Future looks bright for youthful, Mbappe-led France

France forward Kylian Mbappe poses with the Golden Boot award after finishing as the World Cups top scorer with eight goals. (Photo: Agencies)But coach Deschamps yet to decide on next move amid contract uncertaintyDidier Deschamps said he would wait before deciding whether to remain as coach of France in the wake of their World Cup final defeat, but the future prospects remain bright for a side brimming with young talent and led by Kylian Mbappe.Deschamps was hoping to lead the 2018 world champions to back-to-back titles in Qatar, and they came agonizingly close, losing the final to Argentina on penalties following a thrilling 3-3 draw after extra time.The shootout defeat prevented Deschamps — who captained Les Bleus to glory in 1998 — from becoming the first coach to win the World Cup twice since Vittorio Pozzo in the 1930s.The 54-year-old, in charge since 2012, is now out of contract but French Football Federation President Noel Le Graet had said Deschamps would be offered new terms if he reached the semifinals.Asked whether the result of the final would influence a decision on his future, Deschamps said: "Even with a different result I would not have given an answer today.""Obviously I am very sad. I will have a meeting with the president at the start of the new year and you will know after that," he added.Once the dust has settled on a draining campaign, France must turn their attentions to qualifying for Euro 2024, which begins in March against the Netherlands.France will be expected to qualify without too many problems for the tournament in Germany, which is just 18 months away.Their recent record is remarkable, with Deschamps having led them to the Euro 2016 final and then to glory in Russia four years ago. They also won the Nations League last year.Frances campaign in Qatar had appeared cursed before it started with injuries depriving them of Paul Pogba and NGolo Kante while Karim Benzema also withdrew just before the tourn...

FIFA readies 48-team showpiece as eyes turn to 2026

Fireworks light up the sky above Lusail Stadium before the start of the 2022 World Cup final between Argentina and France. [Photo/Agencies]Forty-eight teams, three host countries, and potentially more than 100 games.After successfully staging the most compact World Cup in history, FIFA is now preparing to organize the biggest.The dust had barely settled on Sundays World Cup final before attention turned to the gargantuan figure of 2026 looming on the horizon.For the first time, footballs greatest tournament will be held across three host nations — the United States, Canada and Mexico.The tournament will notably see an expansion to 48 teams, up from the current 32-team format that has been in place since 1998, and double the number of teams that took part in the last World Cup held on US or Mexican soil.The enlarged competition represents a triumph for FIFA president Gianni Infantino, who made expanding the World Cup a priority after taking over as world footballs supremo in 2016.The 16-team increase marks the biggest expansion in the World Cups evolution.From 13 teams at the inaugural tournament in 1930, the finals remained a 16-team event from 1934 to 1978, before increasing to 24 in 1982.The biggest beneficiaries of the expansion to 48 teams will be Africa and Asia.Under the new format, Africa will receive nine qualifying slots for the finals (compared to five previously) while Asia will nearly double to eight (from 4.5 slots).Oceania, traditionally forced to compete for a World Cup place via a playoff, will receive an automatic qualifying berth.Heaven-sent opportunity"For us Africans, its heaven sent," said former Nigeria international Sunday Oliseh."I have always thought (Africa) should send more representatives — the more time you play, the more your chances are."Its a continent of over a billion people. My country is 200 million people."For us its fascinating to see a bigger, larger World ...

Argentine president thanks national soccer team for World Cup win

Argentine President Alberto Fernandez on Sunday thanked the national soccer team for winning the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

'I want to enjoy a couple more matches as world champion': Messi

Argentinas Lionel Messi kisses the trophy after winning the World Cup final soccer match between Argentina and France at the Lusail Stadium in Lusail, Qatar, Sunday, Dec. 18, 2022. (Photo: AP)DOHA, Dec. 19 (Xinhua) -- Lionel Messi could extend his international career beyond the 2022 FIFA World Cup, revealing a desire to once again wear the Argentina shirt as a world champion.Messi previously said that the tournament in Qatar would be his last appearance on footballs biggest stage and many expected the 35-year-old to end his international career after he led Argentina to a penalty shootout victory over France in Sundays final."Obviously I wanted to complete my career with this - I cant ask for more," said Messi, who was playing in his fifth World Cup. "Finishing my career this way is impressive. After this, what else? I have a Copa America, a World Cup, almost at the very end."I love football, what I do. I enjoy being part of the national team, the group. I want to enjoy a couple more matches being a world champion."Messi scored twice in the final and converted his spot-kick in the shootout to take his tournament goal tally to seven.He was recognized for his sublime performances in Qatar by winning a second World Cup Golden Ball, awarded to the tournaments best player.The Albiceleste captain also won the award at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, where Argentina lost the final to Germany after an extra time goal from Mario Gotze.

Highs and lows of football: All for us to remember from World Cup 2022

FIFAs president promised it would be like "child going to Disneyland for the first time and seeing the attractions and the toys," while attendees were dismayed at the host nations last-minute stadium beer ban and exorbitant accommodation costs, but one thing is certain -- there is not going to be another World Cup like Qatar 2022.Thirty-two teams. 64 matches. 29 days. 172 goals. But thats not all about this years football carnival. There was a list of novelties around it: First World Cup held on Arab soil. First World Cup kicking off in November. First World Cup with an Olympics-style opening ceremony. First mens World Cup with female referees. First modern edition based around a single city.Now it is all over. When looking back on it, we find there were as many on-the-field reasons for us to relish the tournament as those off it, and some of them could endure our memories and go down in footballs history.A FIFA World Cup sign is backdropped by the skyline of Doha on November 17, 2022. (Photo: AFP)As soon as the final whistle was blown for the heavyweight showdown between Argentina and France at the iconic Lusail Stadium, most of fans have already grasped a crucial clue that how an inspired team manages to keep the World Cup dream alive all the way through competitions and emerges as the ultimate winner to lift the most coveted trophy in football world.It was more than a run-off between the two national teams, but also a clash between two continents. European sides have gripped the World Cup trophy for two decades since Brazil last lifted the trophy in South Korea and Japan in 2002, and Argentina sought to end South America continents long drought for the greatest prize.It turned out Argentina did it. With a 4-2 triumph on penalties, Lionel Scalonis men dethroned Russia 2018 winner France in an epic final that shall be remembered by many for being full of twists and turns.Argentinas forward #10 Lionel Messi lift...

Modric hungry for more medals as veteran targets Nations League

Croatias Luka Modric with his medal on stage as they finish in third place of the FIFA World Cup at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar, December 17, 2022. [Photo/Agencies]Luka Modric led Croatia to the bronze medal at the World Cup on Saturday and revealed he will extend his international career into 2023 in an attempt to win the Nations League.The 37-year-old won his 162nd cap in the 2-1 win over Morocco, four years after helping his country to the World Cup runner-up spot behind France.Croatia will now attempt to win the Nations League title next June in the four-team finals also featuring the Netherlands, Italy and Spain."Thats the plan," said Modric when asked if he intends to keep playing international soccer."It would be a nonsense not to play in the Nations League, and then well see how to proceed. I definitely want to stay for the Nations League."Croatia was defeated by a Lionel Messi-inspired Argentina in the World Cup semifinals but Modric insisted that his team has cemented a place among the heavyweights of the sport."We achieved something major for Croatian soccer. We wanted the gold, we were close," he told broadcaster HRT."In the end, we return to Croatia as winners. Croatia is not a miracle that appears every 20 years. We proved that we are constant, that we cannot be seen as dark horses but as a soccer power."Even though Modric intends to keep playing at international level, coach Zlatko Dalic admits that time is ticking on other senior players."Its the end of a cycle. Its the last World Cup for some older players," said the coach with one eye on the qualifying tournament for Euro 2024 which kicks off in March."But we have very good young players who give hope, (Josip) Stanisic, (Mislav) Orsic, many players who are on the bench. We have a very good team for the future."Croatia has nothing to fear with this generation. What awaits us is the League of Nation...

Scaloni: 'We need to save Messi a spot for the next World Cup'

LUSAIL, Qatar, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Argentina manager Lionel Scaloni raised the possibility that Lionel Messi could play until the 2026 World Cup after the Albiceleste captain led his team to glory in footballs showpiece tournament on Sunday.Argentinas forward #10 Lionel Messi (R) celebrates with Argentinas coach Lionel Scaloni (L) after Argentina won the Qatar 2022 World Cup final football match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022. (Photo: AFP)Messi scored twice as Argentina and France were locked at 3-3 at the end of extra time in a thrilling final at Lusail stadium. Goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez then saved two spot-kicks in the shootout as the Albiceleste secured their third World Cup trophy and first since 1986."We need to save him a spot for the next World Cup. If he wants to play, hell be with us," Scaloni said.Messi has repeatedly said that this World Cup - the fifth of his career – would be his last. Despite having won the 2021 Copa America and now footballs most coveted prize, Scaloni suggested that Messi could still have the motivation to continue his international career beyond Qatar."Hes more than entitled to decide if he wants to play on with Argentina or whatever he wants to do with his career," Scaloni said."Its a pleasure to coach him and for his teammates to play alongside him. Everything that he transmits to his teammates is something I have never seen before. He is a player who gives so much to his teammates."Scaloni dedicated the victory to the Argentinian people, adding that the support of fans had provided constant motivation throughout the tournament."This team plays for the Argentinian fans," he said. "Everyone is pulling in the same direction. This is the greatest pride when you are playing for your own country."The players broke their backs because they understood what they had to do. We are very happy ...

France boss Deschamps bemoans 'lack of energy'

LUSAIL, Qatar, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- France manager Didier Deschamps said his players suffered from a "lack of energy" in the teams penalty shootout defeat to Argentina in the World Cup final here on Sunday.Frances coach Didier Deschamps walks past the FIFA World Cup Trophy after receiving a silver medal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup trophy ceremony after the football final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022. (Photo: AFP)Lionel Messi and Angel Di Maria struck first-half goals to give Argentina a 2-0 lead at Lusail Stadium but two late goals from Kylian Mbappe forced the match into extra time.Messi restored Argentinas advantage in the 108th minute before Mbappe scored a late penalty as the game went to a penalty shootout.Aurelien Tchouameni and Kingsley Coman failed to convert shootout attempts for France as Argentina lifted the trophy for the first time since 1986."We were facing a strong opponent and also lacked a bit of energy from some of our key players," Deschamps told a news conference. "But some of our younger players came on and brought freshness and quality. They kept the dream alive but at the end we couldnt complete that dream."The comments follow reports that several France players were hit by a mystery virus before the match. Deschamps did not confirm which of his squad members had been affected, saying only that those who started Sundays game were fully fit and healthy."The whole of the squad has been facing a tricky situation," he said. "Maybe that had a physical and psychological impact. I had no concerns about the players who started the match tonight. They were 100% fit but we only had four days to rest after the semifinal [against Morocco] so there is some tiredness perhaps."Thats not an excuse. We just didnt have the same energy as we did in previous games. Thats why for the first hour or so we ...

Argentina win thrilling World Cup final on penalties

Argentinas forward #10 Lionel Messi lifts the World Cup trophy during the Qatar 2022 World Cup trophy ceremony after the football final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022. Argentina won in the penalty shoot-out. (Photo: AFP)DOHA, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Argentina won possibly the greatest World Cup final ever after a penalty shootout that followed a 3-3 draw after extra time here on Sunday.Lionel Messi scored twice and Kylian Mbappe scored a hat-trick, but Emiliano Martinezs save from Kingsley Comans spot-kick in the shootout was decisive with Aurelien Tchouameni also firing wide for the French, who had twice come back after looking out of the game.Argentinas forward #10 Lionel Messi celebrates scoring his penalty during the Qatar 2022 World Cup final football match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022. (Photo: AFP)Messi opened the scoring with a 23rd-minute penalty after Ousmane Dembele clipped Angel Di Marias heel.Di Maria doubled their lead in the 36th minute, finishing off an excellent team goal from a perfect counter-attack.Argentina looked to be in complete control, and the French didnt even have a shot until the 67th minute when Randal Kolo Muani headed well wide.Mbappe gave France a lifeline with an 80th-minute penalty after Nicolas Otamendi bundled over Kolo Muani, and a minute later he equalized with a thumping volley from Comans clipped pass.Mbappe went close to a third before 90 minutes were up, but his shot was deflected over and the match went into extra time.Frances forward #09 Olivier Giroud comforts Frances forward #10 Kylian Mbappe after losing in the penalty shoot-out of the Qatar 2022 World Cup football final match between Argentina and France at Lusail Stadium in Lusail, north of Doha on December 18, 2022. (Photo: AFP)Messi put Argentina back in front in the 108th minute, firing home fro...

Southgate to stay on as England manager after World Cup

After saying he needed time to consider his future, England coach Gareth Southgate has confirmed he will stay on beyond the World Cup.Englands head coach Gareth Southgate looks on prior to the World Cup quarterfinal soccer match between England and France, at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Saturday, Dec. 10, 2022. (File photo: AP)Southgate has moved quickly to end the uncertainty around his job by informing the FA of his intention to lead the team at the European Championships in 2024.“We are delighted to confirm that Gareth Southgate is continuing as England manager, and will lead our Euro 2024 campaign. Gareth and Steve Holland have always had our full support, and our planning for the Euros starts now," the FA said Sunday.England reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup in Qatar, losing 2-1 to defending champions France.Afterwards Southgate, who is under contract until December 2024, said he could not guarantee he would see out that deal.“Whenever I’ve finished these tournaments I’ve needed time to make the correct decision because emotionally you go through so many different feelings and the energy that it takes through these tournaments is enormous,” he said.With no obvious successor to Southgate, his comments led to speculation about potential replacements and prompted a debate about whether the next manager would have to be English.The FA has been clear in its desire for Southgate to stay on after he transformed the fortunes of the national team.England was in crisis when he was hired in 2016.It had suffered a humiliating loss to Iceland in that year’s European Championship. Sam Allardyce took over but lasted just one game and 67 days in charge after being filmed by undercover journalists offering advice on how to sidestep an outlawed player transfer practice and trying to cash in on his job with speaking engagements.Under Southgate England made it to the semifinals of the World Cup in 2018 and lost on penalties to Italy in the final of Eu...

Modric partially ends speculation about his international future

DOHA, Dec. 18 (Xinhua) -- Croatian playmaker Luka Modric partially ended speculation about his future on Saturday after helping his side to a third-place finish in the FIFA World Cup finals.Croatias midfielder #10 Luka Modric celebrates with his medal after winning the Qatar 2022 World Cup third place play-off football match between Croatia and Morocco at Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on December 17, 2022. (Photo: AFP)The 37-year-old again pulled the strings in midfield as Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the Third Place Play-Off, showing why coach Zlatko Dalic is keen for him to continue.Many had expected Modric to call an end to his international career after 162 appearances for his country, but he confirmed he will carry on for at least another six months."I will continue until the end of the Nations League final and then well see," Modric told the press after Saturdays game.The Nations League will be played in June 2023, with Croatia among the four countries in the Final Four along with Spain, the Netherlands and Italy."This could be my last World Cup, but I cant say anything now. I am very happy with my career with Croatia. My dream was to win the World Cup, but I am very happy with the two medals (silver in 2018)," said Modric, adding that the side has "put" the country of around four million inhabitants "on the map."

Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 to finish third in World Cup 2022

European outfit Croatia beat Morocco 2-1 to take the third place in the World Cup in Qatar. /Getty ImagesCroatia beat Morocco 2-1 in the World Cup third-place playoff on Saturday to secure a top three finish in the tournament for the second consecutive edition.Runners-up in 2018, Croatia also came third in the 1998 World Cup, beating the Netherlands 2-1.After becoming the first African team to reach the World Cup semifinals, Moroccos tournament ended in two losses. But the teams achievements in Qatar will be remembered for the outpouring of pride on the African continent and the Arab world.The World Cup final between defending champion France and Argentina is scheduled for Sunday at Lusail Stadium.

World Cup final not just Messi against Mbappe: Scaloni

DOHA, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- The FIFA World Cup final between Argentina and France will be much more than a battle between talismanic forwards Lionel Messi and Kylian Mbappe, Albiceleste manager Lionel Scaloni said on Saturday.File photo: CFPMessi and Mbappe are the competitions leading scorers with five goals each, but Argentina will make a mistake if they focus solely on the Paris Saint-Germain player in Sundays final, according to Scaloni."The upcoming match will be Argentina against France, beyond Messi and Mbappe," he told a news conference. "We have our weapons, our strengths and the match will be defined by our players, by every player. Not only with those two."Messi is doing very well and we hope that we can win the upcoming game but this will be a match between Argentina and France and there are many players that can define it."While 23-year-old Mbappe is vying for his second World Cup title, Messi, 35, is bidding to win it for the first time in what is likely to be his last appearance on footballs biggest stage."We hope he [Messi] can lift this trophy. It would be something wonderful but the most important thing is to enjoy Messi and this is the best scenario possible because its a World Cup final."In addition to Argentinas wish for a fairytale conclusion to Messis international career, the two-time World Cup winners have been motivated by the tens of thousands of fans following their team in Qatar."The emotions are part of our culture, of everything that we experience in Argentina, everything that is around us, the excitement from our people," Scaloni said."You get the images from social media and you get emotional. How can you not get emotional? In the end, football is a sport and in Argentina, although it is hard to understand, it is more than a sport for us. Being able to make them happy is something wonderful and amazing."The 44-year-old former Deportivo La Coruna winger...

French center-back pair may miss World Cup final due to illness

Raphael Varane (#4) and Ibrahima Konate (#24) of France celebrate after the 2-0 win over Morocco in the FIFA World Cup semifinals at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar, December 14, 2022. (Photos: CFP) France may miss their key defenders Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konate in the coming FIFA World Cup final against Argentina on Sunday because of illness, ESPN reported on Friday."In Doha, temperatures have fallen a little bit, you have air conditioning which is on all the time," France manager Didier Deschamps said. "Weve had a few cases of flu-like symptoms. We are trying to be careful so it doesnt spread, and players have made great efforts out on the pitch and obviously their immune systems suffer."ESPN listed five players who missed the training: Varane, Konate, Dayot Upamecano, Adrien Rabiot and Kingsley Coman. Rabiot and Upamecano also missed the semifinals against Morocco on Thursday as a result.Adrien Rabiot (#14) and Dayot Upamecano of France celebrate after the victory over England on penalties in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar, December 11, 2022. "Dayot will be fit. Since Saturday he wasnt well for three days ... had a fever, and that had an impact on his strength. Given the tough match we had, I decided not to play him and play Konate instead as hes shown hes good enough to play at this level," Deschamps said. "Rabiot was sick, was better this afternoon but not well enough, so he stayed in the hotel. We have four days to rest, so he should be better and available for Sunday."There is no confirmation at the moment what kind of virus hit the French national team, but both manager Deschamps and winger Ousmane Dembele expressed their confidence in the squad. Deschamps also revealed that "everyone will be ready" to play Argentina on Sunday.Kingsley Coman (R) of France controls the ball in the FIFA World Cup quarterfinals against England at Al Bayt Stadium in Qatar, De...

World Cup Analysis: Four things to look out for in the World Cup final

DOHA, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- France play Argentina on Sunday in the World Cup final, with Kylian Mbappe facing Leo Messi. Here are some things to look out for in the biggest football match in the World.(File photo: Xinhua) 1 Can Messi finally win the World Cup?He came close in 2014, but the World Cup is the one title that has evaded the best player in the World in his long and brilliant career. Watching Messi and his teammates play in this World Cup, its been obvious to see just how much it means.Messi has five goals (three from the penalty spot) and is also a candidate for the Golden Boot, but his creative play has been just as important, helping bring the best out of young striker Julian Alvarez.Is this the moment Messi finally wins the World Cup?2 Will Mbappe step up?Kylian Mbappe is Frances star player, with the 24-year-old level with Messi on five goals in the tournament and with nine goals already in World Cups.Mbappe was outstanding as France beat Poland in the last-16 and his incredible pace is certainly one of Frances main threats, but there is a feeling he has been below his best in the last couple of matches, while at times leaving left back Theo Hernandez exposed to rivals willing to push their full-backs forward.Will we see the best of Mbappe on Sunday evening?3 Antoine Griezmann pulling the strings for FranceFor all of the talk about Mbappe, Antoine Griezmann has been Frances key player in the World Cup, with the Atletico Madrid forward, reinventing his role in the side.Griezmann has played almost as a third midfielder, dropping deep to start attacks and also to provide defensive cover. He has made important challenges in defense and he has given assists in attack.Leo Messi will probably be named MVP of the tournament, but if France win the final, it wouldnt be an injustice of Griezmann was given the award.4. Scaloni to show tactical flexibility yet againLionel Scaloni has done an excellent job in getting the best out of an Argent...

Yao Ming re-elected as president of Chinese Basketball Association

BEIJING, Dec. 17 (Xinhua) -- Yao Ming was re-elected as the president of the Chinese Basketball Association (CBA) at an electronic meeting on Saturday.File photo: CFPThe 42-year-old former NBA star, who has taken the helm of the CBA since February 2017, will serve a second term."I have learned something and did something in the past few years. I will continue to do my best," he said.The Chinese mens national team will strive for a berth at the Olympic Games in 2024 while the Chinese women, who finished runners-up at the World Cup this fall, will try to reach the top four in Paris, according to Yao."We also hope that more Chinese players can go abroad to play at high level professional leagues and the young players can have more tournaments to play. We will try our best to lay a more solid foundation for Chinese basketball," he added.

Busquets retires from international games for Spain after Qatar 2022

Sergio Busquets of Spain is about to shoot a penalty kick in the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 game against Morocco at Education City Stadium in Qatar, December 6, 2022. (Photos: CFP) Sergio Busquets of Spain will retire from all national team competitions after the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, the 34-year-old midfielder announced on Instagram on Friday."Id like to announce that after almost 15 years and 143 games, the moment has come for me to say farewell to the national team," Busquets wrote. "It has been an honor to represent my country and take it to the highest level, to be a world and European champion, to be captain and to have played so many games, with more or less success but always giving everything and bringing my grain of sand so that everything could go as well as possible."Busquets played an integral role as a member of "La Rojas" most successful generation which won the World Cup championship in 2010 and two UEFA European Championship titles in 2008 and 2012. His departure will mark an official period to that groups era in the national team.Even in his prime time, Busquets was not a scorer like David Villa or Fernando Torres. Neither was he a strategic commander like Xavi Hernandez, or a creative playmaker like Andres Iniesta. Busquets duty was more about picking the ball out of the crowd, switching the team between offense and defense, and, in the past four years, sabotaging the opponents attacks in the midfield.Sergio Busquets (R) of Spain passes in the FIFA World Cup Round of 16 game against Morocco at Education City Stadium in Qatar, December 6, 2022. Busquets presence was why Barcelona and Spain didnt fall apart completely after Xavi and Iniesta retired, but he couldnt provide the team the decisive play during clutch time. As a result, he could be on the field, making sure that Spain control the ball and the pace in the World Cup. However, there wasnt much else he could do when...

Worries for France as more players miss training due to virus

Frances Eduardo Camavinga juggles the ball during the training session at the Jassim Bin Hamad stadium in Doha, Qatar, Friday, Dec. 16, 2022. France will play against Argentina during their World Cup final soccer match on Dec. 18. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek)DOHA, Dec. 16 (Xinhua) -- Frances preparations for Sundays World Cup final have been further affected by the outbreak of a virus which saw three players sidelined for their semifinal win against Morocco on Wednesday night.Kingsley Coman, Dayot Upamecano and Adrien Rabiot all missed the semifinal and it was confirmed on Friday that Coman, along with central defenders Ibrahima Konate and Raphael Varane trained away from the rest of the France squad due to the virus.Meanwhile midfielder Aurelien Tchouameni and left-back Theo Hernandez also trained indoors because of respective hip and knee problems.Speaking to the press on Friday, forward Randal Kolo Muani admitted the virus was spreading through the French camp, before being interrupted by a press officer, who joked "Randal is not a doctor."Ousmane Dembele was more discreet saying: "Were not scared of that virus. Dayot and Adrien had a headache, a bit of a stomach ache. I made them a ginger and honey tea, and then they felt better. I hope everyone will be ready for the final."If Varane and Konate were unfit, it would be a severe blow to France, with Varane who missed the opening match with a hamstring issue having an excellent tournament and Konate performing well when he replaced Upamecano on Wednesday.The French squad have apparently introduced strict social distancing and hygiene measures to try and prevent any further cases.Deschamps preparation for the World Cup was affected before he named his squad, by long-term injuries to NGolo Kante, Christopher Nkunku and Paul Pogba, while Karim Benzema had to return to Madrid after tearing a muscle in his left leg in training.

Nadal, Swiatek named ITF world champions for 2022

Rafael Nadal and Iga Swiatek were Thursday named world champions by the International Tennis Federation (ITF) after a season in which they claimed two Grand Slam titles apiece.Nadal swept to the Australian Open and then backed it up with a 14th French Open, taking his majors total to a mens record of 22.Rafal Nadal of Spain competes during the mens singles first round match against Marcos Giron of the United States at Australian Open 2022 in Melbourne, Australia on Jan. 17, 2022. (Photo: Xinhua)Swiatek, who inherited the world number one spot in March following the shock retirement of Ashleigh Barty, claimed a second French Open and then captured the US Open.Polands Iga Swiatek poses with the winners trophy after defeating Tunisias Ons Jabeur to win the Internazionali BNL dItalia at Foro Italico in Rome, Italy, May 15, 2022. (Photo: CFP)"Im very happy to be named ITF World Champion for the fifth time," said 36-year-old Nadal."When I first won the award in 2008, I would not have expected to still be playing at such a high level 14 years later."Nadal also made the semi-finals at Wimbledon but was forced to quit before facing Nick Kyrgios due to an abdominal strain.Rajeev Ram of the United States and Great Britains Joe Salisbury are first-time winners of the mens doubles world champion award after claiming their third Grand Slam title together at the US Open and then taking the ATP Finals title for the first time in November. Barbora Krejcikova and Katerina Siniakova won the womens doubles prize for the third time. The Czech pair won three Grand Slam titles, triumphing at the Australian Open, Wimbledon and US Open.

France struck by cold virus ahead of World Cup final

Frances head coach Didier Deschamps looks on before the World Cup semifinal soccer match between France and Morocco at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar, Wednesday, Dec. 14, 2022. (Photo: AP)A cold virus is running through the France squad ahead of the World Cup final against Argentina on Sunday, affecting at least three players in the squad.Coach Didier Deschamps said two players with symptoms, defender Dayot Upamecano and midfielder Adrien Rabiot, were isolated earlier this week and didnt play in Frances 2-0 semifinal win over Morocco.Rabiot wasnt in the lineup in Wednesdays match at Al Bayt stadium. Upamecano was in the lineup as a substitute but didnt play. Deschamps said Upamecano was recovering from "three difficult days" since playing in the quarterfinals against England on Saturday."However, we have four days until the next game, so he should be available for Sunday," the coach said, adding back-up winger Kingsley Coman had also felt feverish.He insisted he expects all his players to be healthy for the final against Argentina."Its flu season now, and in that sense, we have to be careful," he said. "And also, the players have put in a huge shift and their immune system might be a little run down."France has been training outdoors in Qatar and Deschamps noted the "use of air conditioners may also affect" how the virus is circulating, echoing comments earlier in the tournament from the Brazil camp.Seven of the eight World Cup stadiums cool the air at field level while interiors of buildings and transport in Qatar are routinely air-conditioned.Switzerland also had an outbreak of heavy colds and had two starters missing for a decisive group-stage game against Serbia.The daytime heat has settled at around 25-27 Celsius (77-81 Fahrenheit) for the final week of the month-long tournament which started with temperatures in the low-30s (high 80s).The first World Cup to be play...

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