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FIFA World Cup 2018 : France Rides to World Cup Final on Defense’s Back

defender Samuel Umtiti lost his marker, a corner kick found his forehead, and he turned the ball into the net for the only goal in France’s 1-0 victory over Belgium.

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France

ST. PETERSBURG, Russia — They talked about the attacking for two days before France played Belgium in a World Cup semifinal here, about Kylian Mbappé’s speed and Eden Hazard’s dribbling and Antoine Griezmann’s style and Kevin De Bruyne’s playmaking.

But France is back in the World Cup because of the simplest of things: defender Samuel Umtiti lost his marker, a corner kick found his forehead, and he turned the ball into the net for the only goal in France’s 1-0 victory over Belgium.

The goal, in the 51st minute, sent France to its first World Cup final since 2006, and gave it a chance to win the title for the first time since its one and only world championship, claimed on home soil in 1998.

France’s manager, Didier Deschamps, was the grinding midfield heart of that team, the player who did the hard work behind the flash of bigger stars like ZInedine Zidane. He has crafted a team that now draws comparisons to those French heroes — dangerous in attack, diligent in midfield, rock-solid in defense.

This France can only match that France, though, if it wins one more game. That will come Sunday at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, the site of Wednesday’s second semifinal between Croatia and England.

Umtiti’s goal ensured France would be there. It came, seemingly, out of nothing: a corner won by France, the ball crossed in by Griezmann, Umtiti running to the near post to meet it. But, crucially, he had stepped away from his marker, Toby Alderweireld, just as the play began, and even though Marouane Fellaini arrived at the final moment to offer at least a token challenge, it was too late. Umtiti’s header sailed over goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois, and France, outplayed for a large portion of the first half, suddenly had its destiny in its hands.

The goal gave the French a brief burst of energy, but they soon settled into the kind of practical, businesslike approach that was their manager’s calling card as a player. Raphael Varane and Umtiti cleared whatever balls were served into the penalty area, N’Golo Kanté smothered Eden Hazard every time he moved inside, and Hugo Lloris raced off his line to punch away anything that got past them and looked even remotely dangerous.

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UEFA Nations League: Croatia edge past Spain 3-2

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Players of Croatia
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Zagreb, Nov 16: Croatia battled to the final whistle and prevailed with a 3-2 over Spain to stay alive in the UEFA Nations League.

Spain, with six points from four matches, retain the lead in League A Group 4, while Croatia go level on points with England at 4 after three matches, though the Three Lions have the advantage on goal difference, reports Efe news.

After beating England in the opener in London and routing Croatia at home, Spain looked set to cruise into the final stage until they lost 2-3 to the Three Lions in Seville last month.

That was the backdrop for La Roja’s visit to Zagreb to face the 2018 World Cup runners-up, anxious to dispel the memory of their abysmal performance two months ago in Spain.

The hosts, physical on defence and direct on the attack on Thursday, largely dictated the flow of play until the final seconds of the first half, when Spain’s Saul Ñiguez and Isco Alarcon threatened the Croatia goal.

With the score 0-0 and both teams needing a win, the 36,000 spectators at Maksimir stadium were treated to a second-half offensive display involving some of the most talented players in the game.

Just as Spain seemed to be getting the upper hand, a giveaway by Sergi Roberto left Croatia’s Andrej Kramaric alone in front of goal and he beat keeper David de Gea to put the hosts up 1-0 in the 54th minute.

Spain reacted furiously and the equalizer was not long in coming. Iago Aspas sent a deft pass to Isco behind the Croatia defence and the forward relayed the ball to midfielder Dani Ceballos for an easy goal in the 56th.

The visitors stepped up the pace and would have taken the lead if Aspas hadn’t hit the cross-bar with a strike from close range.

Instead, the next goal went to Croatia thanks to a rare mistake by De Gea, who had a chance to grab the ball before Tin Jedvaj headed-in after a corner to make it 2-1 for the home side with 20 minutes left.

But a blunder at the other end in the 78th minute let Spain get back into the game, as Sergio Ramos converted from the spot after a hand ball by defender Sime Vrsaljko.

The final stretch was all Croatia and Jedvaj completed the brace with a goal in the 93rd minute.

With the outcome, Spain, who have played all four of their matches, need Croatia and England to draw at Wembley next Sunday to be assured of advancing directly to the final stage.

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ICC Women’s WorldT20: Indian ride spinners’ show to beat Ireland and make semis

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ICC Women's World T20

Georgetown (Guyana), Nov 16 (IANS) India rode their spinners’ good show to beat Ireland with a comfortable 52-run margin and enter the semi-finals of the ICC Women’s World T20 at the Providence Stadium here on Thursday.

After managing 145/6, the tweakers maintained tight leash on Irish women restricting them to 93/8 in 20 overs.

Courtesy their third win, India now have six points and are assured of a last-four spot along with Australia (6 points from 3 games) with New Zealand, Pakistan and Ireland already even before their campaign could officially end.

The spinners Radha Yadav (3/25), Deepti Sharma (2/15), Poonam Yadav (1/14) and skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (1/10 in 4 overs) picked wickets at regular intervals although India’s batting performance left a lot to be desired.

Ireland were never in the chase conceding as many as 65 dot balls (nearly 11 overs).

Once Deepti got the wicket of Gaby Lewis (9) with an off-break and Poonam’s leg-break saw the end of Clare Shillington (23) stumped by Taniya Bhatia, Ireland had no chance whatsoever.

Earlier, former skipper Mithali Raj once again came to India’s rescue with a fluent half century to help the women-in-blue post a below-par 145/6.

Mithali, who top-scored with a 56-ball 51, laced with 4 fours and a six, did not find a stable partner at the other end, thanks to some casual batting from her teammates and immaculate bowling from the Irish women.

In the process, the veteran right-hander also created a new record of being the highest run-getter for India in T20Is with 2283 runs. Rohit Sharma (2207 runs) is the second in the list, followed by men’s team skipper Virat Kohli.

Put in to bat, India got off to a steady 67-run start from Mithali and Smriti Mandhana (33 off 29 balls; 4X4, 6X1) before the southpaw once again departed after getting a decent start.

The young Jemimah Rodrigues (18 off 11; 4X3) got off to a brisk start and quickly added 40 runs for the second wicket with Mithali before being stumped off Irish captain Laura Delany’s bowling.

Thereafter, the in-form India skipper Harmanpreet Kaur (7) and No.5 Veda Krishnamurthy (9) departed in quick succession, leaving India reeling at 127/4.

Mithali, however, waged a lone battle bringing up her sedate half century off 54 deliveries but perished soon, caught behind off Kim Garth.

Towards the end, Dayalan Hemalatha (4), Deepti Sharma (10 not out) and Radha Yadav (1 not out) failed to accelerate the scoring rate as India ended up with 145.

Brief Scores: India 145/6 (Mithali Raj 51, Smriti Mandhana 33; Kim Garth 2/22) beat Ireland 93/8 in 20 overs (Isobel Joyce 33; Radha Yadav 3/25)

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Hima Das named Unicef-India’s 1st youth ambassador

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New Delhi, Nov 15: The United Nations Children’s Fund-India (Unicef-India) has named Asian Games gold-medalist sprinter Hima Das as the country’s first youth ambassador.

The world organisation made the announcement in a tweet on Wednesday evening coinciding with the Children’s Day celebrated on November 14 commemorating the country’s first Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru’s birth anniversary.

“I’m honoured to be chosen as Unicef India’s Youth Ambassador, and I hope I will be able to inspire more children to follow their dreams,” Das responded.

Hailing from Nagaon district, Das won a gold medal in Women’s 4×400 metre relay event at the 2018 Asian Games.

The woman athlete also clinched a silver medal in the Women’s 400m Race event.

WeForNews 

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