Sunday July 15, 2018
By Aiden Graw
WORLD CUP NEWS:
THIRD PLACE PLAYOFF:
FT: BELIGIUM 2-0 ENGLAND
FINAL: FRANCE V CROATIA @5:00pm
THE best footballer in the world has starred at this World Cup — and we’re not talking about Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi.
THE World Cup in Russia will come to a close when France plays Croatia in the final in Moscow on Sunday.
Here’s everything you need to know about the biggest match the sport’s seen for four years.
France entered the tournament as a short-priced favourite and has lived up to expectations in Russia.
Kicking off its campaign with a 2-1 win over Australia, Les Bleus have continued to give fans back home reason to be optimistic. A 1-0 win over Peru was followed by an uneventful draw with Denmark before arguably the game of the tournament against Argentina in the round of 16.
France weathered plenty of punches from a Lionel Messi-led side but always found a way to hit back, as stunning goals from Benjamin Pavard and Kylian Mbappe secured a dramatic 4-3 win.
It was all class in its 2-0 win over Uruguay in their quarter-final and France booked its spot in the final by defeating a world-class Belgium side 1-0 in the semis.
Croatia has done things the hard way since leaving the group stage. It scored seven goals and conceded just one en route to overcoming Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland before the real challenge started.
The Croatians held their nerve in penalty shootouts against Denmark and Russia with the sides unable to break their deadlocks in regular time. It looked like it would be a case of deja vu in the semi-final against England but an extra-time goal gave them a 2-1 win after 120 minutes.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
France: Teenager Kylian Mbappe has set tongues wagging all tournament. The 19-year-old striker — who joined French giants Paris Saint-Germain on a whopping $295 million transfer fee from Monaco — became the second-youngest player to find the back of the net at a World Cup after Brazilian legend Pele, and has scored three goals for the tournament.
His biggest asset is his pace but he also has plenty of finesse with the ball at his feet, as shown by his spectacular back-flick against Belgium that sent the internet wild.
Midfielder Paul Pogba pulls the strings for his side and constantly looks to thread passes behind defences for Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann. He was the architect of France’s win over Belgium, leading Manchester United boss Jose Mourinho to declare: “He played with great maturity. When he had to hold position and keep control of the game, he did.
Croatia: Luka Modric doesn’t find the spotlight stars like Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi command, but the crafty central midfielder deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as them. He has every right to be classed as the best player in the world right now and has been the main reason Croatia has made it this far.
The 32-year-old’s passing range, ability to dissect defences and play teammates into space with inch-perfect through balls and incredible defensive workrate make him the backbone of the Croatian side.
Croatia will be looking for leadership from striker Mario Mandzukic, who has experience playing for some of Europe’s biggest clubs including Bayern Munich and his current home Juventus. He scored the extra-time winner against England and fans will he hoping he repeats the dose against France.
WHO WILL WIN?
With world class midfielder Paul Pogba and on form striker Kylian Mbappe, Antoinne Griezmann, defenders Benjamin Pavard, Rafael Varane and Samuel Umtiti; France will be unstoppable if they hold the likes of Ivan Perisic, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Luka Modric who look as threat to the les blues.
Aiden Graw tips France to win this Worldcup
TENNIS: NOVAK DJOKOVIC STOPS RAFAEL NADAL AS ANGELIQUE KERBER THRILL OVER SERENA WILLIAMS
MEN’s SEMIFINAL TWO
NOVAK DJOKOVIC BEATS RAFAEL NADAL TO REACH WIMBLEDON FINAL
Novak Djokovic is one match away from a first Grand Slam title since 2016 after an epic five-set win over Rafael Nadal in their delayed Wimbledon semi-final.
Djokovic, who won 6-4 3-6 7-6 (11-9) 3-6 10-8 in five hours and 16 minutes, will face Kevin Anderson on Sunday.
The Serb led by two sets to one when play stopped at 23:02 BST on Friday.
Spain’s Nadal broke twice in the fourth set when it resumed on Saturday, but Djokovic fought back to take his second match point to edge a dramatic decider.
This was Nadal and Djokovic’s 52nd meeting – more than any other two men in the Open era – and the pair did not disappoint as they finally resumed their long-standing rivalry on the Grand Slam stage.
With 29 major titles between them, two of the game’s all-time greats had not faced each other this deep in a major since the 2014 French Open final.
Starting under the Centre Court floodlights, finishing after an overnight break, and packed with quality and drama throughout, it was a match befitting a final never mind a semi-final.
Nadal missed five break points in the decider and was eventually punished as 12-time Grand Slam champion Djokovic reached his first major final since the 2016 US Open.
It was the second longest Wimbledon semi-final, a day after Anderson and John Isner broke the previous record set by Djokovic and Juan Martin del Potro in 2013.
“I’m just overwhelmed,” Djokovic, who won Wimbledon in 2011, 2014 and 2015, told BBC Sport.
“It’s very special. It was very clear that very few things separated us. This kind of match is what you live for, you work for.”
TODAY AT 16:00 BST KEVIN ANDERSON VS NOVAK DJOKOVIC
TENNIS WOMEN’s FINAL:
ANGELIQUE KERBER BEATS SERENA WILLIAMS TO WIN WIMBLEDON
Angelique Kerber beat seven-time champion Serena Williams to win her first Wimbledon title and spoil the American’s dream comeback as a mum.
The German 11th seed, 30, beat the 23-time Grand Slam champion 6-3 6-3 to add this title to her 2016 Australian Open and US Open crowns.
Williams had been the favourite despite it being only her fourth tournament since giving birth in September.
Kerber dropped to the grass when a netted service return gave her victory.
“It is a dream come true,” said Kerber, who is the first German woman to win the title since Steffi Graf in 1996.
“I know I had to play my best tennis against a champion like Serena. Serena is a great person and a great champion and she is a great inspiration for all of us.”
Williams said she had been happy to simply get to the final so soon into her comeback, adding: “It is obviously a disappointment but I can’t be disappointed. I’m literally getting started.
“To the other mums out there I was playing for you today and I tried. But Angelique played really well. I look forward to continuing to be out there and do what I do best.”
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