Gates will open at 2pm for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final between Argentina and France Sunday at the Lusail Stadium and fans have been urged to be seated by 4.30pm.While the game kicks off at 6pm, fans should plan to take their seats by 4.30pm, so as not to miss the stunning closing ceremony, titled 'A Night to Remember', a FIFA statement said. As many as 88,000 spectators are expected in the iconic stadium for the final."Following an opening ceremony that celebrated bridging the gaps and getting to know one another beyond our differences, the final ceremony will last 15 minutes and reference the world coming together for the 29 days of the tournament through poetry and music.'A Night to Remember' will wrap up with a mashup of songs from the Official Soundtrack that marked memorable moments of the tournament. Performing live to the stadium crowd and global audience, Davido and Aisha will sing ‘(Hayya Hayya) Better Together’, Ozuna and Gims will do ‘Arhbo’, and the full female lineup of ‘Light the Sky’ will be present with Nora Fatehi, Balqees, Rahma Riad and Manal, the statement added.
The FIFA Council met Friday two days before World Cup Qatar 2022 final between Argentina and France in Lusail, which FIFA President Gianni Infantino hailed as the “best ever”, following nearly a month during which “football reinforced its unique cohesive power by uniting the world in a spirit of peace and friendship.” Club World Cup to feature32 teams in 2025The 2025 Club World Cup will feature 32 teams, making the format similar to the ongoing World Cup, FIFA President Gianni Infantino said Friday. He said the tournament, which currently involves seven teams, would be held every four years and would boost revenues for the global sports body further.Currently the top teams of every continental competition as well as the hosts' national champion battle it out for the Club World Cup title.Infantino also said that the 2022 Club World Cup, traditionally held in December but delayed this year due to the ongoing World Cup in Qatar, will be hosted by Morocco from February 1-11 2023. The decision was taken by the FIFA Council following its meeting Friday.Infantino said overall the tournament had so far been a success, having attracted a total of 1.7mn people in the fan zones, with some 80,000 fans attending those areas daily. Average attendance also stood at 52,000 per match, some 5,000 more spectators than at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.In total, Infantino said, some 3.27mn spectators — domestic and international — were recorded with two matches still remaining. The total figure for the entire tournament in 2018 was 3.03mn. "The World Cup has been an incredible success on all fronts," he said. "The main one being the fans, the behaviour, the joyful atmosphere, the bringing of people together. The fans meeting the Arab world, it has been very important for the future of all of us. It was very, very successful, but touch wood, two matches to go. Focus until the end and then we will of course confirm these feelings that we have now." Infantino said the tournament had exceeded revenue predictions in the four-year cycle leading to 2022, rising to a record $7.5bn — $1bn more than the previous four-year period leading to the 2018 World Cup. He said FIFA expected revenues to increase to $11bn in the years leading to the 2026 tournament, which will expand from 32 to 48 teams. Qatar World Cup matches were politics free so fans could enjoy the football: InfantinoThe FIFA President also said World Cup in Qatar kept political messaging away from the football so that fans could enjoy "a little moment of pleasure and joy",He defended FIFA's decision not to allow teams to display any messages on their shirts or team captains' armbands. "It is not about prohibiting. It's is about respecting regulations," he told a news conference. "On the field of play we play football. You need to respect the field of play. This is nothing new. Maybe everyone has his own problems. They (fans) just want to spend 90 minutes or 100 minutes or 120 minutes with penalties without having to think about anything else. Just enjoying a little moment of pleasure and joy, of emotions," Infantino said."We have to give these people a moment in time where they can forget their problems and enjoy football. Outside of the match everybody can express their views and opinions."
Over 1mn fans have visited Qatar up to the semifinals of the ongoing FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, a senior official announced Friday, confirming the fulfillment of the organiser’s target for the mega sport event.“We are very pleased to announce that over 1mn fans have visited Qatar for the FIFA World Cup, up to the semifinals,” Fatma al-Nuaimi, communications & media executive director, Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, tweeted.This is in accordance with the expectations of the host country, as Nasser al-Khater, CEO of Qatar 2022, told Gulf Times recently in an exclusive interview.Al-Khater had explained on December 10 that the number of fans will cross one million mark in the next few days as the quarterfinal matches were about to take place.“Close to 800,000 fans and visitors have already reached the country for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Within the coming days the number is expected to go beyond one million,” al-Khater said. He had also pointed out that many more fans were on the way for the next round of matches.“The number of fans that have attended the tournament and reached the country are in line with our plans. We are getting very positive feedback from various corners about the tournament and its organisation so far. The tournament has exceeded our expectations on certain fronts,” he noted.
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final between Argentina and France Sunday will be broadcast on beIN Sports’ free-to-air channel and stream free of charge on beIN’s official YouTube channel, it was announced Friday.As the official broadcaster in 24 countries across Mena (Middle East and North Africa), beIN has played a central role in showcasing Qatar and its ground-breaking tournament to the world this past month, with more than 5bn accumulated views since the biggest sporting event on the planet kicked off on November 20, a statement explained.Sunday’s trophy match between an Argentina side looking to secure a third World Cup title and reigning world champions France, promises to be one of the most-watched sports events in history.beIN Mena chief executive Mohamed al-Subaie said: “The final of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 this Sunday will be a historic occasion for football, for the Arab World, and for beIN.”“For this reason, we are determined to make sure it is available to as many people who want to watch it as possible,” he said. “We started this tournament promising to provide an unrivalled viewing experience to football fans across the region and, with billions of people having tuned in so far, we can safely say we have succeeded in doing that.”“Now, with two games remaining, we are set to finish the tournament as we started, and cannot wait to witness – and broadcast – history as it is written,” al-Subaie added.Ahead of the 6pm final match kick-off at the iconic Lusail stadium, Arabic coverage will start at 8am on beIN Sports’ free-to-air channel, beIN Sports MAX 1, and beIN Sports’ YouTube channel, with a series of shows and countdowns, before the in-studio build-up gets underway from 4pm to 2am the following day.English live coverage starts at 11am on beIN Sports MAX 3 with the World Cup Daily, followed by a countdown show from 1pm to 3.45pm.Commentary on the final match will kick off at 4pm until 9.45pm, and is available in Spanish and English.French live coverage will begin at 10am on beIN Sports MAX 5, with the live pre-match show kicking off at 3.30pm direct from Lusail Stadium.Final match commentary will proceed from 4pm until 10.30pm, with Sunday’s coverage being completed with a post-match show."beIN will have the best line up of regional and international talents anywhere in the world providing the best analysis and insight into the much-anticipated final,” the statement said. “Sunday’s studios will include Mohamed Aboutrika, Tariq al-Jalahma, Kaka, Marcel Desailly, John Terry, Ruud Gullit, Omar Da Fonseca, and Daniel Bravo."
As Croatia and Morocco pick up the pieces after their World Cup semi-finals defeats, the two teams will welcome the prospect of potentially leaving Qatar on a high when they square up in the third-place playoff on Saturday.Beating two world class teams in Argentina and France to reach the final proved to be a step too far for Croatia and Morocco, who handsomely defied pre-tournament odds to reach the semis.Morocco rewrote history along the way when Walid Regragui’s fearless squad became the first African team to reach the last four of football’s showpiece event.They will be welcomed home as heroes regardless of the result having not only earned the respect and support of the continent and the Arab world, butalso having found a place in the hearts of neutral fans who love a true underdog story.Croatia and Morocco will face off in Qatar for a second time after playing out a 0-0 draw in their group opener, just as in 2018 when Belgium and England met each other in the group stage and third-place playoff.“It will be difficult on a mental level. I will give opportunities to those who did not play and we will try to clinch third place,” Regragui said. “The important thing is that we presented a good look to our team and that football in Morocco is not far from the top level.”For 2018 runners-up Croatia, reaching a second consecutive final looked unlikely when they won just one group game.But through sheer graft and tenacity, two penalty shootout wins over Japan and favourites Brazil earned them a semi-final match with Argentina, where an in-form Lionel Messi was the architect of their destruction.“Realistically speaking, before the start of the tournament, we would all have accepted reaching the semi-finals. However, we started to dream about the trophy,” Croatia midfielder Lovro Majer said.“Still, we will give everything we’ve got on Saturday and try to win the bronze medal.”For Croatia it represented an opportunity missed to crown their golden generation of players, with coach Zlatko Dalic confirming most of them will not play in the next World Cup.“I told the players they need to keep their heads up, be proud of giving their maximum and be ready, we must prepare to fight for third place,” Dalic said.“There is no blame on our guys, I congratulate them for everything they’ve done at this World Cup. Now we have to get up, dust ourselves off and try to win the bronze medal.”
Moroccans slumped with disappointment on Wednesday after their team’s semi-final defeat to France, but were still pumped with pride for a World Cup run that spurred tears of joy across Africa and the Arab world.As France’s second goal went in, the deafening noise of Morocco’s overwhelming support inside Qatar’s Al Bayt Stadium went suddenly quiet - a silence echoed not only in Rabat and Casablanca, but in Beirut, Cairo and Dakar.A woman in green, sitting in the banked rows of supporters that had whistled, drummed and cheered through the game, sat silently, her hands clasped in front of her lips to watch the final minutes.In the first World Cup held in an Arab country, and one already marked by upsets, Morocco won supporters far afield as the first Arab team to reach the quarter-finals and the first African team to reach the semis.Long after the final whistle, when the victorious French team had left the pitch, Morocco’s players stayed on, basking in the love of a stadium clad in their red and green colours.“We are really proud of this team... we already made history so we can’t judge them for this match,” said Mohamad Alaoui, 24, a Moroccan student who said he had travelled from London to attend the World Cup and had been at every Morocco game.“I’m so happy that I was here to see the team in the stadium and that I got to see them go so far in this World Cup,” said Samira Idrissi, 34.In Rabat, where fans had packed cafes for hours before the game, the crowd rose to applaud their team despite the defeat.“This is the semi-final. It is already an honour and we are proud to see people from different countries root for the Moroccan team,” Taoufiq Ouchikh said yesterday.“We thank the national team for this achievement. We are proud of this team. We lost to a world Cup champion and we dominated,” said Abdelilah Sair, another fan watching in the same cafe.Afterwards, some fans braved wet weather to parade through central Rabat as car horns honked, raising red flares in the rain.FOOTBALL HISTORYIn a Beirut cafe where France fans had gathered to watch the game, Morocco fan Sanaa Kassemi burst into tears as the victorious French players celebrated, but she waved the Moroccan flag in the air.“I have a French passport but I am originally Moroccan. That’s the most important thing about how I feel right now,” she said.Elsewhere in Lebanon, Palestinian refugee Ahmad Iskandar said he felt particularly proud that a team with Arab and Islamic roots had gone so far.“We are honoured that they reached the semi-finals,” he said.On Egypt’s Red Sea coast, banker Ahmed Zaki, 38, said Morocco had failed to take advantage of their chances.“They deserved to lose, but with honour,” he said.In Saudi Arabia, Fahad al-Dawsari said it would inspire people in the region to dream that they might one day reach a final.“What Morocco did will encourage the Arab national teams,” he added.African fans also voiced pride in Morocco’s exploits.“We take our hats off to them for this brilliant run,” said Arsene Boua, who had watched the game with friends in an Abidjan bar.In the Cameroonian capital Yaounde, car washer Michael Fogang said he was happy despite the defeat.“I am not disappointed at all. Morocco made a lot of effort,” he said in the bar where he watched the game.In other North African states, culturally close to Morocco, their success had been particularly felt.“Thank you for making us dream,” said Lamia Mssedi, a woman watching the game in Tunis.French President Emmanuel Macron, who had been in the stadium for the game, led tributes to the defeated Moroccan side.“To our Moroccan friends: congratulations on this beautiful journey. You are making football history,” he tweeted.France, Morocco’s former colonial ruler, is home to hundreds of thousands of people of Moroccan origin and some North African flags were displayed in the Champs Elysees in Paris after the game.“I am sad and proud at the same time. I’m proud of the journey we made and sad that it stops here,” said Thomas Bregas, 15, wearing a Moroccan flag, on the Champs Elysees.Moroccan Prime Minister Aziz Akhannouch lauded a team he called heroes that brought joy to Moroccans and made the country’s name “resonate on every tongue during the World Cup”.
France coach Didier Deschamps admitted he was “immensely proud” after Wednesday’s 2-0 win over Morocco took the holders through to another World Cup final where he said his team would try to find a way of countering a Lionel Messi in “scintillating form” for Argentina.“I am immensely proud. It is great to be through to the final but it was not an easy victory,” Deschamps said after an early goal by Theo Hernandez and a late finish from substitute Randal Kolo Muani at Al Bayt Stadium saw off the first ever African or Arab team to reach a World Cup semi-final.“We needed a mixture of quality, experience and team spirit, and in difficult periods we had to dig deep but I am really satisfied and proud of my players.”France are aiming to become the first team in 60 years to win back-to-back World Cup titles after Brazil’s double victories in 1958 and 1962. However they must prepare to face an Argentina side who have been inspired on their way to the final by Messi and who will be seeking revenge for a 4-3 defeat when the teams met in the last 16 four years ago.“Messi has been in scintillating form since the start of the tournament,” Deschamps admitted. “Four years ago things were different. He played as a centre forward, whereas now he is playing in a front two or just in behind the striker. He looks in great shape and of course he is one of the best players in the world so we will try to counter Messi’s threat as much as possible, just as Argentina will try to stop the influence of some of my players.”Deschamps hopeful on Rabiotas virus hits France squadFrance coach Didier Deschamps is hopeful that Adrien Rabiot will be fit for the World Cup final after missing Wednesday’s win over Morocco due to illness as he revealed several members of his squad had shown “flu-like” symptoms.Midfielder Rabiot and defender Dayot Upamecano both dropped out of the line-up for the holders’ 2-0 win over Morocco in Al Khor, although the latter was named among the substitutes.“Dayot was here but he wasn’t 100 percent. He had a few difficult days and has had a fever, although he did train last night,” Deschamps said. “Given the tough match we had tonight I decided to play (Ibrahima) Konate instead and he has already shown he can play at this level. Adrien was sick and so we left him at the hotel because we didn’t want to take any risks, but we now have four days before the final so he should be available for Sunday.”Rabiot’s place in the French midfield was taken by Monaco’s Youssouf Fofana. Theo Hernandez and Randal Kolo Muani got France’s goals, although Kolo Muani may not have come off the bench had winger Kingsley Coman not also displayed symptoms of illness ahead of the game.“Kingsley came on in the last game but he also felt not great this afternoon so he wasn’t 100 percent,” said the coach, who suggested Qatar’s omnipresent air conditioning may be to blame for some of his players falling ill.“The air conditioning is on all the time and so we have had a few cases of flu-like symptoms but we will try to avoid it spreading,” he said. “The players put in so much effort on the pitch and so their immune systems suffer. Your body is weakened and you are more prone to getting infected.”
It was always going to take something special to steal the limelight from Lionel Messi on the night he matched Lothar Matthaeus’s 25-match World Cup appearance record, but youngster Julian Alvarez managed it, albeit with a bit of help from the great man.Tuesday’s semi-final had been cagey, with Croatia having most of the possession, before Alvarez burst through to chase a long ball and was brought down by goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic for a penalty that Messi converted in the 34th minute.Five minutes later, Alvarez again charged from the halfway line, rode his luck as two attempted tackles merely kept the ball bobbling in his path, and nudged in the second goal.He put the game beyond reach in the 70th minute with a simple finish after 35-year-old Messi had produced a piece of magical control to hit the byline and pull the ball back for his delighted 22-year-old teammate. While Messi will now hope to bow out as an absolute superstar of the world game with the one trophy to elude him on his 172nd appearance in Sunday’s final, Alvarez is at the other end of his career.After signing for Manchester City on his 22nd birthday he has hardly set the Premier League alight, perhaps unfortunate to be striving to make his name in the shadow of Erling Haaland, chalking up three goals in 12 less-than-memorable appearances.On the international front, he arrived in Qatar with three goals to his name and behind Lautaro Martinez in the pecking order to play alongside Messi. Argentina’s stunning defeat by Saudi Arabia in the opener shook things up though and when he got his first start of the tournament in the third group game against Poland, he grabbed the opportunity by scoring in the 2-0 win.He added another in the 2-1 win over Australia and on Tuesday became the youngest player to score two in a World Cup semi-final or final match since 17-year-old Pele in 1958, taking his international tally to seven and virtually securing him a starting berth in Sunday’s final.“Today I think Julian was a standout above all else. He played an extraordinary game,” Messi said. “He opened the way for us, he fought, he ran, he hit everyone. I think he was extremely important as he has been throughout the World Cup.”Despite scoring two goals and earning the penalty for the other, Alvarez was bizarrely overlooked for the man of the match award, with FIFA seemingly contractually obliged to give it to Messi whenever he takes the field. He will not care a jot about that, however, as he enjoys the ride of his life.The 22-year-old Manchester City forward now has four goals in this tournament, placing him just one behind joint top scorers Messi and France’s Kylian Mbappe. “We deserved this. We played a great game today. We’re in the final, which is what we wanted and now we need to rest and hope for a great game on Sunday. I’m happy personally and for the group Calchin (his home town), like the whole country, must be going crazy. We are happy for what we are achieving and we are going for more,” said Alvarez after his greatest night in the famous light blue and white striped shirt.Alvarez has had to fight his way into the starting line-up at this tournament with coach Lionel Scaloni initially preferring Inter Milan’s Lautaro Martinez. The forward started on the bench in the shock 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia that opened Argentina’s group matches and the 2-0 win over Mexico that steadied Argentina’s campaign.He made a first start in the 2-0 win over Poland that secured passage to the last 16– scoring the second goal – and has been in the starting line-up since.He scored the crucial second goal in the 2-1 victory over Australia in the round of 16 and then caused the Netherlands plenty of problems in the quarter-final.Aside from the two goals on Tuesday, both taken in ice-cool fashion, Alvarez stretched the Croatian defence with his constant running - from deep with the ball and across the line without it.It was a performance that left Argentina coach Scaloni purring.“Julian played very well, not just because of his goals but also because he worked so hard to help against their three midfielders,” Scaloni said.“At his age it is normal that he wants to conquer the world. He is a boy who will do whatever you say to him.”Diego Maradona had four-goal Jorge Valdano as his striker in the 1986 team and now Messi has found his own accomplice.It is a role that the former River Plate forward is clearly relishing.Argentina’s Julian Alvarez scores against Croatia in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 semi-final at the Lusail Stadium on Tuesday. (Reuters)
Having just delivered the most exciting group stage ever seen at a World Cup, with a tried and tested format that keeps hundreds of millions of fans enthralled, FIFA now faces the prospect of ripping it all up.Instead, they risk a turgid fortnight of drab games and dead rubbers, plus the possibility of unwanted controversy, as they try to accommodate 48 teams at the 2026 edition in North America.It means world football’s governing body are re-thinking the format for the next World Cup as their original plans to have 16 groups of three teams in the first phase, with two from each advancing to the next stage, now look dangerously dull, as well as potentially courting unsporting behaviour.As things stand now for 2026, when Canada, Mexico and the US jointly host the World Cup, there is a risk of many ‘dead’ matches – for example if the last group game was between two teams who had already won one each and were therefore already qualified — or contrived results.FIFA conceded earlier this year they were concerned about the possibility of contrived results where two teams could engineer a positive result for both, that would eliminate the third group team not playing.“It’s an issue that has been raised,” said FIFA vice-president Victor Montagliani in March.The 2026 format has the 48 teams reduced to 32 after the group phase and then the tournament becomes a knockout affair. Alternative formats are now on the table, with the FIFA Council, the organisation’s all-powerful cabinet, to decide next year.They are, according to FIFA’s head of global football development Arsene Wenger, 12 groups of four teams, with the best third-placed teams advancing with the top two, or another option to split the World Cup into two separate halves of 24, each featuring six groups of four teams. The winner of each half would meet in the final.Given how dramatic and exciting some of the four-team groups were concluded in Qatar, that seems a more viable proposition.INCREASED GAMESBut that will mean a substantive increase in the number of games. The 32-team World Cup in Qatar has a total of 64, completed in 29 days, and, for now, the 2026 finals will be 80 games over 32 days.With four team groups, there would be 104 matches, requiring at least an extra week.There, FIFA run the risk of tilting the delicate balance of all-consuming excitement that the World Cup has proven in Qatar into a drawn out affair that loses its lustre with the quality of entertainment diluted.More matches, however, would mean more television rights money and as the World Cup brings in some 90% of FIFA’s revenue, its leaders will be tempted.The World Cup in Qatar has earned $7.5bn in rights and sponsorship revenue, 1bn more than for 2018 finals in Russia, FIFA said last month.
With the FIFA World Cup final only days away, artists are continuing to impress fans across Qatar.One of the many performers taking part in international football’s showpiece event is the band Al Waad, from Oman. It has more than 50 members and specialises in traditional Omani performances. The group was formed in the 1980s and aims to showcase Oman’s culture and heritage.Al Waad were invited to perform during Qatar 2022 as part of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy’s Cultural Activation Programme, which has organised for talents from across the globe to contribute to the festive atmosphere during the tournament.We caught up with Al Waad’s Awad Sibeet to learn more about the group and his thoughts on performing at the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world.Tell us about the band and its history.The band started with a very simple idea in Jalan Banu Bu Hassan – a province in the east of Oman. We wanted to start a group which specialises in traditional performances.What we do is very significant in our province for both men and women. We started with 10 performers back in 1986. Several generations have since taken part in the band and we now have more than 50 members.Tell us about the name of the band.Al Waad means promise. It is a promise of great performances and progress, as well as the promise of a better future.What kind of shows does the group perform?We specialise in ‘Mdaima’, which is a freestyle art form consisting of various performances. It is inspired by sea life, so we use special drums and instruments.What does it mean to take part in the first FIFA World Cup in the Middle East and Arab world?We are very proud as Arabs to be taking part in this amazing World Cup. This is historic and means a lot to us – as GCC citizens – to be part of the event as we are just a few hours from home. Having the World Cup in this region is indescribable. This tournament sends a big message to everyone – that Arab nations are more than capable of hosting exceptional mega events. It has been incredibly well-organised. We are all proud of this amazing event.How have you found the fans?Our favourite part of the tournament is definitely meeting fans. We have performed outside multiple stadiums and are currently performing in the Corniche. We are also looking forward to performing in the Lusail last mile area to mark Qatar National Day and the FIFA World Cup final. Omani performances create buzz and attract everyone. As soon as fans hear us perform, they immediately come to our area to see us. It’s a very lively atmosphere and we are thankful for that. We have created special bonds with fans.Which national team do you support?We support France but Morocco have proven their strength and are representing the entire Arab world, so we are supporting them as well. (SC)
Luka Modric is Croatia’s greatest-ever player, but he was upstaged by arguably the best of all time, Lionel Messi, as Argentina crushed his World Cup dreams in Qatar on Tuesday.After orchestrating his country’s run to a second straight World Cup semi-final, 37-year-old Modric’s team were swept aside 3-0 by the South American side.Coach Zlatko Dalic boasted that Croatia — with Modric supported by Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic — had “the best midfield in the world” after their shock quarter-final elimination of Brazil.That midfield has enabled a nation of just under 4mn to consistently compete with the world’s strongest teams, but they ran out of steam against a combative Argentina.“Argentina have an excellent team... and today they had four midfielders and closed the space and tried to play most of the game there,” said Dalic.Croatia had fallen behind in their win against Canada in the group stage and overcame both Japan and Brazil in the knockout rounds on penalties, having conceded the opening goal in both matches.Few teams are as dogged or durable as Croatia, but two goals in five minutes, the first a penalty from Lionel Messi and the second a scruffy Julian Alvarez strike, proved too great an obstacle to surmount.Dalic had played down concerns of tiredness after going to extra time in both the last 16 and quarter-finals, but there was a sense Croatia had little left in the tank once Alvarez made it 2-0.More Messi brilliance led to a second goal for Alvarez, and Modric was withdrawn nine minutes from the end for Lovro Majer — receiving warm applause from the capacity crowd of nearly 89,000.FAREWELL?Real Madrid midfielder Modric, who made his international debut way back in 2006, is surely in the final phase of his brilliant career.Croatia will play France or Morocco on Saturday in the third place play-off. They are also through to the last four of the Nations League, but that competition lacks the lustre of the World Cup and may not be enough to sway Modric to stay on.The five-time Champions League winner, who has a record 161 caps for Croatia, will be almost 39 by the time Euro 2024 rolls around. “Perhaps this is the end of the World Cup generation for a couple of them who have reached a certain age,” said Dalic, without specifying names.“It would have been excellent if they’d won the trophy as a crowning moment.”The 2018 Ballon d’Or winner has continued to catch the eye in Qatar — his longevity is highlighted by the fact that Mario Mandzukic, a year younger than Modric, is now part of the coaching staff.It was Mandzukic’s goal that sent Croatia to the 2018 final. On Tuesday, he was red-carded for protesting Argentina’s opener on a rare night when Modric was unable to dictate the tempo or take his team any further.“We’ve had a very good World Cup and it’s never a punishment to play for the national team,” said Modric.“There’s a bronze at stake, so we need to be ready because it’s a good result if we get it.”
Lionel Messi delivered a stunning performance on Tuesday – with a goal and an assist – against Croatia but the 35-year-old football icon credited his team for staying focused in the 3-0 demolition of the runners-up at Russia 2018.Messi, playing his final World Cup, on Tuesday scored his fifth goal in Qatar before helping young striker Julian Alvarez score his second goal of the World Cup semi-final at Lusail Stadium where 88,966 fans roundly cheered for the seven-time Ballon d’Or winner.Messi is just one win away from leading two-time champions Argentina to FIFA World Cup glory but the PSG star was yesterday quick to applaud the side coached by Lionel Scaloni.“We played with discipline (against Croatia). We knew the game would be set up this way. We’ve done a great job,” Messi said after the one-side win for Argentina.“We were aware they’d keep possession of the ball, as they have key players in that sense, making us run. But despite that, we created our usual chances, the game also got out of hand quickly,” Messi added.The former Barcelona stalwart said Argentina expected a feisty yet flawed game plan from Croatia captained by Real Madrid star Luka Modric.“We prepared for this game in the best way, as usual,” Messi said. “As I said earlier, we knew the game would have the shape it had. That’s why we didn’t feel desperate when we had to run, or when they ran from one flank to another.“We knew that was their strength: keeping possession of the ball. But we also knew we could make the most of that whenever we recovered the ball. They play in a very unorganised way in the midfield to keep the ball, leaving many spaces,” he explained while taking questions at the post-match press conference.“Well, I don’t know if I answered your question, but that’s pretty much my take! I think that’s how this team can be described,” he added.When reminded that he had scored five goals and produced three crucial assists out of Argentina’s 12 goals in Qatar, Messi said he wasn’t sure if he had offered his best World Cup in his fifth attempt.“I have no clue. What I know is how much I’m enjoying this moment. Luckily, I feel good, I feel strong to face every single game,” Messi said. “We’ve made huge sacrifices. In the last game, we played (a) long extra time, which was not easy at all. As for today, we were exhausted, but the team dug in, adding some more extra energy to win,” he added.“Personally, I’ve felt really happy throughout the whole tournament, and I still do now. Luckily, I’ve managed to help the team get the results we wanted,” he said.Messi, while giving credit to the plans charted out by coach Scaloni, said Argentina played ‘smart football’.“Well, this team – putting aside the strength we have collectively – is very smart, and we know how to read key moments of the game, of every game. Scaloni stated that we’ve got a very smart team, that knows when and how to dig in, we know when and how to have the possession of the ball, we know when to press, when to sit back,” the Argentine captain explained.“All in all, we understand each game and we prepare the best way, along with a professional coaching staff that pays attention to detail.“They highlight everything you need to be aware of in each game, even if it’s minimal. That’s hugely helpful for us, when we’re on the pitch. We never feel lost. We can always tell what our duties are: to clinch victories,” he said.Messi said Argentina had battled through like champions following the shock defeat against Saudi Arabia on November 22.“The first match was a hard blow to all of us. At the time we had played the last 36 matches without a single loss. So, to lose the first match in the World Cup to a team nobody thought we could lose to was a strong blow to all of us as a group,” Messi said of the Group C clash at Lusail Stadium.“But this group (of players) showed, once again, its strength. We pulled through and won match after match. We’ve done something amazing because every match after that was like a final.“It was mentally exhausting to play every match like that, knowing that a single loss or draw could put us in a complicated situation. So, we played 5 finals, and luckily won all of them.“Hopefully we’ll win the next one too. I think among ourselves we were too confident back then, because we knew our potential as a group, and we lost the first match by a fine margin. That helped us grow as a team and advance in the tournament,” Messi said.
Lionel Messi will get his date with World Cup destiny, and the chance to emulate Diego Maradona, after Argentina’s emphatic 3-0 win over Croatia on Tuesday took them through to the final in Qatar.It is 36 years since Maradona guided Argentina to their second and most recent World Cup triumph in Mexico, the crowning moment of his dazzling but often troubled career.Messi came to this World Cup admitting it would surely be his last at the age of 35 and therefore his final opportunity to lift the trophy that escaped him in 2014, when Argentina were defeated by Germany in Brazil.The sense that Messi was building up to this moment was apparent in his displays for Paris Saint-Germain in the months before the tournament and he has performed at this World Cup like a player with no more time to waste.Sixteen years after making his World Cup debut as a teenager, Qatar has witnessed Messi finally score in the knockout stages of the tournament, and he has done so in three straight games.On Tuesday he scored his 11th World Cup goal, overtaking compatriot Gabriel Batistuta, who previously held the Argentine record.He has now equalled former German player Lothar Matthaeus’ record of 25 World Cup appearances.Messi’s performance against Croatia at Lusail Stadium was typical of his late career – a player who saves energy and spends long periods on the fringes of the game.Yet for his country he is a captain who can still inspire and who always looks capable of creating something when the ball comes to his feet.Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, who had been the hero in shoot-outs in the previous two rounds, had no chance of stopping Messi’s first-half penalty.Messi then sent Julian Alvarez away to make it 2-0 late in the first half with a first-time ball on a counterattack.But he saved the best moment for midway through the second half with a magnificent assist, twisting and turning to make a fool of Croatia’s Josko Gvardiol before teeing up Alvarez to score again.“In the past 15 years he’s probably been the best player in the world and today he was very good again,” admitted the Croatia coach, Zlatko Dalic. Messi is now level with Kylian Mbappe as the Qatar World Cup’s leading scorer, with five goals, but his assist was further confirmation of how the former Barcelona player has evolved with age.The PSG version spends much of his time creating goals for Mbappe, and now for Argentina he is doing the same for the exciting young striker Alvarez.“Sometimes it seems like we say Messi is the greatest just because we are Argentine, but I think there is no doubt about it,” said coach Lionel Scaloni.“I am privileged to coach him and be able to watch him. It’s thrilling.”Argentina’s run to the final has not been entirely down to Messi – their vast and passionate support turned the semi-final effectively into a home game, with fans filling Lusail with the sound of their anthem “Muchachos”.Scaloni has built a capable team around their one true great, taking Argentina into the final of the first World Cup since the death of Maradona.Argentines may feel that it was meant to be, and Qatar will surely be delighted too. Just over a year after he ended his long association with Barcelona and signed for Qatar-owned PSG, Messi’s presence will light up the final in Doha.
Qatar World Cup was a catalyst for the region's innovative and entrepreneurial spirit, participants highlighted at a panel discussion at the Host Country Media Centre Wednesday.They noted that the Challenge 22, an innovation award launched in 2015 by the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy, promoted a culture of innovation in the Middle East and attracted several entrepreneurs, scientists and pioneers from across the Arab world.The panelists were: Rola Fayyad, founder and CEO of Viavii; Stefano Fallaha, founder and CEO, Podeo; Mohammed al-Gammal, co-founder, SunPave; and Abdelrazek Aly, co-founder and CEO of Bonocle - all beneficiaries of Challenge 22 programme and successful entrepreneurs now.Challenge 22 was a project to generate ideas that could contribute towards the hosting and organisation of major events like the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, while building a sustainable and economically diverse future for the region.The panellists, who are from various countries in the Arab region, said that the initiatives, though faced several challenges in several phases, could be realised with the support received from various entities in Qatar. They also described the functions of their startups and how they were evolved to the present stage.Fayyad said Viavii is reshaping the modern-day travel experience with an easy-to-use online platform. The AI-based technology allows users to create tailored and hyper-personalised travel plans, and enjoy cultural experiences with people from all over the world.“My platform is one that connects the travellers. Several entities in the country helped me develop the platform and the funding from Qatar National Research Fund. Now we support over 70 local companies and hundreds of individuals. It could also lead to women empowerment as several women became part of the platform with various activities,” she noted.According to Fallaha, Podeo is a podcast platform dedicated to managing, distributing and producing podcasts. He explained: “It operates Podeo Technologies, Podeo Studios and Podeo Network, which attract hundreds of thousands of monthly listeners, and it owns a catalogue of 80+ exclusive podcasts. Podeo is partnering with airlines, automotive manufacturers, radio stations and telecom companies to democratise podcast consumption in the Arab world.”Al- Gammal described that SunPave is an effort to make use of the sunlight which is available in plenty in the region. "SunPave is a locally designed and researched walkable photovoltaic (PV) tile. Unlike other PV panels, the tiles harness solar energy from flat rooftops, walkways and pedestrian spaces with no impact on their primary use or purpose.” He also said that the PVs were used on Thumama Staduim.Aly said that Bonocle is the first-ever entertainment platform in braille. “It provides visually impaired people with equal access to digital content, whether it be books, productivity apps, educational content or games – helping them to integrate in classrooms and workplaces,” he added.
Lionel Messi, captain of the Argentine national team, confirmed that the final match of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, on Sunday against the winner from Morocco and France, will represent his last World Cup appearance."I feel very happy, to be able to achieve this, to finish my World Cup journey by playing my last game in a final," Messi said in remarks."It's many years for the next one and I don't think I'll be able to do it. And to finish like this, it's the best," he said."It's all well and good (the records), but the important thing is to be able to achieve the group objective, which is the most beautiful thing of all," Messi added."We're just one step away, after fighting hard, and we're going to give everything to try to make it happen this time."Messi became Argentina's top goal-scorer in the World Cup after scoring his 11th goal in the Mondial against Croatia in the semi-finals.
Argentina captain Lionel Messi said he was happy that his team reached the final of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.He said that the players were more focused against Croatia, specially that they were tired after the Netherlands match which went into overtime. He stressed that their goal was to win regardless of any other consideration. He said that his team was one of the best in the competition, especially in terms of handling the pressure of the World Cup.Messi stressed that he was full fit, enjoying his World Cup in Qatar, and that he will be ready to be at his best in the final. He praised the support of the fans and his family ensuring the team go for the title.
Aurelien Tchouameni might do most of his work in the shadows, but the France midfielder lit up the World Cup with his brilliant opening goal in Saturday’s quarter-final win over England.The 22-year-old later gave away the first penalty of the game at Al Bayt Stadium which Harry Kane scored to equalise for England, yet France eventually ran out 2-1 winners and Tchouameni’s role for the holders has been vital given the problems they faced coming into the tournament.The outlook for coach Didier Deschamps and his side appeared grim when they were struck by an avalanche of injuries, not least with their starting midfield duo of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante both being ruled out.Deschamps had to completely reconfigure his team, including abandoning his experiment with a back three, but his decision to build a three-man midfield around Tchouameni with Adrien Rabiot and Antoine Griezmann either side of the Real Madrid man has paid off.Now when his teammates push forward to join the attack, “he is there to cover us, fill in, plug gaps and win the ball back,” said Rabiot, who has also impressed on France’s run to the semi-finals in Qatar, where they will face Morocco today.Yet Tchouameni has hardly come from nowhere to start for his country at this World Cup.The recurring fitness worries of Pogba and Kante — two stars of France’s triumphant campaign four years ago — allowed the powerful and athletic midfielder to make his debut in a qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina in September last year. Since then he has played in all bar one of his country’s matches while also seeing his club career take off.‘MONUMENTAL’Tchouameni’s outstanding performances for Monaco saw him win the Ligue 1 young player of the year prize in 2021 and then earn a move to Madrid in the last close season for a fee of 100mn euros ($105mn) including bonuses.Kylian Mbappe, who had himself turned down a move to the Spanish capital, had asked Tchouameni if he might like to sign for Paris Saint-Germain instead.But joining the European champions and now standing on the brink of a World Cup final were, it seems, all part of the plan for the midfielder with Cameroonian roots, even if things have maybe happened a little faster than he might have anticipated.“I have objectives, dreams, the desire to play for the best clubs, to win titles, to impact my sport and my position. I want to be remembered for positive things. I want to leave my mark,” he told L’Equipe last year.“I don’t want to end my career as an ordinary player and be forgotten about.”The son of a pharmacist, Tchouameni was born in the Normandy city of Rouen but brought up near Bordeaux, and it was there that his career began. He was handed his professional debut by Gustavo Poyet at Bordeaux in 2018, just a few weeks after watching as a supporter when France won the World Cup in Russia.Tchouameni came through the ranks in south-west France alongside Jules Kounde, also in the side in Qatar.Yet he made fewer than 40 top-team appearances before joining Monaco in January 2020 for a reported 20mn euros.There he developed an outstanding partnership with Youssouf Fofana, another member of the current France squad who knows just how important Tchouameni is to the cause.“Football is supposed to be a spectacle, so when a player’s game is not about that, some think they are just there to make up the numbers. But in fact he does a monumental job in the shadows,” said Fofana, who has appeared four times so far in Qatar, starting once.“He does so much running and allows the other two midfielders to get forward without worrying.”Tchouameni will again have a huge role to play against Morocco as France look to secure a place in Sunday’s final and retain their title.
Like a boxing underdog who has defied the odds and dethroned a world champion, Walid Regragui was savage with his words ahead of Morocco’s World Cup semi-final showdown against holders France.“A bit of crazy can be good,” said Regragui of Atlas Lions’ historic feat of having become the first African and Arab team ever to make the semi-finals at a World Cup.Morocco have been brutal to their opponents in Qatar so far. They have thrown all the hard punches at every game they have played, knocking out Spain on penalties in the last 16 and then Portugal in the quarters after topping their group ahead of Croatia and Belgium. The only time they have conceded in five games is an own goal against Canada in the group stage.Morocco’s previous best performance at a World Cup came in 1986, when they lost in the last 16. The other four times they had qualified before this year, theyhad failed to progress from the group stage.The loquacious and plain-speaking Regragui, who was born in a suburb south-east of Paris and spent the bulk of his playing career in France before moving to Morocco to coach, urged his team to dare to dream and backed them to cause another upset today. “We want to win the World Cup,” he said.“It’s not just words, we have to go further, and maybe we won’t have another opportunity. We are not the favourites but we are confident – maybe that makes me mad, crazy? A bit of crazy can be good,” he grinned, having previously dubbed his team as ‘the Rocky Balboa of this World Cup’.Morocco’s game plan has been based on their ability to defend deep and counter-attack at every opportunity. So far the strategy has worked for Regragui but with injuries growing in his squad, it remains to be seen whether he will have the arsenal to stop Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud – the Frenchmen who have scored five and four goals respectively so far.Centre-back Nayef Aguerd missed the Portugal game with a muscle injury and his regular partner Romain Saiss was substituted with a repeat of a hamstring injury. There is also fitness concern over key midfielder Sofyan Amrabat and today’s game will be a real test of their durability and stamina.“The key for us is spirit, we play a quality game every time with a good spirit. For me the spirit is the most important thing in football – we have to play with the heart and the spirit. We will play to our strengths... this idea of possession, it is amazing how football journalists love these figures about 60-70% possession, but it is no good if there are only two shots on goal. If France give us possession, we will take it but I don’t think they will. So we will try to stop them,” Regragui, who took over only in August, said.“If we can make young people dream and present a positive image of Africa, the Arab world and our religion that is great. Before every round people thought we would get knocked out. But we are still here and we are going to fight to the end.”In Qatar, Regragui’s men have played with fervour and grit which has been complimented by the relentless backing of the Moroccan fans, who are part of Qatar’s huge foreign population. Some overzealous fans have also attempted to enter the stadium with tickets. With thirty more flights scheduled to arrive from Morocco for today’s semi-final at Al Bayt, the North Africans will have a huge backing compared to their fancied opponents.For France, they have in a way defied expectations too. The two-time champions lost the midfield duo of Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante even before the tournament started, while world player of the year Karim Benzema was also ruled out after reaching Qatar.But coach Didier Deschamps has found his heroes when it has mattered most with Mbappe and Giroud lethal upfront while Antoine Griezmann, in his new role as deep lying midfielder, emerging as undoubtedly the outstanding French player in the tournament.France, who defeated England on Saturday, are looking to become the first team in 60 years to retain the trophy. Yesterday, Deschamps admitted it will be ‘extremely noisy’ at Al Bayt today, while the Les Bleus captain Hugo Lloris called Morocco as ‘formidable opponents.”“I don’t like the term hostile but there is a popular fervour behind them. It will be very noisy and my players have been warned about that. They know what to expect. They’re benefiting from a huge support and we’ll have to be ready for it,” said Didier Deschamps, acknowledging the French fans will be largely outnumbered by the Morocco supporters.“We want to have the ball to create danger, but you saw that in our game against Poland (in the last 16) they actually had it more than expected. We’re as good as Morocco on the break and on fast attacks. We won’t abandon possession, but when we will have the ball we’re going to have to make it count,” he added.Deschamps called on Griezmann to continue his outstanding World Cup form. “Antoine has been very good and he will need to be very good again,” Deschamps said of the 31-year-old. “He is playing in a different role but it is one that suits him. He takes as much pleasure from winning a tackle as from playing a pass and has always thought about the team as a whole.”
Azzedine Ounahi has been at the heart of Morocco’s run to the World Cup semi-finals, tirelessly stamping his authority on the midfield and emerging as one of the revelations of the tournament.Yassine Bounou’s penalty-saving heroics stole the headlines in the last 16, but it was Ounahi who caught the eye of Spain coach Luis Enrique following his side’s shootout loss to Morocco.“I was surprised by (Ounahi). My goodness, where does that boy come from?” asked Luis Enrique, in awe of the midfielder’s “spectacular” display.“He plays like the Spanish players.“He plays really well. I was very surprised. He hasn’t stopped running, he must be exhausted,” Enrique said.Today he will face France, where he has forged his club career.It was only 18 months ago that Ounahi was toiling away in the French third tier, his slender physique put through the rigours of lower-league football – a vital stepping stone on his journey.Ounahi is one of four players in the Morocco squad who are a product of the Mohamed VI Academy in Sale, a state-of-the-art facility opened in 2009 and designed to develop the country’s young talent.Morocco’s huge investment in its football infrastructure – after numerous failed bids to host the World Cup – is paying off, as the performance of the Atlas Lions in Qatar has shown.Moroccan clubs are also the dominant force in African football right now – winners of the men’s and women’s Champions League titles as well as the Confederation Cup.In addition, the Atlas Lionesses became the first ever North African team to qualify for the Women’s World Cup by virtue of finishing runners-up as hosts of this year’s Africa Cup of Nations.Those successes are reflected by the progress made by the 22-year-old Ounahi, who has come on leaps and bounds since first signing for Strasbourg after leaving his homeland in 2018.Phone ringing quite a lotHe is now with Ligue 1 club Angers, who have made a habit of developing and selling on players such as Nicolas Pepe, Karl Toko Ekambi and current Morocco captain Romain Saiss.They are aware it won’t be long before Ounahi departs.“Is the phone ringing? It’s ringing quite a lot,” Angers chairman Said Chabane told France’s RMC of the interest in Ounahi and countryman Sofiane Boufal, who has also started every game in Qatar.“You know very well that we can’t hold back a player who wants to leave,” added Chabane, whose team sit bottom of France’s top flight after heading into the World Cup break with seven straight defeats.Ounahi made his Ligue 1 debut at the beginning of last season, gradually forcing his way into the starting line-up for an Angers side that finished 14th.He earned a call-up from Vahid Halilhodzic for the AFCON in Cameroon, winning his first cap in a 1-0 victory over Ghana but dropping to the bench once Morocco reached the knockout rounds.A bystander during the fractious quarter-final exit to Egypt, Ounahi seized his opportunity with both hands in the World Cup play-off against the Democratic Republic of Congo.Unused in the 1-1 draw in the first leg, Ounahi struck twice and grabbed an assist in a 4-1 win in the return clash to seal Morocco’s place in Qatar.He has started 10 of his country’s 11 games since, every bit as valuable to Walid Regragui, the French-born former Morocco international who replaced Halilhodzic as coach in August.“Azzedine is a great player, he’s got a lot of high level qualities, he’s only 22, he still has room for improvement, but I think he will play for a big club,” said Regragui earlier in the week.“He will have to make the right choices.”Ounahi, who has excelled alongside midfield enforcer Sofyan Amrabat, is a reported target for Barcelona. Fiorentina star Amrabat, 26, is also said to be on Liverpool’s radar.A relative unknown outside his homeland and France, where only Lionel Messi has completed more dribbles in Ligue 1 this season, few are unlikely to forget Ounahi’s name after the World Cup.
Messi magic was on full display at Lusail Stadium Tuesday as Argentina cruised to a 3-0 victory over Croatia and booked a place in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 final on Sunday, where they will meet France or Morocco.Lionel Messi scored one from the spot and provided a dream assist to set up a hugely impressive win in the first semi-final of the tournament.Julian Alvarez was the other big star of the day with two goals - the first coming after a fantastic solo run and the second as he fired in from close range following Messi's mesmerising run down the right.The first goal came after Argentina won a penalty in the 32nd minute when goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic tried to deny Alvarez, who was through on goal, bringing down the Manchester City forward and getting booked in the process.Messi stepped up and made no mistake, firing the spot kick into the top corner for his 11th goal in World Cups, the most by any Argentina player in the tournament's history.Five minutes later, Alvarez picked up the ball near the half line from a Messi pass and went on a magical run through the Croatian defence, going past three defenders and enjoying some lucky rebounds before stabbing the ball past Livakovic for 2-0.Croatia, who came from behind to beat Japan and Brazil on penalties in the last two rounds, tried to hit back in the second half but their neat passing failed to open any real cracks in a determined Argentine defence.Messi then burst into life, showing mesmerising control to drive to the byline and pull the ball back for Alvarez to tuck in the third after 69 minutes and wrap up the victory.Messi equaled German legend Lothar Matthaus' record for the most World Cup appearances with his 25th start in Tuesday's semi-final against Croatia. After the loss in the 2014 final to Germany, this is now his second chance at lifting the coveted trophy.They will find out who their opponents are tomorrow, when France take on Morocco - the first African or Arab team to qualify for a World Cup semi-final - at Al Bayt Stadium.Morocco's run to the semis has caught the imagination of a continent and they have been vocally backed by legions of fans in Qatar.