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Croatia were lions, says scorer Mandzukic

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Moscow :Croatia played like lions to beat England and reach the World Cup final , striker Mario Mandzukic said after scoring the winning goal, while coach Zlatko Dalic described the performance as fantasy.
“This is a miracle. Only great teams can be as brave as we were and fight back from a goal down against teams like England,” said Mandzukic, whose side face France in Sunday’s final after their 2-1 extra-time win.
“We’ve played our hearts out throughout the tournament. I am happy with my performances so far but I am here for the team. We were like lions out there tonight and we will be the same in the final.”
Dalic, who was appointed in October, days before their final group qualifying match against Ukraine, said there was more to come.
“We are deservedly in the final,” he said. “What the lads played tonight is fantasy, they’ve made history. We haven’t said our last word, there is still one more game to go. God willing, we will be world champions.”
England captain Harry Kane said the defeat would hurt for a long time.
“It’s tough, we’re gutted,” he said. “We worked so hard, the fans were amazing, it was a tough game, a 50-50 game, when we look back we will think there’s stuff we could have done better.
“We worked as hard as we could… it hurts, it hurts a lot and it will hurt for a long time. We have had a fantastic journey, further than we thought,” he added.
“We created some good chances when we were 1-0 up, maybe we dropped a little too deep but we didn’t get enough pressure on the ball. There are a lot of ifs and buts, in these games it’s small margins.”
“It’s hard to say (what went wrong). There’s a lot we could have done better. They played well and made it difficult for us… it’s hard to put your finger of it.”
“It’s been great to get to this stage but we have fallen a little bit short and it hurts.”


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Chhangte is quick and has good qualities with the ball: Viking FK head coach

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Mumbai: En route to following the footsteps of the likes of Gurpreet Singh Sandhu, Lallianzuala Chhangte seems to be impressing the Viking FK management, with whom he is currently on a trial.

The 21-year-old appeared for his first training session with the first team squad on 11th February 2019, in Norway’s Jattavagen. The weather surrounding the session was a stark contrast to which the Mizo lad has been accustomed to in India.

According to Norweign publication, Stavanger Aftenblad, the India international said, “It’s amazing to be here. The reception has been great.” Currently plying his trade for Indian Super League outfit Delhi Dynamos, the youngster was the only player to have arrived for practice in shorts, with wind, sunshine, and snow in the background.

 

Observing the pacy winger in training, Viking FK gaffer Bjarne Berntsen said, “He is quick and has good qualities with the ball. He’s skilled, has good balance and you can tell he is a good player. It’s exciting to have him here.”

The Norwegian top-tier side wanted the left winger for 10 days atleast, so that enough time was given to evaluate the player before making a decision to sign. But parent club Dynamos need the DSK Shivajians youth product for their upcoming crunch league encounter against Bengaluru FC.

Currently, in pre-season, the club won the second division last season, and were promoted to the top-tier Eliteserien. They will kick-off their campaign on 31st Match 2019, at home to Kristiansund.

The difference between playing in Dynamos’ home ground and in Norway will be the grass. In the European nation, the attacker will have to play on artificial grass. About this, Chhangte said, “I am used to it, even though we play on natural grass in Dynamos.”

When asked about the difference in style between Viking FK and Dynamos, he said, “It is quite similar. The way they play the ball, is that they want it on the ground.

They play fast football in the ground, with the wingers moving alongside. I really enjoyed the training.”

For the third youngest goalscorer for the Indian national team, this is a pretty big move, to leave the comfort of his home country, and to try his luck in a foreign country with alien weather conditions. “It would be a huge step for an Indian player to go to Europe to play. I don’t know what the future holds, I have not signed with any teams in India. Let’s see what will happen after this,” said the former NorthEast United player.

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Pant should be picked for the World Cup: Nehra

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Mumbai: Former Indian pacer Ashish Nehra feels that, Rishabh Pant is a pure match-winner, a back-up opener, an effortless six-hitter in the class of Rohit Sharma and merits selection in India’s World Cup squad.

Nehra, who has tracked Pant’s progress in Delhi and international cricket since he first joined the Sonnet Club, gave five elaborate reasons for the dynamic youngster’s inclusion in the playing XI of the mega-event.

“In a team, there will always be contributors but at a big event like the World Cup, you need players with X-factor. Rishabh Pant is not a mere contributor but a pure match-winner who should be picked for the World Cup,” Nehra told PTI on Thursday.

 

Nehra, a key member of the 2011 World Cup-winning team, feels Pant adds variety to the squad.

“If you look at India’s batting line up, save Shikhar (Dhawan), there aren’t any left-handers in the top seven. You need variety with a left-right combination, where Rishabh perfectly fits,” he reasoned.

Pant, 21, is a left-hander and scored Test hundreds in his first series in England and Australia.

“Secondly, Rishabh can bat at any position between numbers 1 to 7 and so Virat (Kohli) and the team management can use him as a floater,” said Nehra, who also played the 2003 World Cup final in South Africa.

The third reason cited by Nehra was Pant’s ability to hit sixes effortlessly from the word go.

Nehra said the fearless approach comes in handy in pressure situations.

“If it comes to effortlessly hitting sixes, Rishabh comes second only to Rohit Sharma with his big-hitting ability. India will need that in abundance during the World Cup,” Nehra said.

Nehra also felt Pant has shown the ability to win matches single-handedly.

“No disrespect, this team has three clear match-winners and they are Virat Kohli, Rohit Sharma and Jasprit Bumrah. For me, the fourth one is going to be Rishabh Pant.”

“Ambati Rayudu, Kedar Jadhav and Dinesh Karthik are all fantastic players but they are all in the same mould. You need X-factor which this boy possesses,” said Nehra, an artist with the white kookaburra, during his best days.

Asked whether a seasoned finisher like Karthik could be overlooked at the expense of a rookie, Nehra said both the players can make it.

“As I have already said, Rishabh could also be your third opener, so DK (as Karthik is referred to) could be your middle order batter,” he said.

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Turn up stump mics to curb sledging: Moeen Ali

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London:England all-rounder Moeen Ali differs with coach Trevor Bayliss and believes turning up the stump microphones could curb sledging in cricket.

West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel was banned for four ODIs, after found guilty of ‘personal abuse’ aimed at England skipper Joe Root in the St Lucia Test.

It follows a similar four-match ban on Sarfraz Ahmed after stump microphones caught the Pakistan captain’s on-field rant at South Africa all-rounder Andile Phehlukwayo during a one-dayer in Durban last month.

 

“It’s time for people to behave themselves,” Moeen said before flying to West Indies for the five-match ODI series beginning at Bridgetown on Wednesday.

“Turn the stump mics up. Why turn them down? So people can swear? There is no reason to get personal. It’s the way society is, things come out of people’s mouths.

You’re not going to get away with it now. You have to be careful,” he added.

The 31-year-old’s view contrasts that of Bayliss who advocates turning down the microphones to protect players.

“I’ve said it once before, no I’m not in favour of it and I’m not going to change my mind,” Bayliss said before Gabriel’s ban was announced.

“I think (stump mics) should be down. I know there are people who think the opposite and think it is good for the game but sometimes in the heat of battle things are said, when guys given a bit of time to sit down and think about it would give themselves a bit of a kick up the backside,” he added.

Moeen, who in his autobiography claimed being called ‘Osama’ by an unidentified Australia player during the 2015 Ashes series, said turning up the microphones could also catch harmless, entertaining banter between players.

“Imagine all the legendary old stories, if we had them recorded,” Moeen said.

“We can do the same now. It doesn’t have to be swearing. Keep it funny. We want people to be attracted to the game. There’s brilliant ways to sledge,” he concluded.

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