipped a sublime effort into the far corner beyond the despairing Pau Lopez. The goal completed his hat-trick and earned an ovation from the home fans but was not enough to beat Debrecen's Daniel Zsori to the Puskas prize.

The effects of climate change are staring athletes dead in the eye.

The increased expenses of cooling Stadia around the world should be disturbing enough.

It’s full time athletes advocate for the environment.

Yes, climate change affects everybody.

The thing is, I can list everyday people who try to spread knowledge about it. I remember reaching out to Suzanne Stanley, CEO of the Jamaica Environment Trust because I was curious.

I wanted to know more about the environment and climate change and I wanted to share that knowledge with others. She answered all my questions.

There aren’t many athletes who, with their millions of Instagram followers and big endorsement contracts who have taken similar steps. Maybe it isn’t their job, but it is their business.

Sport contributes to climate change in more ways than we think. Researchers have even dubbed the industry’s impact on the environment, an ‘inconvenient truth’.

Here’s one example. To fill a stadium ahead of an event, athletes, spectators and the media travel. This travel impacts the environment in major ways. Air travel, driving by bus, taxi, or personal vehicles add to the regular release of carbon dioxide into the air.

Carbon dioxide traps heat— increasing the global temperature. As places get hotter, you may find just as sport impacted the environment, the environment will now begin to impact sport.

At the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, water breaks became a regular part of the game. Interestingly, water breaks just to help footballers survive 90 minutes on the pitch are expected to be part of the sport for the foreseeable future. Will we wait until the medical requirements for playing a game of football become too prohibitive for the game to be played? Maybe that is too far down the road for some of us to look.

Cutting down trees increases temperatures as well. We need trees because they absorb carbon dioxide. Less carbon dioxide, less trapping of heat, cooler temperatures.

However, every few years, there are a number of cities and/or countries that bid on major international events like the World Cup or the Olympic Games. For a bid to be successful, that country or city has to prove it can provide the facilities to host those games.

Yes, you guessed it, these stadia are going to be built at the expense of trees. Trees in the construction, as well as trees just to make space.

Sports like car racing contribute to the carbon footprint. These athletes get paid to do a sport that glorifies the internal combustion engine. When income is involved (and lots of it) it’s easy to turn a blind eye.

Formula One racing, for instance, is a billion-dollar-per-year business, climate change be damned.

NASCAR is another racing entity that hovers around the billion-dollar mark as well, but the need for big engines and blinding speed will mean, unlike the circuit has done with the Black Lives Matters campaign, there won’t be too much change.

Thank God for Formula E!

What I’m saying is, we all have a part to play in spreading awareness about climate change. This includes how we contribute to it and ways to mitigate/adapt to it. But athletes are barely doing anything. Hardly ever utilizing their following.

Why aren’t the voices from athletes posting information about climate change on social media platforms as big as the carbon footprint their sports leave?

Let me make some suggestions that won’t hurt an athlete.

There are fun and accurate infographics about climate change that are free to share. Infographics aren't overwhelming— this is good for short attention spans. They give relevant information quickly and clearly. The visuals help too.

But before athletes can share information, they have to educate themselves. Luckily, they can ask around as I did.

There are athletes who do their part and are providing an example for others to follow.

Elaine Thompson was the ambassador for NuhDuttyUpJamaica and participated in the International Coastal Cleanup Day in 2017.

It’s an eye-opening experience to see just how much waste is collected.

Last but not least, and I don’t envisage this happening anytime soon, but athletes and the associations that fund events need to begin sanctioning countries that don’t take climate change seriously. Don’t compete in those countries. Let’s see the reformative power of sport at work.

The lack of advocacy from athletes would suggest they aren’t impacted by climate change.

Maybe their spacious houses have a pool and air conditioning to keep them cool. Perhaps they fly out to another country when the weather in their own takes a turn for the worse, who knows?

What I do know is climate change affects everyone. We all need to speak up about it.

Please share your thoughts on Twitter (@SportsMax_Carib) or in the comments section on Facebook (@SportsMax). Don’t forget to use #IAmNotAFan. Until next time!

Lionel Messi is celebrating his 33rd birthday, which provides the perfect excuse to reflect on the Barcelona star's best 10 goals.

The Argentina forward has been the scourge of defenders in Spain and across the globe since making his professional debut at 17.

He has now scored 699 goals, collecting 34 club trophies and a record six Ballons d'Or, but international honours have eluded him since he won gold at the 2008 Olympics.

To celebrate Messi's special day, we take a look at 10 of his very best and most important goals.

Albacete (H): May 1, 2005

Even at 17, Messi had the confidence of a veteran. Having already had one goal wrongly ruled out for offside - an audacious chip from the edge of the box - Messi's confidence was far from knocked and just a minute later he latched onto Ronaldinho's pass before lobbing the ball over Albacete stopper Raul Valbuena from 16 yards. Some way to open your account for a club.

 

Getafe (H): April 18, 2007

In the 12 years since he first got on the scoresheet, only one of Messi's strikes was ever going to top this list: his Diego Maradona-esque solo goal against Getafe. Messi picked up the ball in his own half and danced around two players before turning on the pace, beating two more defenders and going around the goalkeeper, capping it with a right-footed finish.

Real Zaragoza (A): March 21, 2010

Described by some as 'a defining goal' in his career, Messi's strike against Real Zaragoza seemed to take him from very good into another class entirely. Messi displayed all he had to offer in this goal, which began when he won the ball from a tackle on halfway. From there, he shrugged off one challenge, raced towards the box and turned a defender inside out before drilling the ball into the far corner - leaving Pep Guardiola speechless.

 

Real Madrid (A): April 27, 2011

This was the height of one of the fiercest Clasico rivalries in decades, as Jose Mourinho's Real Madrid waged war on Guardiola's Barca. They met four times in three competitions in less than a month, including in the Champions League semi-finals, when Messi faced pretty brutal treatment as Madrid tried to shackle him. He scored twice in a 2-0 first-leg win at the Santiago Bernabeu but it is the first goal people remember: the tension of the match, the bitterness of the rivalry, the ducking, weaving slalom through the defence and the composed finish past Casillas, all from the most nonchalant Sergio Busquets assist you will ever see.

 

Iran (N): June 21, 2014

Prior to the 2014 World Cup, Messi had only scored one goal in eight appearances. Seemingly determined to step up for Argentina, he netted in his side's opening match before going on to score one of the goals of the tournament in the second against Iran. With the score at 0-0 heading into stoppage time, Messi took control of the ball and bent a powerful strike past the despairing arms of Alireza Haghighi to break Iranian hearts.

Bayern Munich (H): May 6, 2015

Having already opened the scoring three minutes earlier to give Barca a 1-0 advantage over Bayern Munich in the Champions League semi-final, Messi doubled his tally with a sumptuous effort. Ivan Rakitic's pass sent Messi on his way, before the little maestro's trickery put Jerome Boateng on his backside and allowed the Argentine to casually lift the ball over the onrushing Manuel Neuer.

 

Athletic Bilbao (N): May 30, 2015

The second part of a treble-winning season for Barca came in the form of the Copa Del Rey against Athletic Bilbao. With 20 minutes gone and the score deadlocked, Messi set off on a marauding run down the right wing and soon found himself trapped amongst three defenders. Naturally, Messi was able to float past the trio as if they weren't there, before cutting into the box and beating Iago Herrerin at his near post.

Real Madrid (A): April 23, 2017

El Clasico rarely disappoints for football fans around the globe, and this edition was no different. Anything but a win would essentially hand Real Madrid the title, and it looked to be headed for a 2-2 draw until Sergi Roberto's swashbuckling run in the 92nd minute gave Jordi Alba the chance to square it to Messi, who finished with aplomb from the edge of the area for his 500th Barcelona goal.

 

Ecuador (A): October 11, 2017

Romario Ibarra's first-minute goal in the last match of CONMEBOL qualification left football fans across the globe staring at the prospect of the unthinkable – a World Cup without Messi. Enter the man himself, who dragged Argentina out of a bumbling stupor to single-handedly tear Ecuador apart with a sensational hat-trick. The shift of pace and stunning, dipping finish into the top corner to claim the matchball was the best of the bunch and a grateful bench spilled on to the field to mob their hero.

 

Real Betis (A): March 17, 2019

Messi has never won the FIFA Puskas Award for the best goal of the year, although he has twice come second, most recently for this effort against Real Betis in a 4-1 win last season. He sent the ball left to Ivan Rakitic and hurried to the edge of the box for the return ball, then - having shaped for a powerful strike towards the near post - chipped a sublime effort into the far corner beyond the despairing Pau Lopez. The goal completed his hat-trick and earned an ovation from the home fans but was not enough to beat Debrecen's Daniel Zsori to the Puskas prize.

Page 1 of 17
© 2020 SportsMaxTV All Rights Reserved.