SAINT PETERSBURG (AFP) – Paul Pogba dedicated France s World Cup semi-final win against Belgium to the 12 boys who survived a harrowing ordeal trapped underground in Thailand.
The final five members of a young football team were rescued from a flooded Thai cave on Tuesday after spending 18 harrowing days trapped deep inside, completing an astonishing against-the-odds rescue mission that captivated the world.
Elite foreign divers and Thai Navy SEALs extracted the final batch of four boys, plus the 25-year-old coach, via a treacherous escape route that required them to squeeze through narrow, water-filled tunnels in darkness.
Following the 1-0 win in Saint Petersburg, Manchester United midfielder Pogba tweeted: “This victory goes to the heroes of the day, well done boys, you are so strong.”
FIFA boss Gianni Infantino had invited the boys Wild Boars football team to Sunday s World Cup final last week.
But FIFA said it had been informed “that due to medical reasons, the boys will not be in a position to travel to Moscow”.
“FIFA s priority remains the health of everyone involved in the operation and we will look into finding a new opportunity to invite the boys to a FIFA event to share with them a moment of communion and celebration,” a spokesman said.
The Thai footballers, aged from 11 to 16, had been stuck deep underground after setting off to explore the cave with their coach after training on June 23.