Defender Joško Gvardiol: “Messi is better than Ronaldo.”
Gvardiol has been regarded as one of the best defenders in the 2022 World Cup up to this point. But in the encounter with Argentina in the semi-finals, he could not complete the task of stopping Messi and received a 0-3 defeat with his teammates. Gvardiol was even turned into a "joke" by Messi in a situation where the Argentine superstar easily fooled him with a dribble and assisted Julian Alvarez to seal the victory for Argentina in the 69th minute.
Gvardiol failed to stop Messi in the semi-final.
Even so, Gvardiol did not disappoint. On Mundo Deportivo (Spain), Gvardiol admits that any player can make mistakes, especially in defensive positions, and he feels proud to be up against the best player in the world right now. "I've met Messi before, but when I play for the national team, he's like a different version," said the 20-year-old midfielder. "Later, I will tell my children about having the opportunity to play against the best player in football history at the World Cup."
The Croatian central defender added that since he was a young player, he has been a huge fan of Messi and believes the former Barcelona player to be one of a kind. "When I was a kid, I always had to listen to the debate around the question of whether Messi or Ronaldo was better," Gvardiol said. "Although most of my friends choose Ronaldo, I still maintain my opinion that Messi is an excellent player."
Gvardiol and veteran center-back Dejan Lovren formed a shield in front of goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic's net at this year's World Cup. Croatia has only let up three goals until falling to Argentina, despite playing a number of tough opponents like Belgium or Brazil.
Gvardiol and Dejan Lovren have played important roles in the Croatian team's journey in Qatar.
When talking about the performance of the home team's defense throughout the tournament, Gvardiol said it was the result of discipline and effort from each player. "Aside from the center-back and goalkeeper, the entire team must complete the task of not leaving the opponent with a space to attack, with the forward position serving as the first layer of the shield," the Leipzig player explained.
Currently, Gvardiol is facing the opportunity to receive the Best Young Player Award at the 2022 World Cup. However, he still puts the team's achievements first when he says that Croatia's goal is to win a medal to give to the fans who are showing great support for them at home and hope to recover in time to play in the match against Morocco. According to Gvardiol, he had to suppress pain to play the full 90 minutes in the semi-finals because of a foot problem.
Croatia and Morocco will encounter in the third-place match.
The third-place match between Croatia and Morocco will take place at Khalifa Stadium on December 17.