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FIFA 2018

Croatian ‘miracle’ down to team work and unity, says Dalic

MOSCOW: Croatia’s fairytale run to the World Cup final is a footballing “miracle” built on a foundation of teamwork and unity which has seen them outlast sides reliant on brilliant individual talent, coach Zlatko Dalic said on Thursday. Wednesday’s 2-1 victory over England in Moscow sent the Croatians into Sunday’s final against France, a third straight knockout match in which they had been forced to play extra time. The mental resilience necessary to come through such tests was the result of the emphasis on playing as…

England aim to join France in World Cup final

MOSCOW: England will attempt to reach the World Cup final for the first time since 1966 on Wednesday when they face a talented Croatia team for the right to play France for football's biggest prize. Gareth Southgate's England side are hoping their young legs can carry them past a Croatia team who have endured two penalty shootouts in a row. England will grind to a halt for the 1800 GMT kickoff at Moscow's Luzhniki Stadium, with an estimated 30 million people across Britain expected to watch on TV and hundreds of…

Umtiti header sends France into World Cup final

ST PETERSBURG: Samuel Umtiti’s 51st-minute header sent an impressive France into the World Cup final with a 1-0 win over Belgium in an absorbing first semi-final on Tuesday. Didier Deschamps’ side will face England or Croatia in Moscow on Sunday as the French look to lift the trophy for the second time following their triumph on home soil in 1998. In an enthralling tactical match, it was once again a set-piece that proved decisive with Umtiti’s near-post header from an Antoine Griezmann corner settling matters.…

What now for Neymar after image-shattering World Cup?

As the World Cup nears its conclusion, Brazilian forward Neymar is faced with not just a bitter few days of what might have been, but a coming season of what to do now. The Paris St Germain striker arrived in Russia hoping to guide Brazil to their sixth title and also as favourite to succeed thirty-somethings Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best player in the world. Instead, he was ridiculed for his haircuts, diving and tears, and the 26-year old must now decide what to do about his tattered reputation. He…

Angry Ukraine fans deluge FIFA’s Facebook page with posts

MOSCOW/KIEV: Ukraine supporters have flooded the Facebook page of football governing body FIFA with over 158,000 comments, most saying “Glory to Ukraine”, after FIFA fined Croatia’s assistant coach for a video in which he used the same slogan. FIFA hit Ognjen Vukojevic with a 15,000-Swiss-franc ($15,000) fine and a warning after he and Croatian defender Domagoj Vida said “Glory to Ukraine” in a video posted after Croatia beat Russia in a World Cup quarter-final on Saturday. Both men have played for Ukrainian club…

Croatia v England: semi-final history factbox

MOSCOW: Here is a brief history of previous World Cup semi-final appearances by England and Croatia, ahead of their last four match at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday: - England’s first semi-final appearance at a World Cup came at their home tournament in 1966. In front of more than 90,000 fans at Wembley Stadium, Bobby Charlton put them ahead with a rebound shot from a clearance in the first half and added another after the break to go 2-0 up against Portugal, led by 1965 Ballon d’Or winner Eusebio. The…

England fans don waistcoats ahead of semi-final against Croatia

LONDON: The mission? To support England’s bid to win a first World Cup since 1966. The method? To wear a waistcoat for Wednesday’s semi-final match against Croatia. It might sound a stretch, but some England fans want match day in Moscow dubbed ‘Waistcoat Wednesday’ in tribute to manager Gareth Southgate, who has taken to wearing a waistcoat on the touch-line along with suit trousers and a dress shirt and tie. Around a dozen England fans travelling to Moscow on Tuesday for the match wore dark blue waistcoats over their…

National tensions simmer ahead of Belgium-France World Cup semi-final

PARIS/BRUSSELS: It’s a showdown between “Asterix” and “Tintin”. Les Bleus (The Blues) versus Les Diables Rouges (The Red Devils). France against Belgium. The World Cup equivalent of a local derby, with a heavy dose of national rivalry thrown in. In France, sports shops were rapidly selling out of the national soccer strip on Tuesday as fans got ready for the semi-final showdown in St. Petersburg. In Belgium, mad-keen Diables Rouges supporters were jumping on last-minute flights to Russia. Bars, cafes and restaurants in…

France and Belgium fight it out for World Cup final place

MOSCOW: France will unleash the attacking talents of Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann against Eden Hazard's gifted Belgium side in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday with a place in the World Cup final at stake. The semi-final matchup of the European neighbours promises to be full of intrigue as France aim to return to the final for the first time since a Zinedine Zidane-led team did so in Germany in 2006. Belgium will be seeking to break new ground by reaching the final for the first time in their history -- indeed they…