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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 14 July 2018
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 14 JULY 2018 27 SPORT Melbourne brothers head to Brazil for Neymar Jr Five tournament GEORGE STOGIANNOU On the day that the World Cup reaches its climax this Monday morning, with the eyes of the world fixed on Russia, a group of young Melbourne-based footballers will fly to Brazil where another global football tournament, Neymar Jr's Five 2018 World Final, takes place on 20 and 21 July. Their team, the Melbourne Street Crew (Slammers) are one of two teams representing Australia at the tournament, after winning a national final in Sydney in April; their fellow travellers, the Adelaide Comets, won the Australian Women’s Final in May. Two of the Slammers are twins; Chris and Kosta Droutsas. Speaking about the trip, Chris told Neos Kosmos "I think it's pretty cool, just the fact that we're going overseas, because it's our first overseas trip. It's pretty cool seeing different cultures and playing soccer, which we love, in another country." A highlight is sure to be meeting one of their idols Neymar, with whom they have a meet and greet scheduled. On Monday, Chris and Kosta, along with teammates Ryan Losty, Jacob Lay, Jack Fogarty, and Josh Close fly to Brazil where they will play at least five group games against teams who have qualified from 59 countries. "The Neymar Jr Fives is like a street-style five-a-side game," explains Chris. "It could be played on concrete, synthetic, sand, or dirt. Whereas futsal is played on a wooden floor surface. There's no goalie in the Neymar tournament. There's just little goals. It's a real skill-based game." The Droutsas twins, who recently turned 21, and teammate Losty also play for local team Eastern Lions in the Victorian NPL. "The experience so far has been absolutely amazing," said Losty. "We still cannot believe we have earned the right to represent Australia at the World Finals in São Paulo, Brazil. We are absolutely buzzing and are hungry to do as well as we can as we come up against some of the other 59 competing nations in Brazil." When asked if the experience could have any significance in terms of his development as a player, Chris' reply indicates the trip for him is more about having fun with his mates than achieving his goals as a footballer. "This is just one of those once in a lifetime opportunities," he says. "Because we just entered the tournament as a fun thing. We didn't even know we were going to Sydney at first. So we won that and we were like, 'this is cool, we'll just go to Sydney and have a bit more fun and see what happens.' And we somehow won that. And now we're going to Brazil and we're going to enjoy it just like we've been doing in Melbourne and Sydney. We've taken it seriously, but not to the point where we are going to get something out of it. Just more of an experience really. Anything can happen." There's no doubt about that. The trip will see the players explore the world famous city of Rio De Janeiro, as well as São Paulo where the tournament takes place. Croatia on the verge of history GEORGE STOGIANNOU Can Croatia create history on Monday morning to become a first-time winner of football's ultimate prize, the FIFA World Cup? To do so it will have to deny one of the pre-tournament favourites, France. It has been a remarkable World Cup for the tournament dark horse, reaching its first ever World Cup final, just 20 years after their first World Cup finals tournament, when they finished in third place. Croatia is a team full of experience, packed with big name stars who play for some of Europe's top clubs. There's a sense that this is their Golden Generation, and that for a number of players – Modric, Rakitic, Subasic, and Mandzukic – this will be their last chance to win football's ultimate prize. They've come through three tough matches against Denmark, Russia, and England which went to extra time, two of which ended in penalties. Having triumphed in those matches, the team has great self-belief and a sense of destiny in this tournament, which could help counteract the fact they'll be facing a younger, fresher France team which has played essentially 90 minutes less than the Croatians. One of the main factors in this match will be how France deals with Croatia's strength – its midfield, particularly the talented duo of Luka Modric, and Ivan Rakitic. England's tactic of playing long diagonal balls out of defence to Raheem Sterling worked well to minimise the midfield contest in the opening half hour of their semi, but once Croatia worked out how to defend those balls, both Modric and Rakitic started to find space and move the ball around, making Croatia the more threatening of the two teams. France has a world-class midfield of its own with the tireless Kante, the world's best at breaking up the play, aided by Matuidi allowing Paul Pogba more attacking freedom than he enjoys at his club. It effectively shut down an excellent Uruguayan midfield and controlled the threat of Argentine captain Lionel Messi en route to the final. France can rightly argue it has reached the final through Mandzukic from Croatia commemorates their goal during the match against England at the Lujniki stage championship World Cup 2018. PHOTO: ALE CABRAL/ AGIF the most difficult half of the draw, having to overcome Argentina, Uruguay, and Belgium. Under Deschamp, against such opponents, they've been clinical and conservative in their approach often relying on their ability to hurt opposition with lightning counterattacks. In their semi against Belgium, both Giroud and Greizmann dropped deep into the midfield to help defend. As much as France will be trying to take the Modric factor out of the game, Croatia's chances may hinge on how well they're able to deal with the Mbappe factor. The French prodigy has produced match-winning performances in this tournament. As an interesting aside, the final match will see several teammates at club level line up on opposing sides for their respective nations. French defender Varane and forward Ousmane Dembele and Croatia's Rakitic are all Barcelona teammates, while French centre back Varane will be up against his Real Madrid team mates in Luka Modric and Kovacic. France's Blaise Matuidi and Croatian forward Mario Mandzukic are Juventus teammates. The only doubtful starter for both teams is Croatia's fullback Ivan Strinic who was forced from the field in extra time against England with what looked like a groin strain. PREDICTED LINE-UPS France XI: Lloris, Pavard, Varane, Umtiti, Lucas, Pogba, Kante, Mbappe, Griezmann, Matuidi, Giroud. Croatia XI: Subasic, Vrsaljko, Lovren, Vida, Strinic, Rakitic, Brozovic, Rebic, Modric, Perisic, Mandzukic. Juventus seal €105m deal for Cristiano Ronaldo in Greece Portuguese superstar bids emotional goodbye to former club Real Madrid The biggest news of the transfer season was announced this week in Greece, when Real Madrid announced the sale of their top goalscorer Cristiano Ronaldo to Italian champions Juventus for a fee of €105 million (AU$166m). Most of the negotiations took place in Greece, as Ronaldo was taking some time off after his efforts with Portugal during the World Cup, and before the new season begins. Juventus chairman Andrea Agnelli personally flew to Greece on Tuesday where he met with the five-times Ballon d'or winner. Kostas Droutsas (R) scored the winning goal in a tense final, which qualified the Slammers for a trip to Brazil. Ronaldo has been vacationing at the Costa Navarino Resort, which is where he met with Agnelli to complete the transfer. Once the deal had been signed and was announced, the Portuguese released an open letter to bid his former club farewell. He justified this decision by saying that "the time has come to open a new stage" in his career. During his nine years in Madrid, Cristiano Ronaldo has managed to score 450 goals in 438 games. He leaves having won 15 trophies, including four Champions League titles, and two Primera Division Championships. He also managed to be voted Player Of The Year four times during his tenure at Real, and to collect three Golden Boots, scoring the most goals in Europe for three seasons. Ronaldo's contract with Juventus will see him earning €30m (AU$47.5m) per year until 2021. Cristiano Ronaldo will now be performing at the Juventus Stadium.
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