Mateo Kovacic has enjoyed some start to 2022. He scored a goal-of-the-season contender, and was named the best player on the pitch, as Chelsea rallied from two goals down to draw with Liverpool. He captained the club for the first time six days later. And today, he won the Alibaba Cloud Match Award as the Blues edged Al Hilal to reach the FIFA Club World Cup UAE 2021 final.
Not that the 27-year-old perfectionist, who excelled for Croatia as they finished runners-up at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia, was entirely satisfied with his own performance: “I made some unforced errors which I normally don’t do, but in the end I’m happy.”
Kovacic was, however, keen to heap praise on another Chelsea player. After Romelu Lukaku had put them ahead, two superb Kepa Arrizabalaga saves, just after the hour, proved decisive.
“Kepa is a world-class goalkeeper,” Kovacic told FIFA post-game. “We are blessed that we have three world-class goalkeepers and very happy that Kepa performs at such a level. We’re used to it, it’s nothing new for us.
“It was a very difficult game. It was the semi-final of the Club World Cup, it was always going to be difficult. I think we should have scored that second goal, to relax us a little bit, but we’re very happy we got through.
Next up is a clash against Palmeiras on Saturday. Chelsea lost 1-0 to Corinthians in their only previous appearance in the FIFA Club World Cup final.
“We know how passionate the Brazilian fans are,” said Kovacic.
“We expect a tough game, a very difficult game. We’re really looking forward to Saturday. “It would be amazing to win another final. It’s not easy to reach any final, yet alone a Club World Cup. You have to qualify for the Champions League, win the Champions League and then win a semi-final. “Now we have one game left. It won’t be easy but we will do everything we can to win the trophy.”
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