The World Cup keeps rumbling on with another team eliminated, two more going through and a Superpower humiliated…
Day 8 summary: Caballero’s calamity & Modric Magic down Argentina
The early match saw Denmark get off to a blistering start against Australia and star man Christian Eriksen hit a stunning volley for the early lead, Denmark had chances to finish Australia off and seemed in control until VAR intervened: An Australian corner was judged to have been handled by Yousef Poulsen and despite playing having continued to the other end of the pitch the referee called it back and awarded the penalty. It was hardly ‘clear and obvious’ and at best a debatable one so why was VAR used? Anyway Miles Jedinak stepped up and claimed his second goal of the tournament. Their good fortune sparked Australia into life and they pushed hard for a winner in the second half with promising youngster Daniel Arzani made a dynamic World Cup bow but Denmark held out for the draw.
France stuttered in their opener but bringing Oliver Giroud into the lineup gave their attack greater focus against Peru. Peru again played some nice football but were caught over-elaborating on the edge of their box and Paul Pogba intercepted the, ball played in Giroud and his looping effort was tapped home by Kylian M’bappe. France flashed they skills but couldn’t convert it into a second goal and Peru hit back in the second half. Pedro Aquino stuck the bar with a long-range effort and both Andre Carrillo and Jefferson Farfan went close but Peru fell to another 1-0 defeat and unlucky elimination.
The evening game was a heavyweight clash with the talented Croatians taking on Messi and Argentina. The first half was dominated by nervy defending from both teams and brutal tackling with Croatia’s Ante Rebic fortunate to stay on after a reckless challenge. It seemed almost inevitable the game would come down to a defensive mistake but few expected such a clanger- Argentine ‘keeper Willy Caballero attempted to deal with a backless by chipping the ball over Rebic, but the forward read it, intercepted the ball and produced a sublime volley over Caballero for 1-0. Argentina looked increasingly ragged in the second half and Croatia’s midfield trio of Modric, Rakitic & Brozovic dominated the game with Messi left a spectator although Paulo Dyabla went close to levelling. And it was Modric who settled the match when he picked up the ball 30 yards out and curled an effort into the corner of the net. Argentina were reduced to niggly fouls for the closing stages and swift counter instigated by Rakitic was finished by the same player to cap a fine 3-0 win. Argentina are not out but their fate could be out of their hands should the Iceland win today, Croatia meanwhile can sit back and look forward to the knock-out phase.
Day 9 Previews
Iceland vs Nigeria
The TV audience for this afternoon’s game may be swelled by several million Argentina fans: if Iceland win then a draw in their last game will guarantee they qualify ahead of Argentina. A Nigeria win or a draw and Argentina could still qualify by beating Nigeria in their last game- something they have often done in World Cup’s. Everyone got that?
Nigeria were awful in their opener lacking any shape, style or even passion. They must surely do better today with what is likely to be a much changed side. Iceland will have to do without injured winger Johann Gudmundsson today and against a more defensive side will have to come out more than we saw against Argentina. This looks an unpredicatble game mainly because you can’t say for sure which Nigeria will turn up- if it’s the one from the Croatia game they could be in for a long afternoon.
Prediction: Iceland 1-1 Nigeria
Brazil vs Costa Rica
A lunchtime treat today (if you live in Europe)- Brazil playing their beuatiful football! Brazil started well but faded against Switzerland but whilst doubts persist of Neymar’s fitness they should be far too good for Costa Rica. Gabriel Jesus had a frustrating opening night and this is a huge game for him with the likes of Roberto Firmino sat waiting for a chance.
Costa Rica never look like a team in regression and were eaily outplayed opened up by Serbia in their opening day defeat. They’ll defend in numbers and try to press but Brazil should have too much class and I think it ends here this time for Costa Rica .
Prediction: Brazil 3-0 Costa Rica
Serbia vs Switzerland
Serbia were impressive in their opener whilst Switzerland worked hard to hold Brazil making this an intriguing all European affair with a place in the last 16 the likely reward for the victor.
Serbia look strong defensively and in Sergej Milinkovic-Savic have one of the emerging talents of this tournament. The question is can they get the best out of erratic frontman Alexsandar Mitrovic. The striker had an excellent club run-in with Fulham but missed a boatload of chances against Costa Rica and in a match where clear-cut chances will be at a premium he must do better if Serbia are to succeed.
Switzerland have similar problems, their defence is tight, the midfield disciplined and Xherdan Shaqiri gives them an element of unpredictability. But they lack a centre forward as illustrated again against Brazil. If it comes down to a shoot-out between Mitrovic and Haris Serferovic we may be in for a long night but there’ll be plenty of players who like a pop from distance on show and I wouldn’t be surprised to see a thunder-bast@rd or two hit the back of the net.
Prediction: Serbia 1-1 Switzerland