Croatia stunned football powerhouse Brazil in a penalty shootout to reach their second successive World Cup semi-final.After both sides were locked at 1-1 following regulation time at Education City Stadium, Croatia scored four times while Brazil missed a couple of spot kicks to hand Luka Modric’s side a 4-2 win.It was Croatia’s first win over Brazil - a five-time champion - in three World Cup head-to-head matches.Earlier in regulation time, Neymar scored deep into the first half of extra time as Brazil jumped to 1-0 to lead (105 +2). It was Neymar’s 77th goal for Brazil, a tally that he shares with football icon Pele.As Neymar, who missed two matches because of a twisted ankle, and teammates celebrated in front of thousands of Brazilian fans, Croatia skipper and playmaker Modric could only watch with his hands on hips.However, substitute Bruno Petkovic produced a left-footed goal (117th minute) to send the match into a penalty shootout.In the penalty shootout, Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic first saved Rodrygo’s penalty with a dive to his left. A few minutes later, Marquinhos hit the goalpost to give Croatia a 4-2 win over Brazil.Runners-up at Russia 2018, Croatia take on former champions Argentina in the semi-finals on Tuesday.Yesterday Argentina beat Netherlands 4-3 in a penalty shootout after both teams were locked at 2-2 in regulation and extra time.Croatia yesterday were quick off the blocks with intent to win following their victory over Japan in the Round of 16 on Monday. In just the third minute, Mateo Kovacic, the Chelsea midfielder, took off on the left flank and forced a free kick while tackling Brazil’s Casemiro. On the free-kick, Marcelo Brozovic couldn’t find the target.Two minutes later, Brazil’s Vinicius Junior charged down the left flank. His pass to a teammate rebounded and this time a direct shot from Junior curled to the right but Croatian ’keeper Livakovic easily blocked the move.In the 9th minute, Ivan Perisic managed a cross from the left flank but there was nobody to deflect the ball into the net. With momentum on their side, Croatia won a corner in the 15th minute but Richarlison headed the ball away to allow the men in yellow some breathing space.In a rough tackle, Brazil’s Danilo raised his leg up to the face of Josip Juranovic prompting a yellow card from the referee in the 25th minute. In another quality move, Croatia’s Mario Pasalic sent in a neat cross from the flank but Juranovic failed to deflect the ball home from close range.In the 35th minute, Juranovic under pressure from a Junior, cleared the ball a couple of feet from his own six-yard box.Neymar drilled a powerful free kick in the 43rd minute but the ball - after a slight deflection off Brozovic - dipped on Livakovic who collected the ball to finish off the move. A minute from the first-half whistle, Borna Sosa found space down the left flank and then attempted to release Perisic into the Brazil box. But Brazilian captain Thiago Silva was sharp to keep Perisic away before clearing the ball from the danger zone.Three minutes into the second half, Brazil showed early intent after the break. Raphinha took off like a bullet through to the right flank. Without wasting time, Raphinha flicked in a low cross but Croatian defender Jokso Gvardiol deflected the ball towards his own goal. Fortunately ’keeper Livakovic stuck out a leg to kill the move.Shortly afterwards, Perisic curled in a superb loopy cross a few feet from the edge of Brazil box but Andrej Kramaric failed to meet the ball that sailed above his head. With the scoreboard showing 0-0, Brazil coach Tite made the first move by bringing on Antony for Raphinha. Croatian players quickly regrouped after early attacks by Brazil and moved ahead with short passing.In a golden chance to score, keeper Livakovic blocked Lucas Paqueta in a one-on-one move near the six-yard box a little after the first-hour mark. Neymar’s free kick, a little later, was well blocked by the Croatian wall much to Casemiro’s dismay who held his head in frustration. Seconds later, Casemiro was shown the yellow card for a most innocuous push on Karamaric near the halfline. British referee Michael Oliver dismissed Neymar’s plea for a review on the yellow card.Livakovic, out of his position, charged at Neymar but the Brazilian’s low shot was deflected off the Croatian ’keeper’s bent knee in the 70th minute. Around 10 minutes later, following a muffed up corner, Modric raced towards the Brazilian half but he was brought down by defender Marquinhos who was shown a yellow card by the referee.With 10 minutes to go in regulation time, Paqueta drilled a low shot from the edge of the Croatian box but Livakovic blocked the shot rather brilliantly. Four minutes of injury time also yielded no goals as teams went into extra time.In the fifth minute of the first extra half, Neymar was fortunate not to have picked up a yellow for a rough tackle on Brozovic who collapsed in agonising pain clutching his knee. Substitute Rodrygo fed Paqueta with a superb long-range cross. But Paqueta couldn’t meet the ball - under pressure from Sosa - for a deflection despite a dive in front of the six-yard box.Just when it looked like a goalless first half in extra time, Brazil struck. Neymar charged ahead before he exchanged passes with Rodrygo and Pedro and quickly powered into the Croatian box. With the ball at his feet, Neymar went around a charging Livakovic on the right and rifled a shot into the roof of the net despite a desperate dive by Sosa.Three minutes before the final whistle, Petokovic - after a cross from substitute Mislav Orsic - drilled a shot from the edge of the box to the left of Brazil keeper Alisson. The ball deflected off a defender and went into the net with Alisson hardly in a position to align himself with the direction of the shot.
It is short odds that there will be a penalty shootout at the World Cup over the next two days.There has been at least one in the quarter-finals of the last nine tournaments, peaking in 1986 when three of the four matches went to penalties.Few of those, however, can have featured a set of spot kicks as poor as in the last-16 games in Qatar.Japan went out with a whimper as Croatia keeper Dominik Livakovic saved tame efforts.Takumi Minamino, Kaoru Mitoma and Maya Yoshida were all denied by Livakovic.Spain coach Luis Enrique was firmly in the “it’s not a lottery” camp, saying before his team’s last 16 clash with Morocco that he had told the players to take 1,000 practice penalties when with their clubs.Either they weren’t listening or it didn’t work as the first three players to attempt one, all failed to convert.Pablo Sarabia, who was brought on at the end of the match for just for that job, hit the post while Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets had their tame efforts comfortably saved to send Morocco through.Having also gone out at the same stage on penalties to Russia four years ago, it was an inexplicable performance by a team containing some of the most technically talented players in the sport.The most notable aspect of both 2022 shootouts was the shockingly poor quality of the kicks. The six penalties missed by the losing teams were all struck without much power and most not right in the corner, a strategy that left fans and experts scratching their heads and gave the keepers easy wins.Data company Nielsen Gracenote has analysed all penalties taken at the last five World Cups, including Qatar, and found that shooting low to the right (50%) or left (68%) has the lowest success rate — and even those figures don’t factor in how far to the right or left.Unsurprisingly, shots into the top area, whether wide or central, have a 100% conversion rate — 20 attempts in this study.Although there might appear more risk in going high, only five penalties have hit or gone over the bar in that time, while seven have hit a post or gone wide.Former England striker Alan Shearer had a brilliant penalty record, achieved by usually smashing the ball high into a corner so that even if a goalkeeper dived towards it, he had no chance of saving it.BODY LANGUAGESo why do so many players seem unable to back their technique to aim at a small but productive top corner and instead go low? “The margin for error is just that bit less aiming for that part of the goal,” Dr Matt Miller-Dicks, Senior Lecturer in Skill Acquisition at the University of Portsmouth told Reuters.“You can’t hit a penalty too low because the ground’s there but obviously you can hit it too high, so it’s a sort of safety net. In less pressurised situations players might be more confident to go for the top corner.”Body language and confidence also play a part — with the Japanese players all looking almost terrified as they lined up their efforts. The increasing use of stuttered run-ups and attempts to bamboozle the keeper also seem often to do more harm than good.“I did get a sense of that from some of the poorer penalties in those two shootouts it was maybe a case of players approaching quite slowly in their run-up, maybe hoping that the goalkeeper will commit to one side, but then not doing that and the taker not getting it close to the corner and the keeper making what looks like quite a comfortable save,” Miller-Dicks said.Obviously, the psychological pressure of the situation weighs more heavily on some than others, but Miller-Dicks says the damage can be done long before the player actually places the ball on the spot.“Research shows some of the things that they have difficulty with is not so much the kick in itself, but standing on the halfway line waiting and the walk up to take the kick,” he said.“If you’re not prepared for that moment, then it’s when they might have doubts about what they’re going to do and maybe change where they’re going to place a kick.“So I think a key thing is that the penalty taker’s preparation is not necessarily just practicing taking the penalty, it’s about the walk up. National teams or clubs have a sports psychologist and they have to help prepare the players prepare psychologically for that moment.”
Playing gutsy football against a superior side, Croatia Friday stunned football powerhouse Brazil in a penalty shootout to reach the semi-finals at the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic, who made a series of saves in regulation time, last night turned hero in the penalty shootout when Brazil choked under pressure at the Education City Stadium.In the penalty shootout, after both teams were locked at 1-1 following stunning goals by Neymar for Brazil and Bruno Petkovic for the 2018 World Cup runners-up Croatia, 'keeper Livakovic set the tone when he stopped Rodrygo's first effort for Brazil.With Croatia leading 4-1, PSG's centre-back Marquinhos saw his kick rebound off the post to give Croatia a 4-2 win in the penalty shootout and a place in the last four for the second World Cup in a row.In the semi-final on Tuesday, Croatia will meet former champions Argentina who beat Netherlands 4-3 in a penalty shootout after both sides ended regulation time 2-2 in their quarter-final at Lusail Stadium.Nahuel Molina scored the first goal of the match in the 35th minute on an assist by captain Lionel Messi. Argentina made it 2-0 when Messi scored off a penalty in the 73rd minute. With his goal, Messi equalled Gabriel Batistuta's record of 10 goals in World Cup history for Argentina.Wout Weghorst of Netherlands produced a remarkable late double (83 and 90 +11) to push the match into extra time.In the shootout, Argentina goalkeeper Emi Martinez saved penalties from Virgil van Dijk and Steven Berghuis before Lautaro Martinez scored the winning spot kick to secure them a 4-3 win.Brazil captain Thiago Silva said his team's World Cup exit to Croatia on penalties was painful and that he was coming to terms with the fact he would never win the trophy."It is difficult. I have been through some disappointments in my life and when we lose something important that we have as an objective it hurts quite a lot," Silva said Friday. "But we have to try to lift our heads and carry on. There is no other alternative."The Brazil captain said his side had switched off for Croatia's goal. "I think all of a sudden we lost our concentration," Silva said."We are not used to being hit on the break like that. We became a little disorganised and that is where the goal came from."The Chelsea centre-back, 38, has likely played his final World Cup match."Sadly as a player I am not going to get to lift this trophy," he said. "Who knows if in future I will get the chance in another role."Earlier Neymar looked to have kept Brazil's hopes of a sixth World Cup title alive by starting and finishing a brilliant effort in extra time that equalled Pele's international scoring record of 77 goals.But he was left distraught and sobbing after Brazil lost a shootout that was triggered when substitute Petkovic popped up to make it 1-1 at the end of extra time.Neymar's individual flash of brilliance had lit up a tense and often niggly game that finished goalless in normal time, Croatia's man-of-the-match goalkeeper Livakovic pulling off a series of stunning blocks to keep the Brazilians at bay.But as the minutes of extra time ticked down at the Education City Stadium, Petkovic popped up to connect with a cross and his deflected shot found its way into the net past the outstretched arm of Brazil 'keeper Alisson.As the Croatian players sprinted across the turf in joy, Marquinhos sank to his knees and Neymar was soon in tears, being consoled by veteran teammate Dani Alves.Livakovic, who again played a huge role after his heroics against Japan, said Friday: "We're raised as fighters. We spare no effort - we're always giving our best and that's our recipe for success."The Croatian team coached by Zlatko Dalic followed up their win over Japan on penalties in the last round with this victory, which might well go down as their greatest ever triumph.Brazil will have to wait at least another four years for that sixth title - by 2026 it will be 24 years since they last won it.Attention switches Saturday to the heavyweight clash between defending champions France and England.France captain Hugo Lloris said the rivalry between the two countries was special."These are two great football nations and the rivalry between us also exists in other sports like rugby," Lloris said Friday. "When you get to such a high level these are great battles. At an event like the World Cup there is a special flavour to a France-England game. But we are preparing for a World Cup quarter-final, regardless of the opponent."England boss Gareth Southgate has vowed to go on the attack, despite the threat from the fleet-footed Kylian Mbappe, arguably the best player in the world."There is no point going into a game like this and just covering up and sitting on the ropes," Southgate told ITV. "We believe we can cause problems with the ball and we intend to do that."In the other game Saturday, giant-killers Morocco, in the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time, take on Portugal, the 2016 Euro champions captained by Cristiano Ronaldo.
Football fans, music lovers and people everywhere can join in the beat and get closer to the greatest football show on Earth with Saturday’s launch of the first-ever FIFA World Cup Official Soundtrack.FIFA Sound, which combines the universal languages of music and football, has spearheaded the launch of the soundtrack.Released by Universal Arabic Music, Universal Music Group, and Republic Records, the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Official Soundtrack is packed full of uplifting anthems, showcasing the brightest international artists and diverse musical genres, setting the tone for a truly global celebration.From the electric collaboration of Nicki Minaj, Maluma and Myriam Fares for *Tukoh Taka, the first-ever Official FIFA Fan Festival Anthem, to *Dreamers, BTS star Jung Kook’s inspirational song that lit up the Opening Ceremony, the tracks mirror the worldwide excitement surrounding the FIFA World Cup.In total, the songs on the soundtrack have garnered more than 300mn views on YouTube.*Dreamers and *Tukoh Taka currently sit atop the YouTube Global Top Music Videos chart.*Tukoh Taka reached number one in the iTunes Overall Songs Chart, while *Dreamers hit the top spot in Billboard Digital Song Sales, Spotify Top Songs, and the Amazon International Best-Seller rankings.Other tracks include *Arhbo, which has grabbed the attention of fans as the popular pre-match walk-out music for players in Qatar, as well as *Hayya Hayya (Better Together), *The World is Yours to Take, and *Light The Sky.The FIFA World Cup audio identity, which is used by the tournament’s Official Broadcast Partners in their coverage, also features.Trinidad Cardona, Davido, AISHA, Ozuna, Gims, Lil Baby, Tears for Fears, Balqees, Nora Fatehi, Manal, Rahma Riad, Nasser al-Kubaisi, Ayed, and Haneen Hussein are among the artistes on the soundtrack.Multiple Grammy award-winning record producer RedOne, the FIFA Creative Entertainment executive, said: “I am incredibly proud to have delivered *Dreamers, the biggest debut in FIFA World Cup history, attracting more than 60mn views on YouTube from all over the world.”“There have been official songs for previous editions of the FIFA World Cup, but never a multi-song soundtrack that brings to life the spirit of global unity and togetherness that has contributed towards the special atmosphere of this ground-breaking tournament,” he said. “Distinctive global voices – including some of music’s biggest artistes – are part of this story, and the infectious energy of this soundtrack will connect with those who love music, as well as football, across the planet.”“The strength of the FIFA World Cup as a global spectacle gives the artists on this soundtrack a fantastic platform to reach a huge audience,” said Republic Records founder and chief executive Monte Lipman. “The soundtrack will share the excitement of this joyous festival of football with enthusiasts across the planet and leave an inspiring legacy, not just in the Middle East, but worldwide.”“I’m proud to say that Wassim ‘SAL’ Slaiby and Universal Arabic Music share a similar mission as a label – to elevate artists, music, and culture from the Mena (Middle East and North Africa) region on a global scale,” he added.“It is a triumph and a true milestone for football and music, and by bringing together such a diverse range of artists and genres from across the globe, the tracklist celebrates the unity and unique atmosphere of the FIFA World Cup,” said Slaiby, the founder and chief executive of Universal Arab Music.
The fan zones across Qatar will see new performances in the coming days, FIFA Fan Festival director Abdulrahman al-Muftah told local 'Arabic' daily Arrayah. Approximately 75,000 fans are received at FIFA Fan Festival every match day, with the peak attendance of more than 98,000 on one of the days.“The location in the heart of Doha and the ease of access is one of the most prominent factors of public attraction. The events are suitable for all groups and cultures of the various audiences from different countries. The FIFA Fan Festival area features the convergence of cultures while bringing different nationalities and cultures together," he said. "The World Cup has succeeded a lot in mixing cultures, and exploring new knowledge through peaceful coexistence among all,” he added.
Qatar Foundation’s (QF) Education City Stadium hosted Friday the last of the eight matches on its pitch, with Brazil playing against Croatia. In all, the stadium saw a cumulative attendance of around 350,000 people, with the Morocco vs Spain match witnessing the highest attendance of 44,667, a statement said.In this exceptionally inclusive edition of the FIFA World Cup hosted in the Middle East for the first time, fans with varied abilities enjoyed attending the matches at Education City Stadium thanks to the accessibility services that were offered - from the sensory rooms which hosted almost 35 fans, to the entertaining performances by artists with different abilities on the fan routes to the stadium, and the accessibility volunteers who ensured a seamless experience for all fans.Out of the eight FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 stadiums, Education City Stadium was the only match host destination with dedicated accessibility volunteers. In each game, 1,000 volunteers were available to assist spectators, out of which about 15 were dedicated accessibility volunteers. A total of 247 accessibility volunteers were trained by QF experts to support differently-abled fans at the tournament as a whole.Commenting on the fans’ experience inside the stadium’s sensory room, Alison Sarraf, co-founder of Sensory Souk and the manager of the sensory room staffing, said: “The sensory room played a vital role in enabling people with additional needs to experience matches whilst being provided the support that they needed. We have seen firsthand the positive outcomes of families using the sensory rooms and many who never thought that attending a world cup match would be possible together.”From a spectator’s perspective, Hanaa Abu Amouna, a football fan who attended a few matches across Qatar’s World Cup stadiums, described her experience at the Ghana vs South Korea match at the Education City Stadium as “a whole different experience.”“From the easy access to the stadium through the metro, to the amazing activations along the way to the stadium gates, to seeing the amazing atmosphere of Education City and its multiple attractions and destinations, to its inclusivity and how everyone - from all ages, abilities and backgrounds - were enjoying the same experience. No one was left out from enjoying the amazing vibe of the fans inside the stadium. The experience was just magnificent!”On non-match days at Education City, live match screenings were offered at Oxygen Park for all members of the community and their families, with 19,000 spectators who enjoyed watching the live matches on the outdoor screens so far. Live match screenings will continue at Oxygen Park, including the screening of the semi-final and the final games.
Brazil seek to become the first team through to the World Cup semi-finals on Friday, while Argentina could set up a blockbuster all-South American clash if they get past the Netherlands.After three weeks of pulsating action in Qatar, just eight teams are left standing as the 32-nation tournament heads into the final rounds of the knockout competition after a two-day break.Five-time champions Brazil kick off the quarter-finals against surprise 2018 runners-up Croatia, with Neymar fit and firing after an ankle injury he suffered in the opening game."I'll be doing everything that I can to win with the Brazilian national team. That's our mission and our dream," said Neymar."We're getting ever closer, we've got another step to go now."Croatia are a much-changed team from the one that reached the final four years ago, but 37-year-old Luka Modric remains the player who makes them tick."I agree that we did a great thing by getting to the quarter-finals but regardless of that we would like to do more," said Modric, who will come up against his Real Madrid teammates Vinicius Junior, Rodrygo and Eder Militao in the match at Education City Stadium."We know that the greatest match is ahead of us. Brazil are always favourites. We have to be ourselves."Seven-time Ballon d'Or winner Lionel Messi is hoping to end his wait for a World Cup after Argentina lost to Germany in the final eight years ago.The Copa America holders go up against the Netherlands in Friday's second quarter-final at Lusail Stadium, the venue for the December 18 final.The two countries have met five times at the World Cup, including in the 1978 final, which Argentina won 3-1 after extra-time."In 2014 I was there and things ended slightly differently (from how we wanted) but I'd like to change that now," said Dutch forward Memphis Depay.
Morocco midfielder Abderrazak Khairi wrote his name in the country’s football history books by scoring twice against Portugal to lead the first ‘golden generation’ of the Atlas Lions to the last 16 at the 1986 World Cup.That was the first time a team from Africa – or the Arab world – reached the knockouts, and tomorrow the current crop meet the former European champions again after Walid Regragui’s team took a step further by reaching the quarter-finals.Last week Morocco stunned the world in Qatar when they won a group that included Croatia, runners-up in Russia four years ago, and Belgium, the second ranked team in the world.Then continued their progress by knocking out Spain, the 2010 world champions, in a penalty shootout in the last 16 to achieve the best Arab achievement in the finals.Khairi says the current generation’s ambition has no limits.“I think that the Moroccan national team is trying to change the map of world football now. They are playing at the highest possible level and proving to the world that impossible is nothing. The more we dream of something, the more ambitious (we are),” Khairi told Reuters.Morocco showed a winning mentality and both Regragui and defender Ashraf Hakimi spoke boldly about the dream of winning the title, saying, “Why don’t Africa dream of winning the cup?”.The dream seemed impossible a few weeks ago but now they have a chance to be the first African team ever to reach the semi-finals. “It will be a historic moment for all of us, Arabs and Africans. Let us live the dream and, whatever happens, we have already achieved some of our dreams in this version,” Khairi said.TOUGH GROUPSince the achievement of the 1986 generation, Morocco have exited the group stage three times and many thought they would face the same fate in Qatar after being drawn in a tough group and with the departure of Vahid Halilhodzic and appointment of Regragui just three months before the start of the tournament. But they have surprised everyone with a strong, brave and balanced performance and have conceded only once in four matches – an own goal by defender Nayef Aguerd against Canada.Morocco began their campaign with a 0-0 draw against Croatia, then defeated Belgium 2-0 with a fine display before booking a last-16 spot by beating Canada 2-1 to top the group.They then ground out a goalless draw with Spain before goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who plays for Sevilla, starred in the shootout with two saves to secure a 3-0 victory on penalties.“Indeed, no one was waiting for these results, and perhaps if the former coach (Halilhodzic) had continued, there would have been calls for his dismissal now,” Khairi, 60, added.The former midfielder praised the role of Regragui, the first Arab coach to reach the World Cup quarter-finals.“Although the preparation period was very short, Walid was able to form an exemplary team and (Hakim) Ziyech and (Noussair) Mazraoui gave a new spirit to the team,” Khairi explained.Halilhodzic led Morocco to a successful qualifying campaign, but was dismissed due to disputes with some players, led by Ziyech and Bayern Munich defender Mazraoui.Regragui reunited with the two players and merged them with the team, and they have played an influential role in the current achievement, especially Chelsea winger Ziyech.FIGHTING SPIRIT“The strength of this generation and the main reason for Regragui’s success is the cohesion, fighting spirit, and patriotism to defend the reputation of Moroccan and Arab football,” Khairi said. “Walid also wants to show his technical capabilities to the world, and prove that football is not monopolised by foreign coaches, but that Arabs can show their personality.Khairi was not jealous that the current generation have surpassed the achievement of the 1986 side.Thirty-six years ago, Morocco also won a difficult group, with two 0-0 draws against England and Poland, then defeated Portugal 3-1 thanks to Khairi’s double.The adventure ended in the last 16 when Lothar Matthaeus scored two minutes from time to give West Germany, the eventual runners-up, a 1-0 win.“Recalling the Portugal match, I evoke memories that were and will remain beautiful. History preserves these moments and they will not be erased from memory,” he said.“The 1986 generation cannot help but feel proud of the current generation and this is the nature of life when new generations come that outpace previous generations.”But Khairi, who scored his two goals against Portugal in a blistering seven-minute first-half spell, does not expect an all-out attacking performance from Morocco on Saturday.He suggested that Regragui should adhere to his defensive approach against Portugal, who crushed Switzerland 6-1 in the last 16 after excluding Ronaldo from the starting lineup.“Perhaps Walid will remain faithful to his defensive approach without taking any risks, and waiting for the right moment to pounce on the Portuguese. I hope that the fairytale run will continue with another victory, God willing.”
Five-time world champions Brazil won’t take Croatia lightly when they face off in the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 quarter-finals today but the popular South American side will be aiming to keep focus on their ‘own standards’, coach Tite said on Thursday.Brazil on Monday crushed Asian giants South Korea 4-1 in their Round of 16 clash in which the 2002 World Cup winners welcomed back PSG star Neymar Jr following a twisted ankle in the first match of the tournament.Croatia, captained by Luka Modric, beat four-time Asian champions Japan in a penalty shootout to set up a quarter-finals date with Brazil.With first-choice Brazil left back Alex Sandro uncertain for today’s clash at Education City Stadium, Tite candidly admitted the world number one side would be playing to their strengths.“They (Croatia) have individual quality and collective quality as well as a resilience and persistence,” coach Tite said when asked about Brazil’s next opponents Croatia.“We are aware of their virtues but my focus is on maintaining our own standards. Whoever plays best will go through,” Tite, 61, added quickly.Tite, who is set to leave as coach after his second World Cup with Brazil, said he allows his players to express themselves.“We give them (the players) the confidence so they can go out and produce their best,” Tite said. “These are the characteristics of our players, but beyond that pressure, you need courage to play this way,” he added.“This team’s attacking methods has been going across generation of players. I would also point out that there is good balance in the squad. The players know the importance of having a balanced squad. They take pride in defending, of taking care when you don’t have the ball and doing quick recovery,” the coach said.Fit-again Danilo, who has also recovered from an ankle injury like Neymar, hoped Sandro would be fit to play against Croatia.“I hope (Sandro) can train well and be available for the match,” Danilo said at a news conference yesterday. “I’m healthy and I’m comfortable playing in all three defensive positions. I believe that I’ll make the transition soon to centre back because I feel very comfortable playing there at Juventus,” Danilo added.Tite, however, was more definitive about Sandro’s chances. He said: “It looks unlikely that he will play because he has not yet done enough work on the training ground. He still needs to push a little harder, I have to see with the medical and physical department. It will depend on this afternoon.”Modric, 37, yesterday said Croatia are eager to overcome the Brazil hurdle.“We did a great thing by going to the quarter-finals, but regardless of that we would like to do more,” Modric said yesterday. “We have to play our best match against them and if we do that, then we could have a chance of winning the match,” the Real Madrid midfielder added.Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic yesterday pointed to his team’s performances at Russia 2018 – where they finished runners-up – and at Qatar 2022 have been impressive.“We have had 11 matches at these two World Cups and we lost one,” Dalic said yesterday. “Croatia are a small country and enjoying success in two World Cups. We managed to reach this stage but we are ambitious and don’t want to stay here,” he added before saying a quarter-finals clash against Brazil wouldn’t be easy. “I believe that this match will be the most demanding one. I can compare it to the final against France in the previous World Cup. Yes, a great opponent and a great challenge awaits us,” Dalic said. “I wish this match came a bit later,” he added.Reaching the quarter-finals has been a delightful experience for Dalic.“There are 18 new players who were not at the World Cup in 2018 (in Russia). We need time to develop and mature. Our success to be among the eight best teams is tremendous,” Dalic said yesterday.“They (the new players) have still to prove themselves at the World Cup and tomorrow (the quarter-finals against Brazil) is a good opportunity for them to do so. We want to do more and if we manage to do it, it would be spectacular. It would be better if it was the final,” he said.Modric, who is likely playing his last World Cup, said he wanted to see his team beat Brazil.“We have faced Brazil on several occasions and never won against them. I hope we can change the tradition,” Modic said yesterday. “The greatest match at a World Cup is now ahead of us. They are always favourites to win but with what they demonstrated here they deserve to be one of the favourites,” he said.“We have to play our best match and then we have a chance. We should not be satisfied with reaching the quarter-finals,” Modric said.Tite yesterday played down the dancing celebrations of the Brazilian players during their win over South Korea on Monday. The dancing celebrations divided Brazil with many fans saying the players showed disrespect to South Korean teamTite defended the players. He said: “I am 61 and these players could almost be my grandsons but I have a connection with them. If I have to dance I will dance, although I will do so subtly and I asked them to hide me. It is not my way.”
The FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 features numerous innovations introduced to enhance the fan experience. One of these is audio descriptive commentary in both Arabic and English for blind and partially-sighted fans – and Doha resident Bryan Kelly is playing a key role in providing the service.The 42-year-old from Glasgow, Scotland, has lived in Qatar since 2020 with his wife and two children. A former youth coach with Scottish side Celtic, Kelly learned how to become an audio descriptive commentator after attending training organised by Hamad Bin Khalifa University, the Center for Access to Football in Europe and Alan March Sport. Fans are able to access audio descriptive commentary in Arabic and English via the FIFA Interpreting app (Apple / Google Play) and by using their own headphones. The service is available both in-stadium and around the world.“The goal is to give visually impaired and blind people the same experience as most of us would have at a football stadium,” said Kelly, who trained Arsenal star Kieran Tierney and Stoke City defender Harry Souttar, who played for Australia at Qatar 2022, during his time at Celtic.“The main difference between normal TV commentary and audio descriptive is the detail you give. You need to describe the distances on the pitch, the players’ facial expressions, the number of people in a wall, what type of corner is taken. It’s about trying to paint a picture in people’s minds by following the ball and providing as much detail as possible.”An enrichment and personal development teacher at Oryx International School in Barwa City, Kelly had no prior experience of football commentary. But after encouragement from his wife, he signed up for training and was chosen to be part of the Qatar 2022 audio descriptive commentary team.Kelly’s tournament highlight so far was his commentary debut – at Lusail Stadium on 22 November.“Saudi Arabia versus Argentina was an incredible game,” said Kelly. “To start my commentating experience with that match was amazing. I also commentated on the Brazil versus Serbia game, which was another great experience, just in terms of the atmosphere the fans created.”Kelly is hoping to continue working as an audio descriptive commentator in future.“I have loved every second of it and it’s something I’d love to continue in the future. It’s been lovely for my family too, as they can tune in to the FIFA Interpreting app and hear it back home in Scotland. This service is going from strength to strength, so I’m interested to see how it all develops.”
While Kylian Mbappe dominates the headlines for France, Antoine Griezmann's performances in a new midfield role have also been crucial for the holders on their run to Saturday's World Cup quarter-final against England.Griezmann had a difficult start to the season at Atletico Madrid and has not scored in Qatar, leaving Mbappe and Olivier Giroud to provide the goals as France seek to become the first team in 60 years to successfully defend the World Cup.It all seems a world away from Euro 2016, when Griezmann was the tournament top scorer with six goals as France, the hosts, reached the final only to lose in extra time to Portugal.That was seen as just the start for an exciting team known as the "Griezmann Generation" but it was the emergence of Mbappe that helped them go one step further and win the 2018 World Cup.Griezmann has since adapted and become more of a support player to France's biggest star. Now the clinical finisher who averages almost a goal every second game for Atletico is part of a midfield three at international level.It is a case of needs must for coach Didier Deschamps, who lost the key midfield pair of Paul Pogba and N'Golo Kante to injury prior to the tournament, before forward Karim Benzema withdrew after arriving in Qatar.As a result, France have lined up in a 4-3-3 at this World Cup, with Ousmane Dembele and Mbappe flanking Giroud in attack, while Griezmann operates to the right of a midfield three with Aurelien Tchouameni and Adrien Rabiot."My role is quite free," said Griezmann, who has 42 goals for his country but none now in 13 appearances going back to November last year."With three players in front of me I have more possibilities and more choices. Maybe I am not as close to the opposition area. I am not going to have 50 shots on goal per game but I am not worried about scoring goals."I think the team needs me more at the heart of the action. We need that balance."Ever-presentThe 31-year-old can now show off his range of passing and his workrate from midfield, while also providing a threat with his set-piece deliveries."Antoine has an incredible range to his game. He has fantastic technique, subtlety with his passing, and he works hard for his teammates," said assistant coach Guy Stephan."The new position suits him. You just need to see the smile on his face."Griezmann has remarkably now played 71 consecutive matches for France, beating by a distance the previous national record of 1998 World Cup winner Patrick Vieira, who played in 44 games in a row.There was no question of Deschamps losing faith in the player even as he endured a difficult start to the season at Atletico.He had largely been reduced to substitute appearances for Diego Simeone's side as the club tried to escape paying a reported obligatory fee of 40 million euros ($42m) to Barcelona if he played over a certain number of matches.But Atletico bought him back permanently in October after negotiating a new deal, and he had started a total of 12 games before heading to Qatar, scoring six goals.Now he is repaying the faith shown in him by Deschamps, who gave Griezmann his international debut as a 22-year-old in 2014."I owe him so much. He was the one who called me up and we have been together ever since," said the player who hails from Macon, near Lyon, but has spent his entire career in Spain."I give everything for this shirt, for France but also for him. I try to do everything to ensure he keeps having confidence in me."Every game, every action is me saying thank you to him. I want to do all I can to make him proud of his number seven."
England manager Gareth Southgate is wrestling with the biggest dilemma of his reign as he tries to plot a way to stop the "sensational" Kylian Mbappe in Saturday's World Cup quarter-final.Southgate's hopes of leading England to a third successive semi-final at major tournaments hinge on finding a solution to a problem that has proved impossible for any team to solve in Qatar.Just how do you subdue a player with Mbappe's lethal combination of electric pace, balletic skill and clinical finishing?Australia, Denmark and Poland failed to come up with an appropriate answer as Mbappe scored in his three starts on route to the quarter-finals.Poland defender Matty Cash summed up the conundrum posed by Mbappe after the Paris Saint-Germain forward's brilliant two goals in France's 3-1 last-16 victory on Sunday."I didn't know whether to drop off or go tight," Cash said. "When I went tight he just spun in behind. When he gets the ball, stops and moves, he's the quickest thing I've ever seen."He's a different level. Speed, movement, look at his finishing. He's got everything."Four years after playing a key role in France's World Cup triumph in Russia, Mbappe is the tournament's most feared player.The 23-year-old already has five goals in four games in Qatar, while his haul of nine career World Cup goals puts him level with Argentina's Lionel Messi and one ahead of Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo.Now it is Southgate's turn to sit the daunting Mbappe exam."Look, he is a world-class player who is always producing the moments when they are needed. That is what those top players do. That is the challenge we face," Southgate said.So what will Southgate do to combat Mbappe's threat?One answer would be to switch England's 4-3-3 formation to a 3-4-3 or 3-5-2 system, which would allow Kyle Walker to move from right back to supplement the central defence.Southgate's concern is to avoid a situation in which the pacy Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele can run at defender Harry Maguire and exploit his lack of speed.'Burning my legs'Moving Walker would give Maguire help but it would also leave Southgate open to fresh claims he is a negative coach more concerned with stifling the opposition than letting his own stars express themselves.Southgate was heavily criticised after his return to a 3-4-3 formation in the Euro 2020 final against Italy produced a tepid display that ended in a penalty shoot-out defeat.Instead of changing his formation, Southgate may take inspiration from Walker's role in Manchester City's Champions League semi-final first-leg win over Mbappe's PSG last year.City boss Pep Guardiola asked Walker to muzzle Mbappe from right-back and he responded with a disciplined display that kept the star from scoring."I can't think of another right-back in the world that I'd want to put up against him," former England defender Gary Neville said of Walker's chances of subduing Mbappe."Kyle will go closer to him, he has more pace than the Polish defenders. That's not to say Kyle will mark him out of the game. This is a sensational player, the new best player in the world."As well as Walker winning his one-on-one duels with Mbappe, Neville believes it is essential to reduce his service from Olivier Giroud and Antoine Griezmann."If they can stop the service to Giroud and Griezmann in that central area, it means Mbappe's receiving far less dangerous passes," Neville said.But no matter how much England plan for Mbappe, Cash knows from painful experience that nothing can truly prepare them to face such a unique talent."I spent the afternoon watching his clips, but I'm watching the videos while lying in bed. In real life, he's burning my legs, that's the difference, he said.
Asian teams came crashing back down to earth in the World Cup last 16 but the region still enjoyed its best-ever tournament to suggest it is closing the gap on the global elite.The continent’s finest will be back in Qatar for the 2023 Asian Cup and, if the World Cup is anything to go by, it could be the finest yet.Australia, Japan and South Korea — three of the six Asian Football Confederation teams at the World Cup — reached the first knockout stage.It was the first time three AFC sides had got to the last 16, even if South Korea in particular suffered a sobering defeat, going down 4-1 to highly fancied Brazil.There would be no repeat of 2002, when South Korea reached the semi-finals as co-hosts, still the best World Cup showing by an Asian side.The Koreans did though defeat Portugal in the group phase in Qatar.Saudi Arabia, also part of the AFC, pulled off the biggest shock of the tournament in coming from behind to defeat Lionel Messi’s Argentina 2-1 in the group stage. Japan also roared back to stun former champions Spain and Germany and top Group E, before suffering a heartbreaking defeat to 2018 finalists Croatia on penalties.Speaking ahead of the game, defender Kou Itakura said: “I feel that Asia is getting closer to Europe.”Hajime Moriyasu’s side boasts a growing number of players in top European leagues.Eight of his 26-man World Cup squad play in Germany’s Bundesliga and Moriyasu said Japan’s success was good for all of Asia. “In order for Japan to win the World Cup we have been nurturing our young players and trying to create an environment where we can produce good players,” said Moriyasu.“At the same time, the JFA (Japan Football Association) also has a target of contributing to Asian football and has been sending Japanese coaches to many countries in the region to try to improve their level.”He added that the standard of Asian football would have to improve further if teams were to have a chance of becoming world champions.Expectations had been low in Australia before the tournament in Qatar, with concerns that the supply line that produced Harry Kewell, Tim Cahill and Mark Viduka is no longer producing such quality players.The Socceroos proved the doubters wrong by beating Tunisia and Euro 2020 semi-finalists Denmark to reach the last 16, equalling their best World Cup performance.They then pushed a Messi-inspired Argentina all the way before going down fighting in a 2-1 defeat.But coach Graham Arnold, concerned about the future of football in Australia, wants more government investment.“Asia is throwing a lot of money into football and we need to catch up,” he warned.Arnold, whose future as coach is uncertain, said Asian football was going from strength to strength.“People can sit back at home and their opinion is maybe Saudi Arabia is not that good, or Japan. Look at what they have done,” he said.It was not all good news for AFC teams.Qatar will be hosts and holders at the 2023 Asian Cup, which was moved out of China because of Covid rules, and will need to improve fast if they want to defend their title.There are no firm dates yet for the tournament but it could be moved to early 2024.Qatar lost all three games at the World Cup and scored just once, the worst performance in history by a host team.“You can use statistics how you want but we need to make our own assessments,” said coach Felix Sanchez.
Japan failed to reach the World Cup quarter-finals once again but stunning wins over Germany and Spain and more players moving to Europe suggest the Blue Samurai will return stronger.Japan were eliminated by Croatia in the last 16 on Monday in Qatar, going out on penalties after a nerve-jangling 1-1 draw with the 2018 finalists.It was the fourth time Japan had exited at the first knock-out stage and denied them a much-coveted quarter-final debut in their seventh straight World Cup appearance.But the four-times Asian champions showed that they can compete with the world’s best in Qatar, beating both Germany and Spain — two former champions — to point towards brighter times ahead.Coach Hajime Moriyasu said it was not possible to “turn into Superman overnight” but he believes Japan are on the right path.“We weren’t able to overcome this hurdle of losing in the last 16 and you might say that we didn’t achieve anything new,” he said.“But the players have shown us something that we haven’t seen before by beating former champions like Germany and Spain.”The number of European-based players in Japan’s World Cup squads has steadily increased since they made their tournament debut in 1998 with an entirely domestic-based selection.Moriyasu picked 19 European-based players in his 26-man squad for Qatar, including eight who ply their trade in Germany’s Bundesliga.Japan had six players in the group stages of this season’s Champions League and Daichi Kamada won last season’s Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt.Midfielder Wataru Endo, who captains Stuttgart in the Bundesliga, said he wants to see Japan have enough European-based players “to fill two teams”.“The quality of the Japan players is improving — we have more players at European clubs and that is good experience for us,” he said.“We need to have more players playing with European clubs — we need 20 or 30.“We are improving but we weren’t good enough to get to the quarter-finals.”GRASS-ROOTS SUPPORTJapan’s player exodus to Europe has come at the expense of the domestic J-League.Only seven home-based players were named in Moriyasu’s squad and fans of local clubs now find opportunities to watch national team stars few and far between.Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo, who plays for FC Tokyo, urged Japanese fans to support their local J-League club for the benefit of the national team.“Most of the players in the squad came up through the J-League and now they play overseas,” said Nagatomo, who returned to FC Tokyo last year after an 11-year stint in Europe.“There will be a J-League team in most people’s local area. We need to support them.“If we get excited about the J-League it will help the players grow and give them motivation, then they’ll go overseas and help the national team.”Japan’s next immediate challenge is to win the Asian Cup, which will be held in Qatar, likely in early 2024.It remains to be seen if Moriyasu will still be in charge, with the Japan Football Association set to decide his fate when the team return home.Veterans like Nagatomo and captain Maya Yoshida are likely to make way for a younger generation, with emerging stars such as Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma set to take centre stage.Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who was named in the squad as a back-up after playing at the previous three World Cups, said Japan’s 2022 team was their “best ever” at the tournament.He backed the young players to take on a leading role and use their heartbreak to make Japan stronger.“We have a lot of young players and this experience will be massive for the team,” said the 39-year-old. “The game is just finished but I want the players, particularly the young players, to lead us forward.”
In a spirited performance that resonated with the Arab world, Morocco Tuesday stunned former winners Spain in a dramatic penalty shootout in their FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Round of 16 clash.Achraf Hakimi, the Madrid-born defender, found the net with calmest of ease on the fourth penalty to take Morocco to their maiden quarter-finals berth in World Cup history.The packed Education City Stadium erupted in absolute joy as Hakimi's shot hit the net giving Morocco an unassailable 3-0 lead in the penalty shootout following a goalless regulation play of 120 minutes separated by extra time.Morocco goalkeeper Yassine Bounou, who plays for Spain's Sevilla, saved spot-kicks from Carlos Soler and Sergio Busquets after Pablo Sarabia had hit the post and Hakimi, a product of the Real Madrid youth system, held his nerve to earn his team a quarter-final against either Portugal who crushed Switzerland 6-1 Tuesday.Morocco Tuesday became only the fourth African nation to reach the last eight of the tournament, 12 years after Ghana did so in South Africa in 2010.After a scrappy match finished 0-0 after extra time with few shots on target for either side, Morocco fed off the raucous support of their red-clad fans in the shootout as Spain crumbled.Spain enjoyed more than 75% of possession and completed almost 1000 passes but Morocco caused problems for them on the counter-attack and goalkeeper Unai Simon made some good saves."We fought and made the Moroccan people happy, we made history and Morocco deserve it, Moroccan people made us united on the pitch," coach Walid Regragui said Tuesday.Morocco defender Jawad Yamiq was proud of his team's performance."We honoured the Arab and African football, coach Regragui gave us the confidence that we needed in this game, a big boost in morale," he said. "We knew that Spain depend on their ball possession and we played with that in mind. They didn't impose any danger."It was the fourth time Spain have been knocked out of the World Cup on penalties and the second in a row.It was a huge blow for Luis Enrique's team, who arrived in Qatar as one of the favourites after reaching the Euro 2020 semi-finals and the Nations League final last year."We completely dominated the match, it's a shame it went that way," the Spain coach told TVE Tuesday. "It's the most difficult thing, playing against a team like Morocco who are hard workers. The penalties cost us, but I am very proud of the team and all the players. I’m very sorry about the result but I congratulate Morocco."In the day's other clash, 2016 Euro champions Portugal crushed Switzerland 6-1 at Lusail Stadium in a game that saw Cristiano Ronaldo on the bench.Goncalo Ramos scored the first hat-trick of the 2022 World Cup as Portugal powered towards a place in the quarter-finals with a one-sided mauling of Switzerland.The 21-year-old Ramos, named in the starting line-up ahead of veteran star Ronaldo, struck in the 17th, 51st and 67th minutes.Benfica forward Ramos - making his first international start - was substituted for Ronaldo with just under 20 minutes of regulation time remaining at the Lusail Stadium.Earlier Pepe, the stand-in captain, added Portugal's second just after the half hour mark when he beat two defenders in the air to head home a corner. Raphael Guerreiro scored one in the 55th minute while Rafael Leao scored the sixth in injury time (90 +2).Portugal will face Morocco in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
The German Football Federation (DFB) announced that the DFB sporting director Oliver Bierhoff ended his contract with the organisation after the German national team's exit from the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.Bierhoff and the German Federation reached an agreement to end the contract which was scheduled to continue until 2024.Bierhoff, one of Germany's most famous former players, said in his resignation speech on Monday evening "that's why I'm not leaving without necessary self-criticism. Over the past four years, we haven't managed to build on earlier successes and give the fans reason to cheer again."The sporting director thanked people who had supported him, expressing his regrets for the performance of the German men's national team in Russia and Qatar, which failed to live up to earlier successes."Some decisions we were convinced of have not turned out to be the right ones. No one regrets that more than I do. I take responsibility for that," he said, adding that "I am clearing the way for a new direction."DFB vice president and DFL supervisory board chairman Hans-Joachim Watzke thanked Oliver Bierhoff for his years of service.As a professional footballer, Oliver Bierhoff was one of Germany's most renowned players, scoring 37 goals in 70 international matches. He was part of the team that won the European Championship in 1996 and helped secure the trophy by scoring two goals in the final game.In 2004, two years after his last international match, he started working at DFB as manager of the men's national team.Despite Germany's lackluster results lately, Bierhoff was part of the success of the German team when it won the World Cup 2014 in Brazil after defeating Brazil 7-1 and Argentina.However, Germany was eliminated in Group Stage for the second time in a row, after it also failed in the Round of 16 in the UEFA Euro last summer.It not clear how Bierhoff's resignation could impact Hansi Flick's future as national coach.DFB president Bernd Neuendorf, coach Hansi Flick and vice-president Hans-Joachim Watzke are scheduled to hold a meeting this week in which they analyse reasons for why the men's national team performed so poorly in the World Cup.
Japan failed to reach the World Cup quarter-finals once again but stunning wins over Germany and Spain and more players moving to Europe suggest the Blue Samurai will return stronger.Japan were eliminated by Croatia in the last 16 on Monday in Qatar, going out on penalties after a nerve-jangling 1-1 draw with the 2018 finalists.It was the fourth time Japan had exited at the first knock-out stage and denied them a much-coveted quarter-final debut in their seventh straight World Cup appearance.But the four-times Asian champions showed that they can compete with the world's best in Qatar, beating both Germany and Spain - two former champions - to point towards brighter times ahead.Coach Hajime Moriyasu said it was not possible to "turn into Superman overnight" but he believes Japan are on the right path."We weren't able to overcome this hurdle of losing in the last 16 and you might say that we didn't achieve anything new," he said."But the players have shown us something that we haven't seen before by beating former champions like Germany and Spain."The number of European-based players in Japan's World Cup squads has steadily increased since they made their tournament debut in 1998 with an entirely domestic-based selection.Moriyasu picked 19 European-based players in his 26-man squad for Qatar.Japan had six players in the group stages of this season's Champions League and Daichi Kamada won last season's Europa League with Eintracht Frankfurt.Midfielder Wataru Endo, who captains Stuttgart in the Bundesliga, said he wants to see Japan have enough European-based players "to fill two teams"."The quality of the Japan players is improving - we have more players at European clubs and that is good experience for us," he said."We need to have more players playing with European clubs - we need 20 or 30."We are improving but we weren't good enough to get to the quarter-finals."Grass-roots supportJapan's player exodus to Europe has come at the expense of the domestic J-League.Only seven home-based players were named in Moriyasu's squad and fans of local clubs now find opportunities to watch national team stars few and far between.Japan defender Yuto Nagatomo, who plays for FC Tokyo, urged Japanese fans to support their local J-League club for the benefit of the national team."Most of the players in the squad came up through the J-League and now they play overseas," said Nagatomo, who returned to FC Tokyo last year after an 11-year stint in Europe."There will be a J-League team in most people's local area. We need to support them."If we get excited about the J-League it will help the players grow and give them motivation, then they'll go overseas and help the national team."Japan's next immediate challenge is to win the Asian Cup, which will be held in Qatar, likely in early 2024.It remains to be seen if Moriyasu will still be in charge, with the Japan Football Association set to decide his fate when the team return home.Veterans like Nagatomo and captain Maya Yoshida are likely to make way for a younger generation, with emerging stars such as Ritsu Doan and Kaoru Mitoma set to take centre stage.Goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima, who was named in the squad as a back-up after playing at the previous three World Cups, said Japan's 2022 team was their "best ever" at the tournament.He backed the young players to take on a leading role and use their heartbreak to make Japan stronger."We have a lot of young players and this experience will be massive for the team," said the 39-year-old."The game is just finished but I want the players, particularly the young players, to lead us forward."
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic called Brazil's squad "scary" but says his team are not big underdogs in Friday's quarter-final against the World Cup favourites.Dalic's side, runners-up at the 2018 World Cup, beat Japan on penalties on Monday to guarantee at least their third best finish at the tournament.The coach said on Tuesday he was proud of his team for showing the character and mentality to get this far in Qatar, but knows that Brazil will be a whole different proposition."Brazil has (over) 200 million people, we only have four million, so we're a bit like the suburb of a city in Brazil," Dalic said."It will be a different game than against anyone we have played so far because Brazil likes to play football."If we are looking at it realistically, Brazil is the best team at the tournament, they have a great choice of players, a great squad, it's scary, so it's a great test for us."Dalic said "it doesn't get better" than playing Brazil at a World Cup."Maybe we'd rather it was in the final than the quarter-final though," he added."We want to give maximum effort - we won't surrender before the game. We want to counter Brazil's quality with our own and we want to play football against them."Croatia have refreshed their squad in the four years since the last World Cup, with only a handful of veterans remaining, including captain Luka Modric and winger Ivan Perisic.Dalic said this generation should not be compared to the team beaten by France in the final in Russia because they largely included players sprinkled across elite club sides."We have already earned a historic result after getting silver in 2018 and bronze in 1998, this is our third best Croatian result at a World Cup," said Dalic."I wouldn't draw comparisons to the team from 2018, when you look at our players then, they played for clubs like Barcelona, Inter (Milan), Juventus, Liverpool, Real Madrid of course."When you compare it to today, we have six players from the Croatian first division, it's a different team."But I take my hat off to this generation, because they are playing great."Brazil thrashed South Korea 4-1 on Monday with one of the best performances of the tournament so far, but Dalic thinks that his team can fight their corner against the five-time World Cup winners."Brazil are favourites, you can tell they have a great atmosphere in the team, they have top world-class players, Neymar is back from injury," added Dalic."We have to be very smart in our approach. We can't open up too much against Brazil, but we also can't sit back."It's not 50-50, but we are not some big underdogs."
Son Heung-min apologised after his South Korean side exited the World Cup following a sobering 4-1 defeat to favourites Brazil in the last 16 in Qatar.The captain and talisman was powerless as Brazil scored four times in the first half on Monday, before Paik Seung-ho netted a 76th-minute consolation for the outclassed Koreans.South Korea have still never won a World Cup knockout tie outside of their home country."I can only apologise to our fans for not living up to their expectations," said the 30-year-old Tottenham forward, who played in a mask in Qatar following facial surgery last month."We did our best but I think we played a very difficult game," he told TV reporters."Still, there is no doubt that all the players battled proudly, devoted themselves and worked hard to get this far."The players and staff really did their best to prepare for this match, so I hope you understand."South Korea coach Paulo Bento announced in the immediate aftermath of the heavy defeat that he would not be staying on, a decision he said was made in September.The 53-year-old former Portugal international had been in charge since 2018.Son, who failed to score at the tournament and showed only fleeting glimpses of his best form, said he was sorry to see the boss go."I never once had any doubt about the style of football he pursued," Son told Korean media in a reference to critics, who said Bento was too cautious at times."A lot of people had reservations about it but they all cheered for us when we played well at the World Cup here. We were able to execute things we'd worked on for the last four years.""It's really sad to see him go," Son added.
FIFA on Monday commended the impressive performance of French star Kylian Mbappe who is currently on five goals for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022."Currently the top scorer at FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, Kylian Mbappe is stacking up records and top-class performances at the same lightning speed," FIFA said in a report published on its website.In scoring a brace against Poland in the round of 16 on Sunday, the French forward notched his fourth and fifth goals of the tournament, jumping to top of the goalscorers list."It is the first time in the history of the tournament that a player has scored twice in the round of 16 of two consecutive editions. In Russia 2018, the boy from the Parisian suburb of Bondy scored twice in Les Bleus unforgettable 4-3 victory over Argentina," FIFA said."At 23, Mbappe is at the peak of his powers and has already left behind French legends such as Thierry Henry, Michel Platini and Zinedine Zidane with his nine World Cup goals (his five in Qatar added to his four from 2018). Quite simply, nobody has scored so many World Cup goals before his 24th birthday. Not even Pele, nor the great Ronaldo, nor even the top scorer in World Cup history, Miroslav Klose, could lay claim to such a record at the same age," the report added."Talking of comparisons, Mbappe has as many World Cup goals as Lionel Messi, and one more than Cristiano Ronaldo. And with one key difference: the two icons are both the wrong side of 35 and playing their fifth World Cup, while the French star is only in his second. Not to mention that he already has a winners medal at home, something that neither of those two legends can boast," FIFA said in its report.