FIFA ‘Man of the Match’ Mateo Kovačić on Fire for Chelsea at Club World Cup

Daniela Rogulj

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It didn’t go as Chelsea fans would have expected, but the Premier League club topped the Asian champions Al Hilal in the World Cup semi-finals on Wednesday night. The 1:0 victory was thanks to a Romelu Lukaku goal after a blunder by the opponents. Havertz recorded the assist, reports Jutarnji List.

There were many opportunities for the London club, but also any close moments in the second half as Al Hilal went aggressively to get the equalizing goal. Instead, they failed, primarily because of brilliant defending by Chelsea goalkeeper Kepa Arrizabalaga, still the highest-paid keeper of all time.

Interestingly, although Lukaku scored the only goal, and Kepa defended miraculously in the second half, FIFA chose Mateo Kovačić as the player of the match!


The Croat is currently on fire for Chelsea. Not only did he score the potential goal of the Premier League season against Liverpool in January, but he recently wore the captain’s armband for the club, too. He has been so good that assistant coach Zsolt Low (as head Tuchel has COVID) called him “the great leader of Chelsea”.

“I may have made some, let’s call them, unforced mistakes that I don’t normally make, but it’s good, and I’m happy. I have to point out Kepa. He is a world-class goalkeeper, blessed to have as many as three great goalkeepers at our club. As for the match, it was tough. It’s the World Cup semi-finals; we knew it would be that way. We should have scored the second goal; that would have relaxed us even more,” said Low after the match.

Chelsea will play against South American champions Palmeiras on Saturday at 5 pm to fight for their first Club World Cup title in club history. When they won the Champions League in 2012, they played another Brazilian team, the Corinthians, in the World Cup final. Chelsea lost 1:0.

“We know how passionate Brazilian fans are. We are looking forward to that match, but it will be at least as demanding as this one against Al Hilal. It would be great to win another trophy. However, this is not easy to come by. You must first qualify for the European Champions League, then win it, and then pass the semifinals of the World Cup,” said the Croatian national team player after FIFA presented him the player of the match award.

Thomas Tuchel’s assistant, Zsolt Low, also spoke in selected words about Kovačić:

“Kova has a lot of experience. He played a handful of games like this. He is important to us on and off the field, and today he did everything. He didn’t stop running; he didn’t stop fighting and always found the best possible solutions for the team. We are thrilled that this kind of player is at our club; he is a great leader.” 

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