World Cup 2022 diary: Qatar backs Pele while Louis is giving the love - again!

Messages of goodwill from across the world of football are still pouring in as Pele continues his battle with ill health in his native Brazil.

It was no different in Doha where a major landmark was lit up appropriately.

Elsewhere, Louis van Gaal continued to provide the love while Poland's hopes of stopping Kylian Mbappe via a novel route have been scuppered!

Stats Perform has men on the ground at every match in Qatar, taking in the sights and sounds from an increasingly intriguing tournament.


Get well soon, Pele

News of Brazil great Pele having been taken ill in hospital spread quickly on Saturday, though an update later in the day suggested the 82-year-old is in a stable condition.

Qatar, too, is hoping for the best outcome, with the Doha Torch – which stands tall as a landmark in the western suburbs of the city, next to Khalifa International Stadium, the Aspire Zone and the rest of Sport City – illuminated with a "get well soon" message to Pele after the match between the Netherlands and the United States.

Before the game, Stats Perform’s reporters had spotted that the stadium lights, which had on previous nights been lit up red, had a yellow and green tinge, too. Though of course, that could be a coincidence.

Hugs, now kisses

Van Gaal has been in fine form during his media duties at this World Cup.

From joking with photographers to hugging journalists, Van Gaal has been as charismatic as ever, and it's spiced up what can sometimes be a rather monotonous stream of press conferences where the managers are in no mood to disclose anything particularly interesting.

But Van Gaal went a step further on Saturday when, at his post-match press conference after the Netherlands beat the United States, he planted a "big fat kiss" on the cheek of Denzel Dumfries.

In fairness, it was the least Dumfries deserved from his coach, with the wing-back having set up the Netherlands' first two goals before scoring their third in the 3-1 win.


Denzel’s Washington inspiration

After being named player of the match for his efforts against the United States, Dumfries was asked by an American journalist if he had any links to the country, given he was named after Hollywood A-lister Denzel Washington.

"No, I don't have a connection with the USA but yes I was named after Denzel Washington and my parents gave me that name, and I'm incredibly proud of that," Dumfries said with a broad smile.

"Denzel Washington is a strong personality who voices his views on issues, I see that as an example, I'm proud to have his name.”


Milik makes plans for Mbappe

Dealing with Kylian Mbappe is no easy task, so Poland would have spent recent days considering how they might stop France's main man.

Arkadiusz Milik had the answer by the time he took to the stage for Saturday's pre-match press conference.

"We need a scooter to catch him because he is so fast," said the striker.

Unfortunately for Poland, scooters are likely to feature prominently on Al Thumama Stadium's list of prohibited items – as is the case at the Main Media Centre.

Back to the drawing board Arkadiusz!


Saffron, are you ready to go?

FIFA was keen to emphasise a unique selling point of Qatar 2022 ahead of the tournament, pointing out the short distances between stadiums and multiple four-match days would allow fans – and media – to take in two games in the same day.

That was an exhausting exercise and one that was ended as the knockout stage began, with organisers no longer allowing reporters to apply for both fixtures on any one day.

Yet that did not deter Republica's Saffron, who remarkably performed at both of Saturday's first two last-16 matches.

After performing Republica's 'Ready to Go' – a popular football theme for a long time associated with Championship side Sunderland – at Khalifa International Stadium as the Netherlands defeated the United States, Saffron darted to Ahmad bin Ali Stadium to repeat her display on the pitch where Argentina edged past Australia.

She would have presumably been ready to go home after a tiring day.