France face bug as Argentina clash draws closer

France have been hit by a virus ahead of their attempt to defend their World Cup title against Argentina.

Meanwhile, Croatia and Morocco provide the prelude to Sunday’s final with the third-place play-off in Qatar.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at what to expect from the final two days of the World Cup.

Illness affecting France’s final plans

Frenchman Raphael Varane is one of many players affected by the disease (Nick Potts/PA)

Central defenders Raphael Varane and Ibrahima Konaté are the last two players to have been affected by the disease inside the French camp.

Midfielder Adrien Rabiot was absent in Wednesday’s semi-final win over Morocco, while Dayot Upamecano and Kingsley Coman were also sick.

Les Bleus striker Randal Kolo Muani told a press conference he expected his team-mates to be fit to face Argentina, although a French press officer was quick to say the player “is not a doctor” and said more information would be provided later.

“I think there’s a flu going around; it’s nothing too serious and they will be fine I think for Sunday,” said Eintracht Frankfurt striker Kolo Muani.

“Everyone is paying attention. Doctors have implemented a hygiene system to prevent the spread of the virus.

Regragui happy to take the “booby prize”

The World Cup third-place play-off is widely regarded as the worst game to play, but Morocco head coach Walid Regragui still wants to win it and become the first African nation to medal in the final.

They will face Croatia at the Khalifa International Stadium on Saturday to challenge for the bronze medal, having already become the first African country to reach a World Cup semi-final.

“Finishing third is not the same as finishing fourth and we want to take a medal home with us,” said Regragui, who also called the match a “booby prize”.

“When you come out of a semi-final, the first time we went there, the emotions were high and it was quite difficult, however, my players still have that appetite that they want to finish well.”

Modric can’t bow out yet – Dalic

The third-place play-off could be 37-year-old Croatia midfielder Luka Modric’s last international outing – although head coach Zlatko Dalic hopes it continues beyond the World Cup.

Modric might not even start the game but Dalic believes the Real Madrid midfielder could keep playing until Euro 2024 in Germany.

“I hope he will be with us,” he replied when asked about Modric’s chances of continuing his international career.

“I’m looking forward to it and I think he’s sure he will be, but Luka Modric will personally decide how he feels too.

“Knowing what he thinks about football and the Croatian national team, I’m sure he will, but it’s his only decision.”

Expanded Club World Cup announced

FIFA Press Conference – Friday 16 December

FIFA President Gianni Infantino spoke to the media on Friday (Nick Potts/PA)

The prospects of a European Super League may be more distant than ever, but the domestic football calendar is set to become more crowded for top clubs after FIFA announced the expansion of the Club World Cup.

President Gianni Infantino has revealed the introduction of a new quadrennial men’s tournament starting in the summer of 2025 and featuring 32 teams from around the world, after canceling the original 24-team tournament scheduled for last year due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“They will be the best teams in the world. They will be invited to participate,” Infantino said.

The Premier League has yet to see any official FIFA proposals for the Club World Cup in 2025, nor the expanded World Cup the following year, according to the PA news agency.

Picture of the day

Frenchman Kylian Mbappé during training

Frenchman Kylian Mbappe enjoyed a joke during a training session ahead of Sunday’s World Cup final (Christophe Ena/AP)

Tweet of the day


Croatia – Morocco, play-off for third-fourth place (Saturday 3 p.m., BBC One)

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