Mikel Obi has alleged that Lionel Messi ‘stole’ the Golden Ball award from him at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup held in the Netherlands.
The Super Eagles captain, who spoke in an interview with The Guardian ahead of Tuesday’s crucial Group D Russia 2018 FIFA World Cup clash against Messi-led Argentina side, revealed his desire to take his revenge on Messi over the award.
Recall that Argentina star, Lionel Messi “stole” the Golden Ball award from Mikel at the 2005 FIFA U-20 World Cup held in the Netherlands.
Before Nigeria and Argentina went into the final, Mikel was tipped to be awarded the Golden Ball for his impressive performances, but the Flying Eagles lost 2-1, no thanks to two penalties converted by Messi.
Reflecting on how he missed out on the Most Valuable Player award, Mikel said,
“Yeah, Messi stole the Golden Ball off me. Before the game people said that I was going to win the Golden Ball for being the player of the tournament. But then Messi scored twice, both of them penalties, Argentina won 2-1 and I got the Silver Ball. Messi has kept on stealing awards from me!”
Mikel, who recalled how the Super Eagles beat Argentina 4-2 in last year’s friendly without Messi, noted that the South Americans always struggle without their talisman.
“A certain human being wasn’t playing (in last year’s friendly). Actually, is he even a human being? Messi is Messi. He decides games and the last time we met he scored two against us at the Brazil World Cup.
“Without him, they are definitely less of a team. We can’t put all our attention on Messi but he is the man that we need to stop. Do we have to put somebody to mark him? Maybe yes, maybe no because when you do that you are playing with less balance.”
The Tianjin Teda midfielder spoke about playing in different midfield positions during his time at Chelsea and for the Super Eagles.
“I was playing as a No 10 before I went to Chelsea but [José] Mourinho converted me to a holding player.
“I enjoy it. When I was at Chelsea and there was a national team break, I’d go there and I’d enjoy it. I’d have this one or two weeks of freedom – to express myself and play the way I want. But at Chelsea, I did a job.
“We knew we would get them. I said to a friend of mine: ‘Trust me, Argentina are going to be in the same group as us.’ It’s crazy. I don’t know why but it keeps happening.”
FINAL ATTRACTED 1.12 BILLION VIEWERS! Russia 2018 is best watched World Cup ever, says FIFA
A record audience of more than 3.5 billion people watched this year’s World Cup in Russia, with the final between France and Croatia attracting 1.12 billion viewers, world soccer’s governing body said on Friday.
FIFA said 3.572 billion viewers – more than half of the global population aged four and over – watched some part of the official coverage, which was broadcast live in every territory worldwide from June 14 to July 15.
The global in-home TV audience watching at least one minute of the coverage accounted for almost 3.3 billion viewers, a 2.2 per cent increase on the 2014 edition hosted in Brazil, according to FIFA’s audit of audience data published on Friday.
A further 309.7 million caught the action on digital platforms, public viewing areas or in bars and restaurants.
France’s 4-2 victory in the final, which gave them their second World Cup title following their triumph in 1998, was the most watched game of the competition.
It was followed by England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia and the other last-four clash between France and Belgium.
“These figures really do support the claim that Russia 2018 was the best World Cup ever,” said FIFA’s chief commercial officer, Philippe Le Floc’h.
“The fact that half the world’s population watched the FIFA World Cup reflects not just the high quality of our award-winning live coverage, but also that fans everywhere are insatiable for world-class football.”
The World Cup coverage reached around 1.6 billion individuals in Asia, with 655.7 million viewers (18.4 per cent of the global total) in China, who failed to qualify for the tournament.
The 2022 edition of World Cup will be held in Qatar.
HE HAS A VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN! Mbappe donates £384,000 World Cup 2018 earnings to charity
French professional footballer, Kylian Mbappé, will donate money earned from featuring in the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia to a sports charity that works with disabled and hospitalised children, Premiers de Cordee.
According to Sports Illustrated, the 19-year-old who plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain was paid £17,000 per game and pocketed £265,000 for being part of the team who won the tournament.
Speaking to Le Parisien, Premier de Cordee charity general manager, Sebastian Ruffin said:
“Kylian, he’s a great person.
“When his schedule allows it, he intervenes for us with pleasure.
“He has a very good [relationship] with children, he always finds the right [words] to encourage them.
“I sometimes even feel that [he] takes more pleasure to play with the kids than the kids themselves.”
Mbappe, who joined PSG for a fee of around £166m from Monaco after a season-long loan, was named Young Player of the World Cup.
Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.
TENS OF THOUSANDS! Croatians give heroes’ welcome to World Cup squad
Tens of thousands of Croatians gave a heroes’ welcome to their team in Zagreb on Monday after the squad returned from Russia following their World Cup final defeat.
A crowd estimated at more than 100,000 thronged the capital’s main square to see the players, led by captain and World Cup Golden Ball winner Luka Modric, parade through the streets on an open-top bus.
Cheering fans, many waving flags and wearing the famous red and white shirt of Croatia, held up banners celebrating the runners-up after their gallant 4-2 defeat by France.
“This is how Croatia is loved,” read one banner. Another said: “We are few, but we believed and that is enough”.
Many even skipped work to celebrate the team reaching their first ever World Cup final.
“I closed my office to welcome our heroes. I put a sign up reading ‘Today, July 16, 2018’, office closed due to our Vatreni (‘the Fiery Ones’ in Croatian),” doctor Sanja Klajic told AFP.
Earlier noisy fans awaited their side’s appearance by singing a popular song “Play on my Croatia, when I see you my heart is on fire!” while watching the plane carrying the team progress to the capital on a giant TV screen.
When the plane, accompanied by military jets and emblazoned with the logo “Bravo Vatreni” flew overhead the crowd cheered and chanted “Hands up, hands up!”.
After landing at the city’s airport around 3:25 pm (1325 GMT), the players emerged to shrieks from fans at the terminal.
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