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Croatia beat Russia, reach World Cup semifinal

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  • Cheryshev scores stunner
  • Krameric with equalizer for Croatia
  • Vida, Fernandes trade goals in extra time
  • Russia out at quarterfinal stage

Croatia beat Russia on penalty kicks to reach the semifinals of the 2018 World Cup following a dramatic 2-2 draw after extra time in Sochi.

Denis Cheryshev put Russia ahead with a stunner but Andrej Krameric equalized soon after and Domagoj Vida nodded home in the 100th minute it seemed like Russia’s fairytale run was over… Bruno Fernandes then headed home in the 115th minute to take it to penalty kicks.

Both Fernandes and Fyodor Smolov missed from the spot, with Croatia winning 4-3 on penalty kicks to advance.

Croatia now face England in the semifinals in Moscow on Wednesday, as they’ve reached the semifinals for just the second time in their World Cup history.

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Russia took the lead in sensational fashion as Cheryshev won the ball, surged forward and then curled home a stunning effort into the top corner to make it 1-0.

Cue pandemonium from the home fans in Sochi.

However the lead was short-lived, as before half time Croatia levelled as Mario Mandzukic had so much space on the left and then picked out a perfect cross for Krameric to head home.

[ LIVE: World Cup scores ]

In the second half Croatia dominated as Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic got on the ball and Russia struggled to get out of their own half.

Ivan Perisic came agonizingly close to winning it for Croatia but his shot came back off the post and bounced out with Russia looking on nervously.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

The game went to extra time and Dejan Lovren almost gave the ball straight to Smolov but he just about recovered.

At the other end his center back partner Vida was the hero as he headed home from a corner to make it 2-1 to Croatia.

Russia threw everything at Croatia in the final 15 minutes of extra time and eventually they broke through.

Fernandes headed home from Alan Dzagoev’s free kick to send the home fans in Sochi wild and make it 2-2 and send the game to penalty kicks.

But then Fernandes and Smolov missed, with the latter hitting his spot kick right at Croatia’s goalkeeper Subasic, then Igor Akinfeev came so close to saving Modric’s penalty but it hit the post and went in.

Rakitic then slotted home Croatia’s final penalty kick to send them to the semifinals.

Former Arsenal, Brazil midfielder Baptista announces retirement

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Julio Baptista’s time at Arsenal only lasted 12 months, but it was a memorable stint.

The Brazilian, who played the 2006-07 season for the Gunners, announced his retirement on Thursday at the age of 37. The former Brazil international only managed 10 goals with Arsenal, but they came in bunches.

Baptista memorably scored four goals against Liverpool in the League Cup quarterfinal, as Arsenal finished with a 6-3 win. Baptista even missed a penalty kick that game.

Baptista cemented his legacy later in the season with a brace in the FA Cup against rival Tottenham.

Baptista, clearly an immensely talented player, suffered from being a good, but not great player. He seemed to have no perfect position other than the No. 10, and most teams he played for had better players in that position. It forces him to play along the wings, deeper in midfield or as a striker during the prime of his career.

In the end, injuries beset his career, especially a short spell at Orlando City in MLS.

 

U-20 World Cup Rewind: Italy tops Mexico, host Poland falls on Day 1 (video)

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Italy opened the FIFA Under-20 World Cup with a bang, knocking off fellow Group B favorite Mexico, 2-1, in Gdynia, Poland.

It only took Italy three minutes to get on the board, as Davide Frattesi found a pocket of space in front of the El Tri backline and dribbled in on goal. The Sassuolo midfielder then decided to fire on goal from distance, hitting a rocket into the corner to give Italy a 1-0 lead.

Later in the first half Gianluca Scamacca also took a rip from outside the box, but his strike sailed just wide.

A defensive error on a corner kick gave Diego Lainez and Mexico life. In the 37th minute, AC Milan product Alessandro Plizzari committed a howler, coming out to punch away the curled corner kick. Plizzari missed the ball and it went right to the head of Roberto De La Rosa, who calmly made it 1-1.

El Tri however suffered a blow late in the match as Italy took back the lead. In the 67th minute, Luca Ranieri collected the ball on the edge of the six yard box and from a tight angle, he scored past Mexico goalkeeper Carlos Higuera.

For Mexico, it’s a rough way to start the World Cup, having to go against a perennial power in Italy and playing on European soil. Not all is lost for Mexico, but it has to rebound with a win in its next game against Japan.

Elsewhere, Colombia defeated host Poland, 2-0, Japan tied Ecuador 1-1, and Senegal beat Tahiti, 3-0.

Saudis, Bahrain, UAE join to bid for FIFA’s U-20 World Cup

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GENEVA (AP) Middle East neighbors Saudi Arabia, Bahrain and the United Arab Emirates are jointly bidding to host the Under-20 World Cup in 2021.

FIFA says the Gulf plan is among five to express interest in bidding, including Brazil.

Indonesia, Peru and a Myanmar-Thailand joint bid are the others.

FIFA announced the contenders Thursday, one day after dropping a proposal for Qatar to share hosting duties for the 2022 World Cup with regional neighbors.

The 2021 U20 contenders must submit a formal bid by Aug. 30. FIFA’s ruling Council will pick the winner, likely in October.

The 2019 edition kicks off Thursday in Poland.

Putin awards medal to FIFA president Infantino

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MOSCOW (AP) Vladimir Putin has given FIFA president Gianni Infantino a medal.

The Russian president awarded Infantino the Order of Friendship at the Kremlin on Thursday.

Infantino has often said last year’s World Cup in Russia, where the host nation surprisingly reached the quarterfinals, was the best of the 21 editions of the tournament.

Putin thanked the FIFA leader for “your glowing assessment of our efforts.”

Infantino says of Russia’s “bonds of friendship” with soccer “is not the end, it is only the beginning of our fruitful cooperation and interaction.”

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