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    DAY 3 WORLD CUP PREVIEWS/STATS/H2H: Argentina Have Lost One Of Their Last 7 World Cup Group Games Against European opposition PLUS France, Nigeria & Croatia previews

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    Iceland will become the smallest nation to compete in a World Cup finals when they meet Argentina in Moscow.
    Iceland midfielder Gylfi Sigurdsson returned from a knee injury in a friendly against Ghana last week.
    Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli took the surprising decision to name his line-up a day before the match, handing starts to Lionel Messi and Sergio Aguero.
    Croatia and Nigeria are the other two teams in Group D and meet on Saturday evening in Kaliningrad.
    Argentina starting XI: Willy Caballero, Eduardo Salvio, Nicolas Otamendi, Marcos Rojo, Nicolas Tagliafico, Lucas Biglia, Javier Mascherano, Maximiliano Meza, Lionel Messi, Angel di Maria, Sergio Aguero.
    Despite his success with Barcelona, Messi still has not won a major honour with Argentina. The forward turns 31 on 24 June so this could be his last chance to add the game’s biggest prize to his glittering list of achievements.
    The five-time Ballon d’Or winner has even hinted he could retire from international football after the tournament, saying last week that “it will depend on how far we go”.
    After scoring seven of Argentina’s 19 goals in qualifying, including a hat-trick to clinch their place in Russia, the Barca forward remains pivotal to the Albiceleste’s hopes of winning the World Cup for the first time since 1986.
    Without him they were beaten 6-1 in a friendly against Spain in March and they have only played once since, beating Haiti 4-0, with Messi scoring another treble.
    Friendlies against Nicaragua and Israel had to be cancelled due to safety concerns so Iceland will aim to take advantage of any rustiness in their first game at a World Cup finals.
    Their passage to Russia followed a famous Euro 2016 campaign, where they humiliated England on the way to the quarter-finals.
    Despite their success in France, though, manager Heimir Hallgrimsson has called this “the biggest game in the history of Icelandic football”.
    He added:”Regarding Messi, I don’t have a magic formula. Everybody has tried everything against him and he always manages to score.
    “He is one of the best players in the world. We will play against him like everything we do, we’ll do it together. We’ll help each other and try to do it as a team.”

    Head-to-head
    This will be the first ever encounter between Argentina and Iceland.
    Argentina have lost just one of their last seven World Cup group games against European opposition (won four, drew two). That defeat came at the hands of England in 2002.
    Argentina have kept a clean sheet in three of their last four World Cup clashes against European teams, although they’ve failed to net in the last two as well, including the 2014 final against Germany.

    Argentina
    Argentina have qualified for their 17th World Cup – and 12th in a row. In fact, since 1978, only Germany (five) have reached the World Cup final on more occasions than Argentina (four).
    Argentina have gone past the group stage in 11 of their last 12 World Cup appearances, the only exception coming in 2002. In fact, they have won 12 of their last 15 group games (drew two, lost one), their only defeat coming against England in 2002.
    Argentina have also topped their group in each of the last three World Cups. They have also won their opening game in each of the last six editions.
    Only Bolivia (18) scored fewer goals than Argentina (19) in the Conmebol qualifiers, with only Uruguay’s Edinson Cavani (10) scoring more than Lionel Messi (seven).
    Jorge Sampaoli took over from Edgardo Bauza as Argentina manager with four qualifiers to spare and this will be his second World Cup; he led Chile to the last 16 in 2014.

    Iceland
    Iceland have qualified for their first World Cup and their second major tournament after Euro 2016 where they reached the quarter-finals. Slovakia were the last World Cup debutants to make it to the knockout stages of the tournament (2010).
    At 334,000 inhabitants when they qualified, Iceland are the smallest ever nation to reach the World Cup finals.
    Gylfi Sigurdsson was top scorer (four goals) and joint-top appearance maker (10 games) for Iceland in the qualifiers for Russia 2018.
    This is Heimir Hallgrímsson’s second major tournament as manager after Euro 2016 where he was joint-manager alongside Lars Lagerbäck. He took sole control after Euro 2016.

    France’s Djibril Sidibe has been passed fit after a knee injury.
    Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele are expected to play in a front three alongside Antoine Griezmann, with Olivier Giroud starting from the bench.
    Australia coach Bert van Marwijk could drop captain Mile Jedinak and play Massimo Luongo in central midfield.
    He also has another tough decision to make in the lone striker position, with Tomi Juric, Jamie Maclaren and Andrew Nabbout battling it out.
    France have lost just once in their last 12 matches, and are amongst the favourites for the World Cup, but coach Didier Deschamps looks set to go into their first game of the tournament with a new formation as his battle to get the best out of his youthful, vibrant and exciting squad rumbles on.
    After persisting with a 4-4-2 that looked outdated and constrictive, he is expected to unleash a 4-3-3 with a twist, that will team Kylian Mbappe (£166m), Ousmane Dembele (£135m) and Euro 2016 Golden Boot winner Antoine Griezmann together in a frightening front three.
    While Deschamps has had six years to tinker, his opposite number Bert van Marwijk has had just four friendlies, having been parachuted in following the resignation of Ange Postecoglou in November. After a punishing defeat in his opening game, the Socceroos have impressed under the Dutchman winning the other three matches.

    Head-to-head
    Australia beat France 1-0 at the 2001 Confederations Cup in their only previous competitive match.
    France won 6-0 in their last meeting in 2013 with Olivier Giroud scoring twice.
    France
    Remarkably, France have topped their group only twice in their last nine World Cup campaigns (1998 and 2014) and have progressed from the group stage in only six of 14 tournament appearances.
    Since winning all three group games at the 1998 World Cup, their only three wins in the opening stage since have come against Togo, Honduras and Switzerland (P12 W3, D5, L4).
    Didier Deschamps’ side only allowed their opponents 15 shots on target in reaching Russia – a joint record in European qualifiers alongside Spain.
    If Olivier Giroud scores he will move clear of Zinedine Zidane to become the outright fourth-highest scorer in France’s history.
    Australia
    Australia are appearing at their fifth World Cup and their fourth in a row.
    The only time they reached the knockout stage was in 2006 when they were eliminated by eventual winners Italy.
    They have only won two of their previous 13 matches at the World Cup, a 3-1 victory against Japan in 2006 and a 2-1 win over Serbia in 2010.
    Their only clean sheet in a World Cup match was a 0-0 draw with Chile in 1974. They conceded nine goals in the group stage of the 2014 finals which was a joint high with Cameroon.
    Tim Cahill has scored five of Australia’s 11 World Cup goals (45%).
    They have only lost once in their last nine games (W5, D3) – a 4-1 defeat to Norway in March.


    Croatia have won only one of their last seven World Cup games

    Odion Ighalo is likely to start for Nigeria on what will be his 29th birthday, while Wilfred Ndidi is expected to be fit, despite concerns over a hamstring injury.
    Defender Leon Balogun is a doubt after missing training on Thursday.
    Experienced Croatian quartet Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Vedran Corluka and Mario Mandzukic should start.
    There is still uncertainly in a number of positions, but Ivan Strinic is tipped to get the nod at left-back.
    Group D, which also contains Iceland and Argentina, is arguably this year’s ‘group of death’ and this game is crucial for Croatia and Nigeria’s hopes of progressing.
    While Nigeria are the lowest-ranked nation in Group D, Iceland are making their World Cup debut while the Africans have only missed one of the last seven World Cups.
    The Super Eagles reached the last 16 in 1994, 1998 and 2014, although their group win over Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014 was their first victory since France 98.
    Croatia finished third that year, when they made their debut as an independent country, but they have failed to reach the knockout stage since, making group exits in 2002, 2006 and 2014.
    Real Madrid playmaker Modric, Barcelona midfielder Rakitic and Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic remain key players, while Nigeria have former Chelsea midfielder John Mikel Obi as captain, with Premier League pair Victor Moses and Alex Iwobi also in their squad.

    Head-to-head
    This will be the first encounter between Croatia and Nigeria.
    Croatia’s only previous World Cup game against African opposition saw them beat Cameroon 4-0 in June 2014.
    Nigeria have won just one of their last six World Cup matches against European sides (drew one, lost four), beating Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014.

    Croatia
    Croatia have won only one of their last seven World Cup games (drew two, lost four), against Cameroon in 2014 (4-0).
    They have also kept only two clean sheets in their last 11 games.
    Croatia have lost their opening group game in each of their last three World Cups, their last two openers coming against Brazil (2006, 2014).
    The last four World Cup games involving Croatia have produced five red cards (three for Croatia, two for the opponents).
    Ivan Perisic was directly involved in half of Croatia’s goals at the last World Cup (two goals, one assist).
    Zlatko Dalic will be experiencing his first major tournament as manager. Named Croatia boss in October 2017, his team beat Ukraine in the final game of regular qualifying before eliminating Greece in the play-offs.

    Nigeria
    Nigeria have qualified for their sixth World Cup – they have only missed one tournament (2006) since their first participation in 1994.
    No African team has taken part in as many World Cups as Nigeria (six, including 2018).
    Nigeria have won only one of their last 12 games at the World Cup (drew three, lost eight), against Bosnia-Herzegovina in 2014 (1-0).
    Appointed in August 2016, this will be Gernot Rohr’s first World Cup as manager. Nigeria are the fourth African team he has taken charge of after Gabon, Niger and Burkina Faso.
    On the opening day of the tournament, Nigeria’s squad had an average age of 25 years and 336 days, the youngest of any team in the competition.

    Peru are unbeaten in 15 games, winning 10 of those matches.

    Peru are boosted by the availability of captain Paolo Guerrero, who was cleared to play last month after a Swiss tribunal ruled on a drugs ban.
    Denmark may name the team which beat Mexico 2-0 last weekend.
    Their biggest selection dilemma comes up front, with either Feyenoord’s Nicolai Jorgensen or Ajax’s Kasper Dolberg set to lead the line.
    Right-back Henrik Dalsgaard is set to become the first player under contract at Brentford to feature at a World Cup.
    The first meeting of these sides sees both in fine form. Peru and Denmark have set new national records by going 15 games unbeaten, and will be buoyed by the presence of their key men – Peruvian captain Paolo Guerrero and in-form Danish star Christian Eriksen.
    Guerrero’s involvement had looked in doubt; a 12-month drugs ban (halved to six on appeal) expired in May, but 11 days later the Court of Arbitration for Sport extended the suspension to 14 months.
    A reprieve finally arrived on 31 May, when a Swiss court temporarily lifted the ban, enabling the striker to play in Russia. During his legal battle, Guerrero received support from the captains of Peru’s three Group C rivals, all of whom signed a letter asking Fifa to overturn his suspension.
    That includes Denmark skipper Simon Kjaer, who could be man-marking the forward in Saransk – and potentially regretting his decision come full-time!

    Head-to-head
    The sides have never met before in a full international match (competitive or friendly).
    Peru have won their opening World Cup fixture twice, with both wins coming against European opposition (3-2 versus Bulgaria in 1970 and 3-1 against Scotland in 1978).
    The Danes have won two of their previous three World Cup matches versus South American sides, scoring 10 goals in total.

    Peru
    Peru are unbeaten in 15 games, winning 10 of those matches.
    They have conceded just once in their last seven games (in March’s 3-1 win against Iceland).
    The Peruvians, who are making their first World Cup appearance for 36 years, are winless in their last six games at the tournament (D2, L4).
    Nearly half (46%) of Peru’s goals in qualifying came via counter-attacks. The most passes they made in a build-up to a goal was six.
    Ricardo Gareca was one of just three South American coaches to start and finish the World Cup qualifying campaign (along with Uruguay’s Oscar Tabarez and Colombia’s Jose Pekerman).
    Peru reached the knockout stage in their two previous major tournaments under Gareca, progressing to the semi-finals of the Copa America in 2015 and the quarter-finals a year later.

    Denmark
    The Danes have won eight of their 15 games during their record unbeaten run.
    They have kept clean sheets in all four of their games this calendar year, and have gone 444 minutes without conceding a goal (in November’s 5-1 win against the Republic of Ireland).
    Denmark have only kept one clean sheet in their last 11 games at World Cup finals (in a 2-0 win against France in 2002).
    They have reached the knockout stage at three of their previous four World Cup appearances, although they suffered their first group-stage exit on their most recent appearance, in 2010.
    All 27 of Denmark’s World Cup goals have been scored from inside the penalty area.
    Their top scorer in qualifying, Christian Eriksen, scored six of his 11 goals from outside the box.

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    She Cranes Star Nuba Reveals Why She Decided To Play For Uganda Not South Sudan; Why She Regrets Giving Birth Early…

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    She Cranes player Mary Nuba

    Born in South Sudan but grew in Uganda, that’s the story of the She Cranes goal shooter Mary Nuba Cholhok who was voted as the best shooter in the just concluded Fast5 Series tournament which was held in New Zealand.

    Uganda emerged in fifth position in the tournament. theGrapevine had a chance to talk to Nuba before she went back to England for her professional career.

    Grapevine: Why did you decide to play for Uganda and not for your native country South Sudan?

    Nuba: South Sudan is still lagging behind in Netball and I’m getting old, that’s why I decided to play for Uganda’s She Cranes.

    Grapevine: What challenges have you faced so far in your career?

    Nuba: Thinking about my five-year baby who stays in Uganda yet I’m in England playing for my professional club.

    Grapevine: Then what about your husband [the baby’s father] ?

    Nuba: I’m not married, though I gave birth.

    Mary Nuba was awarded Fans player of the Fast5 Series tournament

    Grapevine: How did you manage giving birth and playing Netball?

    Nuba: I realized that later that I made a mistake of getting pregnant. But I stood on my feet, forgot all the past and decided to move on with my child and my career.

    Grapevine: How do you manage those good performances?

    Nuba: I work very hard ever day in order to achieve my goals.

    Grapevine: Where do you see She Cranes in four years to come?

    Nuba: I see She Cranes winning the Netball World cup because we have good players who are still young.

    Grapevine: Tell us about the best game in your career?

    Nuba: When we defeated South Africa in the Common Wealth games in Birmingham.

    Grapevine: Who’s your role model in the game of Netball?

    Nuba: Peace Proscovia because of the way she managed to lift her life from a poor background. She is now superstar in the game.

     

     

    By Juma Ali

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    MIRACLE: All She Cranes Players Return After Incidents Of Players Disappearing While On Duty Abroad…

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    She Cranes players and one of the start player Goal Shooter Mary Cholhok Nuba

    It was a miracle this time around after all the She Cranes players returned from New Zealand.

    It has been a habit for some Netball players to escape when the team travels for international tournaments.

    Just last month, two She Cranes players; Nakanyike Shakira, who was a Police Player and Rose Namutebi, who was a KCCA Player, disappeared in UK, during She Cranes international friendlies.

    The disappearance of these two players followed the disappearance of centre Player, Halimah Nakachwa, who disappeared in UK, in 2017 during another international friendly in UK.

    However, this time around, all the nine players who went for the first five series tournament in New Zealand, where She Cranes emerged fifth, after wining three games and losing three games, all returned with the team.

    National players disappearing while on duty abroad is also a habit in other sports disciplines like; boxing, table tennis, Rugby among others.

     

    By Juma Ali

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    It’s Time For Golola To Rest: I’m Going To Punch Him Into Retirement – General Fungu Vows…

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    Moses Golola (L) and General Fungu (R)

    General Hamza Fungu has vowed to fight Moses Golola and send him into retirement come 26th December. 2022.

    Fungu said this during the launch at Akamwesi gardens today.

    Uganda’s middle weight kick boxing champion, Golola Moses is set to face his former trainer, General Hamza Fungu on bixing day at Akamwesi shopping mail gardens.

    Golola, who is known for his many words said that he has beaten many fighters who were better than Fungu, “now look at this piglet, I’m going to show him why I’m called Golola Moses ‘of Uganda ‘  and I call upon Ugandans to come and be witnesses on that day.”

    Though Golola said that he signed a contract which allows both fighters to fight until one gets tired, officials in charge of organizing the show said they will fight K-1 style for five rounds.

    Grapevine had a chance to sit down with Golola’s challenger General Fungu and and this is what he had to say;

    theGrapevine: How are you prepared for this fight?

    Fungu: I’m well prepared but they have also given us enough time. So, I’m going to prepare more.

    theGrapevine: Why, among fighters did you choose Golola?

    Fungu: I have been asking to fight Golola for the last five years but he has been dodging me. He one time asked for 20,000 dollars to fight me.

    theGrapevine: Why do you think he accepted this time around?

    Fungu: I think this time, he has been given a lot of money.

    theGrapevine: Which tactics are you going to use to defeat Golola?

    Fungu : Golola has words but I have the tactics which will defeat Golola.

    theGrapevine: Many people have come out to challenge Golola but he finally wins?

    Fungu : He has been favoured many times.

    theGrapevine: Is it true that the contract you signed for the fight allows you to fight until one of you gets tired?

    Fungu : The contract is a disadvantage to Golola not me because I was born a fighter.

    theGrapevine: What next after this fight?

    Fungu : After this fight, I will fight three more three bouts and retire.

     

    By Juma Ali

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