World Cup 2022 LIVE: Lionel Messi’s Argentina prepare for showdown against Kylian Mbappe’s France

World Cup: France battle past Morocco to set up thrilling final against Argentina

Lionel Messi has the weight of a nation on his shoulders as he prepares to lead his Argentina side out in the final of the 2022 World Cup against defending champions France on Sunday.

Messi is looking to go one better than eight years ago when he missed out on football’s greatest prize at the hands of Germany; Argentina will be full of confidence after a convincing 3-0 victory against Croatia in the semi-finals.

France, meanwhile, saw off Morocco’s valiant challenge in the semi-finals to reach a second consecutive World Cup final, with Kylian Mbappe looking to guide his country to another historic triumph as they bid to become the first team in 60 years to win back-to-back World Cups.

Elsewhere, Morocco are eyeing a medal as they take on Croatia tomorrow in the third-fourth play-off in Qatar.

Follow all the latest news and reaction from Qatar plus build-up to Sunday’s World Cup final between France and Argentina in our live blog below:


Gianni Infantino describes Qatar 2022 as ‘the best World Cup ever’

Gianni Infantino called Qatar 2022 “the best World Cup ever” as the Fifa president sidestepped the subject of compensating migrant workers.

The curtain comes down on the first ever winter edition of the competition on Sunday as Lionel Messi looks to inspire Argentina to victory against reigning champions France.

Qatar was controversially awarded the World Cup in 2010 and Infantino says the 22nd staging was the best yet – just as he said in Russia four and a half years ago.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 15:30


Zlatko Dalic hopeful Luka Modric will play for Croatia through to Euro 2024

Croatia head coach Zlatko Dalic is hopeful the World Cup third-place play-off will not be the last game at a major tournament for his captain Luka Modric.

Modric, 37, will not feature at the next World Cup and may not yet start Saturday’s bronze medal encounter against Morocco at Khalifa International Stadium.

But Dalic believes the Real Madrid midfielder may continue playing until Euro 2024 in Germany, even though it will purely be the decision of Modric himself.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 15:20


Antoine Griezmann ‘prepared’ for ‘totally different’ Lionel Messi challenge in World Cup final

Four and a half years on from beating Croatia to win their second world title, Didier Deschamps’ side are reaching another final by seeing off spirited Morocco in a breathless semi-final clash on Wednesday.

Theo Hernandez’s early acrobatic effort and a Randal Kolo Muani tap-in sealed a hard-fought 2-0 win at Al Bayt Stadium, where they edged past Gareth Southgate’s England 2-1 in last weekend’s tight quarter-final clash.

But Griezmann believes France now face a different challenge entirely given the quality possessed by Argentina captain – and former Barcelona team-mate – Messi.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 15:10


Money paid to Premier League clubs for World Cup players revealed as Man City top list

Any team which releases players for the World Cup is eligible to receive payments from Fifa’s Club Benefits Programme. The money paid out to clubs is calculated by how long a player is away at the tournament, at approximately $10,000 per day.

This means a club who has a single player in the World Cup final or third-place play-off could receive a payment of around $370,000.

Payments are also sometimes split between a player’s former teams, but champions Manchester City have topped the list of the 20 Premier League clubs.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 15:00


Beyond Harry Kane: The striker-shaped hole in England’s next golden generation

On the one hand, there is “what’s been said, what’s been written, the night at Molineux” (when England were humiliated by Hungary), the pressure, criticism and scrutiny that England’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey has struggled to understand and reason with over the past 18 months. On the other, and perhaps the most compelling argument for Gareth Southgate to stay on until the European Championship at least, is the emerging generation of young talent that his own work over the past decade has helped bring through.

There is a case to be made that Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden were England’s best players in Qatar. At 23-years-old, Declan Rice is already one of Europe’s leading holding midfielders. Mason Mount is only four days older than him. Reece James is a year younger than both. Trent Alexander-Arnold still has plenty of time to have a fulfilling international career if his unique gifts can be harnessed by a suitable tactical set-up. Marcus Rashford has earned his 50th cap and is only 25-years-old.

“I think we’ve once again shown the rest of the world that English football is healthy, we’ve got some very good players not only now but for the future as well,” Southgate said, finding positives in his side’s performance while the disappointment of the quarter-final defeat to France was still raw. “We’ve always wanted to develop a group that can sustain the types of tournaments that we’ve had. I think we are continuing to do that.” There is at least one position that the steady conveyor belt of talent has recently struggled to fill, though.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 14:50


Sergio Busquets retires from international football as Spain’s third-most capped player ever

Sergio Busquets has announced his retirement from international football, having won 143 caps for Spain.

The Barcelona midfielder won the 2010 World Cup and 2012 Euros with La Roja, remaining a first-choice part of the national team all the way through to the World Cup 2022.

This month in Qatar he was the experienced fulcrum in Luis Enrique’s midfield, with club teammates Gavi and Pedri either side of him as La Seleccion reached the last-16, being beaten on penalties by eventual semi-finalists Morocco. Busquets took Spain’s third and final spot-kick in that shootout, meaning his last touch in the national team shirt was a miss which effectively saw his side knocked out.

Despite that, Busquets will be far more widely remembered as one of the greatest in a generation of midfielders – alongside the likes of Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Andres Iniesta – who largely redefined play in the middle third during the modern era and certainly came to define the successful Spanish team which won three major tournaments in a row.

For many, he has simply been the best holding midfielder in the game of the last decade.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 14:40


Enjoying the Qatar World Cup? Here is the reality hiding in plain sight

It is a description that was almost overlooked at the time, but that Qatar was highly attuned to, and warrants mention every day of this World Cup.

“Consultations and reports in Qatar reveal that racial and ethnic stereotypes operate in both the public and private spheres, according to which, for example, sub-Saharan African men are presumed to be unsanitary, sub-Saharan African women are presumed to be sexually available, and certain South Asian nationalities are presumed unintelligent. The Special Rapporteur received credible reports that, on the other hand, North Americans, Europeans and Australians are presumed superior, and whites in general are presumed to be inherently competent in various contexts, such as hiring and promotion decisions.”

Her work was so sensitive for the Qatari state that, a week after her preliminary findings came out, they cancelled a visit planned by the UN Special Rapporteur on Slavery.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 14:30


Grant Wahl: World Cup journalist died due to aortic aneurysm, wife says

In an interview with CBS, Dr Celine Gounder said she wanted to “make sure the conspiracy theories were put to rest” after speculation about her late husband’s death spread online.

Wahl died at the age of 49 after collapsing in the press box while reporting on the World Cup quarter-final between Argentina and the Netherlands on Friday. He received medical treatment at the Lusail Stadium but paramedics were unable to revive him.

The American, who was covering his eighth World Cup, had made headlines earlier in the tournament when he said he was refused entry into a match for wearing a rainbow T-shirt in support of the LGBTQ+ community. Wahl had also been critical of Qatar’s human rights record and treatment of migrant workers in his reporting at the tournament.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 14:20


Everything wrong with the Qatar World Cup

Out of the many facts and figures circulated about Qatar’s problems, there is one realisation that should stand above everything. It is a disgrace that, in 2022, a country can host a World Cup where it has lured millions of people from the poorest countries on earth – often under false pretences – and then forced them into what many call “modern slavery”.

And yet this has just been accepted. The World Cup carries on, an end product of a structure that is at once Orwellian and Kafkaesque. A huge underclass of people work in an autocratic surveillance state, amid an interconnected network of issues that make it almost impossible to escape. “It’s all so embedded,” says Michael Page of Human Rights Watch.

Many will point to similar problems in the west but this isn’t the failure of a system. It is the system, global inequality taken to an extreme. “The bottom line is that these human rights abuses are not normal for a World Cup host,” says Minky Worden, also of Human Rights Watch.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 14:10


How Antoine Griezmann reinvented himself as France’s midfield conductor

Until October, Atletico Madrid used Griezmann for a maximum of 29 minutes per match. His loan contract dictated that if he made a certain number of 30-minute appearances then Atletico would owe his parent club Barcelona €40m, and they didn’t fancy paying up. So, before the dispute was resolved, Griezmann’s season began with precise bursts from the bench.

Arriving at the World Cup, his minutes this season read: 28, 28, 26, 27, 29, 27, 27, 90, 29, 90, 65, 90, 90, 90, 76, 90, 30, 90, 73, 90, 90. If French medical staff were to design a plan for a 31-year-old midfielder going into a mid-season World Cup, you can imagine it would look something like this, gently simmering before bringing him to the boil.

By way of comparison, Harry Kane was cooked by Tottenham manager Antonio Conte. Kane started all of Tottenham’s 23 pre-World Cup games and finished 21 of those, totaling almost 2,000 minutes compared to Griezmann’s 1,264. Few players arrived in Qatar with as many miles on the clock as the England captain.

Michael Jones16 December 2022 14:00

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