Tue, 06 Dec 2022 02:31 PM (IST)
HOPING to see the two best players in the world -- Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi -- fighting against each other in the final of the ongoing FIFA World Cup 2022, the Indian team head coach and former Croatian defender Igor Stimac feels that a final between Argentina and Portugal is something which the world is eagerly waiting for.
In an exclusive interview with Jagran English, Stimac shared his thoughts on the ongoing showpiece event and his country's chances in the tournament.
"Now everything is possible. It’s a matter of 90 minutes, especially a massive chance for those who have already overcome expectations. If I could pick a team to win, I would obviously choose Croatia. But then again, to witness a World Cup final between Argentina and Portugal would be something that all the world is looking for," Stimac told Jagran English when asked about his semi-final picks.
Talking about the changed window for the World Cup 2022 to brace the unbearable heat of the host nation, Stimac who is currently a commentator and studio expert with Sports18 and JioCinema for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, said it is favouring the Asian sides to make strides in the quadrennial event.
"It’s a different World Cup being played in November and December, and climate conditions are helpful to Asian and African teams. The gap between the big teams and those from the third and fourth spot is much lesser, which is good for football," he said.
The ongoing World Cup would be the last appearance for Croatia skipper Luka Modric who guided his side to the 2018 World Cup final and finished as runners-up after going 4-2 down against France.
"Croatia is always a treat once the group stage is over, and it was exciting to see them face dangerous Japan, who deservedly topped the group of death after beating Spain and Germany. Luka has already picked up two Man of the Match awards, and we all hope he will find a way to keep leading the team in the same way and with the same passion," Stimac told Jagran English while replying to Croatia's chances in the tournament.
On Monday, Croatia defeated Japan 1(3)-1(1) on penalties to fix the quarter-final clash against Brazil.
"It’s been proven again that rankings are not a huge factor at the tournament and that’s the beauty of football. Watching Belgium and Germany going home so early and Morocco, Australia and Japan making progress to the Round of 16 is fantastic for the game," he added.
When asked about young players' potential of emulating all-time greats Ronald and Messi, the Indian coach said: "Kylian Mbappe and Vinicius Junior look good, but to take over from Ronaldo, they need to work much more to come close to their achievements. Replacing or comparing anyone to Messi seems impossible."
The 55-year-old said that he has been enjoying his new role as an expert panellist in the ongoing World Cup.
"I have a lot of experience working as a pundit, but this has been an absolute honour and pleasure sharing the screen with my ex-colleagues and brilliant presenters—all the credit to Sports18 and JioCinema for putting so much effort with all the crew members," Stimac concluded.