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Faces of Football: Croatia – a letter to the national team

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Dear Croatian national team,

First of all, I hope you are having a wonderful season so far and are looking forward to the World Cup as much as I am. 

I still remember one of the first letters I ever wrote. It was 1998, the summer after we won the bronze medal at the FIFA World Cup. I was 8 years old and football was everywhere. My cousin and I wrote letters to our fave players (that we might have had a crush on) – my favourite was Goran Vlaović, hers was Dario Šimić, and both were part of that fantastic team which I still can name every single player from, even 24 years later. 

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That’s what the World Cup meant to me back then, and I’m sure most other kids too. After several tough years in the early 1990s, playing with your friends in the street or on the football field was the best thing ever. 

I still remember the celebrations after beating Germany, even in the little village I grew up in. Can we do that again this year, please? So my baby daughter can perhaps have these wonderful memories of her childhood too. 

You all know that a lot has changed in Croatia, and the world in general, over these 24 years, but we are still very much obsessed with football and the national team. Through ups and downs – from not qualifying for the 2010 tournament, to winning the silver medal last time around – Croatia always lives and breathes the national team during big competitions. 

I’m sure you, just like us, will never forget the summer of 2018: the tournament, the incredible celebratory day when the team arrived home. We’d love to see you do something similar this time around. Even though this World Cup will be different in many ways to the last, and happening during winter, I know many Croats will travel to the hot Qatar, and the atmosphere will be fantastic back home too. You know how passionate we can be and how our support can lift the team up during tough moments in games. 

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The atmosphere is so important for us Croats – we’re emotional and passionate people. I love that there seems to be a really great atmosphere in the squad too, both on and off the pitch, and I hope it continues throughout the competition (and beyond!). A mixture of young players like Joško Gvardiol and Lovro Majer, and those more experienced ones – led by one and only Luka Modrić – seems like a winning combination to me. I am excited to see how far we’ll go.

Dear Zlatko Dalić: you don’t have an easy job! Sometimes it’s tougher to pick a team when you have so many good players to choose from, but I’m sure you’ll do a great job once again. After five amazing years in charge, you know the squad better than anyone else. My only advice, however, would be to play Andrej Kramarić in his favoured position (we’re from the same village so of course I have a soft spot for him).

Dear players: do your best on the pitch. Be as passionate as you were in Russia in 2018 and maybe you can come home with the trophy this time around. Is it possible? Well, the ball is round, we have a great team, I think anything can happen! Just play every match like it’s the cup final and we’ll be okay.

I’ll be cheering from back home in Croatia, in Dalić’s city of Varaždin, and explaining to my baby daughter that it’s not a bad thing if mommy shouts at the TV!

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Good luck, and u boj u boj za narod svoj!

Anita



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Football

Rangers appoint Michael Beale as new manager

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Rangers have confirmed the appointment of Michael Beale as the club’s new manager, following Gio van Bronckhorst’s sacking.

The former QPR manager has signed a contract which runs until 2026 at Ibrox, returning to the Gers having previously worked as an assistant manager at the club under Steven Gerrard.

90min revealed on Sunday that Beale’s appointment was imminent, and a club statement has confirmed his return to the club: “Michael Beale is the 18th manager of Rangers with the club delighted to confirm his appointment today.

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Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

“Signing a contract to 2026, the 42 year-old joins from his role as manager of Queens’ Park Rangers in West London having previously worked as first-team coach at Ibrox from 2018 to last November. It is an exciting appointment for the club, with Beale undoubtedly one of the most sought-after young managers in British football.”

Speaking about his return to Rangers, Beale said: “It is fantastic to be back and to see everybody this morning, there are some new faces but some people that I know really well so it is great to see everyone. 

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“I am hugely proud, it is a wonderful, wonderful football club, it is an institution. For everyone that works here it is a huge privilege, but to be the manager of this football club, that is extremely special. Some wonderful people have sat in this chair prior to me, and I am hugely proud to be the person sat here now.”



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Portugal vs Uruguay: Confirmed lineups

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By defeating Uruguay in Lusail, Portugal will be hoping to advance to the World Cup’s last 16 in 2022.

During their first match, Cristiano Ronaldo and company defeated Ghana in a five-goal thriller, while Uruguay and South Korea drew 0-0.

Line-up

Portugal XI: Diogo Costa, João Cancelo, Pepe, Rúben Dias, R. Guerreiro, Rúben Neves, William, Bernardo Silva, Bruno Fernandes, João Félix, Ronaldo.

Uruguay XI:

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EPL

Conor Coady responds to ‘daft’ question about Liverpool allegiance

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Conor Coady has told England teammate Jordan Henderson to do better in his goading after the Liverpool captain taunted him over his Everton connection.

Coady was a product of the Liverpool youth system and made a solitary appearance for his boyhood club in the 2012 Europa League. He has since moved on to Huddersfield Town and Wolves before joining Liverpool’s Merseyside rivals Everton on loan last summer.

Speaking on the latest episode of Lion’s Den from England’s World Cup camp, though, Henderson could not resist trying to wind up Coady by quizzing him on his allegiances.

“Conor, we are all England here,” Henderson said. “But what I really want to know is: are you blue or red?”

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Henderson then started laughing, which prompted a similar response from Coady, who appeared both irritated and amused by the question.

“It’s so poor from him,” Coady said while smiling. “We have banter all the time. Of course, I am playing for Everton. He knows deep down.

Harry Symeou hosts Scott Saunders and Toby Cudworth to look back on South Korea/Japan ’02 as part of the ‘Our World Cup’ series. We take a trip down memory lane – join us!

If you can’t see the podcast embed, click here to download or listen to the episode in full!

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“So, for him to come out there and ask that question is daft. Of course, I am blue. Of course, I am blue, without a shadow of a doubt.

“For him to say that…you know what I am going to go back there sit down and have a coffee with him. I will give him a bit. That’s nowhere near good enough from the big fella. Blue all day long.”

Everton have a clause allowing them to sign Coady permanently from Wolves this summer for a fee of just £4.5m.



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