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    FULL WORLD CUP FINAL PREVIEW: Will Croatia Win Their First World Cup Against Africa’s “sixth team”

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    And then there were two. 63 games filled with drama, intrigue, set-piece goals and surprise results have determined 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia finalists: France and Croatia. There is a distinctly 1998 feel to this World Cup final, evoking more than a few memories of the global finals which saw France emerge victorious on home soil two decades ago. Many have branded France Africa’s Sixth team because some of their players have African blood flowing in their veins.

    France will be hoping their captain in the final that followed that semi-final victory just over 20 years ago is their good luck charm at the Luzhniki Stadium.
    Didier Deschamps could become only the third man ” after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer to lift the trophy as a player and coach, if he can replicate from the dugout the successful final he had against A Selecao in 1998.
    Despite the deep connections to the past, these sides are very much living in the here and now. France were functional and firm against Belgium to see off the Red Devils 1-0 in Tuesday’s semi-final while Croatia needed extra time – for the third consecutive game – to defeat England at the Luzhniki on Wednesday.
    Can Croatia go one better than their heroes of 1998 or will it be Deschamps’ day once again in world football’s biggest game? The globe will be watching, and impatiently waiting for an answer.
    Croatia face France at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium today aiming to win a first major international trophy, while their opponents are in a third final in six World Cups and attempting to add a second title to the one they won in Paris 20 years ago.
    The man leading them, Didier Deschamps, is in his third tournament in charge and hoping to become only the third person to lift the trophy as a player and manager.
    His counterpart, Zlatko Dalic, has been Croatia manager for just nine months but is 90 minutes from winning football’s biggest prize and completing one of the more unlikely triumphs in World Cup history.

    Why France Are Carrying Africa’s Hopes in the World Cup Final
    Officially, Africa’s involvement in the World Cup ended in Samara on June 28, when Senegal were eliminated by Colombia. But in the eyes of football fans from across the continent, there is still one African team left in the tournament. And they face Croatia today. There are at least 15 players with African roots in the France squad, and their lineages stem from all over Africa.
    FIFA permits player to switch international allegiance only before they have played a competitive senior international.
    Cameroon sent famed striker Roger Milla to try to persuade Samuel Umtiti to play for them. He was born in Yaounde but moved to France at an early age and came up through the French junior national teams.
    Steve Mandanda in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Paul Pogba’s parents are from Guinea, N’Golo Kante’s from Mali. Blaise Matuidi’s parents are from Angola and came to France via DR Congo. Kylian Mbappe has an Algerian mother and a Cameroonian father. Presnel Kimpembe and Steven Nzonzi’s fathers are Congolese. Corentin Tolisso’s dad is from Togo. The list goes on.

    France’s Africa contingent at 2018 World Cup
    Kylian Mbappe – Cameroon / Algeria roots
    Paul Pogba – Guinea
    Steve Mandanda – Democratic Republic of Congo
    Blaise Matuidi – Angola / Congo
    Ngolo Kante – Mali
    Ousmane Dembele – Senegal, Mali, Mauritania
    Nabil Fekir – Algerian
    Samuel Umtiti – Cameroon
    Adil Rami – Morocco
    Benjamin Mendy – Senegal
    Djibril Sidibe – Senegal
    Presnel Kimpembe – Democratic Republic of Congo

    The view in Croatia: ‘Dream, dream, dream’
    With a population of 4.17 million, you would think Croatia would be the smallest country to have reached a World Cup final. But that accolade goes to Uruguay, who won the inaugural competition in 1930 with an estimated population of about 1.7 million.
    At 20th in Fifa’s world rankings, Dalic’s side are the lowest-ranked team to reach a World Cup final, and the 13th different nation to do so.
    This is the furthest they have advanced in the competition, bettering their third-place finish 20 years ago, when their brilliant run was ended at the last four stage by… eventual champions France.
    While this year’s semi-final victory shattered dreams in England, it sparked wild celebrations in Zagreb and beyond, with thousands of fans pouring onto the streets, singing, letting off flares and waving red, white and blue flags.
    “Dream, Dream, Dream! Croatia are in the World Cup final,” said the Sportske Novosti newspaper, adding Dalic “has entered into legend” after surpassing the achievement of the 1998 team.
    “The Fiery Ones are in the final, the nation is in a trance – one more step to the title!” said the Jutarnji List.
    Davor Kovacevic, journalist with the Sportarena website, wrote: “They say we didn’t excite in our games. Who cares? We excited ourselves, that’s what matters. As if France did excite. And they are worth three to four time more than us.”

    The view in France: ‘Healing the scar of 2016’
    France reached the final of their home European Championship in 2016 but, despite being strong favourites to beat Portugal, they fell short.
    The memories of that defeat are driving the team – and the country – this time.
    The SudOuest newspaper sees Sunday as a chance to heal the “scar” of two years ago. This time, they say, “the context is different: the players have grown, and there’s Kylian Mbappe”. The forward is “on fire”, “inspires fear”, and is one of France’s “many weapons capable of breaking the Croatian siege”.
    The French media have paid particular attention to their team’s extra preparation time for the final. They played their semi-final 24 hours before Croatia’s, and all their knockout ties have been won in normal time, while their opponents have needed extra time (and penalties twice) in each of their three games since the group stage.
    According to Le Figaro, that is a “godsend” against a “talented and promising team capable of posing problems”.
    For Le Point, it all comes down to the players’ states of mind. Despite the extra time, Croatia’s mental state has been “faultless” and the team “seems unbeatable”.
    Perhaps it will be a game won by individual brilliance…

     

    Battle for the Golden Ball

    This tournament was considered a last chance for two greats of their generation – Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Argentina’s Lionel Messi – to dominate a World Cup.
    But both were eliminated at the last-16 stage, leaving the way clear for other players to make their mark and win the prestigious Golden Ball award for the competition’s best player.
    And while there have been some superb individual performances, no-one has stood out to such an extent they are a certainty for the prize.
    Could the final be the deciding factor? Interestingly, it is 24 years (six tournaments) since the Golden Ball winner came from the champions.
    Maybe this is the year that changes. Croatia midfielder Luka Modric has received plenty of praise for his performances so far, including a man-of-the-match showing against Argentina in the group stage.
    France forward Mbappe announced himself on the biggest stage with two goals to send the Argentines home in a showing filled with pace, trickery and skill. He will be looking to become only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, after Brazil legend Pele in 1958.
    A match-winning display in the final could tip the balance in their favour, while the same could be said for Antoine Griezmann, who is tied on three goals with Mbappe. Both players know a hat-trick would take them level on six goals with England’s Harry Kane in the battle for the Golden Boot.

    Head-to-head
    France are unbeaten in their five previous games with Croatia, winning three times. They have met twice before at major tournaments.
    The French came from a goal down to beat Croatia 2-1 in the semi-finals of the 1998 World Cup thanks to an unlikely brace from Lilian Thuram. Those proved to be Thuram’s only goals in his 142 caps.
    The teams also drew 2-2 in the group stage at Euro 2004.
    The only meeting since then was a goalless draw in a friendly at the Stade de France in March 2011.

    France
    The French are the sixth nation to reach three or more World Cup finals, following in the footsteps of Germany (eight), Brazil and Italy (both six), Argentina (five) and the Netherlands (three).
    This will be France’s sixth final at a major tournament (including three at the European Championship). They have won three of the previous five.
    Three of France’s four goals in World Cup finals have come from set-pieces (two from corners, one from a penalty).
    Three of France’s five goalscorers at this World Cup have been defenders (Benjamin Pavard, Raphael Varane and Samuel Umtiti).
    The last time three French defenders scored at a World Cup was in 1998, when they lifted the trophy.
    Excluding shootouts, France have lost just one of their last 14 knockout games at the World Cup (W11, D2). That defeat was their 1-0 loss to Germany in the 2014 quarter-finals.
    Didier Deschamps is looking to become the third man to win the World Cup as a player and as head coach, after Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer. He’s won 73% of his games at the World Cup (eight out of 11).
    France have trailed for just nine minutes and 12 seconds at this World Cup, while Croatia have been behind in all three of their knockout matches.
    None of Olivier Giroud’s 13 shots at this World Cup have been on target. Since 1966, no player has had more attempts at a World Cup without directing at least one on target.
    Kylian Mbappe could become only the second teenager to score in a World Cup final, after Pele. His tally of three goals already makes him the highest scoring teen since Pele netted six in 1958.
    Antoine Griezmann has scored or assisted 11 goals in nine knockout games at major tournaments (World Cup and European Championship). That is more than any other French player in the last 50 years, ahead of Zinedine Zidane (eight) and Michel Platini (six).

    Croatia
    Croatia are the 13th different nation to reach a World Cup final.
    The previous two first-time finalists both won the tournament (France in 1998 and Spain in 2010).
    Croatia are the first team to have reached the World Cup final despite trailing in all three of their knockout games.
    The Croats have played extra time in their last three matches and could become the first team in World Cup history to play extra time in four matches at a single tournament.
    Croatia have scored 12 goals and have had eight different goalscorers (excluding own goals) – only Belgium boast higher figures (14 goals and nine goalscorers, prior to the third-place play-off).
    They have scored in their last 10 World Cup games, since a 0-0 draw with Japan in 2006.
    Four of the five goals Croatia have conceded in Russia have come from set-pieces. They’ve conceded from a penalty, a throw-in, an indirect free-kick and a direct free-kick.
    Croatia have conceded more fouls (99) and received more yellow cards (14) than any other side at this World Cup.
    Ivan Perisic has been involved in 10 goals at major tournaments (six goals and four assists), the joint-most by a Croat, level with Davor Suker (nine goals and one assist).
    Luka Modric has created 16 chances at this World Cup, twice as many as any of his team-mates.

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    SHOCKING: NCS Officials Forced To Vomit She Cranes Money After Girls Protest Being Given Shs.50,000 Upon Returning From Birmingham Instead Of Shs.7 Million…

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    She Cranes in Birmigham

    It was a tug of war as the netball national team (She Cranes) persuaded officials from the National Council of Sports [NCS] to give them their money.

    The drama started when the first batch of Ugandan Athletes who competed in the just concluded Common Wealth games in Birmigham, England returned today.

    Kayiira Jackson, the netball media officer told theGrapevine that the netball federation hired a minibus to pick the players from Entebbe airport.

    Kayiira divulged that upon reaching the airport, they found a parliamentary mini bus already picking some players and because it was not enough to take all of them, including the cyclists, the remaining athletes had to occupy their mini bus.

    TEARS AT NCS

    Upon reaching the premises of National Council of Sports in Lugogo, where the players hoped to get their seven million shilling (Shs.7,000,000)  allowances, which was promised to them by NCS as soon as the tournament ended, they were given the bad news that their allowances were not ready.

    Each player was quickly given fifty thousand shillings (Shs.50,000) as transport by the gate man at the premises to return home.

    According to Kayiira, no NCS officials was around by the time the team arrived at the premises. Instead, the official decided to run into hiding and gave the gateman money the Shs.50,000 for each player as transport.

    TheGrapevine has learnt that two players from netball, Juan Nampungu and Jesca Achan received their seven million shilling while in Birmingham and the rest were told that their money is in Uganda, 10 players and 4 officials were not paid.

    Later today, when the officials learnt that the media was following up on the matter, they started quietly paying some players.

    Sandra Nabirige, who plays as a goal defender (netball), told theGrapevine that she received six million shilling (instead of seven) on her mobile money account at 1:46pm.

    Irene Eyaru, who plays as a goal attack (netball) also assured theGrapevine that she received the six million shilling on her mobile money at 1:46pm.

    Sources in NCS have intimated to theGrapevine that officials decided to vomit part of the money after increasing pressure from the players, that is why they had to pay them via mobile money.

    According to inside information, each player who went to Birmingham for the commonwealth games was supposed to receive their money through equity bank.

    When Grapevine called the assistant general secretary NCS, he said that he cannot comment on the matter.

    Uganda netball team beat South Africa 54-48 to end their campaign in a historic 5th place – one better than their 6th-place finish in 2018 in Australia.

    The final position meant that Uganda ended the Games as the highest-ranked African nation, with South Africa taking 6th place and Malawi 7th.

    Overall, Team Uganda bagged a total of five medals in Birmigham and they included three gold medals.

    Notably, Teddy Nakimuli became the first Ugandan female boxer to win a medal at the Commonwealth Games.

     

    By Juma Ali

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    I’m Going To Win Commonwealth Medal For My Mum Who Was Knocked By Speeding Boda Boda – Bombers Captain Vows…

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    Bombers captain Joshua Tukamuhebwa in action

    Bombers captain Joshua Tukamuhebwa has told theGrapevine that he is determined to win a medal at this year’s commonwealth games in Birmingham, England for his late mother.

    Tukamuhebwa’s mother, Enid Bindishanga died after she was knocked by a speeding motor bike along Jinja Road.

    Enid had gone at the meat parker along Port Bell Road to buy meat for the family.

    She was rushed to hospital where she was later pronounced dead.

    “I am going to do everything possible to win a medal in this competition for my mum,” the Naguru based boxer said.

    Tukamuhebwa narrated that after his mother’s death, life became meaningless because she meant a lot to him and his siblings, “that’s why I want to win a medal in her memory.”

    I AM THE FATHER NOW

    Tukamuhebwa  also disclosed that after his mum’s death, he is now the bread winner at home and has to act like a parent to his young siblings and also look for their school fees.

    I WILL USE THE MONEY I GET TO HELP MY SIBLINGS

    He added that he is going to use the money government will give him as his facilitation, funds from Uganda Boxing Federation (UBF) president Moses Muhangi and President Museveni’s pledge if he wins a medal, to cater for his siblings.

    This will be Tukamuhebwa’s second international competition after the all Africa games in 2019 in Morocco, where he was defeated in the first encounter.

    The commonwealth games are scheduled to take place between 28th July to 8th August 2022.

    Uganda will be represented in several sports disciplines which include; boxing, athletics, swimming, squash, table tennis, badminton, rugby 7’s and netball.

    theGrapevine wishes our men and women the best in Birmingham.

     

    By Juma Ali

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    UOC President Discusses How Team Uganda Is Prepared To Sweep Medals In Commonwealth Games And How They Are Going To Handle Issue Of Athletes Disappearing…

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    President Museveni with wife Janet flagging off Teams for the Commonwealth games. Bottom right is UOC boss Donald Rukare

    Few days are left to the commonwealth games that are scheduled to take place in Birmingham in England, between 28th July to 8th August 2022.

    Uganda will be represented in several sports disciplines which include; boxing, athletics, swimming, squash, table tennis, badminton, rugby 7’s and netball .

    In the last edition, in 2018, bomber’s boxers Reagan Ssimbwa, Nasir Bashir and table tennis player Halimah Nambooze disappeared in Gold Coast in Australia and never returned with the team.

    This has been a norm after several international games. Some athletes disappear after the games in search for greener pastures.

    theGrapevine sat down with Uganda Olympic Committee president Donald Rukare to discuss how the Ugandan team is prepared for the games and how they are going to handle the issue of athletes disappearing.

    Grapevine: How are you prepared for the commonwealth games as team Uganda?

    Rukare: The preparation are good and we are ready to win medals.

    Grapevine: How many medals do you hope to win this time around?

    Rukare: In 2014, we got 5 medals, in 2018 we scooped 6 medals, this time around we hope to double the medals we got in 2018 to twelve or more.

    Grapevine: Of all athletes, who do you think has more chances of getting a medal?

    Rukare: All the athletes have equal chances of getting medals.

    Grapevine: What were the challenges you are facing as you prepare the teams for the commonwealth games?

    Rukare: We still need financial assistance to help us prepare our athletes.

    Grapevine: Will athletes like Joshua Cheptegei, Jacob Kiplimo, Halimah Nakayi, Peruth Chemutai, who competed in World Athletics Championship in Oregon also compete in commonwealth games? And will it not affect them?

    Rukare: Are you a coach? Hahaha [he laughs], they will definitely participate and it will not affect them because they are sportsmen and women. So, they are aware of the tight sports schedules sometimes.

    Grapevine: Have you prepared any incentives like prizes for those who will win medal?

    Rukare: We are still discussing that, but the prize money from President Museveni is there. Gold medal winners get Shs.5 million, silver medal winners get Shs.3 million and bronze medal winners get Shs.2 million.

    Grapevine: Why were you given few athlete slots [18 athletes] yet Uganda’s hope is in athletics?

    Rukare: We were given only 41 slots which were supposed to be shared with other federations.

    Grapevine: What challenges do athletes face when they go to such competitions?

    Rukare: The issue of food. Sometimes they are not used to the food in some of these countries.

    Grapevine: So, are you going with your own cook this time around?

    Rukare: Yes, we hope to go with our own cook.

    Grapevine: Let us talk about the issue of athletes who escape during international games, how do you plan to handle it this time around?

    Rukare: (Jokingly says) I think if it is possible, we need to hire the services of Maama Fiina to come to our rescue and tell us those who are going to escape since she is a traditional doctor who can see things before they happen.

     

    By Juma Ali

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