Pakistan continues special connection with World Cup through its footballs

Waseem Ahmed 12/06/2018
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Pakistan, raked 198th in the world, will not be participating at the 2018 World Cup. But that doesn’t mean they won’t be part of the proceedings.

Pakistan will be providing footballs for the World Cup, with the world-renowned sports manufacturing hub of Sialkot the epicentre of the operation.

The Telstar 18 was chosen as the official football for the 2018 World Cup. According to FIFA, it is “a reinvention of a classic model with a brand-new panel design and the latest technology which pays homage to the first-ever adidas World Cup ball. The Telstar 18 evokes unforgettable memories of the 1970 FIFA World Cup and of legends like Pelé, Gerd Müller, Giacinto Facchetti, Pedro Rocha and Bobby Moore.”

The Telstar 18 is manufactured by Forward Sports, a Pakistani firm based in the Sialkot region of Pakistan’s Punjab province. The same firm also provided the official ball of the 2014 World Cup – the Brazuka.

“This is an honour for us, that we are going to provide footballs for the world cup once again. We are very excited to meet this challenge,” Khawaja Masood, CEO of Forward Sports, was quoted as saying by The Dawn.

“Although Pakistan football team will not be participating in the forthcoming World Cup, its presence will be felt in all the matches.”

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Romelu Lukaku scores twice as Belgium come from behind to win in Brussels

Sport360 staff 12/06/2018
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Romelu Lukaku gave England something to think about as he warmed up for the World Cup with two goals in Belgium’s 4-1 win over Costa Rica.

Lukaku is finding some form ahead of the tournament in Russia which pits the Red Devils with England in Group G, adding a brace in Brussels to the goal he scored against Egypt last week.

That took his tally to 13 goals in the last nine international games, as he also provided an assist, and will be Belgium’s main threat in what should be the group decider against Gareth Southgate’s side on June 28.

Dries Mertens and Michy Batshuayi also scored for Roberto Martinez’s men after Bryan Ruiz had put Costa Rica ahead.

Belgium had created some early chances but it was the visitors who took a 24th minute lead.

Jan Vertonghen failed to get proper distance on a headed clearance and it fell to Ruiz, who sent a low first-time effort into the bottom corner from the edge of the area.

The Red Devils’ response was swift, though, and after Mertens had gone close he finally levelled just after the half-hour.

This time it was Costa Rica that failed to clear properly and Eden Hazard’s ball across goal was tucked home from close range.

The turnaround was complete before half-time as Lukaku scored a brilliant goal.

Starting the move in his own half, the Manchester United forward fed Kevin De Bryune, who set Mertens free and he turned provider for Lukaku to volley home from close range.

Lukaku’s second came five minutes after the restart and it was classic Lukaku as he made sure he got on the end of Hazard’s cross to convert with his head.

The United man then turned provider in the 64th minute as his low ball was converted at the back post by Chelsea’s Batshuayi.

That proved to be enough for Martinez’s men as they signed off ahead of their World Cup opener with Panama next Monday.

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Gareth Southgate wants England players to entertain nation's fans

Sport360 staff 12/06/2018
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Gareth Southgate has told England’s World Cup-bound squad to entertain the nation’s football fans during their time in Russia.

Southgate and his 23-man squad will fly from Birmingham on Tuesday afternoon, destined for their base camp in Repino – a low-key resort near the Gulf of Finland.

They do so in good spirits, with inter-camp harmony at a peak, no injuries to speak of and a pair of quietly encouraging friendly wins over Nigeria and Costa Rica to reflect on.

Southgate has made a big issue of winning back the hearts and minds of the country during his time in the job and believes his young, eager side are well on the way to achieving that aim.

All that is needed now is a tournament display that leaves fans cheering by their barbecues rather than crying into their beers.

“We hope we can send people to work the following day having enjoyed our matches, I know what those tournament experiences can be like and we desperately want to bring that,” he said.

“We know we are not the finished article, in fact we’re a long way from, but I think people see signs of progress and enjoy watching us and the manner in which we try to play.

“We are seeing a team that is enjoying each other’s company, getting on well, is very proud to represent the nation. They have some talent, have a real desire and determination to play for England.

“We ask people to pay a lot of money to watch football. In the end, we want to entertain where we possibly can.

“I’ve talked before about there being a disconnect between the supporters and the team and I’ve felt that there’s different ways to bridge that. The most important is the way you play, and your performances and your results.”

England wrapped up their St George’s Park camp preparations by staging an internal match on the Sir Bobby Charlton Pitch.

Referee Anthony Taylor officiated the match, which involved all 23 squad members and stand-by midfielder Jake Livermore.

Players switched between the teams that wore England’s white and black training tops, allowing Southgate to look at different combinations.

Their next session will be held at Spartak Zelenogorsk, a dedicated training base six miles from their ForRestMix Hotel.

England are not among the pre-tournament favourites, and are priced by the bookies to finish second in Group G behind Belgium, but several members of the squad have been bullish about their prospects of winning the trophy.

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