32 Teams Entered, 2 Remain. Your Ultimate Guide to the World Cup Final

For many football fans, an England-France World Cup final would have been a dream. After all, those two countries clashed the Hundred Years’ War. A ten-decade-long spat, plus a smattering of other conflicts across the ages, tends to sizzle up a soccer rivalry.

Croatia, however, had other ideas. And that’s just fine. The Blazers rallied to beat England in the semifinal, 2-1, with Mario Mandzukic scoring the deciding goal in extra time. After Mandzukic’s strike, the Croatian players trampled photographer Yuri Cortez while celebrating. Cortez, to his everlasting credit, kept snapping his camera at the bottom of the dogpile. (He got some wonderful shots.) After the Croatian players realized they almost crushed a working photographer, a few patted him on the shoulder, or made sure he was okay. One kissed him.

So Croatia’s got some underdog charm. With a population of 4.1 million — about the same as Oregon — Croatia is the second-least populated country to ever reach the World Cup final. Only Uruguay, which won the titles in 1930 and 1950, has fewer people. Croatia entered the tournament a 33-1 longshot to win the whole thing. It’s still a relatively young nation, having declared independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 and fought through the Balkans conflicts in the 1990s, during which thousands of Croatians were killed.

“Like many countries which had to win independence the hard way, we are proud,” says Pjer Šimunović, Croatia’s ambassador to the United States.

That pride’s now causing earthquakes. Seismic instruments in Zagreb picked up tremors after Mandzukic scored his goal, and after the ref blew the final whistle to end the game. A World Cup win could break the Richter scale. “Everybody in the world will certainly now know more about that small country which was able to go that far,” says Šimunović. “This is immeasurably important.”

But France, the betting favorite at -220 (risk $ 220 to win $ 100), would love to crush Croatia’s dreams. The World Cup final airs on Sunday, at 11 a.m. eastern time, on Fox. Here’s your handy guide to the big game.

Rainbow 2.0

France won its only World Cup 20 years ago, when it hosted the most popular sporting event on the globe. That multicultural squad, known as the “Rainbow Team,” was composed of players with roots in North Africa, West Africa, the Caribbean, the Pacific islands, Armenia and the Basque country. Many people in France expected the victory to win widespread support for immigrant communities. They also expected France to win more World Cups.

Neither, to this point, has happened. Two decades later, far-right populism has caught fire across Europe; in France and elsewhere, a number of politicians have taken anti-immigrant stances. On the pitch, France failed to advance to the knockout stage at the 2002 World Cup; four years later, Les Blues reached the final against Italy, but Zinedine Zidane’s headbutt of Italy’s Marco Materazzi in that game overshadowed the accomplishment. Italy took the penalty shootout.

France’s 2010 World Cup effort was disastrous. French striker Nicolas Anelka was sent home for cursing at his coach: the players boycotted a day of training, a top official resigned in disgust, and France failed to win a game. Les Blues reached the quarterfinals in Brazil four years later, and as host county of the 2016 Euros, made it to the final before losing to Cristiano Ronaldo and Portugal.

So France will try to take care of unfinished business. Like the ’98 Rainbow Team, the 2018 incarnation of Les Blues is incredibly diverse: 17 of the 23 players on the roster are sons of first-generation immigrants. Win or lose, dreams of a more unified France will flourish once again.

Croatia 101

Croatians have made their mark on American culture. The late Drazen Petrovic and Toni Kukoc exported their basketball talents to the NBA back in the 1990s; now, Dario Saric (Philadephia 76ers) and Bojan Bogdanovic (Indiana Pacers) are solid pros. Croatian sculptor Ivan Mestrovic produced two bronze statues depicting mounted Native American warriors; installed in 1928, they flank the Congress Plaza entrance to Chicago’s Grant Park. Goran Ivanisevic won Wimbledon, in 2001. Before he lost his belt to Daniel Cormier last weekend, Stipe Miocic — an American who’s the son of Croatian immigrants — was the UFC heavyweight champ. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, some 400,000 Croatian-Americans live in the U.S. Game of Thrones is filmed in Dubrovnik, Croatia; Star Wars: The Last Jedi also shot scenes in the city.

Still, before this World Cup, Croatia wasn’t exactly top of mind for most Americans. “Most people know of it here,” says Indiana University visiting lecturer Teuta Ismaili, who teaches Croatian at the school. “But they think the war is still going on.”

So what should you know about Croatia? First, the country’s home to some of the world’s most scenic beaches and islands, along the Adriatic coast. Travel and tourism accounts for about a quarter of Croatia’s GDP, which is well above the 10.3% average for the European Union. If you want to drink like a Croatian at your World Cup viewing party, serve Rakija, a 40% alcohol-by-volume spirit. And be sure to make some Burek, layers of dough filled with cheese.

The World Cup’s psychic lift has arrived at an opportune time. Since Croatia joined the European Union in 2013, net migration from the country has averaged around 17,000 people. Youth unemployment remains high, at 33%. Croatia came out of a six-year recession in 2015, but economic growth remains slow.

“This is the best thing the could happen right now to Croatia,” says Ismaili. “Family and friends back home say the atmosphere is positive. People were mad at the politicians, mad about the economy. But they’re finally having that feeling of ‘wow, we are important again. We really mean something.’ We really need that right now.”

Mbappé Mania

French forward Kylian Mbappé, 19, is the breakout star of this World Cup. Against Argentina in the Round of 16, Mbappé — the son of a Cameroonian father and Algerian mother — became the first teenager since Pele in 1958 to score two goals in a single World Cup match. Versus Belgium in the semis, Mbappé delivered a magical pass off his back heel to Olivier Giroud; Belgian goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois blocked the shot, but that didn’t stop the internet from losing its mind.

Both Neymar, the Brazilian star, and Mbappé joined French club Paris Saint-Germain (PSG) last summer for ungodly sums of money. PSG paid Barcelona a $ 263 million transfer fee for Neymar, and agreed to pay him $ 53 million a year, for five years. PSG got Mbappé from Monaco for about $ 200 million. For years, Neymar has positioned himself as the world’s undisputed best player, should Ronaldo and Lionel Messi ever decline or step aside. But during this World Cup, Neymar’s histrionics stood out more than his play. Given Mbappe’s speed, skill, and maturity, he may be a rightful heir.

“If I were a big soccer club with all the money in the world, and I could sign one player,” says former Trinidad and Tobago goalkeeper Shaka Hislop, an ESPN analyst, “it would be Mbappé.”

Modric Magic

On the Croatian side, Luca Modric — a midfielder for Real Madrid — is the player to watch. “He’s cool and calm on the ball, and one of the best passers in the world,” says Hislop. “You can’t pressure him into making a mistake.” He can also shoot from distance, with unexpected power. Modric, 32, does not cut an imposing figure. You can picture playing against him in your Thursday night men’s league. “If you breathe on him too strong, you can imagine flying out of the stadium,” says Hislop. “But he’s the complete package, deceptively packaged.”

Odd side note: Modric is facing perjury charges in Croatia, in connection with testimony he gave in a financial fraud case against a former soccer executive. If found guilty, Modric could face up to five years in prison. So any victory celebration might not last too long.

And The Winner Is …

“I like France to win it,” says Hislop. “France has looked very balanced throughout the tournament.” Les Blues won their first two games in the group stage, before playing Denmark to a 0-0 draw. France hasn’t needed any extra time in its three knockout round victories; Croatia, meanwhile, needed extra time and penalty shots to get by Denmark and Russia, and scored in the 109th minute against England. In all, Croatia has played 90 minutes of extra time, the equivalent of a full additional game, while France will also enjoy an extra day of rest between the semifinal and final. Croatia’s fatigue factor, plus France’s raw talent — the defensive pairing of Barcelona star Samuel Umtiti and Real Madrid’s Raphael Varane give Les Blues an advantage — make France the safer pick.

Croatia, however, hasn’t tired out yet. England was the more rested team going into the semifinal, but Croatia looked more energetic in extra time. So don’t doubt Croatia’s readiness to outclass France, and parade the World Cup trophy around Zagreb, of all places.

Sports – TIME

ENTERTAINMENT DEAL UPDATE:

Grace Wardle and Frankie Foster have been axed from ‘Love Island’ – as two new Islanders entered the villa

OHMYGOSSIP — Grace Wardle and Frankie Foster have been axed from ‘Love Island’ – as two new Islanders entered the villa. The 25-year-old hairdresser and the 22-year-old student were dumped from the famous villa during Monday’s (09.07.18) episode of the ITV2 reality show, after they failed to secure the public’s vote for favourite girl and favourite boy currently on the show.

Islanders were sent a text message during the show telling them the public had been voting for their favourites, before revealing the bottom three girls as Megan, Ellie, and Grace, and the boys as Frankie, Charlie, and Josh.

Another text then revealed that Grace and Frankie had received the fewest votes, and would therefore be going home. But despite being prematurely dumped from the show, hairdresser Grace is “feeling positive” about her experience in the villa. When asked in her post-exit interview how she feels following her eviction, she said: “I’m feeling positive. I feel like I’ve had an amazing experience. I was overwhelmed to even make it into the main villa from Casa Amor so I feel privileged that I’ve had the best of both, that I experienced Casa Amor and that I experienced going into the main villa.”

The beauty was “shocked” at the news of the surprise dumping, but admits she wasn’t surprised to find herself in the bottom three. She added: “I think that we were all very shocked when the text came into the villa that there was going to be a dumping. I don’t think it was a shock that myself, Megan and Ellie were announced as being the public’s bottom three girls in the villa. I think people were more shocked that Frankie left and are more upset about that, for Samira’s sake. It is unfortunate that the first guy Samira gelled with in five weeks has gone.”

However, fans won’t have much time to mourn Grace and Frankie’s eviction, as it was also announced during Monday’s show that two new boys are on their way to the villa. Kieran Nicholls, a 26-year-old personal trainer, and Idris Virgo, a 25-year-old boxer, will join the remaining contestants this week, and are set to cause drama as both boys have their eye on Kaz, who is already coupled up with Josh.

Idris said: “I’ve got my eye on Kaz, Georgia and Samira. I know some of the girls are coupled up, like Kaz with Josh, so it would be a challenge with her but I’ll find a way of stealing Kaz because she is my type. I don’t mind stepping on people’s toes.”

Whilst Kieran added: “I’ve got my eye on Kaz in terms of looks and personality. She has her head screwed on and she knows where she wants to be and that’s a trait I look for. Megan is also pretty hot. Maybe she might meet someone like me who will tame her.”

Find us also on Twitter @OHMYGOSSIP and @OHMYGOSSIP_USA

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32 Teams Entered, 16 Remain. Your Ultimate Guide to the World Cup Knockout Stage

Germany is gone. For the fourth time in the last five World Cups, the event’s defending champion was bounced from the tournament after the group stage, as South Korea’s stunning 2-0 victory on Wednesday sent the 2014 winners home.

The result inspired a few incredible scenes — for example, South Korea’s victory enabled Mexico to advance to the round of 16 knockout stage. So people in Mexico City did what any sane soccer fans would do: they went berserk outside the South Korean embassy while urging the consul general, Han Byoung-jin, to down tequila shots (he complied). In Brazil — which still hasn’t quite gotten over Germany’s 7-1 humiliation of the home team during the 2014 World Cup semifinals — several maniacs staged a mock funeral for Germany, parading down a street with caskets draped in the German flag.

Sometimes, sports fans are the best.

Senegal is gone, too. But how can one not feel sympathy, given the way they were eliminated? The Lions of Teranga lost their final game to Colombia, 1-0, meaning that both Senegal and Japan finished with four points in the Group stage. Only one of the teams could advance — Colombia topped the group — putting FIFA’s byzantine tiebreaker rules into play. First up: goal differential. But both Senegal and Japan scored and gave up four goals in the group stage. Next: most goals stored. That metric left them tied, too. The most logical first tie-breaker — head-to-head results between the two teams — is lower on FIFA’s list, for some reason, not that it mattered here: Japan and Senegal played to a 2-2 draw on June 24. So for the first time in World Cup history, the “fair play” tiebreaker came into play. Japan advanced because the referees issues six yellow cards to Senegal, but only four to Japan.

Sure, this World Cup has taught us an important lesson: Behave on the field, or it can cost you. Still, FIFA needs to create better tie-breakers. (Here are some worthy ideas, like results against a group’s top team, or flying both teams to a pre-game penalty shootout before the knockout stage.) Leave the cards to poker.

The group stage offered its share of excitement to be sure. But now the World Cup moves to the knockout round. Sixteen teams remain, and it’s win or go home. No more ties mean penalty shootouts — flawed but exciting — are sure to determine some winners.

Here’s TIME’s handy guide for 2018 FIFA World Cup knockout round.

You can still binge watch

American audiences will undoubtedly miss the daily group stage triple headers, which aired at convenient though perhaps productivity-stifling hours (so what?). This past week was even better: four games a day. The knockout stage is bittersweet in this regard. The stakes are higher, but there are fewer games from this point out.

Still, the round of 16 will give viewers plenty of sports-watching distraction. Enjoy the four straight days of doubleheaders in the schedule below, all times ET.

Saturday, June 30
France vs. Argentina, 10 a.m. on Fox
Uruguay vs. Portugal, 2 p.m. on Fox

Sunday, July 1
Spain vs. Russia, 10 a.m. on Fox
Croatia vs. Denmark, 2 p.m. on Fox

Monday, July 2
Brazil vs. Mexico, 10 a.m. on FS1
Belgium vs. Japan, 2 p.m. on Fox

Tuesday, July 3
Sweden vs. Switzerland 10 a.m. on FS1
Colombia vs. England, 2 p.m. on Fox

The knockout stage brackets aren’t loaded with geopolitical sizzle (thanks to American soccer incompetence, Russia and the U.S. won’t be facing each other on the field, for instance). Still, there’s plenty of intrigue on the board. Brazil and Argentina are blood rivals, and they could meet in the semifinals. How about a Denmark-Sweden semi, in a battle for Scandinavian supremacy? An England-France final would settle some scores. A Spain-Portugal rematch is worth cheering for, too — the teams played to a 3-3 tie in the group stage, with Cristiano Ronaldo putting up a hat trick for Portugal. That match was one of the finest in World Cup history. Just picture them meeting up for the championship (and fine, go ahead and picture Ronaldo ripping off his shirt after winning his first World Cup, too).

English Renaissance

In 1966, England defeated West Germany, 4-2, in the final to win the country’s first, and still only, World Cup. England hasn’t been to the semis since 1990. This underachievement — relatively speaking — doesn’t sit too well in London and Liverpool. But England has looked impressive in Russia. The Three Lions won their first two games, trouncing Panama 6-1 in the process. Even Thursday’s loss to Belgium was fortuitous: by finishing second in its group behind Belgium, England avoided Brazil, five-time World Cup champ and home to superstar Neymar Jr., in its quadrant.

An extended World Cup run for England, however, could trigger a national emergency. A carbon dioxide shortage has forced some beer rationing in the U.K.; pubs without pints for a World Cup final are like humans without hearts.

Video Star

This World Cup has introduced VAR — Video-Assisted Referees — into the global vernacular, which has been a positive development. Because for all the handwringing about delays as officials review the replays, and the intrusion of technology into what will always be a sweat-and-tears athletic endeavor, the bottom line is this: so far, VAR has helped get several important calls correct. Which is always worth it. Here’s a safe bet: a knockout stage game will come down to a controversial decision. And video review will offer a just result.

And Speaking of Betting…

Who, you may ask, is going to win this World Cup? Brazil is the favorite, according to Oddschecker.com, at 15/4, followed by Spain at 19/4 and Belgium at 15/2. A Brazil-Belgium quarterfinal would be a potential championship-level match in an earlier round: with Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany returning from an injury, don’t be shocked to see Belgium survive its challenging draw — and hoisting the country’s first-ever World Cup trophy on July 15 in Moscow.

Sports – TIME

ENTERTAINMENT DEAL UPDATE:

Prince Harry Reveals He Entered Therapy After 2 Years of ‘Total Chaos’ in His Late 20s

Prince Harry spoke candidly about normalizing mental health struggles  — including his own unprocessed grief after the loss of his mother — with the Telegraph‘s Bryony Gordon in the first episode of her new podcast Mad World.

“I’ve spent most of my life saying ‘I’m fine’ … and most of us aren’t up for going that deep. So today I’m OK. I’m a little bit nervous. I’m a little bit tight in the chest but otherwise fine,” Harry, 32, revealed during their half-hour conversation, which also discussed his mental health charity, Heads Together, with Prince William and Princess Kate.

Harry also said that losing his mom Princess Diana in 1997 on the “public platform” affected his personal and public life, and consequently his mental health.

“I can safely say that losing my mom at the age of 12 and therefore shutting down all of my emotions for the last 20 years has had quite a serious effect on not only my personal life but also my work as well.”

FROM COINAGE: See Where 6 Stars Were Before They Were Famous

He continued, “My way of dealing with it was sticking my head in the sand, refusing to ever think about my mum because why would that help?”

After years not thinking about it and being “a problem” through a lot of his 20s, he says he experienced two years of “total chaos.” So with the “huge support” of his brother when he was 28, he began seeking professional help, telling Gordon he saw a therapist “more than a couple of times.” He also credited boxing as a coping mechanism.

RELATED VIDEO: The Story Behind the Story – Interviewing Prince Harry

“I was on the verge of punching someone,” he revealed.

Now, the prince says he is in a “good place” — and already a godfather, he admitted he would love to have kids. (He is getting serious with American girlfriend Meghan Markle, after all.)

“Because of the process that I’ve been through over the last 2½-3 years, I’ve now been able to take my work seriously, be able to take my private life seriously as well, and be able to put blood, sweat and tears into the things that really make a difference,’ he said.

Royal or not, “No matter who you are, the conversation has to be the beginning,” Harry said.

 

 


PEOPLE.com

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