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World Cup final delayed by protesters; Russian punk band claims responsibility

Sunday’s World Cup final between France and Croatia was disrupted briefly Sunday when four people dressed in old-fashioned police uniforms ran onto the pitch, The Independent reported.

>> Read more trending news

The Russian activist punk band Pussy Riot claimed responsibility for the suspension of play at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, which occurred during the 52nd minute of Sunday’s match.

“News Flash! Just a few minutes ago four Pussy Riot members performed in the FIFA World Cup final match — ‘Policeman enters the Game,’” the band posted on its Twitter feed.

>> France cruises past Croatia in World Cup final

France was leading 2-1 when three women and a man charged onto the pitch, The Associated Press reported. The protesters were wrestled to the ground by police. Croatia defender Dejan Lovren pushed the male protester, which allowed police to subdue him, the AP reported.

The protesters were dressed in black pants and white shirts. They entered the pitch from behind the net guarded by French goalkeeper Hugo Lloris, The Independent reported. One of the women reached the center of the pitch and high-fived French forward Kylian Mbappe.

On Twitter, the group released a statement urging the Russian government to release political prisoners and to end “illegal arrests” of protesters.

>> Photos: 2018 World Cup final -- France vs. Croatia

Russian President Vladimir Putin was watching Sunday’s match at the stadium, along with French President Emmanuel Macron and FIFA President Gianni Infantino, according to the AP.

France cruises past Croatia 4-2 to win World Cup

France cruised to its first World Cup title in 20 years and its second soccer crown overall, dominating Croatia 4-2 in Sunday’s championship game in Moscow.

>> Read more trending news 

The French, winning the Cup for the first time since 1998, scored first and then outran the Croatian squad, the smallest country to play in a World Cup final since 1950, when Uruguay defeated Brazil 2-1 in Rio de Janeiro.

France opened the scoring in the 18th minute thanks to an own goal by Croatia. On a set piece after a free kick, Frances Antoine Griezmann kicked the ball toward the goal. The ball glanced off Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic and past goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.

Croatia tied the match 10 minutes later when Ivan Perisic rocketed a left-footed shot past Hugo Lloris.

France was awarded a penalty kick when Perisic handled the ball in the box. After a video review, referee Nestor Pitana in favor of the kick.

Griezmann buried his shot past Subasic to give France a 2-1 lead, which it took into the half.

>> Photos: 2018 World Cup final -- France vs. Croatia

France increased its lead to 3-1 in the second half, with Paul Pogba controlling his own rebound of a blocked shot and converting a left-footed shot in the 59th minute.

Six minutes later, Kylian Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Brazil’s Pele did it in 1958. That gave the French a commanding 4-1 lead.

>> World Cup final delayed by protesters

Croatia cut the deficit to 4-2 in the 69th minute when Mandzukic sent a shot past Lloris.

Photos: 2018 World Cup final -- France vs. Croatia

France, Croatia meet in Moscow to play in soccer’s biggest game.

Hope Solo says soccer in America is now 'a rich white-kid sport'

U.S. women’s soccer star Hope Solo said at a sports conference Tuesday that playing has become so expensive for youths that “soccer in America right now is a rich white-kid sport," The Sporting News reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Solo, a goalkeeper who is a two-time Olympic gold medalist and World Cup champion, was speaking at the Hashtag Sports conference in New York. She said that one reason the U.S. men’s national team failed to qualify for this year’s World Cup was that the sport has become too expensive for Hispanics, blacks and rural players, TSN reported. That prevents the U.S. Soccer Federation from drawing from a more talented pool of youth soccer players, she said.

“We have alienated the Hispanic communities. We have alienated our black communities. We have alienated the underrepresented communities, even rural communities, so soccer in America right now is a rich white-kid sport," Solo said at the conference. "Then we have to ask ourselves: Well, no wonder why we are not qualifying for the World Cup when we have alienated a huge population of really talented youth soccer players. And that’s the state of the game right now.”

Landon Donovan's support for Mexico sparks pitched battle off the pitch

Landon Donovan’s support for Mexico at the World Cup has sparked a pitched battle between the most recognizable name in American soccer and his peers, ESPN reported Sunday.

>> Read more trending news 

Donovan has been part of an advertising campaign for Wells Fargo to support Mexico, which opened its World Cup play in Russia with a stunning 1-0 victory against defending champion Germany on Sunday. Critics of the promotion have criticized Landon, calling his cheerleading inappropriate.

Donovan posted a photo on Twitter on Saturday holding a scarf that read “My other team is Mexico.”

Donovan played this spring for León, which is part of Mexico’s Primera Division. Still, some questioned Donovan’s motives.

“Watering it down for beer/banks won’t enrich the rivalry,” ESPN announcer Sebastian Salazar tweeted.

Carlos Bocanegra, the former captain of the U.S. national team, tweeted “Really?” 

Donovan tweeted back that Bocanegra should “remember where you came from.”

“Look around our country, are you happy with how we are treating Mexicans?” Donovan answered. “Open your mind, stand for something and remember where you came from.”

Donovan’s former teammate, Herculez Gomez, an ESPN analyst, criticized that exchange, ESPN reported, tweeting that it was “an incredibly terrible take.”

Singer Robbie Williams makes obscene gesture at World Cup opening ceremony

English singer Robbie Williams made an obscene gesture toward the camera during the opening ceremony of the World Cup in Moscow, ESPN reported.

>> Read more trending news 

Williams was singing at Luzhniki Stadium when he gestured with his middle finger. The 44-year-old pop star had been criticized before the event for agreeing to participate in the ceremony.

“Robbie Williams emerged, busked his way through a medley of his two-decade old hits and was gone again in a pleasing hurry,” the Independent reported.

Williams said he was told not to use his song “Party Like a Russian,” which was seen as mocking Russia. Before his gesture, Williams added the line “I did this for free,” to the lyrics of one of his songs, ESPN reported.

Fox issued a statement apologizing for showing the gesture on television.

"The 2018 FIFA World Cup opening ceremony was a newsworthy event produced by a third party and carried live on Fox," the statement said. "As it was broadcast live, we did not know what would happen during Robbie Williams' performance and we apologize."

The Russian soccer team played immediately after the ceremony and won its first match, shutting out Saudi Arabia 5-0.

Fans say Brandi Chastain's Hall of Fame plaque is a bust

American soccer legend Brandi Chastain is one of the most recognizable women athletes in the world. But sports fans were scratching their heads after viewing her plaque as she was inducted into the Bay Area Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night.

>> Read more trending news

In their minds, Chastain’s bust was, well, a bust.

Ann Killion of the San Francisco Chronicle, who wrote inscription for the plaque, called the rendition “shameful” and tweeted that Chastain’s plaque makes Cristiano Ronaldo’s plaque “look perfect.”

“Brandi Chastain is one of the most beautiful athletes I’ve ever covered. How this became her plaque is a freaking embarrassment,” she tweeted.

Chastain was inducted during a ceremony at the Westin St. Francis Hotel in San Francisco. She has won two Olympic gold medals and two World Cup titles with the United States women’s soccer team.

Chastain was diplomatic about the plaque, the San Jose Mercury News reported.

“It’s not the most flattering,” Chastain said. “But it’s nice.”

On a lighter note, social media posters were having a field day. Some compared Chastain’s likeness to Gary Busey, Rex Ryan, Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Glanville, Peter King, Jerry Lewis, John Goodman, Bill Belichick and even Mickey Rooney. Others were comparing it to a hideous rendition of another soccer legend, Cristiano Ronaldo.

“Cristiano Ronaldo sculptor: Eh, this isn’t too bad. Brandi Chastain sculptor: Hold my chisel,” The Washington Post tweeted.

“I don’t know about Brandi Chastain, but they nailed Mickey Rooney,” Jason Davis tweeted.

There are no plans to redo the plaque, Andy Savick, the vice president of finance and administration for BASHOF told the Mercury News. He told the newspaper that images on the plaques are “representations” and not intended to be photographic likenesses. 

Chastain’s bust was on a more favorable view at the 1999 World Cup. She scored the game-winning penalty kick and celebrated by sinking to her knees, ripping off her jersey to reveal her sports bra while clenching her fists. The photograph of that moment has become an iconic moment of celebration in sports history.

There are no plans to redo the plaque, Andy Savick, the vice president of finance and administration for BASHOF told the Mercury News. He told the newspaper that images on the plaques are “representations” and not intended to be photographic likenesses. 

Chastain’s bust was on a more favorable view at the 1999 World Cup. She scored the game-winning penalty kick and celebrated by sinking to her knees, ripping off her jersey to reveal her sports bra while clenching her fists. The photograph of that moment has become an iconic moment of celebration in sports history.

Here are some other infamous renditions of athletes. How does the Chastain plaque measure up?

Greek officials vow action after soccer team owner enters pitch with gun 

Sports officials in Greece are investigating the actions of one team owner, who apparently was carrying a gun when he charged onto the pitch to protest a disputed goal at the end of Sunday’s Greek Super League match, Reuters reported.

>> Read more trending news

Greece’s sports minister said Monday he was considering sanctions against Ivan Savvides, the owner of soccer team PAOK and one of the country’s richest men. Photographs and video footage showed Savvides, with what appeared to be revolver strapped to a holster on his waist, trying to intervene in the closing moments of a home match against rival AEK of Athens, Reuters reported.

After Fernando Varela scored from a header in the 89th minute, putting PAOK ahead 1-0, the referee signaled a score but then disallowed it for offside, ESPN reported. Savvides walked onto the pitch twice to protest the call. The first time he was wearing an overcoat; the second time, his coat was off and his holster was in plain view, Reuters reported. Savvides did not draw a weapon from the holster.

The goal was eventually allowed to stand and PAOK was awarded a 1-0 win, ESPN reported.

AEK officials claimed Savvidis threatened the referee during his trip onto the pitch.

"We suddenly saw a man on the pitch with bodyguards and everyone started saying it was the PAOK president and he went first to the referee and then to our bench and started threatening everyone," AEK Athens coach Manolo Jimenez told Radio Marca.

"We didn't fear for our lives initially, but then, when I saw the photographs of the gun, you think to yourself, 'What if he does something crazy and pulls it out?' It's true that initially we didn't know that he had a gun on his belt, but that could be a small thing as he could have authorization to carry one, but what isn't normal is that a president jumps onto the pitch to protest and threatens a referee.”

Images of “persons entering sports grounds armed” harm PAOK and soccer in general, Greek Deputy Culture and Sports Minister Georgios Vassiliadis said in a written statement Monday.

“Such extreme phenomena call for bold decisions,” Vassiliadis said.

Georgia State soccer player withdraws from school after backlash over racial epithet

A Georgia State University soccer player who was suspended from the team after she used a racial epithet on social media has withdrawn from the school, officials said.

>> PREVIOUS STORY: Georgia State soccer player suspended over racial slur used on social media

Some students had called for the expulsion of 18-year-old freshman defender Natalia Martinez after the epithet appeared on her Finsta page, a secret version of Instagram that is growing in popularity among teens.

>> On AJC.com: What is a ‘Finsta'? Teens and their secret Instagram accounts

“As a progressive, diverse university, we ... feel like this sort of behavior should not be tolerated,” said India Bridgeforth, who created a petition demanding the university take a tougher approach with Martinez.

The petition had garnered more than 500 signatures by Monday afternoon when the university announced Martinez had “officially withdrawn.”

Associate athletic director Mike Holmes told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that officials were made aware of Martinez’s post Friday morning — just days after the University of Alabama expelled a 19-year-old student who posted a video of a racist rant on her Finsta page.

>> Read more trending news 

That student, Harley Barber, uploaded a second video on Martin Luther King Jr. Day in response to people who were upset by the language and threatened those who wanted to report her fake Instagram account, The Washington Post reported

In a statement, Georgia State University said the school does “not tolerate the language (Martinez) used in her post.”

Liverpool coach swears on the air, says 'I thought in America it's OK'

To Jurgen Klopp, the expletive seemed appropriate, even during an on-air interview.

>> Read more trending news

Klopp, the German-born manager of Liverpool’s Premier League soccer team, let a vulgar word escape as he did a post-match interview with NBC Sports Soccer on Sunday, The New York Daily News reported.

Klopp was exulting after the Reds’ 4-3 victory against Manchester United when he dropped the F-bomb on the air, causing the interviewer to apologize to the viewing audience.

“I thought in America it’s OK,” Klopp joked, referencing an alleged vulgarity uttered last week by President Donald Trump during a meeting with members of Congress..

Arlo White of NBC Sports Soccer later tweeted that “the language got little ‘fruity’ at our pitch side desk. Apologies again for that.”

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