Day 9 Summary- Brazil leave it late, Shaqiri shatter Serbia
Brazil kicked proceedings off against Costa Rica expected to claim a routine win. But Costa Rica reminded everyone why they did so well at Brazil 2014 with a dogged defensive display. Brazil grew increasingly frustrated with the referee eventually telling Neymar to just shut up. Neymar’s mood didn’t improve when he thought he’d won a penalty but the referee changed his mind on reviewing the VAR footage. It seemed Costa Rica would win a hard-earned point going into injury time but were denied when they ball fell to Coutinho in the box who blasted the ball through Keylor Navas’ legs for the breakthrough, Neymar added a second in the 97th minute to give Brazil a flattering 2-0 win.
In the afternoon fixture Nigeria finally got to wear their ultra-cool home shirt against Iceland. Nigeria were vastly improved from their opening night misfire whilst Iceland seemed to melt in the afternoon heat of Volgograd. After a stilted first half the second burst into life when Victor Moses broke clear down the right and his cross as met by Ahmed Muss who struck a stunning half volley to put Nigeria in front. Musa then broke down the left and burst into Iceland’s box to fire home a fine second. Iceland should have got back into the game when they awarded a late penalty only to see Gylfi Sigurdsson blow the spot kick over the bar. It’s a result that leaves Group D wide open with the door now ajar for Argentina to qualify.
The evening game saw Serbia take on Switzerland in an evenly matched contest. Serbia started the stronger and took the lead when Akexsander Mitrovic headed home early on. Mitrovic was a revelation after his wasteful display against Costa Rica and Switzerland looked stunned. But in the second half they recovered their composure and equalised thorough Granit Xhaka’s superb first time shot. The Swiss we’re gaining the upper hand but Mitrovic should have won a penalty when he was hauled down in the box by 2 defenders. But in the dying minutes it was Switzerland’s main man who decided it- Shaqiri stole a yard on defender Dusko Tosic and outpaced on the break from the centre circle before neatly slotting the ball under the advancing goalkeeper for a dramatic winner. Shaqiri & Xhaka both courted controversy by making the sign of the Albanian eagle after scoring- a clear reference to the 1990’s conflict in Kosovo.
Day 10 Preview
South Korea vs Mexico
The team of the moment won a lot of friends to go with the 3 points from beating Germany but must now adapt to being favourites up against well organised defensive opponents. South Korea were disappointing in their opening loss but still carry an attacking threat in Son Heung-Min and are unlikely to be caught out so easily by Mexico’s swift counter attacking. But Mexico should have too much attacking quality for them and I expect a narrow win for Mexico.
Prediction: South Korea 1-2 Mexico
Tunisia vs Belgium
Belgium can secure qualification with a win over Tunisia this afternoon. Tunisia proved a tough but for England to crack but they may struggle to raise their game again after suffering that late opening night loss. Belgium have more than enough talent to win but will need to keep their heads against frustrating opponents. This should be a case of when and not if Belgium break through the Tunisia defence but I think they’ll need to show a lot of patience and persistence.
Prediction: Tunisia 1-2 Belgium
Germany vs Sweden
So to the evening kick off and the big question: Can Germany save their title defence? Short answer: Yes. Joachim Loew will likely make changes after his sides shock defeat to Mexico, with Ikay Gundogan surely getting the nod in midfield & upfront Mario Gomez more suited up the physical game the Swedes are likely to play. Sweden have shown tone and again they’re a very tough defensive side who carry a threat from set pieces, Germany will need to be patient but they won’t panic and should claim a much-needed win.
Prediction: Germany 1-0 Sweden