Hector Herrera crucial to Mexico chances against Brazil


Mexico‘s victory over Germany shocked the footballing world, but not for too long. The way they put the world champions, who have since been eliminated from the World Cup, on the back foot with their high press, meant that they were soon taken seriously. They followed it up with a 2-1 win over South Korea, but a 3-0 defeat to Sweden saw the Scandinavians top Group F; next up, as a result, is a clash with five-time winners Brazil.

Continue reading

Bright future for Nigeria despite early World Cup exit


Nigeria had the youngest squad at the World Cup, and that should be remembered. As they prepared to face Lionel Messi and Argentina in Saint Petersburg on Tuesday night, the narrative, and the majority of neutrals, were against them. Messi was on the brink of an early exit, and there is no shame in losing to him when he is in the mood; he certainly was, too.

Continue reading

Denmark defended well but lacked attacking quality in France stalemate


Essentially, France and Denmark had the same idea when they met on Tuesday afternoon, but the response to each as a result has contrasted hugely. The curtain was to be brought down on Group C, at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow; a draw was all both sides needed to achieve their goals, so it was no surprise that this game was the first goalless draw of the World Cup this summer.

Continue reading

Musa and Iheanacho shine as Nigeria finally wake up against Iceland


When Ahmed Musa woke up on Saturday morning, he had a new status as an unlikely hero in Argentina. The Leicester City striker scored two goals in Nigeria’s victory over Iceland in Volgograd on Saturday, keeping La Albiceleste’s faint hopes of reaching the World Cup last 16 alive despite them taking just one point from their opening two games.

Continue reading

Denmark stutter against Australia as Christian Eriksen goes missing


Everything started so well for Denmark but, in the end, they were left frustrated, angry and thinking nervously about France. Christian Eriksen was at the heart of everything good about their performance against Australia, but the trouble was, as against Peru, the Danes couldn’t keep up their early intensity up for the full 90 minutes and they slumped to a 1-1 draw.

Continue reading

Nigeria vs Iceland: Mikel & Iwobi hold key for Super Eagles

Chelsea FC v Seattle Sounders FC

Now everybody at the World Cup has played at least once, there is a clearer idea how each team will get on for the rest of the tournament. Most of the bigger sides, those who can expect to challenge for the crown, have failed to impress so far, but while the likes of Brazil and Germany couldn’t to win in their opening games, the general consensus is that they will recover. For the likes of Nigeria and Iceland, though, the jury is still very much out.

Continue reading

Nigeria had success stifling Croatia’s star-studded midfield but they offered nothing else


Pace, verve and energy should be synonymous with this Nigeria side, but as they showed in Kaliningrad on Saturday night, they lack bravery. Croatia ran out 2-0 winners; Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic and Ivan Perisic are part of the ageing golden generation ready for one last push at a major tournament, but they didn’t need to play anywhere near their best to take the three points.

Continue reading

Denmark vs Peru Preview: Christian Eriksen can lead them to victory


Everybody knows who the favourites for this summer’s World Cup are, and it is hard to see one of them not going on to win it in Moscow next month. Germany are chasing a second successive crown and a record-equalling fifth in all, while Brazil are aiming for a sixth World Cup win. Spain, despite their managerial situation, are expected to challenge again; France have a squad brimming with youth and quality, so it could be their year.

Some teams have world class players leading them, but cannot back them up with sufficient quality elsewhere on the pitch to go far into the tournament. Euro ‘92 winners Denmark have previous in springing surprises, but as the World Cup goes with form more often than not, they are not expected to make too many waves in Russia. Arguably France’s biggest test in Group C, the Danes will hope Tottenham Hotspur playmaker Christian Eriksen can shine, starting against South American qualifiers Peru at the Mordovia Arena in Saransk on Saturday.

Eriksen is not the only threat for Denmark, but he is the man who makes an organised, hard-working team tick. At a tough moment in the playoffs against the Republic of Ireland, after a 0-0 draw in the first leg at home, he stepped up and took responsibility by scoring a hat-trick in a 5-1 win in Dublin to book his side’s place this summer. The Spurs man is linked with a move to Real Madrid and Barcelona, which is a sure-fire mark of quality; he will give Denmark a chance in all three group games, particularly their first, which is viewed as crucial in the battle to join France in the last 16. Peru are at the World Cup for the first time since 1982 and have been boosted by the availability of their record goalscorer, Paulo Guerrero, who had his suspension for drug-taking lifted so he could take part this summer. He, like Eriksen, is a talismanic figure, but he must prove his fitness quickly if he is to make the impact he is capable of.

For Denmark, failing to get out of the group willl be seen as a failure; they have the spine of a talented side, with a strong defence protecting Kasper Schmeichel, Leicester City’s goalkeeper and son of the legendary Peter. Andreas Christensen, who broke into the Chelsea side under Antonio Conte last season, will partner captain Simon Kjaer at the back. Up front, former Arsenal striker Nicklas Bendtner, who has an impressive record at international level despite being seen as a figure of comedy for much of his career, is not in the squad; Kasper Dolberg could be their breakout star after a superb rise at Ajax, while Feyenoord striker Nicolai Jorgensen, linked with a move to Newcsalte United in January, is another option for manager Age Hareide. Red Bull Leipzig striker Yussuf Paulsen has scored just four goals in 28 appearances for Denmark, but he can give the side a focal point; so many attackining options can lead them to a crucial early victory.

But, whatever happens, Eriksen will be at the heart of it. At Tottenham, he is one of a number of key players in their system, which relies on high pressure and intensity, under Mauricio Pochettino, but he is the centrepiece of this Denmark team, the man who sets the tempo and dictates the game. It will be tough for them to break down Peru; they are organised and keep things tight in defence, scoring 26 goals and conceding 27 in qualification. Denmark can win this game in midfield; one of the biggest assets Eriksen brings to the team is his work-rate, and alongside Ajax’s Lasse Schone, he can dominate the centre of the park. Defensive strength, creativity and goalscoring prowess aren’t an issue, but they do lack pace, which means Celta Vigo winger Pione Sisto, who came to prominance in the under-21 European Championships back in 2015, has a crucial part to play in the side.

It will be important for Denmark to win both of their games, against Peru and Australia, before facing France on matchday three. That way, their progression to the next round will be all but guaranteed; Les Bleus are overwhelming favourites to win this group, but they cannot underestimate Denmark because of the strength they have across the pitch.

Hareide’s men can’t look too far ahead, though; a professional job should see them beat an inconsistent Peru. They won eight and lost eight of their games in qualification, and although it is impressive that they edged out Copa America winners Chile, there are definite weaknesses that can be exposed, mainly in the centre of the park. If Christian Eriksen gets on the ball and plays like he can, he can lead his side to a big three points to kick off their World Cup journey.

How well do you know European and world football? Want to challenge the best Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasy-worldcup.com now!

Croatia vs Nigeria Preview: Can the Super Eagles carry the hopes of Africa?


Eight years on from when Africa came together at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the continent still seems as far away from winning the trophy as they were then. The hosts exited the competition at the group stage; it was down to Ghana to represent, but they fell in the cruelest manner possible in the quarter finals to Uruguay, on penalties. In Russia, Nigeria are attracting a lot of interest, both on and off the pitch. Their new shirt, brought out for the World Cup, has been lauded as one of the smartest for a long time, but it was in November last year when the world really sat up to take notice.

A 4-2 win, in Russia, against Group D opponents Argentina, showed just how dynamic and energetic their young team can be. They are all set to take on La Albiceleste again, as well as debutants Iceland and, on Saturday in Kalilingrad, Croatia.

With Lionel Messi hoping to take his country, who finished as runners up in Brazil four years ago, one step further this year, Argentina are favourites to top the group; this game could be huge for deciding who will finish second and reach the knockout phases. Iceland cannot be written off, having beaten England and given France a scare at Euro 2016, but their lack of experienice and quality should see them fall short. Nigeria have a nucleus of talent that can take them far into the tournament; but beating a team as strong as Croatia, with the plethora of options they have in midfield and attack, is vital for that to happen.

Luka Modric, the Real Madrid star, is their talisman; he is complimented by Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic in the centre of the park. Inter’s Ivan Perisic and Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic supply the firepower. It will be a tough test for Rohr‘s men, but they have shown their ability to take the game to their opponents with great intensity; their win over Argentina relied heavily on their pace on the counter attack. If the likes of Leicester City midfielder Wilfred Ndidi, who usually operates at the base of a midfield three, can cut the supply line to Mandzukic and look to get the ball to John Obi Mikel, the captain who plays in a more advanced role than he did at Chelsea, Nigeria could cause problems.

Alex Iwobi is very important to the way they play; the Arsenal man may be on the periphery of things at the Emirates Stadium, but having scored twice against Argentina and once in the defeat to England at Wembley at the beginning of June, it is clear he will be the biggest threat for Croatia on Saturday. Victor Moses will add extra pace, while Leicester’s Kelechi Iheanacho and former Watford striker Odion Ighalo will be fighting to lead the line up front.

Croatia are a team that play to their strength by keeping possession and getting the wide players involved. Rakitic and Modric usually start alongside Milan Badelj, who offers an extra layer of protection in the middle. Nigeria are not in the best of form right now, winless in four since beating Poland 1-0 in March; they struggled to deal with England’s movement between the lines, but after John Ogu came on to replace Ogenyi Onazi at half time, they found a better shape. Iwobi scored almost immediately after half time and then they frustrated Gareth Southgate’s side. Nigeria do not have the same quality as Argentina, or Croatia for that matter, but Yusuf has selected a balanced squad with an identity and a style that can surprise a few people, starting in their first game.

Ahmed Musa, another player known to the Premier League, can come off the bench and stretch the play as the game goes on, but Croatia have been bringing both Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brosovic on as substitutes in their recent friendlies against Brazil and Senegal. Their strength in depth is very impressive, especially for a team not expected to challenge at the business end of the tournament. It could prove decisive in their battle with Nigeria, both in Kalilingrad and for a place in the knockout stages.

Senegal, who lost to Croatia last week, and a Mohamed Salah-inspired Egypt, are also flying the African flag this summer, but Nigeria are looking strong and their squad is developing together. Now is their chance to prove it on the biggest stage.

How well do you know European and world football? Want to challenge the best Fantasy Managers? Play www.fantasy-worldcup.com now!