Pat Cummins hopes to be fit for Australia's second Test against West Indies, after his side ran out comfortable victors in Perth on Sunday.

A devastating six-wicket performance from Nathan Lyon helped the hosts to a 164-run victory at Optus Stadium, despite a defiant half-century in defeat from Roston Chase.

Cummins elected not to bowl in the final innings after suffering a minor quad strain earlier in the Test however, sparking fears he may have to sit out their next match in Adelaide, starting on Thursday.

But the captain thinks he will be able to play, and discussed how he will measure his workload ahead of the game, plus a subsequent red-ball series with South Africa.

"I felt okay," he said. "It was more not trying to run as opposed to being restricted to run. If it got a bit tighter, I was going to have a bowl but [I'm] pretty happy I managed not to, to give myself a good chance.

"It's just a small strain. If you bowl, you make it worse and can make [recovery] longer. I'll spend the next few days rehabbing, getting it right, and I think it's a pretty good chance I'll be good for Adelaide.

"We've got five Tests and I want to make sure I'm available for all five. It's always like that. But a lot of the Test matches you leave with absolutely nothing left in the tank."

With four more matches to come this month, though, Cummins said he would leave the call in the hands of Australia's medical staff and selectors amid a series of short turnarounds.

"You don't really want to turn a one-week injury into a three or four-week injury, and potentially miss the summer," he added. "So we'll weigh all that up.

"As I said, I felt pretty comfortable out there. The physio might be less optimistic, but I think I'll be fine. I'm sure I'll have running and a bit of bowling to make sure I'm right."

Lionel Messi was liberated by winning last year's Copa America and is relishing his leading role in Argentina's World Cup bid, according to former team-mate Sergio Aguero.

Messi scored his ninth World Cup goal – and his first in a knockout tie – as Argentina claimed a 2-1 victory over Australia on Saturday, teeing up a quarter-final meeting with the Netherlands.

The seven-time Ballon d'Or winner's strike, a trademark left-footed finish after cutting inside from the right, also saw him surpass Diego Maradona's tally of eight World Cup goals for Argentina. Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) now has more for the country.

Messi highlighted his "beautiful" bond with Argentina's supporters after the win, but Aguero believes that is a recent development, one which came about as a result of the Albiceleste ending a 28-year wait to win the Copa America last July.

"Leo is going to do everything possible to achieve the goal that we all want," the former Argentina international told ESPN. 

"Leo is happy and content. The Copa America changed his life, it gave him life. After the Copa America, he was happy again in the national team, like when we were in the under-20s.

"He lived with criticism and lost finals for a long time. The Copa America was liberating for him."

 

Prior to Argentina's triumph over hosts Brazil last year, Messi had suffered the ignominy of losing four major international finals, failing to help his team over the line at the 2014 World Cup or the 2007, 2015 and 2016 editions of the Copa America.

Recalling that victory in Rio de Janeiro, Aguero said Brazil – who could meet Argentina in the World Cup semi-finals – would not relish a rematch.

"If we made it to the quarter-finals, let me be excited," Aguero said. "Do you think that Brazil wants to meet Argentina in the semi-finals? 

"Brazil has just lost the Copa America final, I think they don't want that match."

Nathan Lyon has bowled Australia to a 164-run victory over the West Indies with a fourth-innings six-wicket haul in the first Test in Perth on Sunday.

The West Indies resumed at 192-3 chasing the improbable target of 498 and pushed Australia beyond drinks in the second session before Lyon claimed the final two wickets in successive balls.

Australia skipper Pat Cummins was on the field throughout the final day but did not bowl, due to a quad injury which has him in doubt for the second Test starting in Adelaide on Thursday. Cummins' absence from the attack heaped more pressure on Lyon who shouldered that burden.

Lyon finished with 6-128 from 42.5 overs in the fourth innings, getting the key breakthrough of captain Kraigg Braithwaite, after having Kyle Mayers caught at first slip by Steve Smith in the first session. Braithwaite, who reached his century late on day four, was bowled by Lyon for 110.

Jason Holder was brilliantly caught by Smith at first slip off Travis Head before Joshua De Silva edged to Usman Khawaja off Josh Hazlewood, with the tourists' resistance appearing set to wither at 233-7.

But Alzarri Joseph and Roston Chase put together a stubborn 82-run eighth-wicket partnership which ensured Australia were made to work for their victory. 

Head clean bowled Joseph, who belted three sixes in his 43, on the delivery after wicketkeeper Alex Carey dropped a tough chance, before Lyon dismissed Chase for 55 and Kemar Roach in successive balls.

Marnus Labuschagne was named Player of the Match after his scores of 204 and 104* earlier in the contest.

Lyon brings it home for Australia

Australia's all-time most productive off-spinner Lyon finished the job for the hosts with four final-day wickets and six for the fourth innings, having taken two late on the fourth day.

Lyon's five-wicket haul was the 21st of his Test career, but also his fifth in the fourth innings of a Test match, with only one of those coming before 2019.

Positives for West Indies

Not much was expected from the West Indies in this series but they can take some heart from their gallant defeat in Perth, although it leaves them 1-0 down in the two-game Test series.

The West Indies bowling left a bit to be desired but their opening batsmen did well, with Braithwaite scoring 64 and 110, while debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul impressed with 51 and 45.

Nathan Lyon has bowled Australia to a 164-run victory over the West Indies with a fourth-innings six-wicket haul in the first Test in Perth on Sunday.

The West Indies resumed at 192-3 chasing the improbable target of 498 and pushed Australia beyond drinks in the second session before Lyon claimed the final two wickets in successive balls.

Australia skipper Pat Cummins was on the field throughout the final day but did not bowl, due to a quad injury which has him in doubt for the second Test starting in Adelaide on Thursday. Cummins' absence from the attack heaped more pressure on Lyon who shouldered that burden.

Lyon finished with 6-128 from 42.5 overs in the fourth innings, getting the key breakthrough of captain Kraigg Braithwaite, after having Kyle Mayers caught at first slip by Steve Smith in the first session. Braithwaite, who reached his century late on day four, was bowled by Lyon for 110.

Jason Holder was brilliantly caught by Smith at first slip off Travis Head before Joshua De Silva edged to Usman Khawaja off Josh Hazlewood, with the tourists' resistance appearing set to wither at 233-7.

But Alzarri Joseph and Roston Chase put together a stubborn 82-run eighth-wicket partnership which ensured Australia were made to work for their victory. 

Head clean bowled Joseph, who belted three sixes in his 43, on the delivery after wicketkeeper Alex Carey dropped a tough chance, before Lyon dismissed Chase for 55 and Kemar Roach in successive balls.

Marnus Labuschagne was named Player of the Match after his scores of 204 and 104* earlier in the contest.

Lyon brings it home for Australia

Australia's all-time most productive off-spinner Lyon finished the job for the hosts with four final-day wickets and six for the fourth innings, having taken two late on the fourth day.

Lyon's five-wicket haul was the 21st of his Test career, but also his fifth in the fourth innings of a Test match, with only one of those coming before 2019.

Positives for West Indies

Not much was expected from the West Indies in this series but they can take some heart from their gallant defeat in Perth, although it leaves them 1-0 down in the two-game Test series.

The West Indies bowling left a bit to be desired but their opening batsmen did well, with Braithwaite scoring 64 and 110, while debutant Tagenarine Chanderpaul impressed with 51 and 45.

Lionel Messi was motivated to become "even bigger than he is" against Australia due to a confrontation with Aziz Behich moments before his goal, according to Alexis Mac Allister.

Argentina captain Messi inspired his side to a 2-1 win in the last 16 of the World Cup on Saturday, booking a quarter-final against the Netherlands.

The legendary forward had endured a quiet start to the match, with Argentina struggling as a result, but he burst into life 10 minutes before half-time.

Messi pressed Behich in the corner of the pitch and won an Albiceleste throw-in, with the pair then tangling in a brief tussle.

Within seconds, Messi had fired a precious opener, his first World Cup knockout goal in his ninth such match.

"Leo, when these things happen, he brings out that inner fire that he has, that personality that makes him even bigger than he is," team-mate Mac Allister said. "In these kind of games, he becomes bigger.

"For us, he is the most important player. He knows it, he helps us a lot, and for us, it is a pride to be able to accompany him.

 

"We know that he always tries to give his best, but when something happens [like the confrontation] he has enough personality to get out of it, to make it work for him and start playing even better."

Messi was involved in everything Argentina did going forward, attempting six shots and creating four chances – two high marks across the match.

That made Mac Allister's job simple: give Messi the ball.

"I really enjoy playing with Messi," the Brighton and Hove Albion midfielder said. "For me, he's the best player in history, in the world, and I'm proud to be next to him.

"I try to give him the ball to him, because if the ball goes through him, everything is easier. I think he's having a great World Cup and we need him a lot."

Australia's plan to foil Lionel Messi did not come off, but Garang Kuol believes the Socceroos showed in this World Cup campaign they can compete with the best around.

After losing their opening game to France, Australia responded with back-to-back 1-0 wins over Tunisia and Denmark, reaching a last-16 tie against Argentina.

Graham Arnold's side threatened an upset on Saturday, too, but eventually went down 2-1 after Messi inspired La Albiceleste to victory.

Socceroos coach Arnold said of Messi, who scored the opener: "Look, he's incredible, one of the greatest ever.

"We worked really hard to not be in awe of him, because of the great player he is, but he's remarkable.

"I had the privilege of playing against Diego Maradona and now of coaching against Lionel Messi on a few occasions.

"They're both wonderful players and Argentina should be so proud and happy they've produced players of that calibre."

Teenage winger Kuol, who at 18 became the youngest player to feature in a World Cup knockout match since Pele, could have netted a late leveller, only for Emiliano Martinez to block well.

"I was telling myself that I'd come on and score a goal, and Arnie was telling me to come on and do the same thing," Kuol said. "We had the same expectation.

"When I wasn't able to score, I was very disappointed, but we move on.

"I didn't really see much of it. I just turned around and tried to shoot. It was only when I saw the replay I could see the keeper rushed out. It's just a learning curve."

Although Australia came up short against both France and Argentina, Kuol felt their performances were evident of a narrowing gap between the Socceroos and their elite opponents.

"Yeah, 100 per cent," he said. "People think the people in Europe can fly or something, but we're all humans, we've all got two feet. It's all just about the passion and the heart."

Whether Arnold is the man to lead Australia into future meetings with Argentina and Co. remains to be seen.

"I haven't even thought about it," he said. "My contract is up and I just want to go away, have a good holiday, have a break and see what happens.

"I've worked extremely hard throughout this campaign, I did the Olympic team for nothing just to help these players come through.

"I need a break and a rest, then I'm sure I'll have good discussions with the federation."

Argentina head coach Lionel Scaloni said his players were born to handle high-pressure World Cup contests after Lionel Messi led them to a 2-1 win over Australia in the last 16.

Messi scored his ninth World Cup goal – and his first in a knockout tie – as Argentina edged out Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday, with Julian Alvarez also getting on the scoresheet following a mistake from Mathew Ryan.

Argentina will now face the Netherlands for a semi-final place on Friday, a prospect which appeared unlikely when they began their campaign with a stunning defeat to Saudi Arabia 11 days ago.

Asked how the Albiceleste had managed to turn their tournament around, Scaloni said: "What I said before the Mexico match was that these guys were born to play these games.

"Argentina have played three games which were very intense, where being knocked out was a reality. But these players are capable. Sometimes the urgency and anxiety makes you feel different.

"Even if things happen like the Saudi Arabia game or the Australia goal today, we have to keep believing in our football. 

"There is no pressure in football, that's how I see it. Pressure is something else.

"If you've watched Argentina today, these are memories which will stay with you forever. You've seen these young players, and also Leo, playing beautifully."

The next hurdle for Argentina to overcome will be a heavyweight tussle with the nation they beat in both the 1978 World Cup final and the 2014 semi-finals.

While Scaloni acknowledges the Oranje's current crop may not be as easy on the eye as some of their predecessors, he expects a tough test against Louis van Gaal's men.

Asked about Van Gaal's qualities, Scaloni said: "I was a young player at Deportivo La Coruna when he was coaching at Barcelona. He's a great coach and many have to try to take a page from his book. It's a pleasure to face him at a World Cup.

"Today we saw the Netherlands match. They probably don't play as beautifully as some older Dutch teams, but they have very strong points that they will try to use.

"It will be a beautiful game between two historic national teams, and one will be knocked out, unfortunately."

Argentina are hopeful of receiving a fitness boost ahead of Friday, with Scaloni revealing Angel Di Maria – who was an unused substitute on Saturday after suffering a thigh injury – could return.

"I didn't think we were going to help anyone by bringing him on today," he said of Di Maria. "We hope that in the next few days he keeps evolving and he can make it for the next match."

Lionel Messi has now gone past Diego Maradona for World Cup appearances and goals – and the Argentina number 10 has pulled exactly level with his predecessor on two important statistics that showcase their creative brilliance.

Saturday's hard-fought 2-1 win over Australia carried Argentina into the quarter-finals, with Messi scoring the ninth World Cup goal of his career to put Lionel Scaloni's team 1-0 in front in the first half.

That nudged Messi ahead of Maradona's career haul of eight goals, while he has moved to 23 World Cup appearances during this tournament, two ahead of his late compatriot and fellow number 10 shirt wearer's previous national team record.

Messi is just one behind Gabriel Batistuta's record of 10 World Cup goals with Argentina, and he may have that in the back of his mind ahead of Friday's last-eight clash with the Netherlands.

The Paris Saint-Germain forward is picking off records as he goes during this tournament, and he will surely overtake two more Maradona marks in that clash with Louis van Gaal's team.

That is because Messi and Maradona are now exactly level when it comes to chances created and open play chances created at the World Cup.

 

They have both created 67 chances, and with each man, 48 of those chances have come about in open play, Opta data shows.

Messi created four chances in all against Australia, including a golden opportunity for Lautaro Martinez that the substitute ballooned wastefully late in the game as Argentina looked to put the game beyond their gallant opponents.

Where Maradona beats Messi is in goal assists. Maradona's eight from 1982 to 1994 beats Messi's haul of six assists to date, since his World Cup debut at the 2006 finals.

Maradona was the driving force behind Argentina's 1986 World Cup triumph in Mexico, and later coached the national team, notably at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa.

He died in November 2020 at the age of 60.

Saturday's game against Australia was the 1,000th of Messi's career for club and country.

 

Lionel Messi celebrated his first World Cup knockout stage goal on his 1,000th career appearance by showing appreciation for Argentina's fans as he helped his country reach the quarter-finals in Qatar.

Messi opened the scoring in Argentina's 2-1 win against Australia at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium on Saturday, with Julian Alvarez doubling the lead before an Enzo Fernandez own goal caused some late nerves.

Only Gabriel Batistuta (10) has scored more World Cup goals for La Albiceleste than Messi's nine, and the captain praised the efforts of travelling fans as his team advanced to face the Netherlands in the last eight.

"I am very happy for taking another step forward and achieving another objective," Messi said at a post-match press conference. "[Australia] were very strong and it was a difficult match, we knew it would be this way.

"We played very recently and didn't have much time to rest up, so we were concerned as we knew it would be a very physical match. Luckily we found the goal, and then at two goals ahead it was easier for us.

"I am very happy to share these beautiful moments with all the fans, I know the efforts they have made to be here with us in every match. The whole of Argentina would like to be here."

Messi made his 169th appearance for Argentina, to go with 778 at Barcelona and 53 at Paris Saint-Germain. To date, he has 789 goals and 338 assists across those 1,000 games, and Australia were the 129th team he has scored against in his career.

"This bond or union that we have with the fans is something beautiful, and that's what the national team should be," Messi said.

"We were excited and eager to be together with the people again. It's unbelievable, the passion and energy they transmit."

Lionel Messi marked his 1,000th career appearance with his first ever goal in the World Cup knockout stage as Argentina reached the quarter-finals with a 2-1 win over Australia on Saturday.

Australia were content to frustrate their opponents at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, but Messi carved the Socceroos open in trademark fashion as half-time approached – picking out the bottom-left corner to net.

If Argentina's first goal was sublime, their second bordered on the ridiculous as Australia goalkeeper Mathew Ryan gifted possession to Julian Alvarez, who made no mistake to seal the win.

Australia halved the arrears when Craig Goodwin's effort deflected off Enzo Fernandez and beyond Emiliano Martinez, but Argentina never looked likely to be pegged back as they teed up a quarter-final clash with the Netherlands.

Argentina struggled to make any early headway as Graham Arnold's men defended resolutely, but La Albiceleste had their seven-time Ballon d'Or winner to thank when they took the lead with their first real attack.

With 35 minutes gone, Messi darted inside from the right wing to latch onto Nicolas Otamendi's lay-off before planting a neat side-footed finish beyond the despairing dive of Ryan. 

Messi saw an effort deflect into Ryan's arms as Argentina chased a second after the restart, but the goalkeeper was at fault as Argentina doubled their lead with 57 minutes gone.

Ryan inexplicably tried to dribble his way out of trouble when pressed by Rodrigo De Paul and Alvarez, and the Manchester City striker applied the simplest of finishes after stealing possession.

Australia reduced the deficit out of nowhere when Goodwin's long-range strike found the bottom-right corner via Fernandez, before Lisandro Martinez denied Aziz Behich a remarkable leveller with a fine last-ditch tackle.

Substitute Lautaro Martinez went close on three occasions before Emiliano Martinez denied Garang Kuol from point-blank range at the last, but Argentina clung on to seal their progress.

Lionel Messi was named in the Argentina line-up for the 1,000th match of his career on Saturday, but Angel Di Maria only made the bench.

La Albiceleste were facing Australia in the last 16 of the World Cup, with captain Messi reaching the 1,000 mark for games with club and country.

Di Maria, Argentina's big injury doubt, could not join his team-mate in the line-up, however.

The Juventus winger was substituted in the second half of the Group C win over Poland, and head coach Lionel Scaloni was still unsure of his status in Friday's pre-match news conference.

With Di Maria named among the Argentina substitutes, Sevilla's Papu Gomez came into the XI in the only change, perhaps indicating an alteration to the system or to Messi's role.

Graham Arnold also made a single change to his Australia side following their superb win against Denmark, replacing Craig Goodwin with Keanu Baccus.

Marquino Mindley is travelling to Australia as injury cover for the West Indies Men’s squad ahead of the second Test in Adelaide. The right-arm fast bowler is due to arrive in Australia on Tuesday morning. 

All-rounder Raymon Reifer has been ruled out of the tour with a groin injury and Kyle Mayers can no longer bowl in the series after suffering a strain to his right teres major. Nkrumah Bonner has been ruled out of further participation in the current first Test Match due to concussion protocols after being struck on the helmet when batting in West Indies first innings. Shamarh Brooks replaced him as the concussion substitute. 

Mindley, 27, has so far played 42 first-class matches with 103 wickets at an average of 24.25 runs per wickets. His last first-class assignment was in August for the West Indies “A” Team against Bangladesh “A” in Saint Lucia where he had impressive figures of 5-59 in the first four-day match.

The first Test is being played at the Perth Stadium and enters the fifth and final day on Sunday, 4 December. The second Test will be a day/night contest featuring the pink cricket ball at the Adelaide Oval, from Thursday 8 December to Monday 12 December. The two teams are competing for the Frank Worrell trophy, named in honor of the former West Indies captain and icon.

FULL SQUAD

Kraigg Brathwaite (Captain)

Jermaine Blackwood (Vice Captain)

Nkrumah Bonner

Shamarh Brooks

Tagenarine Chanderpaul

Roston Chase

Joshua Da Silva

Jason Holder

Alzarri Joseph

Kyle Mayers

Marquino. Mindley

Anderson Phillip

Kemar Roach

Jayden Seales

Devon Thomas

 

 

Australia's Marnus Labuschagne is honoured to join an elite band of players to score a double and single century in a match after his efforts against West Indies.

The top-order batsman added a further knock of 104 not out to his first-innings score of 204 to help push the hosts closer to victory in the first Test.

With his efforts at Optus Stadium, Labuschagne is just the third Australian to achieve the feat, after Doug Waters in 1969 and Greg Chappell against New Zealand in 1974.

He is the eighth overall to manage it, joining an illustrious list, and the batsman acknowledged his achievements were yet to sink in.

"I've only found out about the club," Labuschagne said. "I haven’t really had time to reflect on it yet. As a player, you never know how special it is until time goes by.

"You get to those periods where you don’t make as many hundreds, and you miss out a few times. You're like geez, remember that day?

"I feel very privileged to be able to be even named with those players in that club."

West Indies duo Brian Lara and Lawrence Rowe, India's Sunil Gavaskar and England's Graham Gooch are among the others to have achieved the feat, with Sir Lanka's Kumar Sangakkara the last to have done it before Labuschagne.

Australia will look to secure victory on the final day in Perth after finishing Saturday needing seven wickets for victory, having been held off by Kraigg Brathwaite's stubborn century in response.

Kraigg Brathwaite's defiant stand left Australia needing seven final-day wickets to secure victory in the first Test with West Indies at Optus Stadium.

Having seen Marnus Labuschagne achieve the rare feat of a double and single century in the same match with his 104 not out, the hosts had declared on 182-2 on Saturday.

With 498 to defend, hopes of an easy cruise to the finish line proved more complicated for Pat Cummins' side, with the skipper forced off with a quad strain in the fourth innings.

Though he later returned to the field, the tourists proved to be anything but easy pickings in Perth, with Brathwaite (101 not out) leading a spirited charge in pursuit, to finish the day on 192-3.

Nathan Lyon (2-54) and Mitchell Starc (1-36) made some headway with the ball, but there is still work to do for the hosts to finish the job.

The day had appeared to belong to Labuschagne, becoming only the third Australian and eighth player overall to post a double century and a single century across the two innings of a red-ball match.

However, Brathwaite, ably supported by Tagenarine Chanderpaul (45), gave the Windies a glimmer of hope heading into an intriguing final day.

Two declarations the treat for Australia

Having curtailed their own innings twice, it is a testament to the hosts' dominance that they look absurdly sharp ahead of what will be a busy month that also sees them welcome South Africa for red-ball encounters.

For Labuschagne in particular, with his total score eclipsing his previous best of 274 set against New Zealand in 2020, it proves that his resurgence in Galle against Sri Lanka last month was no fluke, too, in what will be a major relief.

West Indies on brink of defeat

Having seen Australia rack up their second-biggest total against them in the country – behind Sydney in 1969 – it was always going to be a long stretch for the tourists to take this one.

With a full day of cricket ahead, it will take some serious effort from their middle order and tail to either play for a draw or mount a shock result.

Once every four years players from across the globe get a chance to perform on the world stage and force their way into the football zeitgeist.

Whether it is a young midfielder from Ghana who has been battling injuries the past couple of seasons, or a mercurial Dutch forward trying to push his way out of the Eredivisie, it is the perfect launchpad to alter the course of a player's career.

Stats Perform has identified four players who have lit up Qatar and, in turn, have seen their profile and transfer stock skyrocket, opening the door to a new world of possibilities come the January transfer window.

Take a look at these young leading lights...

Cody Gakpo, the Netherlands

Cody Gakpo has perhaps been the breakout star of the tournament, finding the back of the net in all three of the Netherlands' group matches.

Having spent his entire career with PSV, the 23-year-old six-foot-four forward took a huge step forward in the 2021-22 season when he shattered his best goal return, following up his 11 goals in the 2020-21 campaign with 21 last time out.

While those in the Netherlands set-up were waiting to see if he could replicate his terrific 12 months, he has taken another leap, with 12 goals and 14 assists in 19 combined Eredivisie and Europa League contests this term.

There were rumours in the most recent transfer window that Leeds United were among the clubs looking to lure Gakpo away from PSV for a fee in the range of €30million, but he opted to reject their contract offer in the hope of landing at one of Europe's biggest clubs.

That bet on himself has proven to be a masterstroke, with his performances on the Qatar stage well and truly putting him on the radar of Champions League sides including Real Madrid, Liverpool and Bayern Munich, per Dutch journalist Marco Timmer.

He became the first player from any European nation since 2002 to score in each group match, while he also became only the second player to put his side 1-0 up in all three group fixtures.

Enzo Fernandez, Argentina

Just over six months ago, Enzo Fernandez was playing for River Plate back in Argentina, but just half a season after arriving at Benfica for a deal worth up to €18m, the attacking midfielder could be moving on to greener pastures.

Fernandez, 21, broke into the Argentina squad while still with River Plate, but did not receive his senior debut until September 24 this year.

His lead-up to the World Cup was strong enough to book his ticket to Qatar, and after coming off the bench in Argentina's first group-stage loss to Saudi Arabia, he came on and scored against Mexico, forcing his way into the starting XI before contributing an assist against Poland.

His rapid rise has not gone unnoticed, and Marca is reporting Benfica have slapped a €100m fee on their new star if any team wants to pry him away while his contract still has another four seasons locked in.

Real Madrid are one side said to be accepting of that figure, with Marca claiming they now view him as an alternative option to Borussia Dortmund and England prodigy Jude Bellingham.

Mohammed Kudus, Ghana

Ajax's Mohammed Kudus had begun to break out at the club level this season heading into the World Cup.

The 22-year-old central midfielder scored four goals – including one each against Liverpool and Napoli – while adding two assists in six Champions League fixtures.

After being awarded his first senior international cap for Ghana back in 2019, he was spotted at Danish side Nordsjaelland and brought over to Ajax for a €9m fee in 2020.

He missed extended stretches of both the 2020-21 and 2021-22 campaigns through injuries, and still has not been used as a guaranteed starter this season, but his emergence on the World Cup stage has been undeniable.

Against South Korea, Kudus delivered Ghana their only win of the group as he found the back of the net twice in a 3-2 triumph, and it was a performance that is said to have caught the eye of European powerhouses.

Fichajes named Liverpool, Chelsea, Real Madrid and Paris Saint-Germain as interested parties, and Sports Illustrated believe his price will be around £90m.

 

Harry Souttar, Australia

Australia have now qualified for five World Cups in a row, but after not winning a game at both the 2014 and 2018 editions, they had centre-back Harry Souttar to thank for finally taking three points against Tunisia.

Souttar, 24, stands at a towering six-foot-six and showed off an impressive ability to cover ground in a hurry when he was called upon for a potentially game-saving, last-man challenge to defend Australia's 1-0 lead.

It was one of the most spectacular defensive efforts of the tournament so far and one that will go down in Australian football folklore, and it is even more significant when taking into account his recent history.

Tipped as a potential £20m transfer target late in 2021, Souttar then tore his ACL and missed 12 months of action, returning to the field in time to get three games under his belt with Stoke City before jetting off to the World Cup.

While he could be forgiven for needing time to work his way into form, he has instead started all three group games and been the Socceroos' top performer, including his stellar efforts in a second clean sheet against Denmark to help his side through to the knockout stage.

Clearly back to the player he was before his injury – at least – Souttar's showings on the world stage have been the kind that can take a career to a new level.

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