Premier League side Newcastle is dealing with a huge number of loan offers after the world watched Australia’s Garang Kuol nearly stun Argentina in the round of 16.
Kuol, 18, became the youngest player to play in the knockout stages of the World Cup finals since Pele in 1958.
A remarkable save by the Argentine goalkeeper in the final moments kept Kuol from becoming the hero who forced extra time, but his performances as a substitute still caught the eyes of many.
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The Telegraph reports Newcastle “believe they have found one of the outstanding young talents in world football before his ability was known to the wider market”.
Kuol is expected to head to the UK once the January transfer window opens, but the plan has always been to send him out on loan before bringing him into the Newcastle side.
Currently Kuol could not play in the UK anyway due to work permit restrictions, with The Telegraph reporting a club in Portugal or Germany is his most likely destination.
He could then be loaned out to a Championship side in the 2023-24 season.
DOUBTS CAST OVER AVAILABILITY OF ENGLAND DUO AHEAD OF FRANCE BLOCKBUSTER
England midfielder Declan Rice missed training ahead of Sunday’s (AEDT) 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.
Rice, the West Ham United midfielder, has started in all four of England’s matches in Qatar and is a key component of Gareth Southgate’s midfield.
Playing in the defensive holding role, Rice has formed an excellent understanding with 19-year-old Jude Bellingham with the pair particularly effective in the 3-0 round-of-16 win over Senegal.
The most obvious replacement for Rice, in the event that he were to miss the France game, would be Kalvin Phillips.
Phillips was a central part of England’s run to the Euro 2020 final last year but following a move to Manchester City, injuries have limited his minutes and he only returned to action just before the tournament.
Southgate was also without back-up striker Callum Wilson who continues to deal with a minor strain suffered at the Al Wakrah training base.
A report by GiveMe Sport claims that England boss Gareth Southgate would be making a “very risky” decision if he opts to include Newcastle United star Wilson in his plans for the remainder of the World Cup, according to injury expert Ben Dinnery.
The £20m ($36.3m AUD) man has made an impact in Qatar, grabbing an assist and averaging 1.5 key passes during two substitute appearances for the Three Lions.
However, Dinnery believes England chief Southgate is in danger of aggravating Wilson’s problem if he offers him game-time during the quarter-final clash with France on Sunday (AEDT).
Wilson, who only made the trip to the tournament after already missing nine matches at club level this season with the hamstring issues that also kept him on the sidelines for the first two group games, is at a high risk of re-injury due to high recurrence rates typically associated with injuries of this kind.
END OF AN ERA AS BELGIUM STAR HANGS UP HIS BOOTS
Belgium star Eden Hazard announced his retirement from international football on Wednesday, days after the team crashed out of the World Cup in the group stage.
The Real Madrid forward, 31, made the announcement on social media.
“A page turns today,” he posted on Instagram. “Thank you for your unparalleled support. Thank you for all this happiness shared since 2008. I have decided to put an end to my international career. The succession is ready. I will miss you.” The Belgium team tweeted in reply, “All the best, captain”.
Hazard, who played as an attacking midfielder or winger, made his Belgium debut in 2008 as a teenager and collected a total of 126 caps, scoring 33 goals.
He was the standard-bearer of Belgium’s much-vaunted “golden generation”, which reached the semi-finals at the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
The team are still ranked second in the world by FIFA but many of their players are in their 30s and they finished third in Group F behind Morocco and Croatia.
Hazard, who was the team’s skipper, made a surprise admission during the tournament in Qatar, saying the team’s best chance to win the World Cup had come and gone.
The forward moved from French club Lille to Chelsea in 2012 and became one of the standout stars in the Premier League, winning the trophy twice, on his way to being discussed as one of the best football players in the world.
He sealed a big-money move to Real Madrid in 2019 but, hampered by injury, has struggled to repeat the form he showed in England.
Belgium were stalked by rumours of in-fighting in Qatar and a number of the country’s other stars including Kevin De Bruyne and Thibaut Courtois have likely played their final World Cup matches.
In the aftermath of their exit, Belgium coach Roberto Martinez announced he was leaving his job.
PSG EXPRESS INTEREST IN ENGLAND ACE AS $236M RACE HEATS UP
Paris Saint-Germain are the latest European powerhouse to throw their hat in the ring for the services of England midfield ace Jude Bellingham as the competition for his signature ramps up.
The Ligue 1 champions have joined Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid in expressing their wish to acquire the England and Borussia Dortmund star.
Bellingham, 19, has been the Three Lions’ main man at the Qatar World Cup.
The midfielder shined in several roles before taking over against Senegal in a more creative attacking role in Southgate’s 4-3-3 formation.
He will again be key to England’s hopes of advancing to the World Cup semis as they prepare for a blockbuster clash against reigning champion France on Sunday morning (AEDT).
Outside of Qatar, things appear to be heating up regarding his club future.
Borussia Dortmund expect to lose Bellingham next summer, and reportedly want £130m ($236.2m AUD) for their star man.
Liverpool, Chelsea and Real Madrid have all previously declared their intentions, but there’s a new player in the race for the midfielder in French heavyweights PSG, who wish to lure the Birmingham City graduate to the French capital to pair the with arguably the world’s best young forward in Bellingham’s quarter-final opponent Kylian Mbappe.
PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi was gushing in his praise of the England ace during a recent interview released on Sky Sports.
Despite the public acknowledgment of his club’s desire to recruit the young gun, Al-Khelaifi conceded that it would be tough for PSG to pull off the coup as the transfer battle will be fierce.
“Amazing player, what a player. England are lucky to have him, to be honest. He’s one of the best players in the tournament,” he said.
“Amazing – his first World Cup. He’s calm and relaxed, confident – amazing. Everybody wants him, I’m not going to hide it.
“He’s at his club and we have respect, so if we want to talk to him we’ll talk to the club first.”
MOROCCAN KING PARTIES AFTER UPSET
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 from across the region.
Even Morocco’s King Mohammed VI was spotted in the celebrations in Rabat, wearing the national jersey while in a motorcade.
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.
STERLING SET TO MAKE DECISION SHORTLY AS MYSTERY SURROUNDS ABSENCE
Raheem Sterling will decide in the next 24 hours whether he will return to the World Cup.
The Chelsea forward was unavailable for England’s 3-0 win over Senegal in the round of 16 on Monday morning (all times AEDT), having flown home after a robbery at the family home.
England insiders are hopeful that Sterling will rejoin his team-mates in Qatar but the FA is refusing to clarify whether Gareth Southgate received accurate information about the raid on the Chelsea forward’s house.
On Monday morning a spokesman for Sterling said that the 27-year-old’s partner and children were subjected to a horrifying ordeal by armed invaders during a robbery while the family were in their Surrey mansion.
But Surrey police responded to the reports by clarifying on Tuesday that the family were not present and that there was no evidence of anyone being armed. They said officers were still trying to ascertain when an alleged burglary had taken place because it was only upon the family’s return from Qatar on Saturday night that they discovered watches and jewellery were missing.
After seeing his side secure their passage to the quarter-finals, Southgate revealed that he had spoken at length to a “shaken” Sterling on Sunday night before passing the matter on to FA officials, who helped to organise the player’s return to the UK. But since then the matter has been shrouded in secrecy, with the FA unwilling to discuss the obvious inconsistencies with the reasons given for Sterling’s absence on Monday and the details then shared by the police.
There has also been a refusal to reveal exactly what Southgate, the England manager, was told by either Sterling or his advisers when he met with one of his key players on Sunday night.
Insiders at the FA did make the point that the communications team supporting Southgate’s squad here in Doha did not brief any of the information that has led to the confusion. They were given only limited details at the Al Bayt Stadium, with the other England players responding to media reports when they were asked about Sterling’s situation after the game.
Sterling reportedly spoke to Surrey officers on Tuesday about the alleged break-in at his home and by last night (Wednesday) there was still no news regarding his possible return to the England camp for Saturday’s encounter with France.
Sources have suggested he may still return despite being absent for much of the build-up to the quarter-final match. He would need to be back in Doha by tomorrow (Friday) morning if he stands any chance of involvement against France, although he is likely to be a substitute in any case.
When asked on Sunday night if Sterling would come back, Southgate was non-committal. “It’s impossible to say. I’ve got to give him the space,” he said.