MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Thursday at the World Cup (all times local):
FIFA has selected Nestor Pitana to referee the World Cup final between France and Croatia on Sunday.
The Argentine referee will blow the final whistle at Luzhniki Stadium on a tournament he began there by handling the opening game, when Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0
It will be the fifth game at this World Cup for Pitana, and his second working with each of France and Croatia.
Pitana handled France’s 2-0 win in the quarterfinals against Uruguay, and Croatia’s round of 16 win over Denmark.
FIFA also named Alireza Faghani of Iran as referee for the third-place game. Belgium plays England in St. Petersburg on Saturday for third place.
Paris is pouring police into the streets this weekend for what the French people hope will be back-to-back celebrations — Bastille Day and, they’re crossing their fingers, a World Cup title.
Paris police chief Michel Delpuech says 12,000 officers and 3,000 rescue workers will be mobilized in Paris and its suburbs for France’s national day on Saturday, marked by a military parade down the Champs-Elysees Avenue, and on Sunday when France plays Croatia in the World Cup final at a stadium in the Russian capital.
Should France win, revelers will pack the Champs-Elysees to celebrate. Tens of thousands can watch the match from screens in a fan zone near the Eiffel Tower.
The fun will be mixed with high tension for security authorities: Delpuech says a “real terrorist threat” exists.
FIFA has reported no doping cases from almost 4,000 samples taken since January in a testing program for the World Cup finals.
The last World Cup doping case involved Argentina great Diego Maradona at the 1994 tournament in the United States.
The 2018 testing program includes 626 samples taken during the competition, including two players from each squad drawn to give samples after games. A total of 108 of the samples were collected on non-match days.
Some players from the four teams still playing in Russia have been tested eight times this year, soccer’s world body said.
Peru captain Paolo Guerrero almost missed the World Cup because of a doping suspension imposed in November after he failed a test during South American qualifying. He blamed his doping test failure on a tainted cup of tea at a Lima hotel. Helped by the captains of France, Australia and Denmark, Peru’s group rivals in Russia, Guerrero campaigned to have the suspension lifted for the tournament.
Results included one positive test explained by the player having an approved medical exemption, FIFA says. Three more tests were “atypical findings” judged not to be positive tests.
World Cup-related doping tests since January have been analyzed at the World Anti-Doping Agency-accredited laboratory in Lausanne, Switzerland. Russia is still not authorized by WADA since a state-backed doping program was exposed after the 2014 Sochi Olympics.
FIFA also barred Russian staff from working in the collection and testing process.
FIFA has opened a disciplinary case against England’s Football Association over misconduct by fans at the World Cup semifinal.
FIFA says the investigation is into reports of offensive chants and discriminatory behavior by a small group of fans at Luzhniki Stadium on Wednesday.
England took an early lead before losing 2-1 to Croatia in extra time in its first World Cup semifinal since 1990.
FIFA holds member federations responsible for fan behavior at stadiums.
Soccer’s international governing body is working at with anti-discrimination group Fare, which places expert monitors in stadiums.
Finally, Croatia is going to wear its red-and-white check shirts again at the World Cup.
FIFA says the Croatia team will be in its signature checkerboard design to play France in the final on Sunday.
It’s the first time in more than four weeks Croatia will be seen in its most familiar uniform, since an opening win against Nigeria on June 16.
Croatia wore its change shirt of black-and-blue checks in its five games since, mostly against teams that played in red or white.
FIFA says France will be dressed all in dark blue rather than its traditional tricolor of white shorts and red socks.
Croatia will wear its usual white shorts and will also have white socks.
Once the world’s best center forward, Marco van Basten has sympathy with players in his old position at this World Cup.
Van Basten, now FIFA’s technical director, says well organized defenses in Russia made it “very, very difficult for the No. 9 to get the ball, to make goals, to influence the game.”
Van Basten says the “amount of square meters to play in is unbelievably difficult.”
The ex-Netherlands international picked out Sweden, Denmark and Iceland among the best organized defenses.
It meant players like Lionel Messi and Neymar found it tough to find space “between the lines” of an opponent’s defenders and midfielders.
Van Basten says teams such as Germany and Spain which faced packed defenses also left themselves vulnerable to fast counter attacks.
Jerzy Brzeczek has been appointed to replace Adam Nawalka as Poland’s head coach after the team’s group-stage exit at the World Cup.
Poland’s football federation says the 47-year-old Brzeczek will present his plans on July 23. Nawalka didn’t have his contract extended after the World Cup.
Brzeczek played 42 games for Poland and played for clubs in Poland, Austria and Israel before going into coaching and working at clubs including Wisla Plock, GKS Katowice and Lechia Gdansk.
Poland lost 2-1 to Senegal and 3-0 to Colombia in the group stage and was out of contention before finishing with a 1-0 win over Japan in Group H.
Ex-Netherlands player and coach Marco van Basten says he only discussed soccer with Russian President Vladimir Putin during meetings at the World Cup.
Van Basten, now FIFA’s chief officer for technical development, has been criticized for meeting Putin by families of the victims of a plane downed by a missile which has been linked to Russia.
The Dutch government in May announced it was holding Russia legally responsible for its role in the July 2014 missile strike that blew Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 out of the sky over eastern Ukraine. All 298 people on board were killed, including 196 from the Netherlands.
Van Basten has visited the Kremlin with a delegation from soccer’s governing body. They posed for pictures with Putin and held a round-table discussion that lavished praise on Russia’s hosting of the World Cup.
Van Basten has told The Associated Press “we were talking only about football and about the tournament. I am aware of the fact that a lot of families in Holland, they have a problem with what happened with the airplane. But this is another matter. I was just asked to come there and have a chat about football.”
Asked if he was helping to enhance Putin’s image, Van Basten says: “I am not helping him. I just had a discussion with him about the football. Nothing else.”
Belgium outwitting Brazil in the quarterfinals has been hailed by FIFA’s expert panel as the best tactical success at the World Cup.
A 2-1 win in Kazan was built on Belgium’s impressive first half. Midfielder Kevin De Bruyne scored after being given a more attacking and central role, and forward Romelu Lukaku played wider to the right.
Praising Belgium’s tactical flexibility, FIFA technical study group member Andy Roxburgh says “the way they approached that game, the way (coach) Roberto Martinez set them up was fantastic.”
Roxburgh says the World Cup showcased “incredible variety” of national styles despite most stars playing in Europe.
The former Scotland coach says: “Yes, we’ve got globalization, yes, the influence of the Champions League on players, but all of these players have been brought up within their own country so they have a certain mentality about them.”
The influence of Pep Guardiola’s coaching philosophy was seen across the tournament, Roxburgh says.
Teams favored “high intensity pressing” of opponents with players showing “speed of action and speed of thought.”
Roxburgh praises England as “like the kings of the corner kick” at a tournament where teams paid special attention to set plays.
FIFA’s technical director Marco van Basten says Neymar needs to cut down on theatrics after the Brazil star became a butt of jokes worldwide.
Van Basten says diving and simulating injury is “not a good attitude” and works against Neymar and his team.
The Netherlands great suggests “if you are acting too much I think everybody will understand that it’s not going to help you. I think he personally should understand his situation.”
Neymar was calculated to have spent almost 14 minutes on the turf injured or simulating injury during Brazil’s five World Cup games, sometimes dramatically rolling over on the ground before coming to a stop.
It started a trend in online videos of youth soccer teams practicing faking injury when their coach called out Neymar’s name.
Van Basten was asked about Neymar at a FIFA briefing analyzing tactics and technical skills at the World Cup.
He says Neymar “makes people laugh so also I think that’s a positive thing. It’s always nice if we have some humor in the game.”
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