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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic says Croatia will
carry one another in World Cup final

MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- Croatia midfielder Ivan Rakitic has played down concerns about fatigue, saying his team will be buoyed by overwhelming support from home during Sunday’s World Cup final against France.

Croatia have played more minutes than any other side in the tournament, with each of their three knockout matches - against Denmark, Russia and England - going to extra time.

MeanwhileFrance have beaten Argentina, Uruguay and Belgium in normal time.

Didier Deschamps’ men have also had one more day to recover from their semifinal for Sunday’s duel.

But Rakitic vowed Croatia would find reserves of energy for the clash at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, spurred by the chance to win football’s most coveted trophy for the first time.

"We will carry one another, we will get the energy, we know that this is the biggest game of our lives, and we want to leave the pitch with our heads held high and to be able to say we’ve done everything," the Barcelona midfielder told a press conference.

"We just need a little bit of luck to get the desired result."

The 30-year-old said he is back to full health, having battled a fever the night before his team’s 2-1 victory over England in extra time on Wednesday.

Rakitic added: "This is a historic game not just for the 13 or 14 players and the squad but also for everybody who is a Croat.

"There will be 4.5 million players on the pitch.

"I think that you only need to take a look at the footage coming from Croatia to see what’s been going on over the past month.

"It cannot be described with words, that amount of joy, togetherness, unity, pride, it’s incredible ...

"If there was a stadium big enough for 4.5 million people it would be full."
.

EARLIER REPORT:

France forward Antoine Griezmann responds to Belgium
goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois: ‘I don’t care how we win’

By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- France forward Antoine Griezmann has hit back at Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois after he accused Les Bleus of winning their World Cup semifinal by playing "anti-football".

France withstood periods of Belgian dominance in Tuesday’s match and went ahead via a Samuel Umtiti header in the second half.

Didier Deschamps’ side then defended resolutely to grind out a 1-0 victory and book a berth in Sunday’s final against Croatia.

After the match several Belgium players - including Courtois and his Chelsea teammate Eden Hazard - criticized France’s approach to the match.

"It’s just an anti-football team," Courtois said.

"Their striker plays 30 metres from his own goal. France heads a corner and does nothing more than defend.

"I would have preferred to have lost in the quarter-finals to Brazil, at least that was a team that wanted to play football."

In a press conference on Friday, Griezmann said:

"Does Thibaut Courtois think that at Chelsea he plays Barcelona football?

"I don’t care how we win.

"I want a second star to be on this shirt. That is all."

             

 

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