Nigeria Captain Played Key World Cup Match Hours After Learning His Father Was Kidnapped

John Obi Mikel, the captain of Nigeria’s World Cup soccer team, played in his team’s final, crucial match against Argentina last week hours after finding out kidnappers were holding his father hostage, he revealed on Tuesday. Mikel didn’t tell his teammates or coaches before the game, looping in just a small group of friends outside the team, he said in a statement sent to several news organizations. He said he had been told his father would be shot immediately if he reported it to the authorities or told anyone else.…

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Russia Relaxes, for a Moment, to Let Soccer Fans Rejoice

Soccer success has Russians thinking differently about themselves, even if some spectators around the world, watching the party, reconsider their views on Russia. A capital known for its cold, its money and its raw power is uncoiling and, for a few weeks, relaxing. “We have a repressive government, but not now, because we’re having a party,” explained Aleksandr Yerofeyev, one of those celebrating Sunday evening. “When it comes to politics, it’s banned,” he said. “When it comes to soccer, it’s allowed.” At least tens of thousands of people took to…

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Stuck in Soccer Limbo, in the Shadow of the World Cup

MOSCOW — An odd thing happened in December when soccer fans in Crimea, the disputed Black Sea peninsula annexed by Russia from Ukraine in 2014, began trying to buy tickets to the World Cup. Some ticket seekers trying to make purchases through FIFA, soccer’s world governing body, encountered error messages on their computers. The problem, the president of Crimea’s soccer federation told reporters, was that FIFA still recognized Crimea as part of Ukraine. Fans on the peninsula feared that World Cup tickets had joined cellphones and credit cards on a…

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As Its Stars Shined at the World Cup, P.S.G. Scrambled to Avoid Financial Punishment

MOSCOW — Edinson Cavani of Uruguay and Kylian Mbappé of France lit up the opening day of the World Cup’s knockout phase on Saturday, scoring two goals apiece to send their countries to the quarterfinals. On Monday, their Paris Saint-Germain teammate Neymar can join them there with Brazil. But the exploits of Neymar, Mbappé and Cavani — a front line put together at great expense by P.S.G. — come at a time of great scrutiny for their club and for UEFA, European soccer’s governing body. P.S.G. had been under investigation…

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Hillsborough Match Commander to Face 95 Manslaughter Counts

LONDON — Nearly three decades after the worst stadium disaster in the history of British soccer, a police commander will face 95 counts of manslaughter in the deaths of soccer fans who were trampled and crushed at a match in England in 1989, prosecutors said on Friday. The decision by a judge to proceed to trial in the case of David Duckenfield represents the latest victory in a long quest for justice by the families of the dead, who included 37 teenagers. Mr. Duckenfield, then a chief superintendent in the…

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On Soccer: This Is When the World Cup Surprises End. Usually.

Of course, it is easy to say that after the group stage of a World Cup. The pattern of the tournament is familiar, and yet somehow forgotten, every four years. The first round of group games is cagey, cautious; everyone worries that this year’s competition will be the worst in history. In the second, teams cut loose. By the third, when the stakes are highest, and it is do or die, mayhem ensues, favorites tumble, and enthusiasm peaks. It rarely, if ever, lasts. Partly, that is a matter of perspective:…

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World Cup Bracket: Does This Look Lopsided to You?

Wednesday, June 20: Spain 1, Iran 0 Monday, June 25: Portugal 1, Iran 1 Monday, June 25: Morocco 2, Spain 2 Group C Saturday, June 16: France 2, Australia 1 Saturday, June 16: Denmark 1, Peru 0 Thursday, June 21: Denmark 1, Australia 1 Thursday, June 21: France 1, Peru 0 Tuesday, June 26: Peru 2, Australia 0 Tuesday, June 26: Denmark 0, France 0 Group D Saturday, June 16: Argentina 1, Iceland 1 Saturday, June 16: Croatia 2, Nigeria 0 Thursday, June 21: Croatia 3, Argentina 0 Friday, June…

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Essay: From My Seat, Panama Won the World Cup

Advertisement Essay In defense of the little guys. They indeed belong. Panama players celebrated after an own goal by Tunisia during their World Cup match on Thursday in Saransk, Russia.CreditDarko Bandic/Associated Press June 28, 2018 It’s safe to say the attention of the soccer world was not focused on the seesawing battle at Mordovia Arena in Saransk, Russia, on Thursday as Panama fell to Tunisia, 2-1, in the teams’ last game at the World Cup. Neither team advanced in the tournament — Tunisia managed its first World Cup win in…

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World Cup Round of 16 Schedule: All the Matches and Times

Monday, June 25: Saudi Arabia 2, Egypt 1 Monday, June 25: Uruguay 3, Russia 0 Group B Friday, June 15: Iran 1, Morocco 0 Friday, June 15: Portugal 3, Spain 3 Wednesday, June 20: Portugal 1, Morocco 0 Wednesday, June 20: Spain 1, Iran 0 Monday, June 25: Portugal 1, Iran 1 Monday, June 25: Morocco 2, Spain 2 Group C Saturday, June 16: France 2, Australia 1 Saturday, June 16: Denmark 1, Peru 0 Thursday, June 21: Denmark 1, Australia 1 Thursday, June 21: France 1, Peru 0 Tuesday,…

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On Soccer: Amid Argentina’s Drama, Lionel Messi’s Brilliance Emerges

That his family has been forced to rally around him is a gauge of just how serious the situation has been. His wife, Antonella, posted messages of support on Instagram; even more striking, Messi’s mother, who ordinarily keeps the lowest of profiles, has felt moved to speak out on her son’s behalf not once, but twice. There is no great secret as to why Messi, 31, might have felt under such strain: He has been ordained to win the World Cup for Argentina for the first time in 32 years;…

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