Mandzukic out to repeat heroics against French stars

It’s time for the final of the 2018 FIFA World Cup with France going head-to-head against Croatia. Nicholas Carroll and Chloe Beresford provide their final tournament fantasy picks from the two nations remaining.

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Modric crucial to beating England’s Pickford (and stopping football coming home)

The semi-finals are almost here so Nicholas Carroll and Chloe Beresford are back to pick their best fantasy team of 11 from the four remaining teams at the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

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Lukaku and Kane: Why Golden Boot Rivals are Key for Club and Country


Harry Kane” by enviro warrior (CC BY-SA 2.0)

The Premier League was blessed to have prolific founding fathers like Alan Shearer, Robbie Fowler and Andy Cole, yet among the youngest to reach the 100 club are Romelu Lukaku and Harry Kane.

Both these undoubted talents – one imported as a teenager by Chelsea from Belgium, the other a homegrown beneficiary of the loan system to Spurs – have been battling over the Golden Boot in the league they’ve grown up watching and matured playing in.

This duel of deadly strikers could now place out on the grandest stage of all, the 2018 World Cup finals in Russia. To all intents and purposes, the Group G between Belgium and England is a dead rubber as both are through to the knockout phase of the tournament come what may.

Belgian boss Roberto Martinez has even clearly said he’s prepared to rest players for a match that only really determines who tops the pool. Neither he nor Three Lions counterpart Gareth Southgate know before their sides face off who they’ll get in the last 16 – other than it won’t be Poland.

Try telling Lukaku and Kane the game doesn’t matter. Both are among the leading contenders to be World Cup top goalscorer having struck at least twice in each of their opening two games.

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo is very much in the mix for the Golden Boot, too, yet any potential head-to-head with either lethal Lukaku or crafty penalty box presence Kane is some way off.

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Both will be desperate to play because, if key defenders are rested by either side for their clash in Kaliningrad, they’ll feel confident of adding to their tournament tallies.

Kane came into this World Cup off the back of a 40-goal season for Tottenham across all competitions. Last term was also the third consecutive campaign in which he struck 25 times or more in the Premier League.

On England duty, meanwhile, Kane was named national captain for the tournament by Southgate ahead of Liverpool midfielder Jordan Henderson – who skippers his club side.

After picking a squad of young, emerging players to send to Russia, the Three Lions have flourished without the weight of hype and expectation that was placed upon previous generations.

As ex-England manager Sam Allardyce said in an interview with William Hill, we all expect Kane to score the goals. And he has, leading from the front and by example, more than doubled his international tally in the last 12 months.

That includes a brace against Malta and a hat-trick when playing Panama, but they all count. Kane has taken the responsibility for penalties and dispatches them with the same aplomb as one of his Three Lions predecessors Shearer.


Romelu Lukaku and Kevin De Bruyne“ (CC BY 2.0) by EDrost88

Lukaku, meanwhile, has already become the Belgium national team’s all-time top scorer aged 24. While his country also has the world-class talent of Eden Hazard to also call upon, so unlike Kane with England the goal burden can be shared, Lukaku certainly hasn’t stepped off the gas.

He’s reached 40 international goals in 71 caps. After Euro 2016, Lukaku had just 17 for Belgium, but has scored 18 since the start of 2017 including three consecutive braces in the World Cup and the final warm-up friendly.

A £75,000,000 (plus add-ons) pricetag that accompanied his move from Everton to Manchester United can’t have weighed too heavily either. Lukaku netted more club goals in a single season than ever before in his maiden campaign at Old Trafford.

Both he and Kane are key for club and country because they simply scoring goals more than anyone else. There’s every chance one or other of them could add a World Cup Golden Boot to their list of honours too.


Historic win for Japan as Colombia see red

695113-reuters-japan-colombiaJapan kicked off their World Cup campaign against Colombia in the smallest host city of the World Cup, Mordovia. In a very competitive Group H alongside Senegal and Poland there was no guarantee of progressing from the group stages for either side. Both Japan and Colombia met in the group stages four years ago in Brazil with the South Americans coming up trumps in a 4-1 victory. Two of the scorers that day for Colombia were Jackson Martinez who was not called up to the squad and James Rodriguez who sees muscle problems resign him to a role among the substitutes; the other scorer Juan Cuadrado started on the right wing. Japan’s scorer that day was Shinji Okazaki who also shared the unfortunate fate of Rodriguez, slight muscle fatigue seeing Yuya Osaka, relegated with Koln last season in the Bundesliga, start in the striker position.

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