The Latest: Michel, Macron discuss World Cup at NATO summit

Published 07-11-2018

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MOSCOW (AP) – The Latest on Wednesday at the World Cup (all times local):

8:15 p.m.

The topic of the World Cup was always going to be raised at the NATO summit with French President Emmanuel Macron and Belgian Prime Minister Charles Michel both there.

Particularly because many Belgians continued to be convinced their team should be playing Sunday's final instead of Les Bleus.

During Wednesday's opening statement at the official summit meeting, Michel veered off track from discussions on military spending to give his opinion on France's 1-0 win over Belgium in the World Cup semifinals.

With all other of the 28 leaders listening, Michel addressed Macron directly and said "Frankly, Emmanuel, yesterday the French team was very lucky."

"Belgians are generally not too chauvinist," Michel said, before boasting "Belgium played a great game against France."

Then he tried to pull the discussion back to military issues.

"Like in football, fair play and team spirit is what we need more than ever," Michel said in an apparent jab at U.S. President Trump who keeps questioning why the United States must carry such a heavy financi

"Belgians are generally not too chauvinist," Michel said, before boasting "Belgium played a great game against France."

Then he tried to pull the discussion back to military issues.

"Like in football, fair play and team spirit is what we need more than ever," Michel said in an apparent jab at U.S. President Trump who keeps questioning why the United States must carry such a heavy financial burden in defense of the West.

Trump didn't immediately respond. The U.S. didn't qualify for the World Cup in Russia, but led a joint bid with Mexico and Canada that won the right to host the sport's showcase event in 2026.

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8 p.m.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has made only one change to his starting lineup for the World Cup semifinal against England, bringing in midfielder Marcelo Brozovic to replace forward Andrej Kramaric. Right-back Sime Vrsaljko retains his starting spot despite going off injured in extra time in the quarterfinal

"Like in football, fair play and team spirit is what we need more than ever," Michel said in an apparent jab at U.S. President Trump who keeps questioning why the United States must carry such a heavy financial burden in defense of the West.

Trump didn't immediately respond. The U.S. didn't qualify for the World Cup in Russia, but led a joint bid with Mexico and Canada that won the right to host the sport's showcase event in 2026.

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8 p.m.

Croatia coach Zlatko Dalic has made only one change to his starting lineup for the World Cup semifinal against England, bringing in midfielder Marcelo Brozovic to replace forward Andrej Kramaric. Right-back Sime Vrsaljko retains his starting spot despite going off injured in extra time in the quarterfinal win over Russia.

Defender Domagoj Vida, who scored against Russia, starts despite a days-long dispute over a video he made praising Ukraine. The video attracted an official warning for Vida from tournament organizers and angered some Russian social media users.

Croatia's only previous semifinal appearance at the World Cup ended in a loss to host France in 1998.

The winner of Wednesday's semifinal match will play France in the final.

Croatia lineup: Danijel Subasic, Sime Vrsaljko, Ivan Strinic, Ivan Perisic, Dejan Lovren, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Marcelo Brozovic, Mario Mandzukic, Ante Rebic, Domagoj Vida. 

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7:55 p.m.

Gareth Southgate has picked an unchanged lineup for the third game in a row as England bids to reach its first World Cup final since 1966.

The semifinal match against Croatia in Moscow marks the fourth time this tournament that England's coach has used this lineup. The same team beat Tunisia 2-1 in the group stage, Colombia on penalties in the round of 16 and Sweden 2-0 in the quarterfinals.

England has returned to the World Cup semifinals for the first time since 1990, while Croatia's only previous semifinal appearance ended in a loss to France in 1998.

England: Jordan Pickford, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Jesse Lingard, Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Kieran Trippier, Ashley Young, Dele Alli.

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7:40 p.m.

The Croatia squad has arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium for its World Cup semifinal match against England.

About 15 minutes after England walked out onto the field to survey the surroundings, the Croats did the same.

Croatia is playing in the World Cup semifinals for the second time. The Croats reached the same round at the 1998 tournament in France, but lost to the host team.

The Croatians are coming off back-to-back wins in penalty shootouts after extra time in knockout games against Denmark and Russia.

The winner of Wednesday's semifinal will play France in the final at the same stadium on Sunday.

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7:30 p.m.

FIFA says it will start legal action against a Saudi-based TV channel broadcasting pirate World Cup signals across the Middle East.

World Cup and Champions League TV rights for the Middle East are a proxy battleground in a year-old, Saudi-led boycott of Qatar, the 2022 World Cup host. The BeOutQ channel broadcasts major soccer competitions even though Qatar's beIN Sports holds the rights for the region.

Describing BeOutQ as a "pirate entity," FIFA says it "has engaged counsel to take legal action in Saudi Arabia and is working alongside other sports rights owners that have also been affected to protect its interest."

This is the first time FIFA has identified Saudi Arabia as the source of the broadcasts.

FIFA adds that it "urges the authorities of Saudi Arabia and of the different countries where these illegal activities have been observed to support us in the fight against piracy."

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7:25 p.m.

The England team has arrived at the Luzhniki Stadium for its World Cup semifinal match against Croatia.

Harry Kane, Dele Alli and the rest of the squad got off their bus and walked out onto the field with more than an hour and a half to go before kickoff.

England is playing in its first World Cup semifinal since 1990. The English have not reached the final since 1966, when they won the title at home. Croatia is back in the semifinals for the first time since 1998, and have never reached the final

The winner of Wednesday's match will face France in the final on Sunday.

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7:04 p.m.

FIFA has imposed fines totaling 120,000 Swiss francs ($120,800) on England and Uruguay for players wearing non-approved socks in World Cup quarterfinals.

FIFA says the English Football Association must pay 70,000 Swiss francs ($70,500) for several players wearing "unauthorized commercial branding" in warmups and during the game against Sweden on Saturday. FIFA says England team officials had been warned to stop breaking World Cup marketing regulations.

Uruguay's federation must pay 50,000 Swiss francs ($50,300) for also defying warnings before one player wore a non-approved brand of socks in its game against France on Friday.

FIFA had previously fined Sweden 70,000 francs for wearing the wrong socks.

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6:46 p.m.

FIFA wants fewer images of attractive women in World Cup stadiums shown on future broadcasts.

FIFA diversity chief Federico Addiechi says soccer's world body will talk with national broadcasters and its own TV production team.

The subject arose Wednesday in a review of FIFA's anti-discrimination program in Russia. Monitors identified sexist incidents including fans harassing female broadcasters as having been a bigger problem so far than acts of racism.

Addiechi says FIFA's stance is "a normal evolution," and broadcasts in Russia have already improved from the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.

He says FIFA has already intervened with broadcasters "on a case-by-case basis when some cases arose and they were pretty evident."

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6:21 p.m.

French President Emmanuel Macron will meet with Russia's Vladimir Putin with France having made it to the World Cup final in Moscow – and on the eve of Putin's high-stakes meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump.

Macron's office said Wednesday that he and Putin spoke by phone after France won its semifinal late Tuesday to advance to Sunday's final. Macron was at the semifinal in St. Petersburg and will travel back to Russia for the decisive closing match.

Macron's office said he will take advantage of his trip for a meeting with Putin but did not elaborate on what the two presidents will discuss.

Macron has sought to raise France's profile by engaging with other world leaders even when they take controversial actions. Macron met Wednesday with Trump at a NATO summit in Brussels where the U.S. president has criticized European allies.

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6:03 p.m.

Anti-discrimination experts say with some surprise that sexism has been a bigger problem than racism at the World Cup.

The director of a group called the Fare network that helps FIFA tackle discrimination says 30 cases of "sexism on the streets" by male fans were reported. Fare director Piara Powar says about half of those involved female broadcasters being "accosted while on air."

He estimates "there's many, many more unreported" cases where Russian women were targeted.

Racism had been predicted as a likely problem because of longstanding issues in Russian soccer and among some other European fan bases. FIFA imposed fines during the tournament on soccer federations including Serbia, Russia and Poland for racist, nationalist and offensive banners spotted at games.

Powar says the World Cup's international audience is "very different to the fans that come to domestic football." He suggests "if you come to this tournament with prejudices, and don't like people from a different nationality, then generally you're in the wrong place."

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4:45 p.m.

The chairman of Russia's World Cup organizing committee has lamented an apparent lack of fans for the semifinals and final.

There were hundreds of empty seats for France's 1-0 semifinal win over Belgium on Tuesday in St. Petersburg, and the four European countries in the semifinals haven't brought the huge traveling fan groups which South American countries had.

Travel agents have reported a late surge of interest from fans in Britain and Croatia, although getting match tickets and visas could be tricky.

Arkady Dvorkovich says "The teams that had most fans in Russia left early. Latin American teams, Germany, some other teams left, and we're left in the semifinals with the teams that have the least number of supporters, so it's not really good for the economics of football during this last week."

England plays Croatia in the second semifinal Wednesday for a spot in Sunday's final against France.

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3:15 p.m.

The World Cup has butted in at the NATO summit in Brussels.

British Prime Minister Theresa May and her Belgian counterpart exchanged national team jerseys at the European Union summit two weeks before their countries met at the World Cup. And May already has a Croatia shirt ahead of Wednesday's semifinal.

May and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic have met on the sidelines of the NATO summit for the friendly exchange. May remains convinced England will advance to its first final since 1966.

May says England coach "Gareth Southgate and the boys have done a fantastic job and I'm sure that they're going to go on and do well. I just wish them all the very best of luck."

The last exchange didn't prove lucky for May, with Belgium beating England in group play. But Belgium was eliminated by France in the first of the World Cup semifinals, a pathway through the knockout stage that England avoided.

The leaders are meeting in Brussels for the annual summit of the 29 NATO allies.

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2:45 p.m.

FIFA is letting a top Croatian soccer official watch the team's World Cup semifinal against England from a VIP section on Wednesday despite him being convicted last month in a corruption case linked to the transfer of Luka Modric.

When Croatia beat Russia in the quarterfinals on Saturday, the soccer federation's CEO-like director general sat in the same row of seats as state President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic and Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev.

Damir Vrbanovic has retained his position since being sentenced by a court in Croatia in June to a three-year jail term – though Article 68 of FIFA's disciplinary code bars officials "convicted of a criminal offense in the past five years."

However, FIFA has decided that the sentence is not final because the former Dinamo Zagreb director general is appealing to a higher court

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From the left, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Belgium's Prime Minister Charles Michel, NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, US President Donald Trump, Britain's Prime Minister Theresa May, second row from the left, Denmark's Prime Minister Lars Lokke Rasmussen, Norway's Prime Minister Erna Solberg, Poland's President Andrzej Duda, French President Emmanuel Macron, third row, Albania's Prime Minister Edi Rama, Czech Republic President Milos Zeman and Spain's Prime Minister Pedro Sanchez pose for a family picture ahead of the opening ceremony of the NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) summit, at the NATO headquarters in Brussels, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (Ludovic Marin, Pool via AP) - The Associated Press


Croatia's Luka Modric, center, and his teammates inspect the pitch prior to the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in, Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Francisco Seco) - The Associated Press


England head coach Gareth Southgate shakes hands with Croatia's soccer legend Davor Suker on the pitch prior the semifinal match between Croatia and England at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Luzhniki Stadium in, Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Matthias Schrader) - The Associated Press


FILE - In this Wednesday, June 27, 2018 file photo Sweden's Andreas Granqvist, rear, and Mexico's Javier Hernandez, front, challenge for the ball during the group F match between Mexico and Sweden, at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the Yekaterinburg Arena in Yekaterinburg , Russia. FIFA has fined Sweden's soccer federation 70,000 Swiss francs ($70,750) for players wearing unapproved branded clothing. FIFA says the Sweden team defied requests "to cease the activity that led to the sanction." (AP Photo/Gregorio Borgia) - The Associated Press


French President Emmanuel Macron, right, clenches a fist as he stands beside King Philippe of Belgium prior to the semifinal match between France and Belgium at the 2018 soccer World Cup in the St. Petersburg Stadium in St. Petersburg, Russia, Tuesday, July 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner) - The Associated Press


In this photo taken on Wednesday, June 27, 2018, soccer fans watch the soccer match between Serbia and Brazil in a pub in Nikolskaya street, near Red Square, during the 2018 soccer World Cup in Moscow, Russia. The World Cup is sending business surging across the 11 Russian cities hosting soccer’s biggest show. Bars, taxi services, dumpling sellers and nesting doll vendors are among those benefiting. The Russian president was counting on just such a boost after U.S. and European sanctions and low oil prices sank the country into recession. But experts warn the boon won’t last long without deeper economic reforms. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) - The Associated Press


Croatia soccer fans march under a giant Croatian national flag at Manezh Square near Red Square ahead of the semifinal soccer match between Croatia and England during the 2018 soccer World Cup at the Luzhniki stadium in Moscow, Russia, Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Alexander Zemlianichenko) - The Associated Press


British Prime Minister Theresa May smiles as she arrives for a summit of heads of state and government at NATO headquarters in Brussels on Wednesday, July 11, 2018. NATO leaders gather in Brussels for a two-day summit to discuss Russia, Iraq and their mission in Afghanistan. (AP Photo/Francois Mori) - The Associated Press