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TIVAT, Montenegro, September 16, 2018 (AP) -- Montenegro and Croatia have resolved almost all of their differences more than two decades after fighting a war, except for one: a dispute over an 85-year-old former Royal Yugoslav Navy training ship.

The majestic sailing vessel called Jadran, or the Adriatic, is currently part of the Montenegrin naval fleet based in the port of Tivat. Croatia is demanding the return of the tall ship, which Montenegro adamantly refuses to do.

The disagreement is so serious that Croatia is threatening to block Montenegro's efforts to join the European Union, and it's also reviving old tensions.

Being part of shrunken Yugoslavia together with Serbia, Montenegrin troops launched an assault against the medieval Croatian town of Dubrovnik in 1991, keeping it under siege for months. The town, a UNESCO heritage site, was shelled from land and sea before an international outcry stopped the onslaught.

Before the war between the two Adriatic Sea neighbours, the 60-meter (200 feet) white vessel with three masts was docked in the Croatian port of Split before it was moved to Montenegro in 1990 for repairs.

Croatia says its home port has always been Split, thus it must be returned after it was "illegally" taken.

Montenegro claims that an agreement between the warring sides after the bloody breakup of the former Yugoslavia in the 1990s calls for all military equipment that found itself on a state's territory belongs to that state.

"Jadran became part of this town's history 85 years ago and I'm confident that it will outlive us all and in the next 85 years continue to welcome new generations, new sailors and new visitors," Montenegro Defense Minister Predrag

Boskovic said last month in Tivat during Jadran's 85th-anniversary celebrations.

He said that Montenegro's government in 2013 provided significant funds for its overhaul, indicating it is not willing to hand it over to Croatia anytime soon.

The Croatian Defense Ministry says that the return of Jadran is one of its main foreign policy priorities and some Croatian officials have hinted the European Union-member state would block Montenegro's membership in the bloc if it isn't.

"The training ship Jadran is in the ownership of the Republic of Croatia and is an integral part of Croatia's naval history," Defense Minister Damir Krsticevic said in a statement. "Croatia will take all legal steps to return it to the Croatian dock, and demands that Montenegro respects ... international laws."

Krsticevic said that "in the spirit of good neighborly relations and as a goodwill gesture," Croatia has offered to share the ship for training purposes, but that it first has to be returned to Split.

The ship has had a turbulent history, serving in the navies of eight different countries. The vessel was called Marco Polo when it was taken over by Italy during World War II. It was abandoned in Venice and left to decay. The ship's equipment was looted and was barely floating, serving as a bridge over one of the Venetian canals at one point.

The ship's Montenegrin sailors said they will never surrender their beloved vessel to Croatia because of its history and the fact that its first docking after delivery from a shipyard in Hamburg, Germany, in 1933 was in Montenegro.

"For Montenegro's navy, this is the most important vessel in historic, cultural and technical terms," said its captain Zoran Ivanovski.

"To be honest, I'm not paying attention to the Croatian demands. My job is to command this ship. I have my crew and the ship belongs to Montenegro."

ZADAR, Croatia, September 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Borna Coric gave Croatia a flying start in their Davis Cup World Group semifinal against the United States, defeating Steve Johnson 6-4 7-6(4) 6-3 in the opening rubber in Zadar on Friday.

The 21-year-old Coric had lost his only previous encounter with the US No 3 at Roland Garros but on Zadar's clay courts drew first blood for the hosts against Johnson, who was leading his country in the absence of John Isner and Jack Sock.

Coric's emphatic win just underlined why the Croats, who had won all their four previous ties with the Davis Cup's most successful nation, were overwhelming favourites to repeat the dose and reach the final of the last Davis Cup to be played in its traditional historic format before next year's revamp.

Both Coric, the world number 18, and Marin Cilic, number six, are ranked significantly higher than their first day singles opponents with US debutant, 20-year-old Frances Tiafoe, facing the former US Open champion in the second rubber.

Coric was impressive from the start, taking an early break for 2-1, aided by Johnson missing plenty of first serves, and controlling the 35-minute opening stanza.

The youngster brought the crowd to their feet with one extraordinary 'tweener' lob that left Johnson flat-footed as he earned another quick break in the second set but the American fought back strongly to take it to a tiebreak.

Coric again stepped up his game, reeling off the final four points of the breaker, featuring a glorious forehand winner and a fine volley, to seal it 7-4.

He then forged home his advantage over the world No 30 in the third set to wrap up victory in two hours and 24 minutes and take Croatia's seventh straight win in their favourite Zadar venue.

MADRID, September 12, 2018 (News Wires) - Spain smashed six goals past Croatia, with Marco Asensio sparkling in a dominant performance from Luis Enrique’s side against the World Cup runners-up.

The visitors actually started the better of the two sides, spurning a couple of early opportunities. From then on, though, Spain were rampant. Saul Niguez scored his second goal in as many goals to opening the scoring, powering home a header from an outside-of-the-boot Dani Carvajal cross.

Asensio struck Spain’s second, lashing home a finish from 25 yards, before forcing a third, finding the back of the net via the crossbar and the back of Lovre Kalinic in the Croatian goal. There was a fourth goal for Rodrigo after the break, with Sergio Ramos and Isco adding a fifth and sixth respectively.

This result means Enrique’s tenure as Spain manager has started in impressive fashion, with two wins from two in the Nations League. But it wasn’t just the result, but the manner of the performance which will cause the rest of European football to sit up and take note.

Poland 1 Republic of Ireland 1

Mateusz Klich’s late strike denied the Republic of Ireland a morale-boosting victory after what has been a tumultuous week for Martin O’Neill’s side.

Following a 4-0 loss to Wales in Cardiff, build-up to the match in Wroclaw was dominated by a leaked Whatsapp audio message, which saw Stephen Ward describe a row between assistant Roy Keane and players Jonathan Walters and Harry Arter.

Ireland boss O’Neill was forced to play down Ward’s version of events as he sought to focus on the Poland friendly, in which he made six changes.

An experimental Ireland side took the lead eight minutes into the second half, with Millwall forward Aiden O’Brien heading in from Callum O’Dowda’s cross on his debut.

Their lead was not to last, however, with Klich playing a neat one-two with Arkadiusz Milik before slotting it home.

Potugal 1 Italy 0

Andre Silva netted the game's only goal as Portugal beat Italy 1-0 in their Nations League clash at the Estadio da Luz with Pepe earning his 101st international cap.

Silva popped up to score in the 48th minute and Roberto Mancini's men had no response as Portugal closed out a hard-fought win.

Portugal were the better team and could have won by more, with Gianluigi Donnarumma making a super save from Bernardo Silva after he had earlier seen a deflected cross hit his crossbar.

But the night belonged to Portugal's legendary defender Pepe as the captain was honoured for his century of international caps before the match - albeit on the occasion of his 101st.

It was perhaps fitting for the 35-year-old that his side did such a superb job protecting their slender advantage.

ZAGREB,Croatia, August 14, 2018 (News Wires) - Mario Mandzukic says he is retiring from international soccer after 11 years with Croatia's national team, with his decision coming a month after he scored a goal in the World Cup final.

The 32-year-old Mandzukic made the announcement Tuesday on Instagram.

In an emotional farewell message, Mandzukic says the decision was made easier after Croatia reached the World Cup final in Russia.

Mandzukic says "we lived our dream, made a historic result and felt the love of our fans."

Mandzukic, who plays for Italian club Juventus, has played 89 games for Croatia, scoring 33 goals - trailing only Davor Suker's national record of 45.

Croatia lost to France 4-2 in the World Cup final on July 15.

 

 

GLASGOW, August 4, 2018 (News Wires) - Croatian brothers Valent and Martin Sinkovic underlined why they remain one of rowing's greatest double acts when they took the pair's title at the European Rowing Championships at the Strathclyde Country Park near Glasgow on Saturday.

Romania also celebrated their own dynamic duo on the first of two days of rowing finals at the inaugural multi-sports European Championships with Madalina Beres and Denisa Tilvescu striking double gold in both the women's pair and the eight.

Romania won three titles but it was the Sinkovic brothers from Zagreb who provided the highlight, adding a third European title to the Olympic gold and four world golds they have earned together over a decade of success.

Locked in a battle of the brothers with the silver medal-winning French siblings, Valentin and Theophile Onfroy, the Croatians powered clear in the dying stages of the 2,000 metres course.

It was, laughed 30-year-old older brother Valent, a measure of sporting revenge. "We said to the French team before the race that we will make up for Croatia's defeat in the World Cup in Russia. So we made that prediction come true!" he said.

The Sinkovic brothers won their Olympic title in the double sculls but decided to each trade in two oars for one and have made irresistible progress in their new challenge in the pair.
After winning world silver last year in their first year, they came to Glasgow off the back of setting a course record at Henley Royal Regatta, beating the mark of British rowing legends Steve Redgrave and Matthew Pinsent.

"This was our first big championship medal as a pair and we are very proud," said 28-year-old Martin.

Beres and Tilvescu had less than two hours after their convincing pair's triumph before joining up with their Romanian world championship-winning colleagues in the eight and winning again.

With Mihaita-Vasile Tiganescu, Cosmin Pascari, Stefan-Constantin Berariu and Ciprian Huc also winning the men's four, just six days after the same quartet had lifted the world under-23 title in Poznan, Romania surged ahead in the regatta medal standings with three golds, one silver and one bronze.

MARSEILLE, France, July 20, 2018 (News Wires) - Croatia defender Duje Caleta-Car has joined Marseille from Red Bull Salzburg, becoming the first offseason signing for the nine-time French champion.

Caleta-Car played a group game at the World Cup with Croatia, which lost 4-2 against France in the final last week.

He won four Austrian league titles and three national cups with Salzburg.

Terms of the deals were not disclosed but L'Equipe newspaper reported that Marseille agreed to a fee of 19 million euros for the 21-year-old player, who was also targeted by Spanish club Sevilla.

Marseille finished fourth in the French league last season and lost 3-0 against Atletico Madrid in the Europa League final, missing out on a Champions League berth.

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