Pele: Mbappe’s World Cup exploits make me want to get back playing

Moscow (dpa) – Brazilian football legend Pele is worried that his exploits in the game are going to be eclipsed by 19-year-old striker Kylian Mbappe – who scored as France beat Croatia 4-2 to win their second World Cup in Moscow on Saturday.

So worried, in fact, that he joked that he’s considering a return to playing – at 77 years of age.

“If Kylian keeps equalling my records like this I may have to dust my boots off again,” Pele said, after Mbappe emulated his previously unique feat of scoring in the final as a teenager.

At 19, Mbappe is older than Pele was when he managed the feat. The Brazilian was just 17 when he scored a brace against Sweden in 1958 to help his country to its first World Cup. The next teenager to score a double in a single World Cup match? Mbappe, of course, in France’s 4-3 win over Argentina in the round of 16.

With Mbappe in their team, it’s no wonder the French are already anticipating a third World Cup success, allowing them to add a further star to their jersey. “He’s capable of bringing home a third star in 2022, 2026 or 2030,” the newspaper Le Parisien wrote on Monday, adding that Mbappe had entered “the pantheon.”

The young man from the Parisian banlieue of Bondy will have to go some if he is to put Pele in the shade, though. The Brazilian played at four World Cups, winning three – in 1958, 1962 and 1970 – and scored 77 goals in 92 internationals.

Croatia face uncertain future after run to World Cup final

Croatia went all the way to the World Cup final with a gifted team led by Luka Modric, but many players are in the twilight of their career and it is not clear if coach Zlatko Dalic will stay on.

Moscow (dpa) – Croatia can expect a heroes’ welcome when they return home later Monday despite losing the World Cup final to France, but the future looks uncertain for the team.

Playmaker Luka Modric of Real Madrid may have well been in his last World Cup at age 32, Monaco goalkeeper Danijel Subasic is 34, and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic (30) and Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic (32) are also approaching the twilight of their career.

“I wish we were all 24 now. Everyone and Luka especially,” defender Dejan Lovren, 29, said.

It is also not clear whether Zlatko Dalic will stay on as coach after the dream run into the Moscow final, where his team ran out of steam and lost 4-2.

“What I am ready to do now is rest. It has been a very tough period but also a great time. I will take a breather. I never make immediate decisions,” Dalic said.

Dalic took the Croatia hot seat in October ahead of the last qualifier in Ukraine, where the team needed a result to have a chance of making Russia. They won and then brushed aside Greece in a play-ff to qualify.

The 51-year-old has received plenty of praise for leading the team to the final, with Modric winning the Golden Ball award as the best player of the tournament.

Dalic said that “it was always my dream to be Croatia national team coach” but he could seek another job abroad, saying that Croatian coaches are still not really recognized outside the country.

However, Dalic could follow a trend of former Croatia coaches, with Slaven Bilic having taken charge of West Ham United from 2015-2017 and Niko Kovac the new coach at European top club Bayern Munich after leading Eintracht Frankfurt to the German Cup.

“I used to say: Give me Real Madrid or Barcelona and I will win titles,” Dalic revealed last week.

He has coached abroad in the past, in places like the Middle East, but that has never bothered him.

“I always did it the hard way. I did not want to stay in Croatia and be a middling coach and live off handouts,” he said.

Dalic has received plenty of of praise from the players for his coaching style – which included sending defender Nikola Kalinic home after he again refused to come off the bench, complaining of a back problem in the first group game against Nigeria.

“Zlatko has shown confidence in us from the start when others didn’t. That is the secret behind our success,” Liverpool’s Lovren said.
Rakitic said: “I can say he is unique. He has a special way. He is close to the players and clear about what he wants. He is highly professional and leaves nothing to chance.

“If he could, he would not sleep at all to make sure that the team is prepared.”

Whether he will stay on, however, remains to be seen, with the inaugural Nations League starting in autumn and qualifying for Euro 2020 next year, as Croatia face rebuilding at some stage.

But first comes the big welcome-back at home after the team went one place better than the class of 1998.
“I am proud for my players and my team and my country,” Dalic said.

England striker Kane leaves World Cup with Golden Boot

Moscow (dpa) – Harry Kane’s Golden Boot award as World Cup scorer is consolation for England after their exit in an extra-time semi-final defeat to Croatia.

The Tottenham Hotspur striker becomes only the second England international to win the award since Gary Lineker, who also scored six in Mexico 1986.

“Congratulations to @HKane on winning the golden boot. Welcome to the club, young man,” Lineker posted on Twitter.

The goals dried up for Kane in the last three games including Saturday’s match for third place, a 2-0 defeat to Belgium.

“Obviously I’m disappointed I couldn’t get a goal in the last few games,” he said following the match.

“Sometimes it goes for you, sometimes it doesn’t. But if I win it, it’ll be something I’ll be very proud of.”

Kane has been a prolific scorer for Tottenham since establishing himself in the first team in the 2014-15 season, and was Premier League top scorer in the subsequent two seasons.

His winning goals against Slovenia and Lithuania and a late equalizer against Scotland in qualifying helped England reach Russia.

Kane began the World Cup with a brace in the 2-1 win over Tunisia and then scored three in a 6-1 win over Panama, and another from the penalty spot in the last 16 against Colombia. Three of his six goals were penalties.

England manager Gareth Southgate praised the contribution Kane has made, not only leading the attack but as captain of the side.
“He has captained the team exceptionally well, he has led the culture we are trying to create,” Southgate said.

Kane’s six goals matches Colombia’s 2014 Golden Boot winner James Rodriguez, and is one better than the 2010 and 2006 winners, Germany’s Thomas Mueller and Miroslav Klose respectively.

The last player to score more was Brazil’s Ronaldo, with eight in 2002 (Brazil). No player has reached double figures since Gerd Mueller (10) playing for West Germany in 1970, while the all-time record of 13 by Just Fontaine in 1958 appears out of reach.

Paris erupts in joy after French World Cup win By Pol O Gradaigh.

Paris (dpa) – The streets of Paris filled with chanting, shouting crowds on Sunday after the country’s football team beat Croatia 4-2 to win the World Cup for the second time after 1998.

At the foot of the Eiffel Tower, where an official fan zone had reached its 90,000 capacity almost three hours before kick-off, there was a sea of tricolour flags.

“We are the champions,” the massed crowd chanted, as smoke bombs went off in the country’s red, white and blue colours.
On the Champs-Elysees, cordoned off by police for celebrations, supporters climbed atop bus stations and kiosks, also setting off smoke bombs and yelling: “We are the French.”

In the Latin Quarter, spontaneous processions erupted from bars and pubs and set off through the narrow streets singing the Marseillaise – the French national anthem – to join a street party in a nearby square.

Beer sprayed everywhere as drinkers danced in the streets.

“No need to pinch yourself to believe it,” sports newspaper L’Equipe wrote. “This Sunday, the French team has indeed written a new page in its history.”

President Emmanuel Macron, whose delight had been evident as he watched the match in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, told RMC radio over the phone that when he met the players before their trip to Russia, he had asked them “for one thing… A second star.”

“And I am very proud, very proud of them, and I’m going to tell them,” Macron said.

The French leader had a word of praise too for the runners-up, saying he was also “very proud of the Croatian team who played magnificent football.”

“GIANTS!” government spokesman Benjamin Griveaux exclaimed on Twitter. “20 years later, thank you to Les Bleus for giving the dream to a new generation.”

“They are eternal, and Didier Deschamps a little more so than the others,” newspaper Le Parisien wrote of the French team and its coach.

Deschamps, who has now won the World Cup both as team captain and boss to follow in the footsteps of Mario Zagallo (Brazil) and Franz Beckenbauer (Germany), was “heading for beatification,” the paper said.

“This is the championship of mastery, even if something was lacking at times against an opponent who posed more problems than had been expected,” L’Equipe conceded.

But in Paris, it was time for celebration, not analysis, as cars and motorbikes sped through the streets with young fans seated on the windowframes or even in one case hanging out of the boot, cheering and making victory signs.

They were mobbed at traffic lights by crowds of supporters, some of whom had resurrected long-hidden vuvuzelas and looked set to party well into the night.

Modric wins Golden Ball as World Cup top player By Barry Whelan, dpa

Moscow (dpa) – Croatia midfielder and captain Luka Modric was awarded the Golden Ball as the World Cup’s best player after his side lost 4-2 to France in the World Cup final on Sunday.

Modric in the end could not orchestrate a victory for Croatia in their first World Cup final, but was recognized by world governing body FIFA’s technical studies group as the most influential player of the tournament.

France’s 19-year-old striker Kylian Mbappe, who scored his fourth goal of the tournament in the victory at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, won the best young player award.

The vote for 32-year-old Modric continues a recent tradition of the Golden Ball going to a player from the losing side in the final.

He follows Lionel Messi of Argentina in 2014, Diego Forlan of Uruguay in 2010, Zinedine Zidane of France in 2006, Oliver Kahn of Germany in 2002 and Ronaldo of Brazil in 1998. The last player from a winning side to get the award was Brazil forward Romario in 1994.

Modric got the vote over Belgium’s Eden Hazard and France forward Antoine Griezmann.

England’s Harry Kane was confirmed as Golden Boot as top scorer with six goals, his side leaving the tournament after losing to Belgium in the match for third place on Saturday.

Mbappe and Griezmann, who both scored in the final, ended on four goals apiece. Russia’s Denis Cheryshev, Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku also scored four times.

Kane, 24, emulates Gary Lineker, the only other England player to win the award, when scoring six goals at the 1986 Mexico World Cup.
“I’m absolutely thrilled,” said Lineker, now a television presenter. “Congratulations Harry Kane! I’ve been short of company in that department. It’s been a long time coming.”

Thibaut Courtois of Belgium won the golden glove award as best goalkeeper, but like Kane was not in the stadium to collect his award, while Spain, who went out in the last 16 on penalties to Russia, collected the fair play award.

Croatia left heartbroken at World Cup final defeat By Thomas Brey, dpa

Zagreb (dpa) – While Paris exploded with joy following the World Cup final, the mood in Zagreb was flat following Croatia’s 4-2 defeat to France in Moscow on Sunday.

“The fairy-tale is over,” the Jutarnji list paper said, while the tportal called being runners-up a “historic silver.”
Around 100,000 fans were in the streets of the Croatian capital, many at the central Jelacic Square, to watch the match and they reacted with disappointment or disbelief at coming so near yet so far from glory.

Despite falling behind through a Mario Mandzukic own goal, Croatia equalized through Ivan Perisic and seemed to take control of the tie.
A controversial penalty from Antoine Griezmann changed the tone, however, and second-half goals from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe assured the French of victory before Mandzukic netted a consolation.

“Croatia has heroically fallen in the final,” said Index.

But though some tears were flowing, a feeling of pride was easily found.

“We will celebrate our boys as they deserve,” a TV moderator said. The tabloid 24sata added: “Only silver in the end but with golden tinges. You are champions for us.”

French President Emmanuel Macron and Croatian counterpart Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic watched the match together in the stadium and, while the former could celebrate, the latter was left to console the losing side.

“The Croatian president comforts her players like a real (national) mother,” former German international Christoph Metzelder tweeted.
Earlier, Croatian officials reportedly issued 4,600 passports on short notice in order for fans to attend the match, with the mother of striker Ante Rebic being one recipient.

Local news reports said that authorities took the measure to allow additional fans to make the trip to Russia.
Ten charter flights brought Croatia fans to Moscow, while others were travelled by train from neighbouring Slovenia as the biggest match in Croatian football history created a national frenzy.

France beat Croatia 4-2 for second World Cup title with luck, class’ By John Bagratuni, dpa

Moscow (dpa) – Fancied France had a little luck before showing their class as they claimed a second World Cup title on Sunday, 4-2 over courageous but tiring Croatia.

An own goal from Mario Mandzukic and a penalty from Antoine Griezmann, given after intervention from the video referee, put France up 2-1 at half-time, with Ivan Perisic getting a temporary equalizer.

Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe wrapped up matters after the break. Mandzukic scored Croatia’s second after a major blunder from France keeper Hugo Lloris who later received the trophy from FIFA president Gianni Infantino in a massive rain storm – with at first only Russian President Vladimir Putin kept dry with an umbrella while everyone else including French President Emmanuel Macron and Infantino got soaked during the ceremony.
France were the last surviving pre-tournament favourites but a little lucky on the evening because Mandzukic’s own goal came after a soft free-kick when Griezmann fell under a challenge, and the penalty was also disputed when the ball hit Perisic’s hand off a corner kick.

Croatia ran out of steam in the second half, after having played extra-time in the past three games, as France coasted home in the highest-scoring final since England’s 4-2 extra-time win over West Germany in 1966.

France won their second title, following 1998 – when they had beaten Croatia 2-1 in the semi-finals – and made up for the disappointment of losing the 2006 final to Italy on penalties, and the Euro 2016 decider at home to Portugal.
Mbappe was the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Brazil’s Pele in 1958, and Didier Deschamps became the third man to lift the trophy as player and coach – joining Germany’s Franz Beckenbauer and Mario Zagallo of Brazil.
“It’s too good, it’s wonderful for the players, a young generation,” Deschampas said in first television interviews.
“We’ve had a lot of quality on the day and scored enough. The pride is there. I am here to realize goals.”

Man of the match Griezmann added: “The heart is happy. We’ve managed to do it, taking the cup to France.”
Croatia were impressive in their first-ever final and runners-up is their best-ever result under the eyes of Presidents Putin of Russia, Macron of France and Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic of Croatia; and Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir of 2022 hosts Qatar, among the 78,011 crowd.
Coaches Deschamps and Zlatko Dalic fielded unchanged line-ups as the final started after a short closing ceremony featuring US star Will Smith among others.

Croatia showed no early nerves and confidently dominated the action in the French half, without however threatening as Raphael Varane headed a cross out of danger ahead of Mandzukic.
France took the lead out of the blue in the 18th. Griezmann lobbed the soft free-kick into the penalty area from a half-right position, and the ball went into the top left corner off Mandzukic’s head as a group of players rose to meet the ball.
Croatia battled back, like in the previous three games, levelling 10 minutes later. France failed to clear a free-kick, the ball fell to Perisic who rounded Ngolo Kante and rifled home into the right corner from the edge of the box.

Modern technology then helped France go back on top and for good another 10 minutes later in the first VAR decision in a World Cup final.
A corner from Griezmann hit the arm of Perisic when Blaise Matuidi attempted a near-post flick on, and Argentine referee Nestor Pitana harshly awarded a penalty, after a long review, which Griezmann calmly slotted home.
It was his fourth goal of the tournament and France’s first shot on target in the final as rain fell and a thunderstorm approached.
Croatia came close to a second equalizer three minutes after the restart when Lloris tipped Ante Rebic’s drive over the bar.
A quartet of pitch invaders (clad in black trousers, white shirts and ties) briefly stopped the action, with Russian protest group and punk band Pussy Riot claiming responsibility for the incident they named a protest.

France, now with more space, made it 3-1 in the 59th. Pogba played a long ball across half the field to the fast Mbappe and received a pass back via Griezmann, beating Danijel Subasic into the left corner after having a first shot blocked.
Mbappe scored the fourth from outside the box six minutes later to match Griezmann on four goals before Lloris gifted Croatia their second in the 69th, taking up a back-pass and then losing the ball to Mandzukic who scored from short range.

Croatia’s Modric fits the bill for Golden Ball award

Croatia midfielder Luka Modric has been pulling the strings for his side at the World Cup. Could he be the player to win the Golden Ball award as best player? Moscow (dpa) – Wanted: one Golden Ball winner. Requirements: you must make the difference in the team, be able to read the game, change the game, be a leader within the team.

“That makes somebody the best player of the tournament,” former striker Marco van Basten, now with the FIFA technical studies group, told reporters when outlining the criteria in mind. Step forward, perhaps, Luka Modric. The Croatian midfielder could be the man for the 2018 World Cup’s best player, to be announced by football’s ruling body on Sunday. First comes the final against France in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium. Events in the match will undoubtedly help sway the technical studies group when they make their key tournament awards afterwards.

But Modric certainly appears to fit the bill after helping his side reach their first World Cup final. The 32-year-old Real Madrid playmaker and Croatia captain is the man who makes the difference for Croatia. He is has won three man-of-the-match awards in six games in the tournament, and helped Croatia win two penalty shoot-outs. “A player like Modric, who is reading the game and guiding the game and his team – having a player like that in a team brings you up far,” Van Basten said. Modric, the former Dutch great said, “is really guiding his team to a higher level.”

The qualities the FIFA technical group are looking all seem to be found in 1.72m Modric, who could also well be a candidate for the next award for world player of the year. “It’s about technique, tactics, physique, mentality. if you are able to make the difference in between these subjects then I think you are one of the players able to win the prize of the best player of this tournament,” Van Basten said.

“He could be decisive in technical skills, but also that he can read the game and change the game for his team-mates. “Physically he is the one giving what the team needs but mentally is he a captain, is he a leader in the team?” Modric has scored two goals in Russia and rebounded from missing an extra-time penalty against Denmark by converting in the ensuing shoot-out. According to FIFA, no player has covered more ground at this World Cup than Modric’s 63 kilometres.

Others, of course, are in the running: form the losing semi-finalists prospective Golden Boot winner Harry Kane and Belgium’s Eden Hazard might have a word to sa, and France has at least two candidates in strikers Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. Whether an award comes or not for Modric, it is the most successful tournament yet for the player who joined Real from Tottenham Hotspur in 2012.

The six-time Croatian football of the year has since won four Champions League titles with Real and become one of the most outstanding midfielders in Europe. He was picked in the Euro 2008 team of the tournament but in his previous World Cup tournaments he made just two substitute appearances at Germany 2006 and was unable to shine in three matches in Brazil four years ago. Now he could not only lift the World Cup on Sunday but scoop the best-player award.