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El Clásico’s Croatians set to shine in Russia – FIFA on GBP Sports

  • Modric, Rakitic and Kovacic set to line up in tomorrow’s Clásico
  • All three could play together in central midfield for Croatia at Russia 2018
  • FIFA.com profiles this talented trio

While Croatia are not among the favourites for this year’s FIFA World Cup™, they do have one clear and considerable area of strength.

Nigeria coach Gernot Rohr pinpointed it without hesitation, stressing that his Super Eagles must be set up in their opening match to combat “one of the best midfields” in the competition. Some have even suggested it will be the most formidable of all in Russia, and events at Camp Nou tomorrow might just support that claim.

Three Croatian midfielders are, after all, set to do battle once again in club football’s most famous fixture, with Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic lining up against the Real Madrid duo of Luka Modric and Mateo Kovacic in the final Clásico of the season. And although the clubs’ intense rivalry has placed stresses on friendships in the past, this trio retain close bonds.

Rakitic has joked in the past of wishing Modric “scores five goals in every game… but still doesn’t win”. Modric, for his part, said before a Clásico last year “We will hug and talk after the match… hopefully, I will have to console him!”.

If fit, Modric, Rakitic and Kovacic look likely to form a formidable triumvirate in central midfield for Croatia at Russia 2018. Add in competition for places from the likes of Fiorentina’s Milan Badelj and Inter Milan’s Marcelo Brozovic, and it is no wonder that this department of Zlatko Dalic’s team is held in such high regard.

With El Clásico looming and the World Cup on the horizon, FIFA.com looks closer at the Croatians set to play central roles in both these footballing dramas.

LUKA MODRIC
Age: 32
Previous World Cups: 2006, 2014

Back in 2012, readers of Madrid sports daily MARCA infamously voted Modric the worst signing of that La Liga season. Fast forward to December 2017 and a poll in that same newspaper led to the Croatia captain being selected alongside Alfredo Di Stefano, Zinedine Zidane and Raul in an all-time Real Madrid XI. That remarkable journey reflects the growing and now widespread appreciation that Modric is one of the best midfielders in the world. Tireless in his running, intelligent in his positioning and flawless in his passing, this three-time UEFA Champions League winner remains the jewel in Croatia’s crown.

On Modric…
“He is our best player – he’s the engine that makes us go. He’s also a captain who leads by example. He always gives his maximum, he sets high standards with his attitude, aggression and energy on the pitch, and with his behaviour off it.”
Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic

IVAN RAKITIC
Age: 30
Previous World Cups: 2014

Rakitic made his name as a dazzling attacking midfielder at Sevilla but, since moving to Barcelona, has proved himself to be a true all-rounder. Like Modric, he is a playmaker marked out by his technique and intelligence, and he has emerged as one of the first names on Ernesto Valverde’s team sheet this season. The magnificent displays he produced, while deputising for Sergio Busquets when Barça’s peerless pivot was injured underlined the depth of Rakitic’s versatility, and he is likely to be just as influential for Croatia at Russia 2018.

On Rakitic…
“He has had an extraordinary season.”
Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde

MATEO KOVACIC
Age: 23
Previous World Cups: 2014

The youngest member of our trio celebrates his 24th birthday on Sunday and, having started Tuesday’s UEFA Champions League semi-final second leg against Bayern Munich, will hope to have another reason to celebrate at  Camp Nou. Like his compatriots, Kovacic made his name as an attacking playmaker before adapting brilliantly to a more defensive role, first with Inter Milan and, more recently, in Madrid. Modric described Kovacic as a “phenomenal talent” and recommended him to Madrid as a signing target, and it is widely expected that this classy midfielder will prove to be his idol’s successor for both club and country.

On Kovacic…
“I am sure that he will succeed Modric, as he has incredible talent. I adore him. Although he has improved a lot, we have not yet seen all he can give. But we will. He is the future of Madrid.”
Darijo Srna, Croatia’s most-capped player

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The Week in Quotes – FIFA on GBP Sports

“I’m making the most honest decision for me and for my club. I want to finish with good feelings, then go to the World Cup and now to another adventure. I wish this was eternal. I’m the first one who would like this not to end, but all this has its beginning and its end.”
Andres Iniesta talks about his departure from Barcelona after helping bring the club the 2017/18 La Liga title in Spain, speaking with Movistar

“They don’t hang silver medals at Melwood. There’s still a job to do. Going to a final is nice, but winning it is even nicer.”
Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp speaks after his side’s 7-6 aggregate semi-final win over Roma in the UEFA Champions League

“It is not going to be a final between Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo, I am playing for a great club, and we have great players, so qualifying to the final came with great team work, that I cannot do alone. I know all of the Arab people wish the best for me, and they are happy every time I win, but now at the moment I am only thinking about the final and to bring the Champions League trophy to Anfield.”
Liverpool forward Mohamed Salah speaks after his side’s semi-final victory over Roma

“It was a no-brainer for me. There were a lot of different things to think about, but from that first phone call, I got a special feeling and I knew that Rangers were for me. I’m very aware of Rangers, the size of the club, I’ve watched them from afar and been lucky enough to watch some of the Old Firm games. This opportunity doesn’t come around all the time – clubs with this size, stature and history. I believe I can come in and make these fans happy.”
_Former Liverpool and England midfielder Steven Gerrard explains why the opportunity to start his managerial career at Scottish giants Rangers was too good to pass up  _

“In football, you have to suffer. You cannot be in the final without suffering, it’s even better, more beautiful when you win like that.”
Real Madrid head coach Zinedine Zidane speaks after leading the club to a third successive UEFA Champions League final

“We deserved it. Toni [Kroos] told me after the game: ‘We did not win that thing. You only have yourselves to blame that you are not in the final.’ Unfortunately, he is right. I think it’s an even bigger disappointment [than 2017] because throughout the game, we were so close to knocking out one of the best teams in the world, which is rare. But somehow, Real gets through these matches again and again this year. These games are things to remember after your career. But honestly, I think it will hurt in ten years.”
Bayern Munich defender Mats Hummels speaks after his side’s narrow semi-final defeat by Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League

“I’d say his [David Beckham]’s penalty against Argentina was my standout memory of watching England at World Cups. My manager now wouldn’t be too happy about that one, but I remember it so clearly. Given all he’d been through after 1998, for him to step up like that and win us such a huge game was a great moment. He was a big role model for me.”
England and Tottenham Hotspur forward Harry Kane speaks exclusively with FourFourTwo magazine about his best World Cup memories

“I’m a big admirer of Harry. He’s very complete in his game. He can score with his left foot, right foot, his head and he’s a great passer of the ball. He’s a great connector as well, a little like Teddy [Sheringham] was. He was always complete as a player as well. I’m even happier because he comes out of that great culture created by Spurs, a product of the academy. That makes you super proud because you feel even more connected with him. I just think that the foundation of every club in the world is its own products, its own players.”
Former Tottenham Hotspur forward Jurgen Klinsmann speaks about his admiration for Harry Kane in an interview with the club’s official website

“I think the end of my career will come very soon, it’s near. I am not yet tired of football, it is my favourite thing in life. I would like to stay within the game. We’ll see how life goes. The thought sometimes frightens me, but that feeling passes and everything is fine for a while, and then I’m frightened again. I think it is a hard point in the life of any footballer, because you have to completely change your life, and you can’t know what is going to come next.”
Kairat forward and former Russia striker Andrei Arshavin speaks with Kazakh TV about his imminent retirement from the game

In a great demonstration of fair play, Roma send a congratulations tweet to former player Mohamed Salah after ​defeat to Liverpool in the UEFA Champions League semi-finals

“It’s great that such a player comes to the MLS and brings all his experience and all his titles with him. It’s amazing to see that, in every game he’s come in, people get excited and talk about the MLS and that’s very important. Not only [do] they talk about the MLS, but also he provides the goods on the pitch, and that’s very important.”
Speaking to Omnisport, former Arsenal defender Philippe Senderos, who now plies his trade with Houston Dynamo, is delighted with the impact LA Galaxy star Zlatan Ibrahimovic has had on Major League Soccer

“They are strong teams, both of them. It will be much more difficult. We are now the champions, and everyone wants to win against the champions. That’s why it will be much more difficult to win the title next year.”
Leroy Sane tells ESPN FC that Manchester City will face a stronger challenge for the English Premier League title from Liverpool and Manchester United next season

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Football Circus

by Dan1s

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40 days to go: Hosts make their mark – FIFA on GBP Sports

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™ is getting closer – 40 days to go! Between now and the start of the World Cup, we will take a closer look at a different statistic from the history of the tournament each day.

40 matches at the FIFA World Cup have involved the Soviet Union or its successor Russia. The best finish achieved by either side was fourth place at England 1966, when legendary goalkeeper Lev Yashin inspired the team to the semi-finals through a series of brilliant and brave performances at the age of 36.

In the post-Soviet era, Russia wrote history at the tournament when striker Oleg Salenko became the only footballer to score five goals in one game against Cameroon at USA 1994. 

The Sbornaya’s last win at the World Cup dates back to 2002, when they overcame Tunisia 2-0 in their opening match in Korea/Japan. Since then, Russia have chalked up two draws and three losses, so the fans will be hoping the team can reverse this unfortunate trend on home soil.

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How Zidane’s Real Madrid Survived Bayern Munich’s All Out Attack in 2nd Leg: Tactical Analysis

by Tactical Analysis Hub

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“Chelsea Had A Better Front 3 Than Liverpool” | Chelsea vs Liverpool | #HotTakes – Football Daily

by Football Daily

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The Day Neymar Was Ahead of Messi & Ronaldo ● Neymar Humiliating Real Madrid In El Clasico ● HD

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Draw sets out path for Asian Cup hopefuls – FIFA on GBP Sports

Asia’s best teams learned who they face in the next edition of the continent’s most prestigious competition after the draw for the AFC Asian Cup UAE 2019 took place in the United Arab Emirates on Friday.

Hosts UAE were drawn in Group A and will play the opening match of the tournament against West Asian rivals Bahrain in Abu Dhabi on 5 January. Thailand and India were also drawn in the group.

Holders Australia will begin their quest to retain the title by facing Syria, Palestine and Jordan in Group B, while the competition’s most successful side in four-time champions Japan will face Uzbekistan, Oman and Turkmenistan in Group F.

Eight venues across the United Arab Emirates will play host to the competition, with Abu Dhabi’s Zayed Sports City Stadium hosting the final on 1 February.

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Manchester United Star Holding The Club To Ransom For New HUGE Contract! | #VFN – Football Daily

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