Belgian national team players pose for a team picture, after the final selection, prior to the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia at the national training center in Tubize, Belgium, Tuesday, June 5, 2018. Top from left to right, Laurent Ciman, Toby Alderweireld, Leander Dendoncker, Romelu Lukaku, Inaki Vergara, Richard Evans, Erwin Lemmens, Jan Vertonghen, Thomas Meunier and Nacer Chadli. Middle row left to right, Dedryck Boyata, Michy Batshuayi, Marouane Fellaini, Axel Witsel, Thierry Henry, manager Roberto Martinez, assistant coach Graeme Jones, Vincent Kompany, Moussa Dembele, Thomas Vermaelen and Yannick Carrasco. Bottom row left to right, Adnan Januzaj, Youri Tielemans, Eden Hazard, Simon Mignolet, Thibaut Courtois, Koen Casteels, Dries Mertens, Thorgan Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. (Nico Vereecken, Pool Photo via AP)

The Latest: Ciman's departure points to a return for Kompany

June 16, 2018 - 4:41 am

MOSCOW (AP) — The Latest on Saturday at the World Cup (all times local):

11:35 a.m.

Laurent Ciman has left Belgium's World Cup squad, the team says on its official Twitter account, although it has not said if the defender's departure means that center back Vincent Kompany is fit again after injuring his groin in a warmup match two weeks ago.

Coach Roberto Martinez took Los Angeles FC defender Ciman to Russia as a stand-by player in case Kompany was not fit for Belgium's opening Group G match against Panama on Sunday.

The team says that despite returning to Belgium, Ciman will remain on stand-by until Sunday evening.

Kompany and Barcelona defender Thomas Vermaelen have not been training with the Belgium team in recent days.

In the Saturday morning tweet, Martinez thanks Ciman "for his professionalism and contribution to the team" during its World Cup preparations.


11:10 a.m.

French president Emmanuel Macron will travel to the World Cup only if Les Bleus make it to the semifinals.

But the French players will have the support of a former French president during their opening match against Australia in Group C.

FIFA says Nicolas Sarkozy, an avid football fan who served as president from 2007-12, is among the guests at Kazan Arena.


10:30 a.m.

Some soccer fans will follow their team anywhere to see it play in the World Cup. For five friends from Croatia that meant cycling 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) all the way from Zagreb to Kaliningrad in Russia.

The epic trek took them 15 days, cycling for 10 hours a day as they pedaled through Slovenia, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic and Poland.

On the way they encountered a number of challenges including a broken bridge. As they reached their final destination, the group collapsed into a bar and celebrated with a well-earned drink.

They're now looking forward to Saturday's game between Croatia and Nigeria.

Frane Lukovic, a 46-year-old lawyer from Zagreb, insisted it was nothing out of the ordinary for long-distance cyclists such as himself.

For Lukovic, the trip represented a personal comeback, having been diagnosed with skin cancer six years ago.


10 a.m.

While fans from around the world are singing and celebrating the World Cup on Moscow's streets, they can't go to the most famous place in the Russian capital — Red Square.

Barriers staffed by police officers have blocked off the square for several days, with authorities citing the need to build and dismantle stages for a national holiday and a World Cup-themed opera performance last Tuesday and Wednesday.

Mexico supporter Cesar Reyes, peering past the barriers, says "it's a real shame it's closed because it's one of the best places to visit when you're in Moscow. It's a real shame that people will miss it because it's closed for special event and there's no opportunity to appreciate this building."

Russian police have closed off a number of roads and other areas for security reasons over recent days. It's unclear when the square will be reopened.

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