SUNDAY’S TOP WORLD CUP STORIES

The final! The final is here! Oh, lord, the final is here!

Football
Pogba taking legal action over ‘fake news’ reports he has quit French team
26/10/2020 AT 12:34

Now, despite that excitable headline, the Warm-Up is here, like c.2014-16 Roy Hodgson, to lower expectations. As you will no doubt already know, World Cup finals are typically rubbish. The last one to see more than two goals was in 1998, the last proper, actual exciting contest was probably 1986. Usually the players are so utterly terrified of being the person who makes a mistake and costs their team the World Cup, they can barely move their legs.

Croatia fans, Zagreb, World Cup

Image credit: Getty Images

And this one, featuring a Croatia team who after three straight extra-times must be shattered, and a France that tend to do just about enough and nothing more, is unlikely to be significantly different. Sorry.

But still: World Cup final! In theory, France should absolutely stroll this one, but this is a World Cup where theories have gone to die. If you’ve spent any time on popular social media platform ‘Twitter’ in the last couple of weeks, you may have come across some fun guys who are very dismissive of the idea that this has been a World Cup of surprises. Hopefully those lads are enjoying the winnings from the tenner they no doubt had on one of the semi-finals being England v Croatia, then.

So hopefully the theme of the tournament will override the trend of finals past. Hopefully we’ll see something entertaining this afternoon. And, well, if not: to hell with it – the English domestic season starts in three weeks!

Oh god…

Belgium win the battle of who could care less

Without wishing to sound like a bitter Englishman, the game that nobody cares about ended in a relatively simple win for Belgium, goals from Thomas Meunier and Eden Hazard not only completing the 2-0 victory but perhaps giving a brief insight into just how badly England might have been gubbed had they actually got through to face France in the final.

If one was to take a particularly joyless view of things, you might argue that England have got terribly excited over nothing in these past few weeks, that the fact they lost as many games as they won (excluding penalty shoot-outs) takes the edge of things somewhat.

But that doesn’t really matter, does it? In a few years people will remember this as the unfancied team that reached the World Cup semi-finals, not the one that lost to Belgium twice. The English can be a downbeat bunch at the best of times, but let’s not treat this one with the misery stick.

Still, arguably the most interesting development from Saturday’s game was Eden Hazard speaking afterwards about his future. Make what you will of this, Chelsea fans…

Will Kalinic get a medal?

Just to return to the final briefly, a very minor yet still interesting subplot is their striker Nikola Kalinic. He was sent home earlier in the tournament for apparently refusing to come on as a substitute, and while that would no doubt have been upsetting at the time, he could at least have consoled himself with the knowledge that he wouldn’t be there for the inevitable devastating moment when his team got knocked out.

Ah. Yes. About that. Who knows where Kalinic will be watching this game from, but the question, should Croatia win, then becomes: will he get a medal?

Nikola Kalinic

Image credit: Getty Images

“Let’s see,” director of communications Tomislav Pacak told ESPN Brasil when asked that question. “The players will decide.”

You can picture it now. Some key members of the squad shuffle to Kalinic’s house and hand over a medal in an awkward ceremony, while he looks sheepish and they slap each other on the back and tell brilliant stories about how amazing it was to beat France in the final. Eeesh, poor guy.

IN (NON-WORLD CUP) OTHER NEWS

Decent run-out for Everton in pre-season on Saturday. They beat [checks notes] ATV Irdning by the slim margin 22-0 in their latest friendly, which featured this goal. Everything seems fine here. No problems. Carry on.

WORLD CUP HAT TIP

Hammour remembers returning to Clairefontaine late one Sunday night to find boxes of brand new football boots lying in the hallway. There was a note on top, telling the boys to help themselves. They were a gift from Mbappe, who had evidently agreed a sponsorship deal with a major sports brand, but had never spoken about it. Hammour, who eventually chose to study medicine rather than pursue football, still wears them now.

Perhaps by later this evening we’ll be celebrating Kylian Mbappe as world champion and Golden Ball winner. Before that, read this profile of him by Sam Dean in the Telegraph.

WORLD CUP RETRO CORNER

COMING UP

It’s the final. The World Cup final. The final of the World Cup. You know the drill.

Tomorrow’s Warm-Up will be brought to you by Adam Hurrey, either decked in red, white and blue or with white and red checkerboard face paint covering him.

UEFA Nations League
Mbappe hits late winner to grab France narrow win over Croatia
14/10/2020 AT 19:50
UEFA Nations League
France and Portugal struggle for fluency in Nations League stalemate
11/10/2020 AT 19:42