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France beat brave Croatia to win World Cup 2018

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Fifa World Cup 2018 Champions

France won the Fifa World Cup for the second time by overcoming Croatia’s bold challenge in a thrilling final in Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium.

Didier Deschamps’ side repeated the success on home soil at France ’98 by a margin that hardly looked possible as Croatia stood toe-to-toe with the favourites for an hour.

France’s victory meant Deschamps, who captained them 20 years ago, became just the third man to win the competition as a player and coach.

Croatia also felt their luck deserted them, but ultimately France ran out victorious to erase the memories of the loss to Portugal in the Euro 2016 final in Paris.

In one of the most exciting World Cup finals of the modern era, played out to a soundtrack of thunder, Croatia and France delivered an enthralling spectacle that brought the joint highest goal tally in a final since 1958, a pitch invasion, and a controversial intervention from the video assistant referee that had a huge influence on the outcome.

France took the lead after 18 minutes when Antoine Griezmann’s free-kick deflected in off Mario Mandzukic’s head – but Croatia was by far the better side in the first half and deservedly equalised courtesy of Ivan Perisic’s left-foot finish.

Croatia were left nursing a burning sense of injustice when France restored their lead seven minutes before half-time through Griezmann’s penalty, awarded by referee Nestor Pitana for handball against Perisic after a lengthy delay while VAR was consulted.

In a compelling second half, France looked to have wrapped it up with two strikes in six minutes from Paul Pogba and Kylian Mbappe either side of the hour mark.

Croatia, however, showed unbreakable spirit and even threatened a comeback when Mandzukic took advantage of France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris hesitating over a clearance to pull a goal back.

But France closed out the win to bring redemption for Deschamps after defeat at the Euros two years ago, sparking wild celebrations and ensuring Lloris lifted the World Cup.

France are the team for all seasons – possessing an all-around quality that has carried them to this World Cup triumph.

When that is added to an element of good fortune, it can prove a deadly combination.

Croatia will complain bitterly that Griezmann went down theatrically for the free-kick that led to Mandzukic’s own goal, and they will also feel Perisic’s handball was not clear-cut enough for VAR to make that decisive intervention just before half-time.

What is not in doubt, however, is the sheer quality this France side possesses, a potent attack the spearhead for a strong midfield and outstanding defence.

When Croatia threatened to come back once more early in the second half, Pogba and Mbappe’s strikes from the edge of the area past the static Danijel Subasic – who still looked less than fully fit after injuring a hamstring in the quarter-final against Russia – proved the defining passage of this final.

France celebrated joyously at the final whistle after claiming the sport’s greatest trophy once more, with Deschamps – the coach whose conservative methods have often brought criticism – tossed high into the air by his players.

Croatia returns home as beaten World Cup finalists but their approach to this match will have won the hearts of neutrals and earned them a prolonged standing ovation from their fans at the final whistle.

Zlatko Dalic’s side was the better team for the first hour despite trailing and were pushing France back when they were hit by those two swift hammer blows from Pogba and Mbappe.

Croatia had done it the hard way to reach this final, winning on penalties in the last 16 and quarter-final against Denmark and hosts Russia respectively before requiring extra time to beat England in the semi-final.

Yet they showed no signs of tiredness as they tore into France from the first whistle, and even when the game looked out of reach they never once let their heads drop, threatening an unlikely comeback when Mandzukic cashed in on Lloris’ error.

It was not to be but world-class midfielder Luka Modric has illuminated this World Cup, while the energy, commitment and threat of Perisic stood out here.

Croatia’s footballers and their coach will return home as national heroes – a status they fully deserve after their contribution to this spectacular World Cup and their all-out approach to this final.

This was the first World Cup to utilise VAR – so it was perhaps inevitable it would play a major part in the final.

The moment came just before half-time when France’s players appealed instantly for a penalty when a corner struck Perisic’s hand at the near post.

Referee Pitana took what seemed an age to consult VAR – even having one last look to make sure after moving to turn away – before, to Croatia’s horror and France’s delight, pointing to the spot.

Croatia will argue it was not a “clear and obvious” mistake and the handball was not a deliberate act on Perisic’s part, and their pain increased as Griezmann slipped home the penalty that was to play a crucial role in the outcome.
BBC

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SPORTS

Highlanders’ Apology for Fan Misconduct in Abandoned Dynamos Fixture

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Highlanders Football Club has issued a sincere apology to the Zimbabwean football community following the crowd skirmishes that occurred during the high-profile premiership fixture against their archrivals Dynamos. The incident happened just 33 minutes into the game at Barbourfields Stadium, where the Bulawayo club was trailing by two goals. Fans stormed the pitch, protesting against the referring decisions that were perceived to be unfavourable to their team.

The police were overwhelmed by the advancing football hooligans, forcing them to retreat. Some fans were injured during the skirmishes, and vehicles were damaged as the police fought running battles with fans outside the stadium.

In a statement released on Monday, the Highlanders Football Club condemned the unsporting behaviour of the fans who caused the abandonment of the match. The club executive stated that they would be heavily fined for the mayhem, and the points would be awarded to Dynamos on a 3-0 scoreline as per the norm with abandoned matches.

The statement read, “Highlanders Football Club is deeply saddened by the crowd trouble that led to the abandonment of our league match against Dynamos FC at Barbourfields Stadium on Sunday. The club condemns the unsporting behaviour that negatively profiles Zimbabwean football as a brand. It is sad to witness such ugly scenes at a family sports event, especially at a time when the club, together with other stakeholders, is working tirelessly to bring fans back into the stadiums and convincing the corporate world that sport, in general, and football, in particular, is worth their support.”

Highlanders apologised to all its stakeholders, especially sponsors, partners, and innocent football-loving fans who were affected by the acts of a few selfish individuals who care less about the growth of their clubs and football in general. They also prayed for those who were injured and wished them a speedy recovery. The club also urged stakeholders to work together to find a lasting solution to hooliganism in football stadiums.

This is not the first time in two seasons that a match involving the two most followed clubs has been abandoned due to crowd trouble. Another fixture was abandoned in May last year when both sets of fans invaded the pitch. Highlanders celebrated an unorthodox celebration for a 93rd-minute finish by Washington Navaya that broke the deadlock, while Dynamos fans were protesting a referring decision over an incident leading to the goal.

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Zimbabwean youngster Jimiel Chikukwa has joined English National League side FC Halifax Town

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Zimbabwean youngster Jimiel Chikukwa has joined English National League side FC Halifax Town following his release by Championship side Watford.

The 20-year-old forward was unveiled by Halifax Town last week. ”We are pleased to announce that FC Halifax Town has signed Jimiel Chikukwa, who was recently released from Championship team Watford”. Chikukwa started his career in the Leeds United academy when he was only 13 years old. However, he decided to join Watford’s academy in the summer of 2021 when his contract with Leeds expired.

During his time with Watford, Chikukwa was loaned to Maidstone United in the National League South for the second half of the 2021/22 season. Although the Stones won the National League South, Chikukwa only made one league appearance before returning to Watford at the end of the season.

Town boss Chris Millington is optimistic about the future of new signing Jimiel Chikukwa.

Millington expressed, “He is a young and thrilling player who needs to demonstrate his abilities in senior games. However, he has shown tremendous potential, and we believe he will be an exceptional player for our team in the future.” Millington also mentioned that Chikukwa is versatile and can play in various positions, including anywhere in the front three and as an attacking wing-back.

We think he could pose a danger when playing as a number nine, but he could also be a threat when positioned on either wing. In our current formation, he might even excel as an attacking wing-back, similar to Angelo Cappello.

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Reims secures first win with Munetsi scoring his first goal

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Zimbabwe international Marshall Munetsi has expressed his delight after scoring his first goal of the season to inspire Stade de Reims to their first win of the season following a 2-0 victory against Clermont Foot in the second round of the French Ligue 1 on Sunday.

The 27-year-old midfielder was instrumental in ensuring Reims got its first win of the season after breaking the deadlock with a header in the 17th minute.

Denmark international Mohamed Daramy, a new signing from Ajax, added a second goal by converting a low cross from Junya Ito in the 84th.

Munetsi, who is flourishing in a more advanced role at Reims, had several opportunities to double his tally.

Probably his best chance of securing a brace came in the 76th minute when the Clermont goalkeeper Mory Diaw produced a double save to deny the Zimbabwe international what looked like a certain goal.

In the end, it was a successful day for Munetsi as he continued his solid start to the season by scoring a crucial goal to follow up on his contribution on the opening day of the season when he registered an assist during the 2-1 loss against Marseille in the first round of the season.

Afterwards, Munetsi took to social media to praise his teammates for putting on a solid display to register their first win of the campaign in their second match.

Great team performance @StadeDeReims to get our first win of the season at home. We keep going,” Munetsi said.

The former Orlando Pirates player is expected to play an important role for the Zimbabwe Warriors when they return to international football later this year in the upcoming World Cup Qualifiers.

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