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Founder, The Sports Court
It’s not often that an audience of over 3 billion people get to witness a passing of the torch moment from one GOAT of a generation to the GOAT of a new generation, but on December 18, at 10 AM Eastern Standard Time, that is exactly what the fans will witness.
The script writes itself. Lionel Messi, the greatest player of all time, the little magician from Rosario, Argentina, who has been able to score 791 goals and tally 350 assists in his storied career goes against the young hotshot, Kylian Mbappe. Mbappe, a fan of Messi’s rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, growing up, has the chance to keep Ronaldo’s name alive in the GOAT conversation with a win, and a chance to put his name right in there. At 23, this is Mbappe’s second World Cup final. In 2019, as a 19-year-old, Mbappe became the first teenager to score in the World Cup since Pele.
Mbappe has lighting quick pace and supreme technical skills all capped off with a rocket of a foot. At the age of 23, Mbappe has 114 more goals and 29 more assists than Messi did at that age.
Kylian Mbappe has the it-factor, he shows up when the lights shine the brightest, as seen in his two World Cup’s. He already has 9 goals, putting him tied for 15th place of all-time, and ahead of the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo, Neymar, and Diego Maradona, and just two behind Lionel Messi.
To put the cherry on top, Messi and Mbappe are currently teammates for Paris Saint Germain in Ligue 1.
This World Cup Final will be by no exaggeration the biggest soccer game of all time.
After a shock loss in the opening match, Messi has led Argentina to the World Cup Final. Since that upset, Argentina has coasted by Mexico, Poland, Australia, Netherlands, and eventually, Croatia, en route to the final.
Meanwhile, France, coasted by Australia 4-1, then beat Denmark before falling to Tunisia in a game where they rested their main starters. In the knockout rounds, France knocked off Poland, England, and Morocco.
France’s play has been highlighted by the star that is Kylian Mbappe alongside Giroud who has been scoring a surplus of goals from the central striker position and Ousmane Dembele on the opposite flank.
The midfield of France is deadly, Antoinne Griezmann played under Giroud last game, and similar to Roy Kent of Ted Lasso, Griezmann was here, there, and everywhere. Griezmann’s defensive duties, along with Giroud also helping support, have left space behind for Kylian Mbappe to exploit while also giving him minimal defensive duties.
Another key piece for France is Aurelien Tchouameni, the 22-year-old midfielder that plays club football at Real Madrid and has made his presence known to the world by scoring a worldie against England.
Meanwhile, the Argentinians have been dragged to the final by moments of brilliance from Lionel Messi.
Messi made Josko Gvardiol - perhaps the best center-back of the entire tournament - look like a little kid in a moment of individual brilliance against Croatia in which he burnt by Gvardiol before assisting Alvarez.
Julian Alvarez has overtaken the starting position at the 9 from Laturo Martinez and has run with it, literally and figuratively.
Alvarez’s solo effort in the 39th minute of the match put Argentina 2-0 up following a Messi penalty kick and was the icing on the cake to cement the Croatians a place in the third-place match and book Argentina their ticket to the final.
Enzo Fernandez, the 21-year-old central midfielder from San Martin, Argentina, currently plays for Benfica is primed for a big move after his stellar play throughout the tournament.
Argentina likes to play Messi through the middle and attack from there, as France’s ideology is much different. France tends to find Mbappe and Dembele out wide and let them take on defenders 1 on 1.
The biggest difference maker in this game will be the speed that Kylian Mbappe possesses and how the Argentinian defense can control it. If they cannot, France should find relative ease in this game as they know how to finish a good opportunity, not often letting them go to waste.
However, if Argentina can gameplan around defending Kylian Mbappe, it just takes one moment of Messi's brilliance to turn this game upside down.
Every piece of my brain tells me France is winning tomorrow, but something in my heart sees this game going into extra time with a winner from Julian Alvarez.
Argentina 3 - France 2.
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On October 19, 2022, my Poppy, Theodore S. Dailey passed away at the age of 84 with his family by his side. Poppy fought Parkinson’s Disease for all the time I remember him, and not once did he complain.
Not even a peep. A true testament to the strength and faith Poppy possessed.
Looking back on the relationship I had with a man who I consider my second father, I find a common variable.
Some think sports are just silly games that are played, those people are far from correct. Sports are actually something much bigger. Sports are something that unites people, sports are something that tie people to one another and is a great starting point for some of the best relationships I’ve had in life.
Me and my Poppy would gather every Saturday in his living room during the college football seasons to watch the Notre Dame Fighting Irish play.
As Mike Tirico would say “Here come the Irish”, my Nanny would get us each a bowl of chocolate ice cream that would be devoured before kickoff.
When I was young, still in elementary school, every time I saw my Poppy he would tell me a story that started off with, “when you were just a little itty bitty baby”, and the story would carry into how he raised me for the first week of my life.
I like to think that was the starting point in the close bond we developed.
However, it is no secret it was Notre Dame that tied us together. The fascination with the gold helmets Notre Dame sported. The overarching goal of a National Championship. Notre Dame was our thing. We'd enjoy it together and embrace the ups and downs of the College Football season.
A reason I love College Football the most out of any sports league in the world is because every game matters. You lose once, good chance you’re out of contention. If you lose twice, you best bet start packing your bags and calling your mom for a ride home because the National Championship is not in sight for you.
Notre Dame always had a solid team. My first memories are of the 2012 team that went to the BCS National Championship game and lost to Alabama.
The years followed also produced some great memories, such as the Ian Book era and Notre Dame reachnig the playoffs twice.
All of these games, I watched alongside my Poppy.
While watching Notre Dame try to win, and many times try not to lose, my Poppy would tell me stories about himself as a kid.
He was an athlete through and through. An accomplished youth boxer, my Poppy also played baseball, basketball, and his main love, football.
He would go on to be the quarterback of the varsity team then attend Norwich University and play there before realizing he missed New Jersey and transferring to Seton Hall, where he played the other kind of football, soccer.
After college, Poppy met just about every famous person known to man. He met both Mother Terera and Muhhamed Ali. He had golf balls signed by the entirety of the PGA Tour and he would always give me his collectibles. Most notably a baseball signed by Franco Harris, the wideout from the Steelers who caught the immaculate reception.
And no, I don’t know why he got a baseball signed, but it’s very cool nevertheless.
However, he would rave about the one man he never met, Johnny Lujack.
Lujack, the winner of the 1947 Heisman Trophy, is one of the best players to ever wear the gold helmet at Notre Dame.
Lujack was my Poppy’s hero growing up, and my Poppy would tell me how he would turn the radio on to listen to Notre Dame games and how amazing of a player Lujack was.
When I came across a video titled, “The Adventures of Johnny Lujack” in 2019, I shared it to my Poppy, who was still much healthier at the time.
Poppy would watch that video on repeat, and watch with a smile everytime.
My Poppy had given me everything I could ever ask. He was always by my side supporting me and a father figure in my life, so I wanted to return the favor.
In December of 2020, I set out on the goal of finding Johnny Lujack, who is the oldest living Heisman winner, and arranging a call between him and my Poppy.
It took a lot of research to find Johnny’s kids and find if his kids had kids.
Eventually, I stumbled across the instagram profile of Kevin Lujack, Johnny’s grandson. I reached out to Kevin, and told him the story of how my Poppy’s hero is Johnny Lujack, how my Poppy is suffering from Parkinson’s Disease and wasn’t in the best of mental states due to COVID (he couldn’t see his grandkids as often as he once did).
Kevin got back, and couldn’t of been nicer. He put me in touch with his father, Jeff.
Jeff and Kevin were two of the nicest people I’ve ever come across, and they were nice enough to send out a letter on behalf of Johnny from the Lujack family.
I printed the letter out, framed it, and gave it to my Poppy for Christmas. It was the greatest Christmas gift I ever gave anybody, and it meant the world for me.
To be able to put my Poppy in touch with his childhood hero was a dream come true not just for me, but my Poppy, and to see how happy he was truly meant the world.
I remain in contact with the Lujacks, and we still chat about Notre Dame to this day.
Everytime I visited my Poppy from thereafter, he would say, “hows Lujack”.
Eventually, he would start calling me Lujack after a while. Although I don’t think I’ll ever have the football talents of Johnny, I am flattered my Pops would call me that haha.
Anyways, you’re probably asking where I am going with this story.
Sports are the great connector, and can make great relationships even greater.
Although my Poppy passed away - and is in a better place now, I’ll always have Notre Dame to think of him, remember him, and remember the great memories we had watching the games together.
I’m forever grateful for what the Unviersity of Notre Dame has provided us and for the Lujack family for being so helpful in helping connect my Poppy with his childhood hero.
So next time somebody tells you sports are silly, show them this.
Founder, The Sports Court
written before Napoli vs Ajax
There is a select few players in the world that combine flair with finishing, combine finishing with vision, and combine vision with a relentless work ethic.
A player of that quality is hard to come by. In fact, those players are rare.
And by that definition and terminology, it means Napoli’s $10 million bargain of a signing, Khvicha Kvaratskhelia, is rare.
Kvaratskhelia, a 21-year-old winger from Georgia, is nicknamed Kvaradona by Napoli fans, and for good reason. Kvara has taken over Seria A by storm, providing 5 goals and 1 assist only 8 games into the season while tallying another assist in a Champions League clash against Liverpool.
The kid from Tbilisi, Georgia, is a rarity in all aspects.
A kid from Tbilisi is never supposed to rip apart the Champions League and take the world of football by storm, but here is Kvara, doing just that.
After playing for Dinamo Tbilisi and Rustavi as a teenager, Kvara headed over to Russia, where he got his first real chops as a professional footballer.
Kvara starred for Rubin Kazan, making 69 appearances and scoring 9 goals in his time there. Kvara eventually found his way make to Georiga with Dinamo Batumi before Napoli saw the talent Kvara possessed and snatched him up for $10 million.
At the time, it was seen as a good signing. There had been rumblings about a seriously talented player from Georiga that’s labeled as the ‘Georgian Messi’, but not many realized just how serious of a talent Kvara really was.
It was apparent in Kvaratskhelia’s first game for Napoli that they had a serious baller in their possession, scoring and assisting to open his account for the season.
Kvaratskhelia is a work-horse, with relentless pressing and never quit attitude and combines that with a flair when he dribbles reminiscent of the likes of Neymar, combined with a cool, calm, and collected finish in front of the net that really makes him a do-it-all player and a nightmare for defenders.
After his debut and being awarded Serie A player of the Month in August, Kvaratskhelia instantly became a household name in Italy, but it took until his individual masterclass against Liverpool in the Champions League for the world to catch on.
In his UCL debut, Kvaratskhelia sent Joe Gomez into a new dimension, dribbling past him left and right; capping it off by bodying Gomez off the ball to provide an assist and seal the deal with Napoli winning 3-0.
Kvaratskhelia is one of those talents you watch for the first time and get hooked on, for me, there have only been 3 talents that have ever caught my eye the way Kvaratskhelia has caught mine. Those three: Kylian Mbappe, Frenkie De Jong, and Erling Haaland.
Not bad company to be in if you’re Khvicha Kvaratskhelia.
It will be fun to see if Kvara can keep up his excellent form and become the best flairful, skillful, player in a generation full of robotic players who play for the system.
A writer who loves to learn and share.
All Editorials written by Chris Dailey