Well I hope everyone enjoyed getting a day off yesterday to spend some time with their nearest and dearest because today we’re back in business, it’s the World Cup second round…
Day 15 Summary: Senegal’s yellow peril and a phoney war
This years group phase was one of the best in the recent history of the World Cup but it ended on a strangely low-key note. In Group H Japan & Senegal needed a point and Colombia needed to beat the Senegalese. Senegal started the better and thought they;d got a penalty but VAR correctly intervened to show Davison Sanchez had perfectly timed his tackle on Sadio Mane. Senegal were the better side for long periods but were undone by a set piece powered home by Yerry Mina to put Colombia top of the group. Meanwhile Japan and Poland were playing out a drab encounter until Jan Bednarek came up with a fine volley to put eliminated Poland ahead. It left Senegal in third place and missing out by virtue of having picked up more yellow cards than Japan, Japan then spent the coming minutes of their match passing the ball amongst themselves with little intent and Senegal couldn’t find the goal to save themselves and both games ended 1-0.
Group G concluded the group stage with the evening kick offs with tied qualifiers Belgium & England playing reserve sides to determine who won the group and who got the easier half of the draw. Both seemed intent on the draw but Adnan Januzaj didn’t read the script and scored a fine individual goal to give Belgium the win, not that their manager or players seemed too thrilled. Meanwhile Panama got to experience being in the lead at a World Cup game by virtue of a deflection from Jose Rodriguez’s shot in their game against Tunisia. It lasted 18 minutes before Fakhreddine Ben Youseff finished off a fine passing move for Tunisia. Man of the match Whabbi Khazri capped a fine display by tapping home the winner and gave Tunisia their first win of the competition.
Day 16 Preview
France vs Argentina (Kazan)
This blockbuster tie of former champions kicks off the second round in style. Argentina are a mess with the players now seemingly managing the team whilst France haven’t found their best form yet but this promises to be an entertaining game. It will put Leo Messi against the world’s best defensive midfielder in N’Golo Kante and a French defence yet to concede from open play. At the other end of the pitch Antoine Griezmann has yet to fire but he and Kylian M/’Bappe look more comfortable playing off Olivier Giroud and should prove too much for a shaky Argentine back line marshalled by Javier Mascherano. Mascherano isn’t so much over the hill as sledging down it on black ice! If Argentina are to win they’ll need an early goal but I think France will have too much for them.
Prediction: France 3-1 Argentina
Portugal vs Uruguay (Sochi)
Here’s a shock statistic from this World Cup: Uruguay have only picked up 1 yellow card! They remain a tough defensive side but haven’t resorted to the dark arts that sullied some of their previous campaigns. These teams are a mirror image of one and other with great quality in their ranks but both favour defensive play. Ronaldo will find himself up against Diego Godin as they renew Madrid rivalries whilst the unpopular Pepe will be marking Luis Suarez- sparks will fly! This won’t be one for the purists and I think extra time will be required but I suspect CR7 will have the last laugh.
Prediction: Portugal 1-0 Uruguay (AET)