Empty stadium will give England the edge over Croatia, says Jordan Pickford

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England lost to Croatia in the World Cup semi-final

Jordan Pickford insists playing in an empty stadium against Croatia will give England the upper hand in their Nations League clash on Friday.

The teams meet just 93 days on from a World Cup semi-final which Croatia won 2-1 in extra-time.

But, unlike that night in front of 78,000 fans at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium, there will be eerie silence this time around.

Croatia have been forced to play the game behind closed doors, the second and final match of a UEFA sanction after a swastika was imprinted on the pitch ahead of a Euro 2016 qualifying match against Italy.

England boss Gareth Southgate has shown his players a video of Barcelona‘s recent behind-closed-doors LaLiga game against Las Palmas to help their preparation, and Pickford believes the visitors could gain the edge from the empty Stadion HNK Rejika.

“It is going to be very different,” the Three Lions goalkeeper said.

“I played in Croatia last year for Everton (in the Europa League) and I know how hostile their fans are.

“They are great for their teams so I think it gives us the upper hand going away from home and when they need their fans, they haven’t got them.”

Pickford was one of many players to star for England in the World Cup before they suffered semi-final heartbreak at the hands of Croatia.

The 24-year-old admits there is a hint of a revenge mission about the upcoming rematch – even if he concedes Croatia can always boast about winning that World Cup semi-final.

“It would be nice to get one over them but they will always have (the ability to say) that they beat us in the semi-final,” he said.

“It is another season, another campaign with England and we want to be beating the top teams and they are ranked in the top 10 as well as Spain (who England play on Monday) and we want to be pushing ourselves to beat these teams as part of our progression.

“As a team we have got to take ourselves to the next step and progress even more as a group of players as staff and for England to go further this is the start of something new.”

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Kylian Mbappe 'adjusting fine' to being a superstar, says France captain Hugo Lloris

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Mbappe's star continues to rise.

France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris believes Kylian Mbappe has dealt well with his rise to superstar status after starring in Les Bleus’ World Cup triumph during the summer.

Lloris was captain of that side and saw Mbappe score four goals in the tournament, including one in the final – which  made him the first teenager to score in a final since Pele in 1958. The 18-year-old was duly named the World Cup’s best young player.

Since then, the youngster has been on a tear, starting his domestic campaign with Paris Saint-Germain with eight goals and three assists, including a four-goal performance against Lyon last weekend. He’s also been named in the FIFPro World XI as well as being nominated for the Ballon d’Or.

There’s no doubt that, even at his young age, Mbappe is now one of the world’s biggest stars.

“Obviously Kylian has a brand new status now,” Lloris said ahead of France’s friendly against Iceland.

“Even though he has done great things in Ligue 1 and the Champions League, the World Cup gave him a new dimension in the world’s eyes.

“He is adjusting just fine to this new status; we all know his great potential.

“He proved that in the second half against Lyon. I have not seen the first half, just the second one.

“It is not easy to score four goals in Ligue 1. I’m sure he can repeat these kinds of performances all over again.”

Lloris has been named to the 30-man Ballon d’Or shortlist, too, along with four other Frenchmen – Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante, Antoine Griezmann, and Raphael Varane.

“It is always a token of appreciation,” the Tottenham goalkeeper said.

“I am really pleased to be in the list of 30 personally and for my team-mates. We all hope that a French player will win, however we are not the ones choosing so we’ll just watch.”

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Karim Benzema tells France football federation president: 'I ask you to forget about me"

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Karim Benzema's France exile continues.

Real Madrid striker Karim Benzema has repeated his call for Noel Le Graet, the president of France’s football federation, to stop talking about him after an interview with French media in which Le Graet said the 30-year-old’s time with the national team “was finished”.

“I have nothing against Karim,” said Le Graet. “He has always carried himself well in the French team, but I think Les Bleus are over for him, especially since he may be less fit than before.”

In response, Benzema tweeted, “Monsieur Le Graet, I ask you to forget about me. France are world champions and that’s the essential thing, the rest is just futile. Thankyou,” with the hashtags, “CaSuffit” (“That will do”) and “GiveMeABreak”.

Benzema has 21 goals in 81 caps for France, but has not played for the national team since 2015, due to his alleged role in the blackmail of France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena, a charge the striker denies. He is still awaiting a court ruling to see whether he has a case to answer.

This is not the first time Le Graet’s comments have prompted a response from Benzema, with the France official having said in a May interview that the striker was “ancient history”.

“Monsieur Le Graet, with all the respect that I owe you, you have missed an opportunity to shut up,” Benzema wrote then.

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