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



    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.

    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.

    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 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.



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



    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…



    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…



    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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