World Cup final preview: France v Croatia

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  • France in third-ever World Cup final
  • Les Bleus hoping to win second WC title
  • No injury concerns for either team
  • Croatia in first-ever World Cup final

France and Croatia square off in the 2018 World Cup final in Moscow on Sunday as the curtain will come down on a hugely entertaining tournament.

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Les Bleus are the favorites to prevail at Luzhniki Stadium but Croatia’s gutsy run to their first-ever final will leave Didier Deschamps and Co. wary of being upset in a final again, while Croatia look to avenge their World Cup semifinal defeat to France in 1998.

[ MORE: Key battles in WC final ]

Led by the raw power and pace of Kylian Mbappe, the destructive genius of N'Golo Kante and a suprisingly solid defensive unit, France have knocked out Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium en-route to the final.

This team isn’t considered to be as talented as their famous 1998 World Cup winning side but Deschamps has built a cohesive, robust unit which emerged from the stacked side of the knockout bracket. France haven’t set the world alight but this team is one win away from securing the title and exorcising their demons of losing to Portugal in the EURO 2016 final on home soil.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

As for Croatia, well, they just keep on fighting back and churning out results as the silky play of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have led them to this point. Three-straight victories in extra time is quite remarkable as they knocked off Denmark and Russia on penalty kicks without impressing, then beat England in extra time as they dragged themselves back into the game.

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Ivan Perisic and Mario Mandzukic are their chief goal threats and will no doubt provide plenty of problems for France’s defense as Modric and Rakitic battle with Paul Pogba and Kante for midfield supremacy.

In team news neither Croatia or France have serious injury concerns, as Mandzukic and Ivan Strinic are set to recover for Croatia and Blaise Matuidi fit for France after knocks in the semifinals.

Both sets of players know they are 90 minutes away from immortality in their homeland.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup final – Sunday, July 15

France v Croatia, Moscow (Luzhniki) — 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE


What they’re saying

Didier Deschamps on how World Cup win would compare to him captaining 1998 side to glory: “You have to live in your own times: I never, never, never mention my own history. Some of them were not born but saw pictures. It belongs to a lot of French people that lived through it but not the young generation. I’m here to write a new page in history, the most beautiful page. I’m not saying I’m not proud of what we did 20 years ago. Nobody will be able to erase it. But we can’t look back and see what is in the rear-view mirror.”

Zlatko Dalic on Croatia respecting France:

“There is no weakness in a team that is in the final. They are a top-drawer team with fantastic players. We’re taking it step by step. We’ve entered the final. We’re going to celebrate, to rest and then we will prepare for France. We’re facing another daunting task, but it’s going to be a fantastic match. We are ready for it. I am sure everybody will enjoy watching that match. I have huge respect for France.”


Prediction

I am certainly not underestimating Croatia but their incredible run to the final will catch up with them after three-straight periods of extra time. I expect Mbappe and Griezmann to pull their defense apart and Kante will be able to halt Modric and Rakitic. France to win 3-1.

Ramos announces U.S. U-20 World Cup qualifying roster

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Tab Ramos announced the 20 men tasked with leading the United States to another U-20 World Cup through qualifying next month in Florida.

[ USWNT: Surgery for O’Hara ]

Goalkeeper Brady Scott is the lone returning member of the team which won the 2017 CONCACAF Championship and advanced to the quarterfinals of the 2017 World Cup in South Korea.

The U-20 World Cup is this summer in Poland.

Several players have MLS minutes under their belts, including promising Jaylin Lindsey of Sporting KC and Mark McKenzie of Philadelphia. McKenzie, 19, could miss some of the Union’s playoff run, having started the side’s last four matches at center back.

Ayo Akinola, 18, is also one of the headliners, having scored five goals in the USL and nabbing a goal and an assist in six matches for Toronto FC.

There are four college players and six youngsters based overseas.

U.S. U-20 roster for CONCACAF Championship

Goalkeepers: 1-Brady Scott (FC Koln), 12-CJ Dos Santos (S.L Benfica).

Defenders: 2-Jaylin Lindsey (Sporting KC), 3-Chris Gloster (Hannover 96), 4-Mark McKenzie (Philadelphia Union), 5-Matthew Real (Philadelphia Union), 14-Manny Perez (NC State), 16-Julian Araujo (LA Galaxy), 19-Sam Rogers (Seattle Sounders).

Midfielders: 6-Brandon Servania (FC Dallas), 7-Juan Pablo Torres (K.S.C. Lokeren Oost-Vlaanderen), 8-Alex Mendez (SC Freiburg), 10-Paxton Pomykal (FC Dallas), 15-Anthony Fontana (Philadelphia Union), 18-Isaac Angking (New England Revolution).

Forwards: 9-Justin Rennicks (Indiana University), 11-Ulysses Llanez (Unattached), 13-Griffin Dorsey (Indiana University), 17-Ayo Akinola (Toronto FC), 20-Frankie Amaya (UCLA)

USWNT’s O’Hara begins World Cup prep with surgery, 8-12 weeks out

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Kelley O’Hara is set for some time on the mend as the United States women’s national team begins its preparation for this summer’s World Cup.

O’Hara, 30, will miss 8-12 weeks after undergoing surgery to remove “loose bodies” in her ankle, according to a U.S. Soccer press release.

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That means the 112-times capped defender will not play in next month’s newly-announced European friendlies against Portugal and Scotland.

“It’s all good. These kinds of things come with the territory,” O’Hara said. “This is just the best time to get the procedure done so I’m one hundred percent heading into 2019 and physically ready to perform at the level I want to and need to. It’s a bummer that I won’t get to Europe, but the most important thing is to be healthy for next year.”

O’Hara scored in the 2015 World Cup semifinal, and has an Olympic gold to go with that tournament title. She’s won two SheBelieves Cups and three Algarve Cups.

Man United arrive late (again) for Juventus game

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Manchester United do not travel well. Even in Manchester. Traffic sucks.

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The Red Devils arrived at Old Trafford just 52 minutes before kick off for their huge UEFA Champions League group stage clash against Juventus on Tuesday.

Juve’s team bus also arrived late and United’s manager Jose Mourinho revealed he arrived at the stadium by jumping off the bus then walking among the fans, while wearing a hoodie so nobody would recognize him.

What is all this about?

United turned up late for their last UCL home game against Valencia and were subsequently fined by UEFA as the kick off was delayed with their bus stuck in traffic in Manchester.

Even though United switched hotels to be even closer to Old Trafford ahead of this massive game against Juve, the players were still stuck in traffic for 45 minutes extra as Mourinho said his walk from the hotel to the stadium took two minutes. Of course, the whole United squad could not have walked through the 75,000 fans heading to the game amid safety fears, so something needs to be done to address this situation. Traffic in Manchester is bad, but it is not that bad.

Plus, it appears someone did spot Mourinho…

UCL, LIVE: Man United v. Juventus headlines action

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The pivotal third round of the UEFA Champions League group stage kicks off on Tuesday, with teams across Europe ready to either push on towards the Round of 16 or kiss goodbye to their dreams of being crowned champions of the continent for at least another season.

[ LIVE: Champions League scores ]

There is no doubting where the big game is, as Manchester United host Juventus at Old Trafford with Cristiano Ronaldo returning to his old club. Jose Mourinho’s United have struggled in the Premier League this season but a win against Italian powerhouse Juve would surely set them back on the right path.

Elsewhere, Manchester City head to Shakhtar Donetsk knowing they need a win after losing their opening UCL group game against Lyon which put them in a spot of bother.

Struggling Real Madrid are in action as the three-time reigning European champions are expected to waltz by Viktoria Plzen, but they did lose to CSKA Moscow last time out.

Click on the link above to follow the action live. Below is the look at the full schedule for Tuesday, with all games kicking off at 2:45 p.m. ET.


Tuesday

Group E
Ajax v. Benfica

Group F
Shakhtar Donetsk v. Manchester City
Hoffenheim v. Lyon

Group G
Real Madrid v. Viktoria Plzen
Roma v. CSKA Moscow

Group H
Manchester United v. Juventus