Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ on display as Hazard makes shock Belgium admission: World Cup Daily

Ronaldo’s ‘total genius’ on display as Hazard makes shock Belgium admission: World Cup Daily

Updated: 2 months, 4 days, 8 hours, 58 minutes, 57 seconds ago

Belgium star Eden Hazard made a huge admission as his side prepare to take on Morocco in their second game.

Ronaldo’s “total genius” was on full display during Portugal’s win over Ghana, while Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has called for their opponents to respect his side.

Elsewhere German coach Hansi Flick is confident his side can reignite their World Cup campaign against Spain — but the nation could be hit with a huge financial penalty.

All the latest World Cup news below!

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HAZARD’S STARK ADMISSION

Eden Hazard admitted Saturday that Belgium’s best chance to win the World Cup had come and gone but said they still have the quality and experience to lift the trophy in Qatar.

Belgium, who finished third at the tournament in Russia in 2018, are still ranked second in the world but many of the much-vaunted “Golden Generation” are now in their 30s.

“To be fair I think we had a better chance to win four years go,” admitted 31-year-old Hazard.

“The team was better four years ago but still we have the quality to win games and to win the competition. We have a few guys, they are a bit older now but we have experience and the best goalkeeper in the world (Thibaut Courtois).

“We have one of the best midfields in the world, right now. We have good strikers. We have the team and I think it’s just the desire to want to win, and the mentality.” He added: “Belgium can win the World Cup if we are in form. If we are not it will be tough.” The Real Madrid forward said he was not over-worried by Belgium’s struggles in their opening Group F match against Canada, which they won 1-0, but he urged the team to play without fear.

“The first match you always have a bit of fear, you don’t always want the ball,” he said. “Now we need to get over that. We need to not be afraid to dribble, to play the killer pass. That’s what was missing in the first match.” Hazard has struggled to repeat the form he showed at Chelsea since he moved to Spain in 2019 but he said he was able to brush off criticism over his performances.

“There has always been criticism,” he said. “Even when you play well you get criticised. I just try to focus on playing the best I can for my country and I’ll give everything I can.” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez was relaxed about his side’s form, highlighting the lack of preparation time before the tournament in Qatar.

“Slowly you’re going to see teams getting ready after three games in the tournament,” he said.

“So rather than having that preparation for a World Cup, for a major tournament where you have three friendlies and you have four weeks to get everybody in the optimal condition, the teams need to get ready while they are in the tournament and that’s dangerous because it can cost you points.” Martinez gave an update on the fitness of leading striker Romelu Lukaku, who is recovering from a thigh injury.

The Spaniard said the forward was not expected to be available until the third group game against Croatia, in line with previous expectations.

“He’s ahead of what he should be,” said Martinez. “I don’t expect him to be involved tomorrow unless something goes extremely well today.”

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GERMANY’S WORLD CUP HANGING BY A THREAD

Germany coach Hansi Flick insisted on Saturday his struggling team have the quality to defeat rampant Spain as they prepared for their do-or-die World Cup clash.

Flick and Germany were left reeling after crashing to a shock opening defeat to Japan in Group E, an upset that has left them staring down the barrel of a first round elimination for a second straight World Cup.

A loss to the Spaniards would see Germany eliminated if Japan avoid defeat against Costa Rica in Sunday’s other Group E game.

Flick however is confident that Germany have the talent to reignite their World Cup campaign against a Spanish side that destroyed Costa Rica 7-0 in their first game.

“We have a team that has quality, that can implement the things (we are working on), and we are very positive about it,” Flick said.

“We need to arrive with courage and with faith in our quality for this game against Spain.”

Hansi Flick, Head Coach of Germany, speaks to media. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/2022 Getty Images)

Hansi Flick, Head Coach of Germany, speaks to media. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/2022 Getty Images)

Source: Getty Images

Flick appeared at Saturday’s press conference alone -- a breach of FIFA regulations that requires teams to make a player available to speak to reporters on the eve of each game.

Flick said he appeared solo to avoid one of his players having to make a three-hour round trip from Germany’s seaside base camp to Doha.

“We just don’t want to expect any player to drive here for so long. It’s a total of almost three hours sitting in the car,” Flick said.

“We have a very important game tomorrow. I said I’ll do it (the press conference) alone because the players - from 1 to 26 - are all important.

“We are currently in a very important phase and they should prepare and train.”

Flick meanwhile rejected suggestions that Germany had been distracted ahead of the Japan game because of their decision to protest against FIFA’s “One Love” armband ban prior to the game.

“I am able to fade all of the background noise out,” Flick said.

“For me, the focus has always been on the football. I am completely convinced of what we are doing.”

Flick, who was named German coach after taking Bayern Munich to the sextuple in 2020 including a 1-0 Champions League final win over Paris Saint-Germain, called the match “our first final of this World Cup”.

Flick speaks to the team during a training session. (Photo by Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images)

Source: Getty Images

Flick declined to speculate about whether a second consecutive straight sets exit might mean the four-time World Cup winners were no longer at the precipice of world football.

“The game on Sunday will answer that (whether Germany is still a world footballing power). Maybe we will have a different answer, a better answer, to that question.”

Leroy Sane, who missed the first match against Japan with a knee injury, trained again with the team on Saturday but Flick said he would need to check the former Manchester City winger’s fitness ahead of the game.

“With Leroy we need to wait and see how he goes,” Flick said.

“Afterwards we can say more. He is happy that he can train with us again.”

Meanwhile the German Football Association is set to be hit with a significant penalty after Flick failed to bring a player to his press conference.

The Germans are the only team staying outside the region where the tournament is being held according to Marca, and Flick said he would rather his players recover ahead of the crucial clash.

“We have a three-hour journey to come and speak here and I prefer the players to be resting and recharging their energy,” said Flick.

“We have fantastic facilities to be able to hold press conferences, but they won’t let us speak there, so I’ve decided to come on my own. My players have to think only about Spain.”

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RONALDO’S ‘GIFT’

Cristiano Ronaldo showed “total genius” by winning a controversial penalty in Portugal’s World Cup win over Ghana, FIFA technical study group member Sunday Oliseh said on Saturday.

The veteran striker went down after a tackle by Mohammed Salisu on Thursday before scoring the resulting spot-kick to become the first man to net at five World Cups.

Ghana coach Otto Addo described the penalty decision as a “gift” to Ronaldo and said it was a “really wrong decision”.

Ronaldo showed “total genius” by winning a controversial penalty. (Photo by PATRICIA DE MELO MOREIRA / AFP)

Source: AFP

“Maybe the strikers are getting smarter,” former Nigeria international Oliseh told a press conference when asked why more penalties were being awarded at the tournament so far than in previous years.

“If you look at the penalty Ronaldo got, let’s face it, people can say what they want about this man, but the genius thought to just be patient and put my foot to touch the ball first before you, continue my leg so that you make contact with my leg -- that is total genius.

“Let’s give the strikers the compliment for getting smarter.”

Nine penalties were awarded in the first round of group-stage matches.

“VAR is also a major reason why this (more penalties being awarded) is happening because the referees can now look at it three or four times and decide,” added Oliseh.

Portugal take on Uruguay in their second match on Monday before finishing their Group H campaign against South Korea four days later.

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CROATIA BOSS DEMANDS RESPECT

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic demanded respect for his 2018 World Cup finalists after Canada boss John Herdman pledged the North American side would beat them in Qatar.

Dalic’s men face Canada at the Khalifa International Stadium in their second Group F match on Sunday, with both teams fighting to keep alive their hopes of reaching the knockout phase.

“I told them they belong here,” Herdman said during a TV interview when asked what he told his players in a post-match huddle following their opening 1-0 defeat to Belgium.

The Canada coach used offensive language to urge his players not to be overawed by the Croatians, featuring stars such as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric.

Croatia have been angered by Herdman’s provocative declaration of intent after Canada’s first match at a World Cup for 36 years.

John Herdman made a strong declaration. (Photo by Patrick T. FALLON / AFP)

Source: AFP

Herdman insisted on Saturday that his rant was simply intended to get his players to focus on Croatia instead of dwelling on their spirited defeat against fancied Belgium.

“The statement I made was to remind these boys that there is another task ahead,” he said. “They have been buying into that mentality from day one.

“I don’t even think this group are listening to that stuff. The boys know we have goals here. We have to get after it, get on the front foot.” But Croatia, who were held to a lacklustre 0-0 draw against Morocco in their opener, have not taken kindly to the 47-year-old Englishman’s comments.

Dalic said Croatia deserve more respect from Herdman as a result of their achievements.

“The Croatian team deserves respect from everyone,” he said. “We have proven that by the way we have played and our conduct during the World Cup.

“We respect everyone equally. We are worthy of respect. The Canadians must respect us. These words are not of respect. We are the runners-up in the World Cup.”

John Herdman speaks to media. (Photo by Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)

Source: Getty Images

Responding to Herdman earlier this week, Croatia’s 24 Sata tabloid ran a full-page photo of a naked man below Herdman’s superimposed head, with maple leaf flags over his mouth and private parts and a headline that translated as “You have the mouth, but do you have the balls as well?”

The controversy over the ebullient Herdman’s comment has raised the stakes.

“It’s a defining moment for Canada in the World Cup. It’s a do-or-die moment,” he said.

“We’ve been waiting 36 years to get here. There is no motivation needed. We are playing Croatia at the World Cup, against people like Luka Modric. What a moment.”

While Canada have little to lose after their surprise qualification for the World Cup, the Croatians are under far more pressure.

“This is an extremely important and difficult match for us. We have to be more prepared than in the last match,” Dalic said.

“I expect a better Croatia. Very often when we face adversity we have responded.”

CONTROVERSY OVER SAUDI ARABIA’S STREAMING ISSUES

The official streaming platform of the World Cup appears to have been blocked without explanation in Saudi Arabia, subscribers told AFP on Saturday.

The platform, Tod TV, is owned by the Qatari broadcaster beIN Media Group, which was banned in Saudi Arabia for several years during a row between the two countries but was restored in October 2021.

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“Due to matters beyond our control, we are experiencing an outage in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which is currently impacting TOD.tv, the official streaming partner of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022. Additional information will be provided as soon as it is available,” beIN said in a message sent to partners and subscribers.

The Saudi government did not respond to a request for comment about the disruption, while beIN declined to comment.

Tod TV is the official World Cup streaming service in 24 countries in the Middle East and North Africa.

Several subscribers in Saudi Arabia told AFP on Saturday they had been unable to access the service since the World Cup began on November 20.

One said the service cut out fully about an hour before the broadcast of the opening ceremony.

Another said the service still works briefly but for no more than 10 minutes before an error message appears.

“Sorry, the requested page is violating the regulations of Ministry of Media,” the error message says.

“I want my money,” one subscriber told AFP, saying efforts to get a refund on the service, which costs about 300 Saudi riyals (roughly $80) per month, had been unsuccessful.

beIN is broadcasting 22 World Cup matches for free in Saudi Arabia, including those of the Saudi Green Falcons, who stunned the world on Tuesday with their 2-1 defeat of Argentina and were set to face Poland on Saturday afternoon.

Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia’s 37-year-old de facto ruler, orchestrated a regional boycott of Qatar beginning in June 2017, the same month he became first in line to the throne.

Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and Egypt cut ties with Doha over allegations it supported extremists and was too close to arch rival Iran -- allegations Doha denied.

During the boycott, beIN Media Group was banned in Saudi Arabia. But Riyadh announced last October it was lifting the ban, smoothing the way for the takeover of England’s Newcastle United football club by a Saudi-backed consortium.