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Friday, 09 December
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Friday, 9 December
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READ | ALL quarter-final fixtures with SA kick-off times

15m ago
NEXT MATCH | Netherlands v Argentina
Defender Lisandro Martinez comes into the Argentina side in place of winger Alejandro Gomez as the only change for Friday’s World Cup quarter-final against the Netherlands.
Martinez will play in a back three, with Argentina coach Lionel Scaloni opting for more defensive cover against the Dutch.
Rodrigo De Paul is fit to start in midfield despite reported concerns about his hamstring, but Angel Di Maria is on the bench having missed the 2-1 victory over Australia in the last 16 following injury.
Steven Bergwijn is recalled for the Netherlands at the expense of Davy Klaassen after their 3-1 win over the USA.
Bergwijn will line up alongside Memphis Depay in attack while Cody Gakpo, who scored three times in the group stage, drops into a deeper role behind the front two.
The winner between Argentina and the Netherlands plays Croatia on Tuesday for a place in the final.
Starting line-ups:
Netherlands (3-4-3): Andries Noppert; Jurrien Timber, Virgil van Dijk (capt), Nathan Ake; Denzel Dumfries, Marten de Roon, Frenkie de Jong, Daley Blind; Cody Gakpo, Memphis Depay, Steven Bergwijn
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Argentina (5-3-2): Emiliano Martinez; Nahuel Molina, Cristian Romero, Nicolas Otamendi, Lisandro Martinez, Marcos Acuna; Rodrigo De Paul, Enzo Fernandez, Alexis Mac Allister; Lionel Messi (capt), Julian Alvarez
Coach: Lionel Scaloni (ARG)
Referee: Antonio Mateu (ESP) 
33m ago
*** BREAKING | Special Neymar goal not enough as Croatia break Brazil hearts in penalty shootout win
1h ago
Marquinhos hits the post!! #HRV: ????#BRA: ????
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Brazil coach Tite has named an unchanged starting line-up for Friday’s World Cup quarter-final against Croatia as Neymar retains his place following his return from an ankle injury in the previous round.
Kick-off is at 17:00 SA time
Neymar scored from the spot in the 4-1 win over South Korea in the last 16 on Monday, with Vinicius Junior, Richarlison and Lucas Paqueta also on target in the game.
Neymar now requires just one more goal to equal Pele’s all-time record tally of 77 for Brazil.
The one doubt in Tite’s line-up was at full-back, where Alex Sandro has been recovering from a thigh injury and has sat out his team’s last two games.
The Juventus player is only deemed fit enough for the bench here, meaning Danilo continues at left-back and Eder Militao, usually a centre-back for Real Madrid, again starts on the right side of defence.
Croatia, runners-up in 2018, make two changes from their last-16 victory on penalties over Japan.
Coach Zlatko Dalic brings Borna Sosa back into the side at left-back after illness, replacing Borna Barisic, while Mario Pasalic starts in place of Bruno Petkovic.
Real Madrid’s Luka Modric, 37, captains the side as they look to cause a major upset against the World Cup favourites.
The winners will play Argentina or the Netherlands in the semi-finals next Tuesday.
Starting line-ups for the World Cup quarter-final between Croatia and Brazil at Education City Stadium in Doha on Friday:
Croatia (4-3-3)
Dominik Livakovic; Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Sosa; Luka Modric (capt), Marcelo Brozovic, Mateo Kovacic; Mario Pasalic, Andrej Kramaric, Ivan Perisic
Brazil (4-3-3)
Alisson Becker; Eder Militao, Thiago Silva (capt), Marquinhos, Danilo; Lucas Paqueta, Casemiro, Neymar; Raphinha, Richarlison, Vinicius Junior
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13h ago
Brazil, Argentina target blockbuster World Cup semi-final
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, 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 again 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 that 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 finally end his wait for a World Cup title with Argentina, after losing the final to Germany in extra time 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 final on 18 December.
The two countries have met five previous times at the World Cup, including in the 1978 final, which Argentina won 3-1 after extra time.
Argentina have never beaten the Dutch in 90 minutes. It is a repeat of their 2014 semi-final clash in Brazil, where the South Americans won on penalties following a 0-0 draw after 120 minutes.
“In 2014 I was there and things ended slightly differently [to how we wanted] but I’d like to change that now,” Dutch forward Memphis Depay said at a pre-match press conference.
After Argentina’s shock loss to Saudi Arabia in their first match, Messi has dazzled in Qatar and the Dutch will have to nullify his effect on the game.
“We’re not going to reveal our tactics to you (about stopping Messi). It would be pretty stupid to reveal your own tactics,” coach Louis van Gaal told reporters.
“Messi is the most dangerous creative player, he is able to create a lot and to score goals himself. But when they lose the ball he doesn’t participate much, this gives us chances,” he said.
England received a boost ahead of Saturday’s showdown with reigning champions France as Declan Rice returned to training following illness.
Raheem Sterling is also set to rejoin the squad on Friday after spending time in England following a robbery at his home.
Portugal have denied reports that Cristiano Ronaldo threatened to walk away from the team after he was benched for their 6-1 rout of Switzerland in the last 16.
Ronaldo later took to social media to say that Portugal were “too united to be broken by outside forces” ahead of their game with first-time quarter-finalists Morocco.
The all-time top scorer in men’s international football with 118 goals, Ronaldo was dropped in favour of Goncalo Ramos against Switzerland.The 21-year-old Ramos justified Fernando Santos’ bold decision by scoring a hat-trick and providing an assist on his full Portugal debut.
Morocco are trying to become the first African team to reach the last four at a World Cup.
Thousands of Morocco fans descended on the streets of Doha after the Atlas Lions knocked out Spain on penalties in the last 16.
“We succeeded in creating a family, and we feel there’s a whole country behind us,” said coach Walid Regragui.
“You feel this energy, it helps to perform like this.”
He added: “I have an amazing group, they stick by what I say and do it. I don’t know how far we’ll go.”
– AFP
08 December 18:36
Maguire mockery is ‘undeserved’ says England’s Phillips
England midfielder Kalvin Phillips has backed team-mate Harry Maguire as the much-maligned centre-half prepares for the ultimate World Cup quarter-final test against France on Saturday.
Manchester United defender Maguire has started just three games in the Premier League this season due to a combination of injury and the arrival of Argentine Lisandro Martinez, but has been solid so far for England in Qatar, where he has started every game.
It marks a stark turnaround in fortunes for Maguire, who became the butt of many jokes on social media after a bad run of form last season.
Phillips said Thursday he believes much of the Maguire mockery is wrong.”I know Harry Maguire has not played as much football this season as he probably would have liked this season and he does get a lot of stick, which I think is very undeserved,” Phillips told a news conference.
“I think he’s a top professional and a great footballer and all you have to do is watch England in major tournaments and when he plays for Manchester United, I think, he’s one of the best defenders and I think for England he’s been one of the top defenders for a long time and especially in tournament level,” he added.
Phillips feels Maguire, who is up against France’s record goalscorer Olivier Giroud on Saturday, is a player that England can rely on.
“He’s always been that player that when we’ve got set pieces or when we need to block or when anybody needs to make a challenge, he’s always the first one to do it.
“And he’s always the first one to get his head to the ball. Obviously, he’s scored some very important goals as well,” he said.”I think a lot of people…because, he’s been obviously mocked quite a lot the past few years, I think he’s just the first one they go to if anything bad happened in the England team, he’d be the first one for anything to be said about.
“It’s very undeserved. And, like I said, I think if you look at the major tournaments he’s played in and how well he’s done then, you can’t really mock him because he’s been unbelievable,” Phillips added.
– AFP
08 December 16:43
Dutch looking to change memories of 2014 SWC loss
The Netherlands will be bidding to “change” the memories from their semi-final loss on penalties in 2014 when they face Argentina again at the World Cup on Friday, said forward Memphis Depay.
One of the tournament’s most storied rivalries will add another chapter in the quarter-final clash at Lusail Stadium, eight years after Louis van Gaal’s side were a shootout away from reaching the final in Brazil.
Depay was an unused substitute that day, but is expected to start this time around.
“In 2014 I was there and things ended slightly differently (to how we wanted) but I’d like to change that now,” the Barcelona forward told a pre-match press conference.
A semi-final place against Brazil or Croatia is up for grabs and Van Gaal, back in charge for a third spell, knows his team will need to step up.
“The tournament is actually starting tomorrow for real for us, although of course I don’t want to downplay the importance of other countries we were able to beat,” he said.
“But Argentina and Brazil, who we will possibly play in the next round, are quite different to the teams we beat in the group stage and last 16.
“The last time the two teams met in a World Cup quarter-final in 1998, the Netherlands won thanks to a memorable late winning goal by Dennis Bergkamp.
“It was an amazing moment for the country and what a goal,” said Depay.”The game will be decided on moments in the game. So if we believe we can catch a moment we can go through.”
– AFP
08 December 16:42
Rice returns to England training at World Cup after illness absence
England midfielder Declan Rice returned to training on Thursday, easing fears about his fitness ahead of Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final against France.
Midfielder Kalvin Phillips told a news conference that Rice had taken part in the training session at their Al-Wakrah base.
“I believe Dec is fit, he’s back in training and he’s fine,” said Phillips, who would have been the obvious replacement for the West Ham player.
Rice has been a key cog in England’s midfield throughout the tournament so far, starting all four games.
England should be close to having a full strength squad avaliable for the clash with Didier Deschamps’ side, with forward Raheem Sterling returning to Doha on Friday after a spell back in England.
The Football Association said that Sterling should be back at the team camp on Friday after spending time with his family in England following a break-in at his home.
Back-up striker Callum Wilson has been nursing a muscle strain.
– AFP
08 December 14:20
08 December 14:02
Qatar probing migrant worker death at World Cup site: official
World Cup host Qatar is investigating the death of a migrant worker, an official said on Thursday, after reports he died at a training base during the ongoing football tournament.
The death of a Filipino in his 40s was first reported on Wednesday by The Athletic sports website.
It said the man fell off a ramp while repairing lights at a resort used as a training base by Saudi Arabia’s national football team.
The report said he had not been wearing a harness. It did not specify the date of the accident.
“The incident is being investigated by the Qatari authorities,” a Qatari government official said on condition of anonymity.
“If the investigation concludes that safety protocols were not followed, the company will be subject to legal action and severe financial penalties.”
The Philippines’ foreign ministry told AFP that its embassy in Doha was looking into the case, without providing additional details.
World football’s governing body FIFA said it was “deeply saddened by this tragedy”.
“As soon as FIFA was made aware of the accident, we contacted the local authorities to request more details,” it said in a statement.
Qatar’s World Cup organisers, the Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy, said the site of the accident was not under its jurisdiction.
The man who died – a contractor – was also “not under the remit” of the committee, it said in a statement.
Migrant workers make up more than 2.5 million of Qatar’s 2.9 million population and labour conditions have been strongly criticised – particularly in the lead-up to the World Cup.
Last month, Qatari authorities said 414 migrant workers died in labour accidents in the country between 2014-2020.
The World Cup began on 20 November and ends on 18 December.
– AFP
08 December 12:10
England’s Sterling to return to Qatar
England forward Raheem Sterling is to return to the World Cup in Qatar on Friday after spending time in England following a robbery at his home, England’s Football Association said on Thursday.
“Raheem Sterling will return to England’s World Cup base in Qatar. The Chelsea forward temporarily left to attend to a family matter but is now expected to re-join the squad in Al Wakrah on Friday ahead of the quarter-final with France,” the FA said in a statement.
Sterling did not feature in England’s squad for the 3-0 win against Senegal with Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka playing either side of striker Harry Kane.
It would be a surprise should Sterling be picked to start against France although his return does increase manager Gareth Southgate’s options from the bench.
British media reports had said that Sterling’s home was broken into by armed intruders while his family were in the property on Saturday night.
However, Surrey Police later said that no-one was at home at the time of the burglary and no threats of violence were involved.
The police said the house’s occupants were away on an ‘international trip’ and discovered on their return that a number of items of jewellery, including watches, had been stolen.
Southgate had been supportive of Sterling’s decision to leave the camp and return to England.
“At the moment clearly the priority is for him to be with his family. We’re going to support that and leave him to have as much time as he needs,” he had said.
Sterling has been a key player for England during Southgate’s six years in charge.
The 28-year-old has 20 goals in 81 caps for his country, including one at the 2022 World Cup in a 6-2 victory over Iran.
– AFP
08 December 09:50
SA ref Gomes to fly flag in Argentina-Netherlands showdown
South African referee Victor Gomes has been appointed to yet another giant clash in the 2022 FIFA World Cup. 
Gomes has overseen two games so far, including the dramatic game between Japan and Spain which sparked global interest following Japan’s controversial winner.
Despite the noise from the previous game, Gomes has been included as part of the team to take charge of the clash between Argentina and Netherlands.
Unlike the previous matches, Gomes will be the fourth official with Spanish referee Antonio Lahoz set to take charge.  
08 December 09:08
07 December 21:07
The best performing African teams in FIFA World Cup history
The African continent is home to some of the most passionate football lovers. However, despite the continent’s love for the beautiful game, it has yet to produce a team to advance past the quarter-final stage in the FIFA World Cup, with four teams progressing to that stage over the years. 

07 December 21:03
Flick to remain Germany coach despite World Cup fiasco
Germany coach Hansi Flick will keep his job and lead the team to Euro 2024 despite their crushing World Cup disappointment, the German Football Association (DFB) said on Wednesday.
“We have full confidence in Hansi Flick that he will master this challenge together with his team,” Bernd Neuendorf, president of the DFB, said in a statement after a crisis meeting with Flick.
The move means Flick, 57, will get the chance to seek redemption at the Euros on home soil in Germany.
“My coaching team and I are optimistic about the European Championship in our own country,” Flick said.
“We as a team can achieve much more than we showed in Qatar. We missed a great opportunity there,” he added.
“We will learn our lessons from this.”
Flick took over as Germany coach from former mentor Joachim Loew after the European Championship in 2021.
He had previously served as deputy to Loew in Germany’s 2014 World Cup triumph as well as leading Bayern Munich to a treble in 2020.
He made a flying start to the job with eight wins, leaving Germany confident heading into the tournament in Qatar.
However, the four-time World Cup winners crashed out in the group stages after losing to Japan in their opening game. 
– AFP
07 December 19:13
Swiss deny Covid wave after Portugal World Cup defeat
Switzerland team chiefs denied Wednesday that several sick players were suffering from the coronavirus as they sought to explain their World Cup humbling by Portugal.
At least three players were affected during their 6-1 defeat in the round of 16 on Tuesday.
Coach Murat Yakin said Tuesday that Silvan Widmer had been suffering from “fever” and “cold symptoms”, Fabian Schaer was replaced at half-time because he was struggling with breathlessness and Nico Elvedi, who did not play, was “not 100 percent”.
Sports director Pierluigi Tami told a press conference on Wednesday: “It was not a question of Covid. It was a virus that spread in the hotel. Not all, but some players caught it.
“We knew about the problem (the virus) and had made recommendations to the team. At the start, it was not a problem.
“Of course we will see if we can do things better in the future.”
Several Swiss players have suffered during the World Cup from what the team management has called “colds”.
“We were lacking in freshness. Unfortunately, we had several players who were sick or suffering and our opponents were stronger,” Yakin said after the game.
The coach blamed the defeat on the “energy” spent in the first three games.
Portugal will play Morocco in Saturday’s quarter-final.
– AFP
07 December 18:44
Croatia’s Dejan Lovren doesn’t see Brazil’s dancing goal celebrations as disrespectful 
Croatia defender Dejan Lovren said Brazil players’ celebratory dancing after scoring goals is not disrespectful ahead of their World Cup quarter-final clash on Friday.
However, the veteran centre-back and his side are aiming to prevent the five-time World Cup winners and tournament favourites from having the chance to celebrate.
“Our goal is to try to stop the whole team, of course, Brazil has a lot of individual quality, we are ready for that fight,” Lovren told a press conference on Wednesday.
“Honestly, everyone can do what they want to celebrate, I have no issues with that.
“I don’t see any disrespect. I think Brazilians were born with songs, with dancing, it’s part of their culture.”
Lovren has played with several Brazilians during his time at Liverpool and at current club Zenit Saint Petersburg, and he says they have exchanged messages.
“I think I have been in contact with all of the Brazilians I have played with, except the guys we’re playing in two days, they have wished me good luck,” Lovren continued.
– AFP
07 December 16:29
England can’t obsess over hotshot Mbappe at World Cup: Walker
England full-back Kyle Walker says his team cannot afford to obsess about France’s free-scoring Kylian Mbappe ahead of Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final.
Right-back Walker is likely to be directly up against Mbappe, who is the tournament’s top scorer so far with five goals.
“I know he’s a top player but we’re not playing tennis. It’s not a solo sport, it’s a team game,” the Manchester City defender said on Wednesday.
“We know he’s a great player and that’s why he’s the focus of all questions. But let’s not forget (Olivier) Giroud, who has scored countless (goals), (Ousmane) Dembele, for me just as good on the other wing.”
Walker has come up against Mbappe for Manchester City in the Champions League and said the lesson was not to over-focus on the 23-year-old.
“When we played Paris Saint-Germain in the Champions League, we were not just thinking of Mbappe and it’s going to be the same on Saturday. Yes he’s a tool in their armoury — and a very good one — but you can’t underestimate their other players,” he said.
07 December 14:35
England’s Rice misses training with illness
England midfielder Declan Rice missed training ahead of Saturday’s World Cup quarter-final with France due to an unspecified illness.
Rice did not take part in the session at the Al Wakrah on Wednesday although it was not clear how serious his illness is.
Gareth Southgate also was without back-up striker Callum Wilson who continues to deal with a minor strain.
Rice, the West Ham United midfielder, has started in all four of England’s matches in Qatar.
– AFP
07 December 13:06
07 December 06:42
Portugal hero Ramos ‘never dreamt’ of World Cup hat-trick
Portugal’s hat-trick hero Goncalo Ramos said he had not even dreamt of starting a World Cup knockout match, let alone scoring three in his first start in the tournament.
The 21-year-old striker was handed a surprise start ahead of five-times Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo and rewarded coach Fernando Santos with a brilliant match-winning display.
“Not even in my wildest dreams did I think of making my first start in a World Cup knockout game and scoring three goals,” he said.
“But we have to think game by game and prepare for the game (quarter-final with Morocco). This result doesn’t matter now. We’re going to go all out in the next game.”
Ramos was only two years old when Ronaldo made his debut for Portugal and has often spoken of his admiration for the 37-year-old.
The man of the match at the Lusail Stadium was asked how the dressing room – and Ronaldo – had reacted to the surprise team selection from Santos.
“Honestly no one in the team talked about it. Cristiano, as captain, did what he does, he helped, he talked to us, not only to myself but to my teammates,” he said.
“Cristiano Ronaldo has always been a role model, he is an idol for many. I also like (Robert) Lewandowski and (Zlatan) Ibrahimovic,” he added Ramos was only making his fourth appearance for the national side, having played 10 minutes across two games in the group stage.
He only made his debut on November 17 in a pre-World Cup friendly against Nigeria, coming on as a 67th minute substitute and promptly scoring 15 minutes later with the fourth goal in a 4-0 win.
Born in Algarve, the forward has burst onto the scene with Benfica this season after being given an enhanced role as the central striker following the sale of Darwin Nunez to Liverpool.
He has scored 14 goals in 21 games in all competitions, quickly adjusting to his new role.
“My favourite position is forward, but last year I was asked to play in support of Darwin. It’s clear that with his departure a space opened up for me. It’s great to now have the role that I love the most,” he said in a recent interview.
Should he continue his impressive impact on this Portugal side in the quarter-final against Morocco he would surely find himself a target of the same kind of big money approach that saw Nunez leave.
But for now his thoughts are purely on contributing to Santos’ increasingly impressive side and he isn’t even taking his starting role for granted.
“That is something that doesn’t concern me. I always work to the fullest and hopefully that is evident,” he said.
– AFP
07 December 00:38
World Cup win makes Morocco the ‘pride’ of Arab fans
Thousands of Morocco fans descended on the streets of Doha to celebrate their country becoming the first Arab nation to reach the World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday.
Despite some minor trouble outside the stadium, the victory over Spain became a celebration of “Arab pride” for supporters across the region.
Walid Regragui’s side won 3-0 in a penalty shootout after the match finished goalless following extra time.
So many people packed Doha’s central Souq Waqif market — a traditional gathering point for World Cup fans — that police sealed it off just before midnight, with thousands waiting in groups at different entrances.
Copying the celebration of Moroccan players inside Doha’s Education City Stadium, many fans waved Palestinian flags, stepping up a political show of solidarity that has marked this World Cup.
“This is the first World Cup on Arab territory, and we are carrying the Arab flag in this tournament,” said Yussuf Akram, who waved Moroccan and Palestinian emblems in the crowded Souq alleys.
Saudis, Qataris and Egyptians joined the celebrations, waving their countries’ flags in the traditional market as police gathered around the edge.
“This is a matter of pride. We are all happy for Morocco,” said Aysha Bedawi, who came from Cairo to watch World Cup matches.
“It does not matter which team reached this stage; as long as there is one Arab team there, we still have hope.”
Arab teams have previously reached the last 16 at a World Cup three times — Morocco (1986), Saudi Arabia (1994) and Algeria (2014).
The prospect of playing Portugal in a quarter-final did not worry supporters who chanted “bring on Ronaldo” outside a TV studio set up in the Souq.
“If Morocco can beat Spain, who have been world champions, then they can handle Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Mohamed Benyoub, a Moroccan living in Qatar. 
“I cried when the game finished; I never thought I would see something like this.”
Organisers said police had to move in to stop “unticketed fans” beating down a stadium boundary fence to gain entry. No injuries were reported.
07 December 00:34
*** BREAKING | Ramos bags first hat-trick of the World Cup as Portugal blow away Switzerland to reach quarters
07 December 00:32
‘Son of Madrid sends Spain home!’: Football world reacts to Morocco’s shock World Cup win#Qatar2022#FIFAWorldCup https://t.co/whp2A7O5XU
06 December 20:11
NEXT MATCH!
Portugal (4-2-3-1): Diogo Costa; Diogo Dalot, Ruben Dias, Pepe (capt), Raphael Guerreiro; William Carvalho, Otavio; Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Joao Felix; Goncalo Ramos
Coach: Fernando Santos (POR)
Switzerland (4-3-3): Yann Sommer; Edmilson Fernandes, Fabian Schaer, Manuel Akanji, Ricardo Rodriguez; Remo Freuler, Granit Xhaka (capt), Djibril Sow; Xherdan Shaqiri, Ruben Vargas, Breel Embolo
Coach: Murat Yakin (SUI)
Referee: Cesar Arturo Ramos (MEX)
06 December 20:09
*** BREAKING | Morocco dump Spain out on penalties to reach historic World Cup quarters
06 December 18:09
Argentina’s quiet man Alvarez can hurt Dutch, says Ake
The Netherlands must beware of Argentina’s “quiet” assassin Julian Alvarez when they meet in their World Cup quarter-final on Friday, his Manchester City team-mate Nathan Ake said.
Forward Alvarez has hit form for Argentina in Qatar, scoring in their final group game against Poland and again in their last-16 win over Australia.
The 22-year-old has also made an impact since joining City in the close season, and Ake warned his Dutch team-mates not to under-estimate him despite his low-key demeanour.
“As a player, he’s very technical, very difficult to mark even in training, very sharp, good finishing, so it will be tough,” defender Ake said on Tuesday.
“He’s a great player but also a great guy off the pitch. He’s a little bit quiet.
“He’s still learning English, and he comes from a different environment, so it’s all new for him, but he’s fitted in really well.”
The Netherlands have already beaten the champions of Africa, Asia and North America at this World Cup and are aiming to add the reigning South American title-holders to that list.
Ake said trying to stop Argentina’s Lionel Messi will be “a good challenge” and he is excited at the prospect of a showdown between two of the World Cup’s iconic teams.
“Argentina fans are very good — they are always there, they create a great atmosphere,” he said.
“They love football, they go there to see football, and they enjoy it, and as football players, you want that atmosphere.”
Argentina beat the Netherlands on penalties in the semi-finals of the 2014 World Cup after a tense 0-0 draw in Sao Paulo.
Louis van Gaal was the Dutch coach then as he is now, and Ake said the players want to “fight for him and do well for him” before he steps down at the end of the tournament.”
Ever since he came in, he’s been great for us, he’s very direct, and he lets everyone know where he stands,” he said of Van Gaal.
“If you’re a starter or if you’re a bench player, you know exactly what you have to do in the team.”I think that makes it very clear for everyone.”
Ake said Van Gaal was “a very good guy” off the pitch who “doesn’t want any sympathy” after undergoing treatment for an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
“It’s very inspiring,” said Ake.”He never really speaks about it, so I think that’s maybe the biggest part.” 
– AFP
06 December 16:42
LIVE | Morocco v Spain

06 December 16:42
Starting line-ups in the World Cup last 16 match between Morocco and Spain at the Education City Stadium on Tuesday.  
Morocco (4-3-3)
Yassine Bounou; Achraf Hakimi, Nayef Aguerd, Romain Saiss (capt), Noussair Mazraoui; Sofyan Amrabat, Azzedine Ounahi, Selim Amallah; Hakim Ziyech, Youssef En-Nesyri, Sofiane Boufal
Coach: Walid Regragui (MAR)
Spain (4-3-3)
Unai Simon; Marcos Llorente, Rodri Hernandez, Aymeric Laporte, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets (capt), Gavi, Pedri; Ferran Torres, Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo
Coach: Luis Enrique (ESP)
Referee: Fernando Rapallini (ARG) 
06 December 10:35
Germany’s Bierhoff steps aside after World Cup exit
Germany’s team director Oliver Bierhoff has stepped aside two years early after his country crashed out in the group stage for the second consecutive World Cup, the national association said on Monday.
The four-time World Cup winners had a poor campaign in Qatar, which included defeat against Japan in their opening game.
Bierhoff and the German Football Association (DFB) have agreed “to terminate his contract, which runs until 2024, early,” the association said in a statement.
Former striker Bierhoff, who scored two goals in the Euro 1996 final when Germany last won the tournament, had worked for the body since 2004.
Bierhoff was an influential and very public figure alongside coaches Juergen Klinsmann, then Joachim Loew before Hansi Flick took over in 2021.
DFB president Bernd Neuendorf said in a statement that Bierhoff had “rendered great services to the (association)”.
While the last few tournaments “fell short”, he would still be remembered for “great moments”, Neuendorf said, highlighting his work at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, which Germany won.
“Even in turbulent times, he always pursued his goal and vision, and leaves a lasting mark on the DFB,” he added.
The early exit for coach Flick’s team has left Germany’s once fearsome reputation in tatters.
Germany also crashed out four years ago in Russia, and went out in the last 16 in last year’s European Championship.
Neuendorf and Flick have called for an overhaul of Germany’s youth development system before the country hosts the 2024 European Championship.
– AFP
06 December 09:20
06 December 07:44
Ronaldo eyes World Cup quarters as Morocco dare to dream
Cristiano Ronaldo will aim to fire Portugal past Switzerland and into the World Cup quarter-finals on Tuesday as Morocco bid to derail Spain’s bid for a second global crown.
Just two last-eight slots remain to be filled in Qatar after five-time winners Brazil swatted aside South Korea 4-1 and 2018 finalists Croatia squeezed past Japan via a penalty shoot-out.
Ronaldo was hogging the headlines at the tournament even before he kicked a ball after launching a tirade against Manchester United and their manager Erik ten Hag.
Following an exit by “mutual agreement” he is now seeking a new team, with sources saying he is in talks over a blockbuster deal with Saudi club Al-Nassr.
The 37-year-old superstar forward, who is appearing in what is almost certainly his last World Cup, has been a shadow of his former self in Qatar despite all the hype.
After scoring a penalty in his team’s opening clash against Ghana to become the first player to score at five World Cups, he has huffed and puffed but has failed to find the net again.
Ronaldo’s starting role in the team remains a hot topic among Portugal fans, but coach Fernando Santos said he was not paying attention to the raging debate.
“I do not read this type of material,” he said. “It is not a lack of respect, it is simply that we have three days to train for a game and I am not looking at other kinds of news. We focus on the upcoming match.”
Santos said he expected a close contest against Switzerland. Portugal beat the Swiss 4-0 in the UEFA Nations League in June before losing 1-0 in the reverse fixture.
African hopes
Morocco are the sole remaining team from Africa, and the only Arab team left in Qatar.
Coach Walid Regragui has urged his men to believe they can defeat powerhouse Spain as they attempt to reach the World Cup quarter-finals for the first time in their history.
Morocco would become just the fourth African team to reach the last eight – after Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010 – if they beat the 2010 champions.
“We’ll come out swinging,” said Regragui. “We want to hoist the Moroccan flag way up high. We’re playing first and foremost for us and our country.
“All Arabs and Africans, we want to make them happy. We want their prayers and we want their support so it can give us that extra ingredient to win. Before it was just the Moroccans that supported us.”
Spain started the tournament with a swagger, smashing seven goals past Costa Rica before a draw with Germany and a defeat against South Korea.
Coach Luis Enrique said he set each of his players the “homework” of practising 1 000 penalties ahead of the World Cup, saying he is convinced they are not a lottery.
Brazil, with Neymar back in the team after injury, put on a first-half masterclass on Monday against South Korea, rocketing into a 4-0 lead in the 36th minute, including a goal for their talisman from the penalty spot.
Paik Seung-ho pulled one back with a thunderbolt late on but his side were outclassed on a disappointing night for Asian football.
Earlier, Luka Modric’s Croatia did it the hard way against Japan, coming back from a goal down to equalise before winning 3-1 on penalties.
Goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was the hero for Croatia, saving three penalties in the shootout.
Seven of Croatia’s past eight knockout games at major tournaments have gone to extra time, the only exception being their defeat in the final by France in Russia four years ago.
Brazil will face Croatia in the quarter-finals on Friday, with the Netherlands taking on Argentina on the same day.
England play France on Saturday.
– AFP
06 December 06:30
Bento steps down as South Korea coach after World Cup exit
Paulo Bento announced he would not be staying on as coach of South Korea after they were eliminated from the World Cup with a 4-1 defeat at the hands of Brazil on Monday.
“Now I need to think about the future, but I will not be with the Korea team. I am going to rest and then see,” the 53-year-old former Portugal coach said after the loss in the last 16.
“I have just told the players and the president of the national federation.
“This is a decision which I took in September. It was set in stone and today I confirmed it. I have to thank them and am very proud to have been their manager.”
Bento took over following the 2018 World Cup, succeeding Shin Tae-yong.
In Qatar, he led South Korea to the knockout round for the first time since 2010 with a last-gasp win over Portugal in their final group game.
However, they were outclassed by Brazil as they found themselves four goals down before half-time at Doha’s Stadium 974, although they did pull one back late on through substitute Paik Seung-ho.
“I believe we can be very proud of what we have done at this World Cup, and what we have done over the last four years to get here,” said Bento, who coached his home country at the 2014 tournament in Brazil.
A Korean side captained by Son Heung-min got to Qatar by finishing second in their qualifying group behind Iran but their last-16 exit means they have still never won a World Cup knockout tie outside of their home country.
“I think we did really well in the group stage although I think we could have picked up more points as we should have beaten Ghana,” Bento said.
“But I think we can be very proud and I am proud with what we have done over the last four years.”
He added: “This has undoubtedly been one of the best groups of players I have had the opportunity to work with.”
– AFP
05 December 23:32
05 December 20:03
Neymar returns to Brazil’s starting line-up for Monday’s World Cup last-16 tie against South Korea.
The world’s most expensive footballer is back for the game at Doha’s Stadium 974 after missing Brazil’s last two matches with an ankle sprain he suffered in their opening 2-0 win over Serbia.
Starting line-ups:
Brazil (4-2-3-1): Alisson Becker; Eder Militao, Thiago Silva (capt), Marquinhos, Danilo; Lucas Paqueta, Casemiro; Raphinha, Neymar, Vinicius Junior; Richarlison
Coach: Tite (BRA)
South Korea (4-2-3-1): Kim Seung-gyu; Kim Moon-hwan, Kim Min-jae, Kim Young-gwon, Kim Jin-su; Jung Woo-young, Hwang In-beom; Hwang Hee-chan, Lee Jae-sung, Son Heung-min (capt); Cho Gue-sung.
Coach: Paulo Bento (POR)
Referee: Clement Turpin (FRA) 
05 December 19:54
05 December 19:42
05 December 19:40
Enrique set Spain players ‘homework’ of 1,000 penalties ahead of World Cup
05 December 16:21
05 December 16:21
Starting line-ups for the World Cup last-16 match between Japan and Croatia at the Al Janoub Stadium in Qatar on Monday:
Japan (3-4-3)
Shuichi Gonda; Takehiro Tomiyasu, Maya Yoshida (capt), Shogo Taniguchi; Junya Ito, Wataru Endo, Hidemasa Morita, Yuto Nagatomo; Ritsu Doan, Daichi Kamada, Daizen Maeda
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu (JPN)
Croatia (4-3-3)
Dominik Livakovic; Josip Juranovic, Dejan Lovren, Josko Gvardiol, Borna Barisic; Mateo Kovacic, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic; Ivan Perisic, Andrej Kramaric, Bruno Petkovic
Coach: Zlatko Dalic (CRO)
Referee: Ismail Elfath (USA)
05 December 16:02
The race for the Golden Boot: Mbappe leading the charge
With the FIFA World Cup currently in the Round of 16, the race for the Golden Boot is heating up with each passing game.
Leading the way is PSG star Kylian Mbappe with five goals, followed by seven players with three goals each so far.
05 December 13:20
05 December 06:50
Neymar close to World Cup return, England and France set up last-eight showdown
Neymar could make his return to the World Cup stage on Monday as Brazil continue their bid to be crowned kings for a record-extending sixth time against South Korea.
Superstar forward Neymar has been absent for Brazil since spraining his ankle in his team’s opening Group G win against Serbia last month and their supporters have been sweating on his fitness ever since.
Coach Tite said Neymar would be assessed in Brazil’s final pre-game training session on Sunday, but gave a heavy hint that the Paris Saint-Germain attacker would start.
“He’s going to train this afternoon and if he’s OK, he will play tomorrow,” Tite told reporters.
His return would be a big boost as Brazil have scored just once since Neymar fell foul to his ankle injury and on Saturday lost Arsenal forward Gabriel Jesus for the rest of the World Cup.
South Korea famously reached the semi-finals 20 years ago when the tournament was shared between their country and Japan, who are also in action on Monday against Croatia.
The Koreans have not reached the knockout stages since 2010 and only got to the last 16 in Qatar thanks to an injury-time winner from Hwang Hee-chan in their final group game against Portugal.
They will need a different performance to the one in June’s friendly between the two teams, when Brazil romped to a 5-1 victory with Neymar scoring two penalties.
“We have good memories of 2002, of making it to the last four and we want to relive that,” said Korea midfielder Kim Jin-su, who was 10 years old at that time.
“We’ve waited so long to come to this knockout stage and we all truly wanted to come this far.”
Japan veteran Yuto Nagatomo said his side will again show the world their samurai spirit in their clash with unbeaten Croatia, after having already stunned Germany and Spain on their way to topping Group E.
“Before battle, the samurai would polish their weapons and refine their technique, but if they were scared in battle, all that would count for nothing,” the former Inter Milan left-back said Sunday.
“The most important thing is to have courage.”
Mbappe shines, England cruise
Kylian Mbappe was the star of the show again for France with a superb brace which sunk Poland 3-1 and gave the world champions a mouthwatering last-eight showdown with England, easy 3-0 winners over Senegal.
Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe rifled home two blistering second-half strikes after his veteran striker partner Olivier Giroud became France’s all-time leading scorer with his 52nd goal for his country just before half-time.
Mbappe called the World Cup his “obsession” after his match-winning performance, which took his tally to a tournament-leading five and also included an assist for Giroud’s record-breaking opener.
“The only objective for me is to win the World Cup,” said the 23-year-old.
“That is what I am dreaming of. I didn’t come here to win the Golden Ball (for best player). That is not why I am here. I am here to win and help the French national team.”
France will face England on Saturday at the Al Bayt Stadium, where Gareth Southgate’s team strolled past Senegal in a performance full of positives, not least the form of teen sensation Jude Bellingham.
Bellingham, 19, set up Jordan Henderson’s opener and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was involved again when England captain Kane bagged his first goal in this World Cup and overtook Gary Lineker as England’s all-time top scorer in major tournaments.
Bukayo Saka dinked home England’s third in the 57th minute to secure a comfortable win and set up a huge tie with one of the pre-tournament favourites.
“We’ll enjoy this one but then our focus turns to that, it’s going to be a really tough game,” said captain Kane.
“They are reigning champions but it’s a good battle.”
– AFP
04 December 22:57
England move on to the last 8!@adidasfootball | #FIFAWorldCup
04 December 22:54
FULL-TIME: England 3-0 Senegal
England set up a titanic World Cup quarter-final against holders France as Jude Bellingham’s masterclass inspired a 3-0 win against Senegal in the last 16 on Sunday.
Gareth Southgate’s side survived a nervous start at the Al Bayt Stadium before Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane put Senegal to the sword with a pair of clinical finishes before half-time.
Bukayo Saka scored England’s third, but it was Bellingham’s prodigious work-rate and burgeoning quality in possession that allowed them to turn the tide.
Bellingham set up Henderson’s opener and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was involved again when England captain Kane bagged his first goal in this World Cup.
– AFP
04 December 21:57
#ENG spring into action late in the first half!#FIFAWorldCup | #Qatar2022
04 December 21:55
HALF-TIME: England 2-0 Senegal
Goals from Jordan Henderson and Harry Kane have put England in control.
04 December 20:11
Saka replaces Rashford for England’s World Cup clash with Senegal
Gareth Southgate recalled Bukayo Saka for England’s World Cup last 16 clash with Senegal on Sunday as Marcus Rashford was dropped despite scoring twice against Wales.
Rashford’s double inspired a 3-0 win over Wales in England’s final Group B match, ensuring their progress to the knockout stages.
But Southgate opted to restore Arsenal winger Saka to his starting line-up at the expense of the Manchester United star, who is England’s leading scorer in this year’s tournament with three goals.
Saka scored in England’s 6-2 win against Iran and played in their goalless draw with the United States before being left out against Wales.
In a blow to Southgate, England’s official Twitter account said Chelsea winger Raheem Sterling was unavailable for selection because he is “dealing with a family matter”.
Senegal were without suspended Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye, so Leicester’s Nampalys Mendy came into the team.
Krepin Diatta also earned a start for Senegal in place of Pape Gueye.
Whoever wins at the Al Bayt Stadium will face World Cup holders France in the quarter-finals on Saturday.
– AFP
03 Dec

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