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Russian President Vladimir Putin is currently addressing the gathering. "I would like to wish success to all the teams and I call upon all loyal fans to come to Russia and enjoy the finals of 2018," he says.

 

FIFA President Gianni Infantino says: "The scene belongs to the football legends. Now that we have set the scene, we can let the artists celebrate football over the world."

Miroslav Klose, the all-time leading goalscorer in the World Cup, has brought the trophy on to the stage. We're nearing the draw!

Gary Lineker, Cafu and Diego Maradona are all on the stage right now and we're getting ever so close to serious business.

The draw is starting. And automatically the hosts Russia are drawn into Group A.

Round 3 has been completed and this is how the draw looks like right now: 

Group A: Russia, Uruguay, Egypt

Group B: Portugal, Spain, Iran

Group C: France, Peru, Denmark

Group D : Argentina, Croatia, Iceland

Group E: Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica

Group F: Germany, Mexico, Sweden

Group G: Belgium, England, Tunisia

Group H: Poland, Colombia, Senegal


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Robert Lewandowski thinks the era of Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo might not be seen again in 100 years – but also suggests he could be better than both.

The Barcelona and Real Madrid stars are the only players to have won the Ballon d'Or since 2008 and are the two favourites to capture France Football's illustrious individual prize in 2017.



Record goalscorers for their respective clubs and in the Champions League, Messi and Ronaldo continue to set the benchmark in world football after a decade of exceptional consistency.

Lewandowski feels he deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the duo but did admit it is a privilege to have played during their careers.

Asked to compare himself with the best forwards in the world, the Bayern Munich star told TV show Kuba Wojewodzki: "Why shouldn't I put myself first?"

He then added: "It might be every hundred years that two such good players play at the same time, so I'm happy to be playing in that same period."

Lewandowski has won five Bundesliga titles and two DFB-Pokals with Borussia Dortmund and Bayern since moving to Germany from Lech Poznan in 2010.

The 29-year-old has twice finished a season as the leading goalscorer in the top flight and was also prolific in World Cup qualifying, with 16 goals in Poland's successful Group E campaign.

Lewandowski, though, had to overcome some serious self-doubt about his abilities before going on to thrive in Germany.

"When I left Poland, I had a lot of complexes - as every Polish man probably does - that I come from Poland and am worse than everyone else," he said.

"Why not me, why not someone from Poland, why should I feel worse than someone else if I can strive for the same things? My confidence has blossomed."



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Head of ticketing Falk Eller said the majority of tickets were sold to the host nation – Russia, with U.S. soccer fans following despite the fact that they did not qualify.

“We have closed the first sales phase earlier this week. We have allocated 750,000 tickets to fans from Russia and international countries. We are very, extremely happy with the outcome.



“We’re happy with the demand we’ve seen. We’re happy with the number of tickets which we’ve allocated. Of course we are also happy that the operation went quite well, no technical glitches, no problems. We are very pleased,” Falk Eller said.

The tickets are split into four categories with prices ranging in the 1st category from 215 USD for the group stage to almost 1,130 USD for the final. The 4th category tickets, allocated for Russian citizens, cost almost 10 times less.

The second stage of ticket sales starts on December 5. Russia will host the 2018 World Cup finals in 12 venues spread across 11 cities.



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Khrbin was selected ahead of last year’s winner Omar Abdulrahman — Asia’s hottest rising star — and Wu Lei, the skilful Chinese winger.

The AFC individual award, at a glittering ceremony in Bangkok, goes some way to compensate for the collective disappointment over the weekend when his Al Hilal side narrowly lost 1-2 on aggregate to Japan’s Uwara Red Diamonds in the AFC Champions League final.

Australia’s Samantha Kerr claimed the women’s Player of the Year title in Bangkok, after tearing through defences for US-based Sky Blue FC and her national side.



The Syrian national football team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup after losing last month in agonising fashion by a single goal over two legs to Australia.

Yet is was an inspiring sporting journey for the team — and their top scorer — against the backdrop of Syria’s grinding six-year civil war.

Khrbin showed a knack for scoring key goals, both in his country’s qualification campaign and in Al Hilal’s run to the AFC Champions League Final.

He plundered five over two legs as th Saudi giants swept by Iran’s Persepolis to make the final against Japans’ Urawa Red Diamonds.

Khrbin then scored the equaliser for Al Hilal in the home leg which finished 1-1, before they went down by a single goal in Japan.

In receiving the award, the 23-year-old thanked God and members of the national team.

“We apologise to all the fans because we did not achieve the greatest results but we promise them to keep trying our best,” he said.

The Matilda’s Sam Kerr has enjoyed a profilic season in front of goal, scoring freely for her US side and the national team — often marking her efforts with a signature back-flip celebration.

Thanking teammates and supporters at the awards night she said “it’s been a bit of a crazy year.”

It was a Japanese double for the Coach of the Year award with Takafumi Hori of AFC Champions League winners Urawa Red Diamonds scooping the men’s accolade, while Asako Takakura, the coach of Japan’s women’s national team took the women’s version.

The AFC award for the best international player — an Asian based outside the region — went to South Korean Son Heung-min, who has become a fans’ favourite at Tottenham Hotspur.



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Silva joined City under from Valencia in 2010 after being a part of Spain's triumphant World Cup squad and has gone on to win two Premier League titles, two League Cups and this FA Cup during his time at the Etihad Stadium.

The 31-year-old has played a typically influential role this season, with Pep Guardiola's side sitting eight points clear at the top of the Premier League – winning 13 of 14 unbeaten games – and boasting a 100 per cent record in the Champions League.



Silva has supplied eight assists in 14 top-flight appearances this term. No player has created more goals in the Premier League since his City debut in 2010.

"I am so happy to have committed my future to City," he told the club's official website.

"I am incredibly proud of what I have achieved at City in my seven-and-a-half seasons here and with Pep in charge, I feel we are in a great position to win trophies this season and beyond.

"The style of football we are playing is a pleasure to be a part of and I look forward to winning more titles in the years to come."

Overall, Silva has appeared 324 times for City in all competitions and scored 52 goals.

He is Spain's fourth-highest goalscorer in history, with his 35 or La Roja – amassed across 118 caps – placing him behind David Villa, Raul and Fernando Torres in the all-time standings.

City director of football Txiki Begiristain hailed the long-serving star as the best creative midfielder in Premier League.

"Not only has David Silva been central to the club's success over recent years, he remains one of the team's key players," he said.

"He has shown again this season that he is the best creative midfielder in English football and he will be very important in developing our talented young players in the coming years."



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The league leaders were facing the prospect of two points dropped against a much-improved Troyes side after Cavani had a first-half penalty saved, but strike partner Neymar gave PSG the lead 17 minutes from time before the Uruguayan atoned for his spot-kick woe in the dying seconds.

Jean-Louis Garcia's Troyes went into the game having won two of their previous three in Ligue 1 and they could have been 1-0 up after 35 minutes when Stephane Darbion found the back of the net, but an offside flag had already been raised.



Cavani then won a penalty after having his shirt pulled, but his effrt was kept out by Mamadou Samassa and the visitors and there may be calls for future penalty-taking duties to fall to Neymar, who contested Cavani for the right to take them earlier in the season.

The hard-fought victory kept PSG 10 points clear of second-placed Marseille and extended their winning run to five league games, proving that even when the likes of second-half substitute Kylian Mbappe are out of form, Emery has ample talent at his disposal.

Garcia will take comfort from the way his side battled against the league's standout opposition and if they can maintain the same level of performance over the festive period they should expect to pull away from the relegation battle.

Cavani, looking to add to his tally of 16 league goals, squandered his first opportunity when he volleyed Javier Pastore's chipped free-kick high over the crossbar from 10 yards out.

PSG seemed to favour attacks down the right flank through Angel Di Maria, whose shot from the edge of the box bounced just wide to the left of Samassa's goal after 19 minutes.

Kevin Trapp had to make his first save of the match just before the half-hour mark, parrying Samuel Grandsir's shot away after the pacy winger burst into the penalty area.

Grandsir had the ball in the net five minutes later, only to be ruled out by an offside flag despite replays suggesting the goal should have stood.

Just before half-time, Cavani took a theatrical fall in the penalty area when he had his shirt tugged and a foul was given, but the Uruguayan then saw his spot-kick saved by Samassa, diving to his right.



Emery's men pressed hard from the outset of the second half but shots from Marco Verratti and Thomas Meunier were blocked before Neymar blazed high and wide from 25 yards.

Grandsir was judged to have fouled Trapp as the Troyes playmaker caused the goalkeeper to fumble a high ball, but Samassa had no such problems at the other end when he made a good save from Giovani Lo Celso's thunderous low drive from 20 yards.

Emery sent on Mbappe for Di Maria with just over 20 minutes left and his introduction had an invigorating effect as Neymar collected the ball moments later and sauntered forward before powering a left-footed shot into the bottom right corner of the net.

Troyes did not give up and substitute Suk Hyun-jun managed a shot on target with seven minutes left to play, but Trapp held firm and Cavani made sure he took a share of the headlines when he rifled the ball into the top of the net from 10 yards out with seconds to spare.



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Manchester City restored their eight-point lead at the top of the Premier League thanks to a goal in the dying seconds by Raheem Sterling that sealed a dramatic 2-1 home win over Southampton.

A Kevin De Bruyne free-kick, diverted into his own net by Virgil van Dijk, had looked likely to be enough to give Pep Guardiola's side a 12th league win in a row until Oriol Romeu snatched an equaliser 15 minutes from time.



But Sterling curled home a sublime winner as the game crept into the sixth minute of injury time to maintain the hosts' charge towards the title.

City battled back from a goal down to beat Huddersfield Town last time out, Sterling also scoring the winner in that clash, and they could easily have found themselves behind in the first half at the Etihad Stadium against a Saints side buoyed by their 4-1 win over Everton.

Wesley Hoedt and Maya Yoshida missed clear opportunities to punish the home side for a sloppy opening period, with goalkeeper Fraser Forster equal to anything City were able to produce.

That was until the 47th minute, when De Bruyne's goal-bound delivery was deflected in at the near post by Van Dijk, allowing the home fans to breathe a little more easily.

The home side failed to add to the goal and were punished in the closing stages by Romeu's clinical finish, but Sterling struck to deny Saints a valuable point and frustrate title rivals Manchester United, who had looked set to make up ground on City.

40 - Man City’s haul of 40 points from their first 14 Premier League games this season is the joint-best tally ever at this stage of a top-flight campaign (also Tottenham in 1960/61 – 3 pts for a win). Momentum. pic.twitter.com/iX3cpGq7aC

— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) November 29, 2017

A surprisingly slack start from City should have been punished 14 minutes in, with Hoedt only able to head against the crossbar from inside the six-yard box after Ryan Bertrand's corner was flicked on by Yoshida.

City broke swiftly and twice tested Forster, with Sterling and Gabriel Jesus denied by the England international, who then made a flying stop to claw away a Fernandinho effort after Mario Lemina was dispossessed in his own half.

Ilkay Gundogan then missed City's best chance of the half, scuffing a half-volley into the turf and behind for a goal kick after Forster had saved from Sergio Aguero, but the home side continued to look subdued and Yoshida missed a clear opportunity to punish them before the break, prodding an effort over the bar from point-blank range after Van Dijk's downward header.



Saints were made to rue those misses in the first two minutes of the second half. De Bruyne whipped in a low free-kick from the left of the penalty area and the ball was turned into his own net by Van Dijk, who was under pressure from Aguero.

Jesus was then thwarted by Forster when through one-on-one and the Saints keeper made a flying save to keep out a De Bruyne strike from 25 yards out, with City apparently keen to press their advantage and kill off any hope of a comeback from the visitors.

Aguero missed a free header from another De Bruyne delivery before Van Dijk spurned the chance to equalise, nodding another dangerous corner over the crossbar from six yards out.

However, just as the game looked to be getting away from the visitors, they snatched their equaliser. A deep cross from Bertrand was controlled expertly by substitute Sofiane Boufal and, when he picked out Romeu from the byline, the midfielder made no mistake in smashing high past Ederson.

City poured forward and their pressure told seconds after the allotted five minutes of injury time, Sterling bending a stunning strike into the top-left corner from the edge of the area to deal a blow to United and the chasing pack in the title race.