A good chunk of Serie A players who were called up for the World Cup have already been eliminated, so it is time to review their performances in Russia. First off, Sami Khedira was part of the Germany team that flopped big time and he did not have good showings at all. He started in the two games they lost, against Mexico and South Korea, and was replaced in both for offensive purposes. In the other match, Rudy was picked over him.
The veteran did not look at ease in a two-man midfield and had troubles containing opponents, often looking too slow and lethargic. Continue reading →
A couple of shockers, late drama, clutch goals: the third round of the group stage did not fall flat. The biggest surprise was obviously Germany dropping the ball against South Korea: Die Mannschaft just had to win two-nil (or more) to be safe, but despite multiple good chances, they did not manage to score and eventually the Taeguk Warriors took advantage of their unbalanced tactics and punished them, much to the jubilation of Mexico.
The World Cup Champion curse continues, as also Spain in 2014, Italy in 2010 and France in 2002 also were not able to get past the first phase after lifting the trophy. Continue reading →
As expected, the Japanese struggled against Senegalese counterattacks but perhaps unexpectedly for them they managed to battle out a 2-2 draw against a team they knew were stronger than them all across the pitch. Japan played better than perhaps even they thought they would and now find themselves in a great position to qualify from Group H.
The draw against Senegal saw Japan stay level at the top of the group with their African counterparts whilst Colombia’s comprehensive win against Poland saw the Eastern European country crash out with a whimper. With these two results Japan now understand that a draw or better against an already knocked out Poland will see them qualify for the Round of 16 for the first time since 2010. The Samurai Blue could also advance to the knockout stages with a loss if Senegal beats Colombia but will want to leave matters in their own hands.
This was the first time Senegal have ever played an Asian team in the World Cup with the match played just inside Asia at the Ekaterinburg stadium. Japan strolled out of the tunnel with an unchanged lineup after the winning start against Colombia. There was one change for Senegal with Stoke striker Diouf dropped so the goalscorer against Poland, M’Baye Niang could move into a central position with Sadio Mane and Ismaili Sarr on the flanks.
In the first few minutes of the match Japan knew they had their work cut out with Senegal able to easily create space in wide areas. Japan defended early corners confidently but struggled to attack themselves, Shinji Kagawa having the best of the early touches for the Asian team. As composed as the Borussia Dortmund midfielder was, his teammates were struggling. Sarr was running Nagatomo ragged and it was his cross that was so poorly defended by Haraguchi whose headed clearance fell straight into the path of Youssouf Sabaly. Sabaly’s effort was deflected into the goal as Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima punched the ball onto Sadio Mane. It was a fully deserved opener for Senegal who continued to push after their breakthrough.
The second round will end today with England looking to secure the qualification against Panama. Japan and Senegal will square off in the afternoon, trying to maintain the momentum they obtained after the surprise wins in their respective debuts. The main event will be Poland versus Colombia, where both teams need a win to bounce back to stay alive.
Let’s recap the already sealed verdicts ahead of the third and final match. Four squads have gained access to the elimination stage: Russia and Uruguay in the group A, France and Croatia in C and D one. Continue reading →
Straight after Japan’s 2-1 victory over Colombia they were on a flight back to their training camp in Kazan, receiving a heroes welcome from those working there. While those who featured significantly in the match spent time in recovery, others who didn’t feature so prominently such as Shinji Okazaki trained in chilly conditions using Rubin Kazan’s match-day facilities. There were beaming smiles on the faces of the whole squad and rightly so having beaten the toughest team on paper in their group but the experienced heads knew the biggest challenges were yet to come.
Left-back Yuto Nagatomo, now plying his trade at Galatasaray in Turkey, spoke to the Japanese Football Association about the Colombia game saying “Even if we win the first match, it means nothing if we lose the next two matches. It’s important to gain confidence but we struggled against a Colombian side who were a man short. We are the weakest team in our group in terms of quality. We must stay realistic and make our decisions rationally or else we may be hit hard in the next two matches.”
Two contenders will take the field on Sunday: Germany will square off against Mexico, while the Neymar-led Brazil will take on Switzerland, both looking to get off on the right foot, but their opponents are no pushovers. Today’s first game will be between Costa Rica and Serbia.
Two other top national teams will make their debut in Russia on Monday: Belgium will face Panama and England will challenge Tunisia. They will try to take advantage of favourable match-ups on paper. The slate will be opened by Sweden versus South Korea. Two intriguing teams in the second tier, Colombia and Poland, will day view on Tuesday, respectively against Japan and Senegal. Continue reading →
In our last of group previews for World Cup 2018 hosted by Russia, Dave and Jamie reveal their opinion of England’s World Cup squad, and disagree with each other (9:52), look forward to seeing Senegal at the tournament (19:32) and highlight James Rodriguez’s rise in the game since the previous World Cup (20:24).
Topics covered also include holidays and the importance of Dave keeping his pants on.