Exhausted Croatia must summon reserve strength for World Cup final against France

On Sunday, the Croats will play the biggest match of their lives against a France side bursting with youth and vigour that has had a day more rest and played the equivalent of a match fewer over the k

It was no surprise that Croatia danced on the pitch in celebration with fans and family long after beating England in the semi-finals of the World Cup on Wednesday night.



The ecstasy of taking a tiny nation to the final of the World Cup for the first time needed to be worked through with the people that provided the players with support and inspiration.



Croatia’s biggest football match



On Sunday, the Croats will play the biggest match of their lives against a France side bursting with youth and vigour that has had a day more rest and played the equivalent of a match fewer over the knockout rounds.



While going to 30 minutes of extra time in all three of their sudden death matches, not to mention emotional energy-sapping penalty shootouts in two of them has proved beyond doubt Croatia’s resilience, it has also taken its toll.



“Some players played with minor injuries with which they would not have played some other games. Two players played with half a leg, but it didn’t show,” coach Zlatko Dalic said.



Croatia’s ‘Golden Generation’ has delivered: coach Dalic



“Nobody wanted to give in when I was preparing the first eleven, nobody wanted to say I was not ready in extra time, no one wanted to be subbed and this shows character and what makes me proud. Nobody gave up.”



Tired Mandzukic scores the winner against England



Mario Mandzukic typified their efforts, running himself into the ground in the lone striker role but taking his chance to score the winner clinically when it presented itself nearly 20 minutes into extra time.



Even before his goal, Mandzukic had spent some minutes on the turf after a collision with England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and an agonising attack of cramp left him once again prone on the pitch in the wake of his decisive strike.



The Juventus striker finally limped off utterly exhausted six minutes from time but promised unstinting effort on Sunday to bring the World Cup back to the nation of some four million people.



“We were like lions out there tonight and we will be the same in the final,” he said.



Croatia’s 12th man



That the nation will be backing them to gain revenge for the World Cup semi-final loss to France in 1998 is without question, as is the fact that there will once again be an army of fans decked out in red and white checks at the Luzhniki Stadium.



“We were louder, they were carrying us, they picked us up when we were not in control of the game,” Dalic said of the supporters.



“For Croatian football and Croatia as a country, this is history being written. I don’t know of a smaller country in a World Cup final.



“But we have our hearts, our pride and our players and that is what is really important to us.”



REUTERS



Mauritania secures historic Afcon qualification: who else is going to Cameroon?

The other teams that have qualified for Afcon 2019 include Uganda, Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Nigeria, Algeria, Guinea, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Cameroon, Madagascar and Mali.

Mauritania secured a historic maiden qualification for the Africa Cup of Nations (Afcon) on Sunday, when they beat Botswana 2-1, to guarantee a top two finish in Group I.

The North-West African nation of at least 4 million inhabitants erupted with celebration as Moctar Sidi El Hacen and Ismail Diakite scored to clinch a sensational comeback, having conceded first courtesy of Keeagile Kobe’s strike for Botswana.

Mauritania joins Madagascar, who will also be making their tournament debut at Afcon in Cameroon next year.

READ MORE: Madagascar heads to AFCON 2019 after historic qualification

Also qualified

Madagascar and Mauritania are among 14 nations that have so far qualified for the tournament, that will feature 24 teams for the first time.

The hosts Cameroon secured automatic qualification.

The other teams that have qualified for Afcon 2019 include Uganda, Egypt, Tunisia, Senegal, Nigeria and Algeria.

Guinea, Ivory Coast, Morocco and Mali have also secured their qualification.

Results

  • South Sudan (2) vs Burundi (5)
  • Egypt (3) vs Tunisia (2)
  • Morocco (2) vs Cameroon (0)
  • South Africa (1) vs Nigeria (1)
  • Comoros (2) vs Malawi (1)
  • Uganda (1) vs Cape Verde (0)
  • Gabon (0) vs Mali (1)
  • Namibia (0) vs Guinea-Bissau (0)
  • Equatorial Guinea (0) vs Senegal (1)
  • Gambia (3) vs Benin (1)
  • Seychelles (1) vs Libya (8)
  • Madagascar (1) vs Sudan (3)
  • Congo (1) vs DR Congo (1)
  • Mozambique (1) vs Zambia (0)
  • Eswatini (1) vs Niger (2)
  • Rwanda (2) vs Central African Republic (2)
  • Ethiopia (0) vs Ghana (2)
  • Togo (1) vs Algeria (4)
  • Angola (2) vs Burkina Faso (1)
  • Liberia (1) vs Zimbabwe (0)
  • Lesotho (1) vs Tanzania (0)
  • Mauritania (2) vs Botswana (1)
  • Guinea (1) vs Ivory Coast (1)

Uganda defeat Cape Verde to qualify for AFCON 2019

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) football club striker Patrick Kaddu’s brilliant header with 13 minutes left on the clock broke the hitherto modest Cape Verde resistance

Uganda sealed its place in the prestigious Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) finals due in Cameroon next year with a 1-0 win over Cape Verde in Kampala on Saturday.

This will be Uganda’s seventh appearance in Africa’s biggest footballing tournament since 1962.

Kampala Capital City Authority (KCCA) football club striker Patrick Kaddu’s brilliant header with 13 minutes left on the clock broke the hitherto modest Cape Verde resistance. The Cranes only needed a draw to qualify.

The result confirmed Uganda Cranes on 13 points and the first country to book their slot in group L. On Sunday, second placed Taifa stars of Tanzania play Lesotho in Maseru. A win would move them to eight (8) points and a chance at qualification. Lesotho sit at the bottom of group L with two (2) points. Cape Verde have four (4) points after five (5) matches.

Uganda has not conceded a goal in the campaign.

Mali, Morocco and Nigeria also qualified for AFCON 2019 on Saturday.

AFCON 2019 qualifying weekend: Salah's Egypt, Burundi and Morocco win

Madagascar, Senegal and hosts Cameroon have also qualified for the 2019 Cup of Nations, the first to feature 24 teams, and another 15 countries could secure places this weekend.

Burundi, Egypt and Morocco won their 2019 Africa Cup of Nations (AFCON) qualifier matches on Friday, extending their chances of qualifying for the continent’s biggest football tournament.

Cameroon, who will be hosting the 2019 AFCON were also in action, but lost (0-2) to Morocco.

Salah inspires Egypt win

Liverpool forward, Mohamed Salah scored his fourth goal of the qualification campaign, to give his nation a win in the final minute of the game against Tunisia.

While both teams have already qualified for the 2019 AFCON, Egypt’s win at the 86,000-seat Borg el Arab stadium in Alexandria, ended Tunisia’s 100 precent record. The North Africans had beaten Egypt at home, eSwatini away and Niger twice.

Victory brought Egypt level with Tunisia in Group J on 12 points, but the losers retained first place on head-to-head records.

Burundi win

Meanwhile, Burundi climbed above Mali and Gabon to top Group C with a 5-2 win over South Sudan in Juba, where Fiston Abdul Razak scored four goals for the visitors.

Burundi have nine points, Mali eight, Gabon seven and South Sudan none with the second and third-place teams meeting in Libreville Saturday.

The top two finishers qualify and a Malian victory over Gabon would assure them of a place at the June 15-July 13 tournament in Cameroon.

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Saturday fixtures

  • South Africa vs Nigeria
  • Comoros vs Malawi
  • Uganda vs Cape Verde
  • Gabon vs Mali
  • Namibia vs Guinea-Bissau
  • Equatorial Guinea vs Senegal
  • Gambia vs Benin
  • Seychelles vs Libya

Madagascar, Senegal and hosts Cameroon have also qualified for the 2019 Cup of Nations, the first to feature 24 teams, and another 15 countries could secure places this weekend.

AFCON 2019: CAF confirms Cameroon as hosts

Somalia's first boxing tournament in 40 years held

Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has suffered years of explosions killing several and regularly claimed by armed group, al-Shabab.

This is the first time in 40 years that Somalia is holding a boxing tournament.

Years of insecurity and uncertainty meant the sport was relegated to the background.

“The reasons we are organizing this boxing tournament after 40 years may include the fact that the country’s situation is better, whether in terms of security or politics, we think there is a real change’‘, said Awil Gelle Ahmed, Second Vice President of the Somali Boxing Federation.

For locals, the contest is a sign of good things to come. They are hopeful that more young people will take part in the sport.

“I love boxing so much and my coach made me fall in love with this sport to be a well-known boxer”, said Somalian boxer, Kashmir Abdirahim Abdalla.

“Today, I am very happy with this tournament, something we have been missing for many years, and we hope the tournament will produce more boxers’‘, said Mohamed Ahmed Abdullahi a spectator.

Recently, Somalian born Ramla Ali represented her native Somalia in the International Boxing Association Women’s Boxing World Championships, becoming the first boxer to do so.

Many years ago, Ali’s family fled Mogadishu after her brother died due to a grenade explosion outside their house.

The family sought asylum in England after a first stop to Kenya on a rickety cramp boat, according to firstpost.com.

Somalia’s capital Mogadishu has suffered years of explosions killing several and regularly claimed by armed group, al-Shabab.

Djokovic stuns Zverev at ATP finals

He will advance into the last four of the season-ending tournament for the eighth time if John Isner beats Marin Cilic in the evening session

World number one Novak Djokovic produced a rock-solid performance to dismantle the challenge of German firebrand Alexander Zverev at the ATP Finals on Wednesday (November 14).

The Serb, 10 years older than his opponent, was made to work hard in an absorbing first set but Zverev’s challenge crumbled at the O2 Arena as Djokovic won 6-4 6-1 to move within sight of the semi-finals.

Five-times champion Djokovic, who will end the year as world number one for the fifth time in his career after a storming second half of the season, leads the Gustavo Kuerten group with two wins and is yet to drop a set.

He will advance into the last four of the season-ending tournament for the eighth time if John Isner beats Marin Cilic in the evening session.

All seven round-robin matches played so far this week have been won in straight sets, but for a while it appeared as though the crowd would be given full value for their ticket.

The 21-year-old Zverev, who has a Tour-leading 55 match wins this year, went toe-to-toe with Djokovic from the baseline and looked to have the firepower to worry his opponent.

Djokovic netted a routine forehand when serving at 4-4 30-30, offering Zverev a break point that he did not convert.

Djokovic then double-faulted to give Zverev another chance to serve for the set but this time the German went just wide with an attempted lob after the Serb ventured into the net.

The net game always looked dangerous for Zverev and so it proved as he double-faulted to concede the set.

Zverev looked deflated and despite holding serve for 1-1 he offered no more resistance as Djokovic won five games in a row to seal his 33rd win in his last 35 matches.

His final group match is against Cilic while Zverev will hope to bounce back against Isner.

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