Gambhir retires from all forms of cricket (Lead)

first_imgNew Delhi, Dec 4 (IANS) India discard Gautam Gambhir on Tuesday announced his retirement from all forms of cricket. The Ranji Trophy game between Delhi and Andhra starting on Thursday at the Feroz Shah Kotla here will be his last game.”The next Ranji trophy match against Andhra will be my last game in the sun. It is all coming to an end from where it started at Feroz Shah Kotla,” Gambhir said in a video message on social media.”As a batsman I have always valued timing. I know the time is just right and I am sure it’s sweet as well,” he added.The 37-year-old Delhi batsman has played 58 Tests (4154 runs), 147 One-Day Internationals (5238 runs) and 37 Twenty20 Internationals. He has also played 197 first-class matches.While reflecting on some of the high points of his career, Gambhir admitted that the dreaded feeling that his ability to play at the highest level is decreasing has haunted him for sometime.”Grounds, dressing rooms, wash rooms, you name it the thought has rarely deserted me. Each time I got out playing for India or KKR or Delhi Daredevils this thought would turn into a sharp, disturbing noise and walk with me all the way to the dressing room shouting: “IT IS OVER GAUTI”.”It slapped me hard when I got those three ducks in a row in 2014 IPL. Then again when I had a dreadful tour to England the same year. In 2016 I was on my knees again. I was dropped after Rajkot Test match against England. But once again I refused to pay attention. I wanted to beat this noise. Instead of getting knocked down, I punished my body even more.”After a decent 2017 domestic season I entered this year’s IPL with confidence as my best buddy. My feet seemed to have got fresh batteries. My head was still as a pond. And my game, roaring as a raging ocean. I thought all those negative noises were dead. But I was wrong. Six games of IPL for Delhi Daredevils it was back. And this time it was louder than before. Perhaps, my time was up. Yes, my time was up,” he said.”So, here I am, after more than 15 years of cricket for my country I want to retire from playing this beautiful game. Despite all the aches and pains; fears and failures I won’t mind a repeat of this in my next life too. But obviously with a few more wins for India, a few more hundreds and in the next life may be a few 5-wicket hauls as well.”While reflecting on the high points of his career, he said: “The historic series wins in New Zealand and in CB series in Australia will be reflected upon fondly. But I do hope the current Indian team Down Under can overshadow our feats. I won’t say the list is satisfactory as I feel I was good enough for a lot more.””This may sound a little wishful but then I have seen wishes do come true. Two World Cups, highest run-getter in finals of both these games is a stuff dreams are made of and I only had this dream of winning the World Cup for you all. I think someone up there was writing my script but looks like now he has run out of his ink.”But along the way he wrote some fascinating chapters. Somewhere on the top is being part of the number one Test team in the world. A trophy that I look at very fondly is the one that I got for being awarded ICC Test batsman of the year in 2009. For a purist like me it is a reward of somewhat knowing where my off-stump was,” he added.The former India opener also thanked everyone he has encountered during the course of his career.”Next on my thank you list are the curators, groundsmen and numerous dressing room attendants across India. They toiled for little or minimal returns for what is essentially treated as a thankless job. I hope their life standards improve from that they are now. A big thanks to each one of you. I’d also like to thank numerous net bowlers who bowled to me so that I can become a better batsman. They travelled long distances just to help me practice. Thank you very much.”My cricket coach Mr Sanjay Bhardwaj stood with me during thick and thin of life. Whenever in trouble I could count on him. “Sir, I don’t know if I have you proud but I can assure you sir I gave it all that I had.” Sanjay sir introduced me to the other coaching influence of my life, the late Mr Parthasarthy Sharma. He was an institution in the art of batting. A lot of credit for my ability to play spin bowling should go to him. I hope I was worth his time,” he said.”The thing that I will miss the most is the camradrie of an Indian team’s dressing room. It was a wonderful place to be in. Yes, there are pressures of international sport but then when you have team-mates like I had these pressures look elementary. I learnt heaps from each one of them. I will miss all of that and more. Thank you guys, you all will be my one, big family,” he added.”Thank you DDCA and BCCI for helping me realise my dreams. Thank you KKR for giving me an opportunity to express myself as leader.”Gambhir also thanked the fans for their support.”Along this journey I have fostered some meaningful partnerships. None more than with you guys, the supporters of Indian cricket, the most important stakeholders. I have always disapproved of the terms “fans” or “crowd”. Its quite demeaning because I think at the end of the day it is you guys who make cricket or cricketers what they are,” he said.Talking about the support from his family, Gambhir said: “In the end I’d like to thank all my family members for their love and support. My parents, grand parents, both the mamas and maamis, my wife and my two little angels who took all my tantrums and mood swings.””I’d like to begin with the original talent scout of my family, my mom. It was she who took me to a proper cricket academy at the age of 10 and rest is history. In my tough times Mom was and is my favourite punching bag. I am extremely sorry mom I have been an absolute jughead. My dad took more pressure than me whenever I played. He never shared with me but his colleagues would tell me he’d never watch TV when my game was on. Dad, you too can relax now.”–IANSajb/sedadvertisementadvertisementlast_img read more

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Gas company files injunction to remove Mikmaw from land

first_img[email protected]@angelharksen Angel MooreAPTN NewsAlton Gas has filed an injunction to remove water protectors camped at its work site since 2017.The company wants to store natural gas in underground caverns, which would mean releasing salty brine every day into the Sipekne’katik River.The protectors say this will permanently damage the river and are concerned environmental regulations will not be met. They also say it is a violation of the Fisheries Act to release a deleterious substance into the river where the fish will be harmed.Water protector Michell Paul says they are holding Alton Gas accountable.“The law itself was not followed, so how can you petition to the courts to pursue a law against us, when we’re just doing what we are supposed to be doing?” said Paul.The lawyer for Alton Gas, Robert Grant, was not available to comment at the hearing.In court, he said the company was following all regulations and procedures and the injunction was about trespassing.He said employees’ safety was threatened at the project site by protesters using profanity and being aggressive.As a result, he said Alton Gas had no choice but to file an injunction to ensure workers’ safety and access.The protectors say they are peaceful and have never threatened any of the workers.Historical significanceThey say they are protecting a river that is historically significant, has been traditionally fished and used as a transportation route for generations.Doreen Bernard is one of the grassroots grandmothers opposed to the project. She hopes regulations will be enforced to protect the environment.But in the meantime, she says they are following traditional law.“We are not trespassers on our own land. This is unceded Mi’kma’ki and we have to protect the waters,” she said.Treaty rights were also challenged by Grant. He said rights cannot be upheld by individuals.But the protector’s lawyer, James Klaassen, said treaty rights were being exercised on behalf of the community.“They are doing it on behalf of the collective and asked to do so by the collective,” said Klassen, “and so, in that sense, they do have a right and an ability and in this case a duty to do it.”The protectors are hopeful the court will consider treaty laws.“We look forward to the next court date and …asserting our treaty and title on the Sipekne’katik River,” said Paul.The judge’s decision is expected next week.last_img read more

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Kellogg latest US brand to ditch crisiswracked Venezuela

first_imgMARACAY, Venezuela – Kellogg Co. closed operations in Venezuela and laid off 300 workers Tuesday at a time of widespread hunger in the crisis-wracked South American nation.The Battle Creek, Michigan-based company said in a statement that it ceased operations as a result of the “current economic and social deterioration” in Venezuela.The move drew an angry rebuke from socialist President Nicolas Maduro, who accused the company of trying to sabotage his chances of getting re-elected in Sunday’s presidential vote. He said he had ordered the company’s plant in the central city of Maracay to be turned over to Kellogg’s workers so they can continue to produce cereals.“Why are they doing it today? Because we are four days away from elections and they think it will spook the people,” Maduro said at a campaign rally, adding that he would seek the international arrest of the owners of Kellogg’s Venezuelan subsidiary. “Imperialists! Oligarchs! Nobody can scare our people.”Workers arriving Tuesday for the early shift at Kellogg’s factory in Maracay were surprised to find a notice taped to an iron gate informing them the company had been forced to shutter the plant. As news of the layoffs spread, Venezuela’s labour minister showed up to speak with the workers.The factory, with a giant figure of Tony the Tiger lording over the entrance, produces 75 per cent of the breakfast cereals consumed by Venezuelans, according to the company’s website. A spokeswoman for Kellogg’s said its market share was lower than 75 per cent but declined to say by how much.Omar Rodriguez, who had spent 26 years working at Kellogg’s, said he didn’t know how he would feed his three children without his job.“It’s going to be a tough blow,” Rodriguez said, expressing anger that the company had decided to let go of its workforce in such an impersonal manner. “What am I going to bring home? Nothing.”The company said it looks forward to resuming operations once conditions improve. The company has been producing cereal in Venezuela since 1961 and the market had at one point been its biggest in Latin America after Mexico, although in 2016 it deconsolidated its Venezuela business from the company’s overall earnings results.Kellogg’s joins multinationals including Bridgestone, Kimberly-Clark and General Mills that have closed or reduced operations in Venezuela amid hyperinflation, shortages and a recession deeper than the Great Depression of the 1930s.last_img read more

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German leader Merkel heads to Athens demonstrations banned

first_imgATHENS, Greece — Authorities have banned demonstrations in a large section of central Athens and will shut down streets and subway stations during a visit by German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who arrives in the Greek capital Thursday afternoon for meetings with Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras and other officials.Around 2,000 officers, a police helicopter and drones will be deployed for the visit, which ends Friday afternoon.Germany was the largest single contributor to the three international bailout packages Greece received since 2010 as it struggled through a dramatic financial crisis which almost saw it crash out of the eurozone. Germany was also seen as one of the main enforcers of the stringent austerity measures, including tax hikes and pension and salary cuts, imposed in return for the rescue loans.The Associated Presslast_img read more

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Ackerman says taking bull by the horns helped city rise in best

first_imgFORT ST. JOHN, B.C. – Mayor Lori Ackerman woke up on Tuesday to see the Energetic City climb 145 spots since last year on Money Sense magazine’s best places to live in Canada.Ackerman explained that when she found out that Fort St. John was ranked the best place to live in B.C. and 15th best in Canada she was ecstatic.“To see that Fort St. John has made this significant standing as the number 15 in Canada and number one in B.C. place to live is pretty phenomenal,” said Ackerman. Ackerman added that much of the city’s improvement has been due to city council taking the bull by the horns in ways of recruiting more workers and listening to resident feedback.“We’ve done a lot of public consultation over the last decade. We have listened to what the people have wanted and quite often over different council meetings we have gone to the public and asked ‘what do you want?’”Ackerman mentioned that they have focused heavily on community economic development because when there is a beautiful community, the economic development will develop itself. Making sure cores services stay maintained such as water, sewers and lights was a key point for the city.“We have to continue to demonstrate leadership and environmental responsibility. We are on the world stage with our passive house and to be able to showcase Fort St. John for just that one amenity is significant.”Ackerman went on to say that the city would soon unveil a community plan to focus on the community’s vision and work hard on making the city even more livable in the winter.last_img read more

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Father son arrested for death of youth in Kalighat

first_imgKolkata: Two persons have been arrested for beating up a youth to death at Kalighat. The son and father duo has identified as Kanai Patra and Bapi Patra.According to sources, Bapi was arrested earlier. But later from his statement and local witnesses police came to know that Kanai was the prime accused. He had badly beaten up Sankar Mondal (25). Kanai confessed to crime on Sunday morning. Police came to know that a few persons had threatened Mondal on Sunday and in the next morning his body was found. Police also came to know from local witnesses that a few local residents tied Mondal to a tree and asked him to return a mobile phone. A source of police identified Kanai from the CCTV footage. Also Read – Bengal family worships Muslim girl as Goddess Durga in Kumari PujaMondal was beaten around 2:30 am on Saturday night. He was tied to a tree and assaulted by more than one person. Some locals informed the police about it. Sleuths found the CCTV footage but it was not clear enough to identify any person, sleuths are trying to find who were present there at that point time. Some locals alleged that he was being beaten for allegedly stealing a mobile phone. But no mobile phone was found on Saturday night when Mondal was beaten up.last_img read more

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ONCE UPON A TIME IN MUMBAI

first_imgThe barrel of the gun was pointed at Dawood Ibrahim’s heart. The gunman had been training his focus for a long time. He was waiting for the right moment to pull the trigger. The gunman had only one chance. If the bullet missed the target, the man at the other end would certainly gift him a not-so-exquisite death. The man pointing the muzzle at Dawood had been sent by his arch-rivals from the underworld. The gunman was accompanied by his cronies, who were huge, hefty men called the Pathans, with Peshawari and Afghan ancestry. Since the1950s, the Pathans, known for their moneylending habits, had taken to crime. Cousins Amirzada and Alamzeb wanted Dawood dead. The man was a menace. An audacious chit of a boy, he challenged the Pathan hegemony, and since the time he had emerged in the area as a small-time criminal, was proving to be a headache for the Pathans. Also Read – Torpedoing BengalIn the 1970s, the turf war among the mob generally ended with some serious skirmishes. But the Pathans were so furious with the tenacious Dawood Ibrahim that they decided to investigate his sources of power. They found a nexus between local newspaper-owner and crime reporter Iqbal Natiq and Dawood. The two shared an amazing rapport, with Dawood invariably spending a couple of hours every day at Natiq’s office in BIT Blocks in Dongri. And Natiq’s newspaper—Raazdaar (The Confidante)—exposed the Pathans often, which brought the police to their doorstep. Also Read – Educational model of coexistenceAs retribution, the Pathans killed Natiq brutally. Dawood and his brother Sabir Kaskar swore revenge. Their first target was Saeed Batla. They did not kill Batla, preferring, instead, to maim him and amputate his fingers, something unheard of in the Indian underworld in those times. Before they could proceed with such ‘special treatment’ for the other Pathans, the police picked them up. However, the Kaskar brothers managed to secure bail on attempt-to-murder charges. Upon receiving bail, as is routine in any police prosecution case, Sabir and Dawood were supposed to intermittently present themselves at the Nagpada police station in central Bombay (now Mumbai). They had to assure the cops that they were not up to any mischief and that they were miles away from any criminal activities. The slang for these routine police-station visits is haazari lagana (marking one’s attendance), where the accused meet the police inspector, answer a few questions and leave within a few minutes. Dawood preferred the formality of the official haazari to the cold walls of the prison and, of course, it helped that these visits ensured that the police did not land up at their house and complain to their father, Ibrahim Kaskar, who was also a cop. Kaskar senior was an absolute disciplinarian who was known to reserve his leather-belt treatment for the unbridled Dawood, his third child. On that cool afternoon in October 1980, a defenceless Dawood, along with Sabir, was the target. The Pathans—Amirzada and Alamzeb—knew that Dawood would not be carrying any weapons to the police station. They decided to take advantage of this particular visit to finish off Dawood, because under no other circumstances would they find him unarmed. But what they did not see coming was another Pathan, Khalid Khan, who shepherded Dawood to the police station that day. Built like a mountain, with a towering height of 6 feet 2 inches and a brawny physique, Khalid was very attached to the promising young Dawood. Earlier, Khalid had cut his teeth in crime with another don, a local strongman by the name of Bashu Dada. But that was long before Dawood endeared himself to him. Khalid was very protective of Dawood, and that particular day his instincts told him that Dawood would be vulnerable and in a tight spot around the police station. He rationalized that since Nagpada was closer to Kamathipura and Tardeo, the stronghold of the Pathans, they might make a play for Dawood. Khalid cancelled all his engagements scheduled for that day and decided to follow Dawood to the police station. He also decided to escort him back to his headquarters at Musafir Khana, safe and unharmed. Since Khalid’s name was not in the First Information Report (FIR), he could safely accompany Dawood and also carry a weapon on the sly. The cops would not frisk him for weapons, he surmised. After Dawood and Sabir signed their attendance and completed other formalities, they saluted the cops—there was a lot of respect for the uniform; it came from their father—and were on their way towards the exit. They were oblivious to the face of death staring at them from the opposite building and were nonchalantly walking out unaware that their lives would irrevocably change after a few minutes. What transpired in the next few minutes, however, changed Dawood forever, making him invincible. Khalid, who was extremely alert and looking around, scanning the perimeter, eyes darting like a panther after its prey, suddenly sensed the movement even before he saw the gun. He spotted the barrel of the gun, held by a man at the ground-floor window of Memnani Mansion next door. Khalid knew the man wanted Dawood first, not Khalid or Sabir. In that split second, both the gunman and Khalid acted swiftly. The gunman pulled the trigger and a bullet flew out, whizzing towards Dawood.’Dawood, hato!’ Khalid screamed.Khalid moved with amazing speed and, before the bullet could complete its trajectory, he managed to push Dawood aside and, in the same moment, whipped out his revolver hidden in the small of his back. Amirzada’s bullet, which was meant for Dawood’s heart, grazed Khalid’s left arm. Khalid began firing at the gunman. Amirzada, who was firing at Dawood, was oblivious to Khalid and Sabir. He had to kill Dawood and kept firing at him. By the time he realized that Khalid had retaliated, he had already been hit below the hip and the bullet got lodged in the flesh. His crony, Alamzeb, saw the blood gushing out and realized that their game was up. In the meanwhile, Dawood and Sabir, not ones to cower and hide, went straight for the shooter. The brothers charged towards the building, Khalid close behind them. Memnani Mansion, an old V-shaped building located at the cusp of Nagpada Junction, is renowned for the world-famous Irani hotel Sarvi, located on its ground floor. (The establishment is over ninety years old and serves the best seekh-kebab rotis in the city.) The exchange of bullets right outside their compound alerted the Nagpada police as well, and the men rushed out to find out the source of the gunfire. Amirzada and Alamzeb, who, by now, knew they were outnumbered and outsmarted, ran for their lives. A team of police officers yelled, ‘Udhar Sarvi ke aage nikle hain, dekho’ (Look, they are running towards Sarvi). Coming back to October 1980, the Pathans were now running berserk in this melee, violently shoving people aside and brandishing a gun and chopper. They knew that if they didn’t escape today, it would be the last day of their lives. Just a few feet away, a furious Dawood, Sabir and Khalid were closing in on them. Occasionally the Pathans turned and fired at the chasing trio, and Khalid returned the fire from his own revolver without breaking his rapid strides. Even as these goons were chasing each other, a few uniformed cops were spiritedly following them in hot pursuit. The bystanders watched in astonishment, perplexed. People later said that they thought they were witnessing some scene from a film shooting, and the crowd was trying to spot some film star among all the extras. After all, 1980 was the year which witnessed the maximum number of action blockbusters, including multistarrers like Shaan, Qurbani, Dostana, among others. It was easy to believe that what the people saw on the busy street could be an enactment of an action scene for some forthcoming movie. (Honestly, it might have been difficult for films of the time to capture such a high-octane chase sequence.) It never occurred to them that the men were actual gangsters shooting with real guns and that the underworld’s gang wars had spilled on to the streets, a sign of the times to come. An officer from the Nagpada police station later recounted that by the time they reached the turn for Alexandra Cinema, the Pathans had halted a cab, Alamzeb pushed a limping Amirzada into it, and escaped from the spot. They were terrified of Khalid, who would never have hesitated to empty his gun in to them. Dawood and company gave chase till Cafe Andaz, an Irani joint behind Alexandra Cinema, and stopped in front of the A to Z Tailor shop. Ali Akbar Seth, the owner of the Irani hotel, and the masterji (tailor) could never forget the famous chase in their area and often recounted the whole incident with flourish. Just beyond the Irani hotel lay the brothels of Kamathipura. Dawood, Sabir and Khalid gave up the chase and walked back and met the police party, which had already stopped opposite Maharashtra College and was trying to disperse curious onlookers. The students had come out on the road after hearing the gunfire and saw the police team and gangsters in the middle of an animated discussion, punctuated by the aggressive waving of hands and a generous use of cuss words. The whole episode was over within a matter of minutes, but remained etched in the minds of the Nagpada residents, shopkeepers and visitors. It was the first time that Khalid had saved Dawood’s life and taken a bullet for him. Khalid’s presence of mind, courage and agility had saved Dawood from certain death. This was the first such attempt from the Pathans on Dawood’s life, which was only averted because of one man’s daring. Much later, people realized that Dawood owed his life to Khalid not only that day but, subsequently, on several other occasions as well. In fact, Dawood’s rise to power could be pointedly attributed to Khalid. Khalid Khan, alias Khalid Pehelwan (meaning ‘wrestler’), scripted Dawood’s story and pushed him to do bigger things. Khalid Pehelwan made Dawood the numero uno mafia mobster of India. (Excerpted with permission from Dawood’s Mentor; written by S Hussain Zaidi; published by Penguin. The excerpt here is a part of the chapter titled ‘The Pathan Threat’.)last_img read more

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Rahul aprabuddha unlimited Krishna

first_imgBengaluru: Former minister for external affairs S M Krishna Tuesday called Congress president Rahul Gandhi ‘aprabuddha unlimited’ (unintellectual unlimited) following a rap from the Supreme Court for wrongly attributing it to the Rafale case. “When somebody acquires a reputed position, especially in the case of the Congress president whose party has a history of 125 years, the sign of intellect should have been that the views are expressed cautiously after much deliberation. Also Read – Uddhav bats for ‘Sena CM’ It’s a sign of maturity. But today what we witnessed today is unintellectual unlimited,” Krishna said at a press conference here. The former Karnataka chief minister, who played a long innings in the Congress before joining the BJP, said the opposition “lacked truth and evidence” before making allegations. “Whatever the allegations are being made against the prime minister lacks truth, gravity and documentation. For example, we can see how the Congress president has incurred the wrath of Supreme Court due to his immature behaviour,” the BJP leader said. Also Read – Farooq demands unconditional release of all detainees in J&K He was referring to the apex court’s order seeking explanation from Rahul Gandhi by April 22 for ‘incorrectly attributing’ to it in the Rafale deal case. The Supreme Court Monday made it clear that the remarks made by Rahul Gandhi in the media on the Rafale case verdict were “incorrectly attributed” to the apex court and directed the Congress chief to give his explanation by April 22. The top court gave a categorical clarification that in its Rafale judgement there was no occasion for it to make a mention of the alleged contemptuous observation that “Chowkidar Narendra Modi chor hain” as has been attributed to it by Gandhi. The former union minister said the ‘unintellectual’ has grown so big that the Congress president was caught in a difficult situation. He (Rahul Gandhi) may have to stand in front of the top court as a criminal on April 23, Krishna said. Noting that Gandhi’s statement symbolised “political discourse” touching a low ebb, Krishna said the Congress leader cannot escape by saying that his statement has been misquoted because they were video recorded. When asked how he saw the future of the country if Gandhi became the prime minister, Krishna said, “You should ask Mayawati or Akhilesh Yadav.” “Why has Congress become untouchable? In Uttar Pradesh the alliance of SP-BSP gave only two seats to Congress by taking pity on them. Do you need any other evidence than this to show how serious condition the Congress is in today?” he asked. On the NYAY scheme, Krishna sought to know how resources would be mobilised to materialise the scheme. The Congress, in its manifesto for the Lok Sabha elections, has said Nyay assures up to Rs 72,000 a year or Rs 6,000 a month income to 20 per cent of India’s poorest families.last_img read more

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GoAirs A320 ceo aircraft suffers technical glitch

first_imgNew Delhi: A GoAir plane, carrying 151 passengers, to the national capital was diverted to Nagpur due to a “technical glitch” in the pressurisation system, according to the airline. The A320 ceo aircraft was flying from Bengaluru Friday. In a statement, the airline said flight G8-7001 was diverted to Nagpur after the pilot “suspected a technical glitch on the pressurisation system” and that the aircraft had a normal landing. The airline also said the 151 passengers were provided with refreshments, dinner and options for accommodating on alternate GoAir flights or full refund.last_img

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France Is Rich With Offense But Is Winning With Defense

England0.89 Portugal1.10 Pogba has much more rarely gotten into the final third to create, passing instead more from deep and wide areas. This has kept him from being particularly dangerous in the attack, where his shot involvement has dropped by 4.6 shots attempted or assisted per 90 minutes with Manchester United to 2.8 for France. But in this disciplined, defensive role, the midfielder has found ways to affect the game, most recently with six attempted tackles and two penalty area clearances against Belgium. Pogba has been asked to trade his usual attacking production for defense, and so far, the plan has worked.The one man on France who doesn’t seem limited by these tactics is Kylian Mbappe. With Pogba playing deep, Mbappe has been asked to move the attack through the final third. He has attempted 52 take-ons, most in the tournament — a rate of about 10.6 per 90 minutes. Mbappe is a dangerous dribbler, but for Paris Saint-Germain last season, he averaged 6.4 take-ons per 90. If you’re hoping for excitement from France, wait for Mbappe to get on the ball. He will be looking to beat a defender or two, and that will be the primary danger France poses in open play. Otherwise, Les Bleus will be focus on defending.Will this strategy work against Croatia? Deschamps has to trust that his attack will produce goals even while outnumbered in the final third, while the midfielders trail the play. If Mbappe cannot progress the ball for his teammates, a long and scoreless match is possible.Croatia has thus far excelled in long matches, surviving extra time three times to reach the final. Its strength is its skilled midfield, where Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Marcelo Brozovic and Mateo Kovacic all rate among the world’s best passers. Over time, opposition teams lose the legs to press Croatia, and the midfielders can find space to work. England successfully pressed Croatia in the first half and kept possession about even at 47 percent to 53 percent, but Croatia dominated the ball 64 to 36 percent in the second half, when it scored its equalizer.In the final, Croatia is likely to depend on its defense (seventh in the World Cup in the chart above) to hold back a more talented opponent. France will likely refuse to commit numbers to the attack and hope its skill wins out. If France can notch an early goal, it’s hard to see Croatia finding a comeback as it did against England. But France’s strategy has the same weakness that was discovered by Portugal in the final of the 2016 Euros. If the opposing team’s defense is solid, Les Bleus do not have the kind of swarming, overwhelming attack that can be counted on to pick up a needed goal. And if the match is running late and Modric starts to find himself with an extra yard of space in midfield, the possibility of an upset — and a first-time World Cup winner — starts to look a lot more likely.France is rightly favored, and its defense, strengthened by some conservative tactical choices by Deschamps, has been impregnable. But the final of the Euros showed what happens when this French approach fails, and if Croatia’s defense can hold back Mbappe and the French forward line to start, its midfield has the skills to pull off a late upset.Check out our latest World Cup predictions. Spain1.02 Brazil0.56 Senegal0.64 Sweden1.00 TeamExpected goals allowed France0.61 Three players exemplify how the French approach works. First is N’Golo Kante. He may be the world’s premier open-play defender. Kante has averaged about 7.5 tackles or interceptions per 90 minutes since 2014-2015, most in the world among players with at least 8,000 minutes played in league and Champions League play those four seasons. Brazil’s Casemiro, at 7.04, is the only other player with more than 7. Kante’s talents prevented Leicester City’s open attack from leaking goals during the Foxes’ miracle title campaign, and they then helped Chelsea rebound to a title after falling out of the top four the previous season. He is the primary reason that France so rarely concedes good chances. But instead of giving Kante the job of cleaning up midfield himself, as he often does for his club teams, Deschamps gives him added protection with the deployment of Paul Pogba.Pogba is a great playmaker who does much of his best work in more advanced areas. With France, Pogba is reserved, and his forays into the final third are limited. The blue wallTeams with the fewest expected goals allowed per match in the 2018 World Cup Uruguay0.50 Source: Opta Sports Croatia1.00 France entered the European Championships in 2016 with perhaps the most talented squad, and Les Bleus beat fellow tournament favorite Germany in the semifinal. A final matchup loomed against a less-heralded Portugal, which had never won the tournament. Portugal had played a defensive style that bottled up the midfield and limited opposition attacking opportunities.Sound familiar?In this World Cup, France knocked off two former champions from South America before winning its semifinal over Belgium, the next-best team remaining in the tournament according to FiveThirtyEight’s Soccer Power Index. Croatia, like Portugal in 2016, has never won a major tournament and got to the final through a comparatively easy draw. In the 2016 final, Portugal managed to stymie France and won its first ever European championship on an extra-time strike. Will this international final see another upset and first-time winner, or will the French golden generation bring a second-ever cup home?Croatia is a clear underdog — as it was in the semifinals against England — and there’s reason to believe the task ahead is even more difficult than it seems. SPI rates France as a solid 59 percent favorite to win. Through the tournament and even in qualifying, as Mike Goodman pointed out before the games started, it has been clear how France would choose to play. Despite an incredible blend of world-class attacking talent, Les Bleus set up first to prevent opposition chances and win on defense. And they have. France has conceded just four goals in six matches — three of which came against Argentina in the round of 16. And Didier Deschamps’s team has even better underlying numbers, with about 0.6 expected goals conceded per match. Australia0.76 read more

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