Wednesday's Sports in Brief

Wednesday's Sports in Brief

WORLD CUP

MOSCOW (AP) — When the final whistle blew and they knew they were going to their first World Cup final, the Croatians ran to their exuberant fans, jumping in their iconic red-and-white checkered jerseys.

Mario Mandzukic scored the winning goal in the 109th minute and Croatia shocked England 2-1 Wednesday.

Croatia, the first team in 28 years to come from behind to win a World Cup semifinal match, will play France for the title on Sunday in its biggest sporting moment since becoming an independent nation in 1991.

France, which won its only title at home in 1998, will have an extra day of rest after beating Belgium 1-0 on Tuesday. Croatia will be coming off its third straight extra-time match.

Defender Sime Vrsaljko kept the score even by heading a shot off the goal line about 10 minutes before Mandzukic scored.

Kevin Trippier curled in a free kick for England in the fifth minute. Ivan Perisic tied the score in the 68th minute.

TENNIS

LONDON (AP) – Roger Federer was a point away from a rather tidy, straight-set victory in the Wimbledon quarterfinals. One lousy point.

And then, slowly, over the next two-plus hours, all the way until the fifth set reached its 24th game, as the temperature dropped and the spectators’ cries of ”Let’s go, Roger!” echoed through the shadows, everything came apart for the eight-time champion. Against an opponent who’d never beaten him nor made it this far at the All England Club.

In a stunning turnaround in an unfamiliar setting – No. 1 Court instead of Centre Court – the top-seeded Federer blew a third-set match point and, eventually, all of his big lead in a 2-6, 6-7 (5), 7-5, 6-4, 13-11 loss to No. 8 Kevin Anderson on Wednesday in a 4-hour, 14-minute tussle.

That was topped by the 4:48 match won by Rafael Nadal over Juan Martin del Potro. He won 7-5, 6-7 (7), 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 and earned a trip to the semifinals at the All England Club for the first time in 11 years.

BASEBALL

NEW YORK (AP) – Washington Nationals slugger Bryce Harper will take on Atlanta Braves first baseman Freddie Freeman in an all-NL East matchup in the first round of the Home Run Derby on Monday night.

The 25-year-old Harper is the second seed at his home ballpark by virtue of his 22 homers through Tuesday’s games. Freeman, the top NL vote-getter for Tuesday night’s All-Star Game at Nationals Park, is the seventh seed with 16 homers.

The field was revealed Wednesday night.

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar faces Philadelphia Phillies slugger Rhys Hoskins in the opening round. Los Angeles Dodgers infielder Max Muncy meets Chicago Cubs infielder Javier Baez, and Houston Astros third baseman Alex Bregman faces Cubs outfielder Kyle Schwarber.

It’s the second Home Run Derby for Harper, and the first for the rest of the field. Harper lost to Yoenis Cespedes in the 2013 final at Citi Field in New York.

Aguilar is the top seed with 23 homers. He also won the final NL roster spot on Wednesday for the All-Star Game.

Baez and Schwarber are the 18th pair of teammates to enter the same Derby.

ALL-STAR VOTE

Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar and Seattle Mariners shortstop Jean Segura have won the final two roster spots for next week’s All-Star Game in Washington.

Major League Baseball released the results of online balloting for the last slot in each league Wednesday night, with Aguilar drawing 20.2 million votes to secure his first All-Star selection. His total was the second-highest in the history of the All-Star Final Vote, trailing only Justin Turner’s 20.8 million votes last year.

The 28-year-old Venezuelan was tied for the National League lead with 23 home runs and becomes the fourth Milwaukee player headed to the game. Brewers outfielders Lorenzo Cain and Christian Yelich had already been chosen, along with reliever Josh Hader.

Segura snagged the last American League spot with 13.6 million votes. He was followed by Boston Red Sox outfielder Andrew Benintendi, New York Yankees slugger Giancarlo Stanton, Minnesota Twins outfielder Eddie Rosario and Los Angeles Angels shortstop Andrelton Simmons.

England vs Croatia, World Cup 2018: What time is kick-off in the semi-final, what TV channel is it on and what's our prediction?

England vs Croatia, World Cup 2018: What time is kick-off in the semi-final, what TV channel is it on and what's our prediction?

England’s next match is against Croatia, with one team booking a place in the World Cup 2018 final – Getty Images

What is it?

It’s the World Cup 2018 semi-final fixture between England and Croatia, England’s first appearance at a World Cup semi-final since 1990.

When is it?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018.

What time is kick-off?

It is a 7pm BST start in the United Kingdom, so plenty of time to get back from work or to find a place to watch the match.

What TV channel is it on?

ITV had first pick and obviously plumped for England. You can also follow the match here with Telegraph Sport, from build-up and team news to the final whistle.

Where is the game being played?

The semi-final between England and Croatia will take place at the Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow. The 80,000-capacity venue will also host the final. It also hosted the 2008 Champions League Final between Manchester United and Chelsea. England have only ever played there once – a 2-1 defeat to Russia in 2007.

England vs Sweden, player ratings

What are they saying?

England manager Gareth Southgate:

“We are a team who are still improving” Southgate said. “We know where we are.

“We are having success because everybody is working so hard, everybody is working hard on the field.

“We are in this position because guys that are in the squad like (Gary) Cahill, (Phil) Jones, (Danny) Welbeck, (Nick) Pope, (Jack) Butland, (Danny) Rose, the older ones, have been exceptional in their mentality, their attitude to support the team, to train every day.

“Even though they’ve not had as much game-time as they would have liked, they are as much of a reason why we are where we are.

All you need to know about Croatia

“I think that collective has been key. All of the support staff, all of the players are really tight. We’ve built that and to get through the two games we’ve had this week needed all of that because we’re not the finished article.

“We don’t have renowned world-class players yet, but lots of good young players who are showing on a world stage that they’re prepared to be brave with the ball, try to play the right way, have shown some mental resilience as well over the last few weeks.

“We know that in years to come, they are going to be stronger. But today was a huge opportunity for us and it was not something we wanted to miss out on.”

England vs Croatia head-to-head

Seven matches: England 4, Croatia 1, Draws 2

In Croatia, England would be facing a side they know only too well. Luka Modric has only enhanced his already sky-high reputation as one of the world’s best midfielders, while Ivans Rakitic and Perisic either side of him are both terrific foils for the Real Madrid maestro.

More than a classy midfield, however, England and Croatia carry history. It was that infamous November night at Wembley that etched Steve McClaren’s umbrella into English footballing folklore. Scott Carson fumbled Niko Kranjcar’s strike into his own net and England missed out on Euro 2008. 

Arguably worse had come a year earlier when a Gary Neville back-pass inexplicably bobbled over Paul Robinson’s right foot. Those two defeats – however harrowing – are the only two. In fact, England lead have won the most recent pair of fixtures by a combined score of 9-2. Theo Walcott scored a memorable hat-trick in Zagreb a decade ago.

What is our prediction?

A close one to call but the momentum and confidence is all with Gareth Southgate’s young charges. We’re still believing it’s coming home.

Our prediction: England 2 Croatia 1

WorldCup – newsletter promo – end of article

Croatia's Vida escapes ban over pro-Ukraine celebration

Croatia's Vida escapes ban over pro-Ukraine celebration

Croatia defender Domagoj Vida dedicated his country’s win over World Cup hosts Russia in the quarter-finals to Ukraine (AFP Photo/Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

Moscow (AFP) – Croatia defender Domagoj Vida escaped a FIFA ban on Sunday after posting a clip dedicating his country’s victory over Russia in the World Cup quarter-final to Ukraine.

Vida scored an extra-time goal and one of Croatia’s penalties in a 4-3 shootout win over the World Cup hosts in Sochi on Saturday.

Croatia will play England in the semi-final on Wednesday and some Russian officials had called on football governing body FIFA to take tough disciplinary measures.

The ponytailed 29-year-old shouted “Glory to Ukraine!” in a video posted by former Croatia international Ognjen Vukojevic shortly after the dramatic finale in Sochi.

Vida used to play for Ukrainian club Dynamo Kiev. Vukojevic also played for the club and now works for them as a scout.

FIFA said it had studied the video and decided to issue a warning to Vida but not take any further measures.

“We can confirm that FIFA’s disciplinary committee has sent a warning to the player Domagoj Vida due to his video statement,” a spokesman told AFP.

“Glory to Ukraine!” was a slogan of the former Soviet republic’s pro-EU revolution that toppled a Russian-backed president in 2014.

The revolt was condemned as illegal by Moscow and sparked a crisis in relations between the two neighbouring states.

It was followed by Russia’s annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula and a pro-Kremlin separatist war in eastern Ukraine that has claimed more than 10,000 lives.

Vukojevic added in the video: “This victory is for Dynamo (Kiev) and for Ukraine! Croatia onwards!”

The clip was picked up by Russian state media and drew condemnation from some officials.

“Such actions should be punished,” parliament’s sports committee member Dmitry Svishchyov told the RIA Novosti state news agency.

“Political, nationalist and racist slogans are not welcome at the World Cup.”

Vida issued a statement distributed by Croatia’s football federation after the FIFA ruling calling the entire incident a misunderstanding.

“I regret that some media representatives have interpreted our communication in such a manner,” he said.

“It was definitely no political message, but a simple thank you for all the support from Ukraine, where Vukojevic and I spent a number of years.”

He had earlier told Russian media that the message was “just a joke”.

Croatia’s football federation added that the players’ message was “intended for their friends in Ukraine”.

“Nonetheless, the Croatian football federation has pointed out to both Vida and Vukojevic, as well as all other internationals, to refrain from any messages that could be politically interpreted in the future,” it said.

German fans are being blamed for empty seats at England’s win over Sweden

German fans are being blamed for empty seats at England’s win over Sweden

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A Germany fan sits dejected in the stands after his team lose the group F match between South Korea and Germany, at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Kazan Arena in Kazan, Russia, Wednesday, June 27, 2018. South Korea won the match 2-0. (AP Photo/Frank Augstein)

England met Sweden in an oddly subdued game, with many of the stadium’s seats left free despite the importance of the World Cup quarter final, and Germany may be to blame.

One report suggests that Germany fans had bought tickets to the game anticipating that they would be the side getting through to the match.

Given Germany suffered a shock group stage exit, that meant that disappointed fans decided not to attend the game, and sent some of their tickets back to FIFA – apparently around 10,000.

England’s FA sold 2,500 of their allocation, which meant that some tickets were going as cheap as £30

Thousands of seats were left empty in England’s game against Sweden in the World Cup quarter final match – after they were reportedly bought in advance by confident Germany fans.

Germany had been one of the favourites of the tournament, along with France, Spain, Brazil and Argentina, with only France remaining.

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Defeats to Mexico and South Korea bookended a remarkable 1-1 draw against Sweden, but it wasn’t enough to get them through to the knockout rounds.

It remains to be seen if the German fans have returned more fans for the next round, and perhaps even the final.

Croatia’s Rakitic thinks playing England at the World Cup is special for one very good reason

Croatia’s Rakitic thinks playing England at the World Cup is special for one very good reason

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England must stop Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic to reach the World Cup final, the Clasico axis around which Croatia spin

Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic was full of praise for England ahead of their World Cup semi-final, for one reason in particular.

Rakitic scored the winning penalty for Croatia against Russia, repeating the same achievement as he did against Denmark in the game before.

Rakitic was the hero against Russia, converting the winning penalty just as he did in the round-of-16 shootout win over Denmark.

The Croatia team of 1998 reached the semi-finals of the World Cup before being knocked out by France as they went on to win the whole tournament against Brazil.

Barcelona midfielder was asked about facing England in the semi-final, and praised England, saying:

Croatia teammate Dejan Lovren, who plays at Liverpool after starting his career in England with Southampton, was also full of kind words for England, but was bullish about his own country’s chances:

“The English side are great and for that reason we have to show even more than we’ve already signed.

“We know we can do better. We know that we’re facing England for a place in the final and now we want to win the trophy.”

READ MORE: Djokovic cannot ignore England’s success as World Cup invades Wimbledon

READ MORE: Confirmed: Theresa May will not attend the World Cup – even if England make it to the final

READ MORE: Sir Geoff Hurst: Southgate reminds me of Alf Ramsey

England will play Croatia on Wednesday night at 7PM GMT.