Star footballers shift focus to national duty

Three months on from Argentina's dramatic World Cup final victory over France, international football returns this week as Euro 2024 qualifying gets underway while Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates are set for a triumphant return in their homeland on Thursday when they play their first match since winning the World Cup in Qatar. France coach Didier Deschamps needed a new captain in Kylian Mbappe after long-serving skipper Hugo Lloris retired following the World Cup. And those who thought Cristiano Ronaldo's move to Saudi Arabia following the World Cup signalled the end of his international carer, were surprised as the 38-year-old was named in new Portugal coach Roberto Martinez's first squad. Veteran striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic said Tuesday he was hoping to play in the Euros next year despite his age, as his Swedish squad prepared for their first qualifier against Belgium. Ibrahimovic, 41, is on the verge of breaking Italian goalkeeper Dino Zoff's age-old record in a Euro qualifier, set in 1983. PHOTO: AFP
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