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  1. Sweden's defender and team captaian Andreas Granqvist addresses a press conference on June 12, 2018 at Spartak stadium in Gelendzhik, ahead of the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament. Photo: AFP 3GELENDZHIK, Russia: Sweden have moved on...
  2. The 2018 FIFA World Cup is less than a week away, and there are many notable absentees who have seen their name excluded from the final 23-man squad lists released by respective federations of the participating countries. Some of them haven't recovered from injury in time, while the others have been overlooked by their national team managers for different reasons. Here's a look at the top five players who will not be seen plying their trade in Russia. 1. Radja Nainggolan (Belgium) © Reuters It was a surprise for many when Nainggolan was not included in Belgium's 23-man squad for the World Cup, the strained relationship with manager Roberto Martinez offering a clue to the decision. After not being selected for qualifiers in September last year, the Roma midfielder announced his retirement from international football, only to be called-up by Martinez for friendlies in November. An injury forced him to pull out and he has not represented Belgium ever since. He earned 30 caps for his nation before announcing his retirement after the World Cup snub. 2. Dani Alves (Brazil) © Reuters Brazil were handed a huge blow after Dani Alves' knee injury in the Coupe de France final ruled him out of the World Cup. The Brazilian Football Confederation said in a statement, that the Paris Saint-Germain full back will need surgery. "It is impossible to call Dani Alves for the period of preparation, friendlies and, consequently, the World Cup," the CBF said. CBF coordinator Edu Gaspar said Alves was teary-eyed but insisted that the team must enter the competition with "positive energy." "We will not miss only Dani as a player. We lost a leader, a champion," Gaspar said. "But he told us to take some positive energy, he doesn't want people to be upset for him." 3. Leroy Sane (Germany) © Reuters The PFA Young Player of the Year hit 14 goals and provided 19 assists in all competitions for Manchester City, as they cruised to the Premier League title, breaking records for number of wins, points won and goals scored. Sane's omission was the most surprising of the lot when Germany announced their travelling squad on 4th of June. When asked about Sane's omission, coach Joachim Low said it was an incredibly difficult decision choosing between Julian Brandt and Sane which, in the end, went in favour of the Bayer Leverkusen winger. 4. Dimitri Payet (France) © Reuters After lighting up France with emphatic displays at the Euros two years ago, Dimitri Payet has long established himself as one of the key players for Les Blues. Payet was having a fine campaign with French side Marseille until injury ruled him out for the rest of the remainder of the domestic season. The 31-year old midfielder was withdrawn in the first half of Marseille's Europe League final against Atlético Madrid. Later, the medical reports confirmed that the injury effectively ended his World Cup dream as well. In the 2017-18 season, Payet had a hand in 40 goals (10 goals and 20 assists) across all competitions. His absence from the France attack will be a huge let down for coach Didier Deschamps. 5. Mauro Icardi (Argentina) © Reuters Despite scoring 29 Serie A goals in 34 matches in the past domestic campaign, Icardi was overlooked from Argentina's 23-man squad for the World Cup. The Inter Milan forward is a high-profile casualty, but it shows the incredible attacking depth the La Albiceleste possess. Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain are the chosen men to lead the Argentina attack, and while it is difficult to argue about the quality of the selected forwards, Icardi's wife surely didn't hold back. Speaking to Perros de la Calle, an Argentinian radio station, she said "Maybe now isn't the time, but he's calmly waiting for his chance to play. These are things with no explanation, what's happening to Mauro is an injustice - he deserves to be there. He has everything to be in the national team, in terms of age and performance."
  3. The 2018 FIFA World Cup is just around the corner and despite all the pre-tournament noise, football's gala event barely explodes to life in the initial stages. That said, the group stages of the World Cup still catch the fancy of the footballing world, despite a whole host of mismatches and the spectacle in Russia will be no different. While pre-tournament favourites like Germany, Spain and Brazil are expected to breeze through their relatively straightforward groups, there will, nevertheless, be quite a few interesting matchups in the first round. From games having star names lining up against each other to ties where both teams are equally fancied, here is a list of the most anticipated clashes of the group stages: Egypt vs Uruguay (15th June) © Reuters This will be a clash between Liverpool's former favourite and current favourite. Egypt's Mohamed Salah is a doubt to feature in the game but Uruguay's Luis Suarez will be chomping at the bit to help his side gain an early advantage in what looks to be a ridiculously understrength Group A. Portugal vs Spain (15th June) © Reuters Cristiano Ronaldo coming up against his Real Madrid teammates of Spain will be a battle worth watching. The Euro 2016 champions Portugal will have their task cut out against what is a well-drilled Spanish unit but it could also turn out to be a personal battle between Ronaldo and La Roja goalie David de Gea. Portugal vs Morocco (20th June) © Reuters Although a mismatch on paper, Morocco are a collection of some fine young talents from Europe and could be more than a match for what is an ageing Portugal side. Morocco's talented playmaker Hakim Ziyech is a shot monster and could pose quite a few problems for the lumbering Portuguese defence led by the 35-year-old Pepe. Argentina vs Croatia (21st June) © Reuters Argentina have some of the most fearsome attackers on the planet led by the talismanic Leo Messi but their other areas look unsurprisingly weak. This Group D game will pit the lopsided Albiceleste against Croatia's midfield geniuses of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic and Ivan Perisic hence will be an intriguing battle. Nigeria vs Iceland (22nd June) © Reuters This game has very narrow odds considering the strength of the two teams. Nigeria are unpredictable as ever while the pluck of Iceland will be their main asset going into what could be the most decisive game in Group D, as the other two teams – Argentina and Croatia – lock horns 21 hours earlier. Serbia vs Switzerland (22nd June) © Reuters Group E already has the look of Brazil topping it, therefore this clash between two mid-level European teams could go a long way in deciding who follows the South Americans into the knockout stages. Both Serbia and Switzerland have equal odds heading into this game and a fascinating clash of differing European footballing styles awaits. Mexico vs Sweden (27th June) © Reuters Germany are the clear favourites in Group F, hence this clash looks to be a virtual decider of who finishes behind die Mannschaft in the group. Mexico, the CONCACAF heavyweights who have never set a World Cup alight despite the plethora of talent at their disposal, will face a highly disciplined Swedish unit who will be without the retired Zlatan Ibrahimovic. England vs Belgium (28th June) © Reuters The final day of the group stages brings about the highly-anticipated Group G clash between England and Belgium. 11 of Belgium's 23-man squad ply their trade in England's Premier League, hence the Red Devils will be no strangers to their opponents but England – with their youthful squad – will have nothing to fear against one of the favourites. A pulsating clash is on the cards which could well decide who ends up as group winners.
  4. After Germany's triumphant run in 2014, FIFA World Cup is back to hand 32 participating nations a lucrative opportunity to etch their name in the history books and taste glory at the biggest stage this year. With four teams clubbed in each group, the tournament – slated to begin from 14th June – is expected to unfold old rivalries and intense battles as early as the group stage. Given the availability of various exciting talents on offer, the upcoming edition is likely to witness many old records fall in Russia. From Egypt's goalkeeper who will be playing at the age of 45 to Lionel Messi's charge to pip Diego Maradona who scored six goals as captain for Argentina, here's a look at five records that are likely to be broken in the World Cup: Oldest Player © AP The previous record for the oldest player belonged to Faryd Mondragon from Colombia. He appeared in the 2014 World Cup at the age of 43, playing in their 4-1 win over Japan in the group stages. The goalkeeper has made 51 appearances for the South American nation. Others in the bracket include Peter Shilton, Dino Zoff and Roger Milla. The current record for the oldest player at the 2018 World Cup belongs to Egypt's Essam El-Hadary, who will be 45 when he appears for the African nation. 'The High Dam', as he is known as, will be making his debut at a World Cup, beating the record for the oldest player to make his debut. The record previously belonged to David James, who was 39 when he appeared for England in 2010. Most Wins For A Coach © AP West Germany Helmut Schon holds the record for coaching the most matches (25) and winning the most matches (16). Under his leadership, Germany won Euro 1972 and the World Cup in 1974, famously beating Cryuff's Netherlands in the finals. He became one of the first recipients of the FIFA Order of Merit in 1984. This record might be broken by the present Germany coach- Joachim Low. Having won five from 2010, and 6 in 2014, Low needs to win all 7 games if Germany were to defend their title. Having won 107 of his 161 matches as coach, Low has a winning percentage of a staggering 68 percent, ahead of Jupp Derwall and Berti Vogts. Most Wins In Penalty Shootouts © AP Penalty shootouts are make or break, seen in Netherland's loss on penalties in the 2014 World Cup to Argentina. Ron Vlaar and Wesley Sneijder failed to convert their penalties, leading Argentina to their third World Cup final appearance, and first since 1990. England have lost the most, losing thrice (1990,1998 and 2006). Argentina have played and won the most penalty shootouts in World Cup history. Winning in 1990 twice, then against England in the quarterfinals in 1998 and the semifinal win over the Netherlands in 2014. Their only loss came against Germany in 2006, where Jens Lehmann was the hero for Die Mannschaft. Germany also holds the joint record for most won. They have won it in 1982, 1986, 1990 and 2006. M&Ms In The Hunt For Maradona © AP Teammates are Barcelona from 2004 to 2010, Mexico captain Rafael Marquez and Lionel Messi will both be chasing records held by Maradona at Russia 2014. At 39, Marquez or El Kaiser as he is famously known, became the first player to captain his national team in five consecutive editions of the FIFA World Cup (2002,2006,2010, 2014 and 2018). Messi, after a sublime 2017-18 season at Barcelona, will be looking to lead Argentina to the one trophy which has eluded him. Maradona has scored six goals as captain, while Messi scored four at Brazil 2014. He requires one to go joint second with Rummenigge and Matthaus and one to equal his compatriot. In a group containing Nigeria, Iceland and Croatia, the magician can conjure up a piece of magic anytime in what is dubbed the Group of Death. Maradona has also captained Argentina 16 times in World Cups, and Marquez will look to go past this record in the group stage. The Mexican currently has captained Argentina 14 times. Muller Is Klose To A Record © AP The Bayern Munich midfielder, who plays in the dangerous false nine position for Germany, won the Golden Boot in the 2010 World Cup, and came a close second to James Rodriguez in Brazil. Muller has scored a total of 10 goals, 5 each in the previous two World Cups. The record has eluded Ronaldo and Pele, and even Gerd Muller, fondly known as Der Bomber. Compatriot Klose netted five times each at Korea/Japan 2002 and Germany 2006, with a close four in 2010. Peru's Teofilo Cubillas did the same at Mexico (1970) and Argentina (1978). Muller will be smacking his lips in anticipation when Germany take on Mexico, Sweden and South Korea in Group F. He can become the first player to score more than four times in three World Cups.
  5. India beat Pakistan by 7 wickets. Photo: ACCKUALA LUMPUR: India beat Pakistan by seven wickets in the Women's Twenty20 Asia Cup on Saturday, June 9 at Kinrara Academy Oval.Batting first, Pakistan put up a target of 72 runs. Only two Pakistani...
  6. Pakistan captain scored a quick 37-ball 62. Photo: ICCKUALA LUMPUR: Pakistan beat Malaysia by 23 runs in the Women's Twenty20 Asia Cup on Thursday, June 7 at Kinrara Academy Oval.Batting first, Pakistan put up a target of 178 runs. Despite losing...
  7. A match-winning spell of five for 21 by Nida Dar helped Pakistan to a 23-run win against Sri Lanka. Photo: ACC KUALA LUMPUR: Pakistan women's team beat Sri Lanka by 23 runs in the Women's Twenty20 Asia Cup on Wednesday, June 6 at Kinrara Academy...
  8. Pakistan's women team lost their second match of the Women's T20 Asia Cup Tournament by a margin of seven wickets against Bangladesh on Monday at Kinrara Academy Oval, Kuala Lumpur. Photo: ESPNPakistan's women team lost their second match of the...
  9. Nahida Khan (L) and Javeria Khan in action during Women's Asia Cup opener against Thailand. Photo: ACCA brilliant spin show by Pakistan, complemented by dominant batting by Nahida Khan, led Pakistan to an eight-wicket win against Thailand on the...