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France manager makes shock decision over Benzema replacement

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France head coach Didier Deschamps has caused a commotion in the wake of confirming that he won’t hit up a substitution following Karim Benzema’s physical issue just before the World Cup.

The Ballon d’Or winner had been a doubt going into the tournament after missing a number of matches for Real Madrid with various different niggles, but picked up a fresh problem in training on Saturday.

Benzema suffered a thigh strain – which Deschamps has now revealed happened when he struck a ball, not from jogging as was reported by French media – and would have spent at least three weeks on the sidelines.

The defending World Cup champions are blessed with an abundance of attacking talent, however, and Manchester United’s Anthony Martial was one of three players linked with a late call up.

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Deschamps had until Monday evening to decide on a replacement – with Monaco’s Wissam Ben Yedder and Bayer Leverkusen’s Moussa Diaby the other two options – but he has now made the surprising decision not to call up a replacement.

Despite the earlier injury blow to Christopher Nkunku, the 54-year-old coach claims his side already have enough attackers and he will make do with the options at his disposal.

“It’s obviously a big blow to lose Karim. He had done everything [to be available], so had we. He was in a session and felt pain in his other leg after an innocuous action,’ explained Deschamps to Telefoot on Sunday.

“The scans confirmed that unfortunately it is too big a strain compared to the schedule that awaits us. Will he be replaced? No.”

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Asked why, he responded bluntly: “Because I decided, simple.”

Source: Metro

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Football

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

Refresh later…

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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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Croatia vs Belgium – World Cup: Team news, lineups & prediction

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Croatia face Belgium on Thursday afternoon in a meeting between two medallists from the 2018 World Cup.

Both sides may have reached the semi-finals in Russia but a passage to the round of 16 in Qatar is not certain for either nation heading into the final game of Group F.

Zlatko Dalic’s runners-up are better placed after victory against Canada took them to four points; a draw would send Croatia through. Belgium’s position is more precarious in the wake of a limp loss to Morocco.

Roberto Martinez’s side could theoretically qualify with one more point but only if winless Canada defeat Morocco by four or more goals in the other group game. A win would confirm Belgium’s qualification and leave Croatia sweating over Morocco’s result.

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Here’s everything you need to know about a devilishly poised encounter.

Croatia vs Belgium H2H Results (All Time)

Current Form (Last Five Games)

Croatia team news

Nikola Vlasic started Croatia’s opener against Morocco but was removed with a calf problem at half-time. The West Ham loanee recovered to make the bench against Canada but his replacement, Marko Livaja, delivered a strong argument to retain his starting berth with a crisply struck goal.

The arrival of a traditional striker shifted Andrej Kramaric to the right wing, where he scored twice on Sunday afternoon.

Croatia Starting 11 (4-3-3): Livakovic; Juranovic, Lovren, Gvardiol, Sosa; Modric, Brozovic, Kovacic; Kramaric, Livaja, Perisic.
Bench: Grbic, Ivusic, Erlic, Vida, Sutalo, Barisic, Stanisic, Jakic, Sucic, Majer, Osric, Pasalic, Petkovic, Budimir, Vlasic.

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Belgium team news

Romelu Lukaku was deemed fit enough to come on for the final ten minutes of Belgium’s surprise defeat to Morocco. The Inter striker hasn’t started a match for club or country since August and may still be short of the fitness required to lead the line. However, with another four days to continue his recovery, Lukaku could make a longer cameo at least.

Amadou Onana will play no part after collecting a second, suspension-inducing booking against the Atlas Lions.

Belgium Starting 11 (3-4-2-1): Courtois; Alderweireld, Vertonghen, Castagne; Meunier, Tielemans, Witsel, Trossard; De Bruyne, E Hazard; Batshuayi.
Bench: Casteels, Mignolet, Debast, Faes, Theate, Dendoncker, Vanaken, De Ketelaere, T Hazard, Carrasco, Doku, Lukaku, Mertens, Openda.

There are a lot of familiar faces in both squads from the podium finishes in 2018 but Belgium seem to be anchored more firmly in the past. Ten players that featured in their semi-final defeat to France four-and-a-half years ago have already appeared this winter.

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Kevin De Bruyne’s pre-tournament admission that his nation has “no chance” of winning the World Cup because “we’re too old” has been painfully apparent in a pair of listless performances.

Martinez pledged: “We will play to win against Croatia and that will be the start of us at this World Cup.” However, if they produce the same lumbering display on Thursday, it will be the end of Belgium at this World Cup.

Prediction: Croatia 2-1 Belgium



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