And so the end of the road is near. After four weeks, and a lot of plotlines, the 2018 World Cup in Russia is about to close the book on its story. A tournament of expected thrills and unexpected spills, it also has its standout performers:

 

 

 

Goalkeeper

 

Hugo Lloris (France): It’s been a World Cup where a few goalkeepers have done their reputations no harm, Jordan Pickford has been subject of well-merited praise in between the sticks for England, Thibaut Courtois likewise for Belgium, Danijel Subasic has been brilliant for Croatia, Kasper Schmeichel was no different for Denmark, Guillermo Ochoa picked up where he left off four years ago with Mexico, while Iranian goalie Iranian Ali Beirenvand also caught the eye. Hugo Lloris, though, came into this tournament under a fair bit of pressure. The French skipper had an underwhelming season at club level with Tottenham, with a few errors, and was almost something of a liability at times. But he has rock-solid in Les Bleus’ run to the final, as despite conceding four times, those goals have come in only two games, and one of them was a penalty. He began the World Cup with a brilliant save against Australia, and hasn’t looked back, with three clean sheets in five.

 

Defence

 

Kieran Trippier (England): There was a reason why Tottenham boss Mauricio Pochettino wasn’t chuffed about Kyle Walker leaving the club last summer. In Kieran Trippier, he had had a more than good enough replacement, who had already begun relegating Walker to the bench before he departed, and form last season was so good, English manager Gareth Southgate had to put Walker as part of his back-three to accommodate both. Trippier has been the best right-back in this tournament, complementing his defensive displays with his actions up front. His chance creation rate in this tournament is no mean figure, his ability to cross from set-pieces was one of England’s most potent weapons in their run to the semis, and he topped it with a brilliant free-kick against Croatia in the last four.

 

Diego Godin (Uruguay): Uruguay’s tournament may have ended in the last eight, but their defensive solidity will last long in the memory. La Celeste didn’t concede until the last 16, which was the first international goal they’d let in since October 2017. The centre-back pairing of Jose Maria Gimenez and skipper Diego Godin was at the heart of their defensive steel, the latter standing out in this tournament. His reading of the game is exemplary, his aerial prowess top-class, it’s no exaggeration to say he has been the world’s most underrated defender of the past five years.

 

Raphael Varane (France): Another vital cog in France’s defensive wheel, Varane has been rock-solid at this World Cup. His aerial ability was needed against teams like semi-final opponents Belgium and last-eight foes Uruguay, and he popped up with a goal at the other end in the latter. The French players speak of his leadership ability, they are likely need it in the final as well.

 

Jan Vertonghen (Belgium): So much has been made of Belgium’s attack firing them to a first semi-final in 32 years, the Red Devils being the competition’s top scorers with 15 goals. As such, it’s easy to forget the defensive contributions of Roberto Martinez’s side. Jan Vertonghen stands out in that regard, and has appeared at left-back, as well as left of the back-three. His reading of the game is as impressive as ever, and he bagged a crucial goal in the comeback win against Japan in the last 16.

 

 

 

Midfield

 

Luka Modric (Croatia): The standout star of this World Cup without an iota of doubt. His grace and elegance on the ball has always been evident, in this tournament he stood out for those qualities as well as his work-rate off the ball- no one has run more in this tournament. Modric entered this tournament on the back of national displeasure as a result of his role in the Zdravko Mamic court issue, he has dominated it with his displays. Has always taken control of games in this tournament, and popped up with a superb goal against Argentina, without him Croatia would be nowhere near the final.

 

Ngolo Kante (France): You could lavish all the superlatives on Ngolo Kante, and he’d still be underrated. While a few other members of the French squad get the limelight and the attention, Kante continues to do his job in the middle, and basically everywhere, on the pitch. A continuously tireless worker, he’s almost worth three on the pitch.

 

Aleksandr Golovin (Russia): Tipped to be a potential breakout star before the World Cup began, Golovin was the star of Russia’s surprise run to the quarter finals. Began with a bang, a goal and two assists on the opening day, he followed that with another outstanding display against Egypt in the second game. Has been linked with a few clubs already, reports of Chelsea in particular have been circling.

 

Forwards

 

Romelu Lukaku (Belgium): Began the tournament on fire, with four goals in the first two games. Hasn’t scored since Belgium’s second game against Tunisia, but his influence in the side was still great in their run to the semis, typified by his display against Brazil in the last eight.

 

Harry Kane (England): His influence and form in this tournament may have been overplayed- three of his six goals have been penalties, two from corners and the other an inadvertent deflection, but they have been vital. His double in England’s opener against Tunisia was the sole for three points, and without his penalty in the last 16 against Colombia, the Three Lions might well be home already. He’s on course for the golden boot, the first Englishman to do that since Gary Lineker in 1986.

 

Kylian Mbappe (France): The turbo-charged teenager took some time to get up to speed in this tournament, but hasn’t looked back since. He was the standout performer in France’s last 16 win over Argentina, with two and bursts of pace that has etched itself into the nightmares of Argentine defenders. His close control on the ball has also caught the eye in this tournament, and he has cemented his status as a world rising star.

 

 

 

Published in International Watch

Will Modric work-rate Croatia to the final?

Wednesday, 11 July 2018 13:35

By Oluwaseun Aleshinloye

Davor Suker was the hero 20 years ago, scoring six goals the last time The Blazers got to the semi-finals of the World Cup.

Suker’s goal against France in the Semi-Final in 1998 gave the Croatian team hope of reaching their first FIFA World Cup final until a double from unlikely Lilian Thuram sent them to the third Place fixture, where they defeated the Netherlands 2 goals to 1 – thanks to a 35 minutes winner scored by Suker.

Back in 1998, Luka Modric was only 12, with nobody nor him thinking he will be the one to make the Croatians dream again. Though with fierce relationship with his people in recent years, El Pajaro has fondly called by the Spanish media, no doubt will go down as one of the greatest to ever donned The Blazers colours.

No iota of disrespect to the likes of Ivan Rakitic, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Perisic, who have been phenomena at the Mundial, Modric by miles has stood himself out – with his work rate and resistance spirit the first point of call.

El pajaro has played a total of 485 minutes at the World Cup, covering 50.8km, and a total of 28 midfield recoveries. In addition to that, Modric has scored two goals created 12 chances and has won the Most Valuable Player on three occasions.

A more soothing question will now be: Will a Modric led Blazers stop the Waistcoat inspired Three Lions side from righting their generational wrongs? For the records, Modric is one of those that announced to the whole world that there were so many things wrong with English football.

After an ignominious showdown at the 2006 World Cup, there came a cold rainy Wednesday at the Wembley Stadium in 2007 – a night where Croatia and Modric ended England’s Euro 2008 qualification hopes. Modric on the stage upstage and ran riot on the Three Lions midfield that had the trio of Steven Gerard, Frank Lampard and Gareth Barry.

Things have taken new shape for English football in the last two years – their U-17 and U-21 both winning the World Cup in the 2016 is an evident to this. With the rollercoaster journey of the Three Lions in Russia coupled with how well their youth teams had faired, there comes rekindled fire all over the British press, reminding everyone where modern football started from.

The talking is on the field - not in the media nor the fans, and the field is where the real champions are made.

After 20 years, The Blazers will once again play in the semis of a World Cup. Suker made the Croatians dream in 1998: Luka Modric will lead them all out in 2018; El Pajaro, did not only give the Croatians a dream but accompanied the dream with hope.

 

 

Published in International Watch

 

60 down. Four to go. The 2018 World Cup has claimed 28 countries, leaving four to slug it out for the ultimate prize of global immortality. Just over a week of World Cup football left, and By July 16 we'll be back to doing...what were we doing before the World Cup began? 

 

Sweden 0-2 England 

It was a case of seeking a spot in the last four after a long time out, Sweden hadn't gotten to the semis in 24 years, England in 28. The first half of the first half was drab, to put it nicely, but the game sprung to life just past the half hour mark, Harry Maguire heading home from Ashley Young's corner after the Swedes defence uncharacteristically left him unmarked in the area. England should have had a second before the break, but some sloppy play by Raheem Sterling meant they'd go into the break with just the one goal lead. That lead was almost cancelled out early in the second period, but Jordan Pickford produced a strong hand to push away Marcus Berg's header. But the Three Lions would get breathing space just over the hour mark, Kieran Trippier finding Jesse Lingard, whose first-time cross was headed in by Dele Alli. Sweden didn't wave the white flag just yet, but the two best chances they fashioned out were repelled by superb saves from Pickford, Berg denied again, but not before his teammate Viktor Claesson had been foiled by the England goalkeeper. Sweden's challenge would eventually peter out, as England reached the semis for the first time since 1990.

Hit...

England: Slowly garnering belief among themselves and their fans as they head for the last four. Football is two games away from potentially coming home. 

Jordan Pickford: The English goalkeeper followed up his penalty heroics against Colombia in the previous round with a series of stops against the Swedes.

Miss...

Sweden: So much had been made of their defensive organisation, but it deserted them in Samara. The biggest potential problem for Janne Andersson's side was whether they could come back from falling behind, and they failed that test.

Marcus Berg: Leaves Russia with over 15 attempts, and not a single goal, despite spearheading the Swedish attack.

 

Russia 2-2 Croatia

Two sides jostling for the tag of unlikely semi-finalist, Russia and Croatia met in Sochi in the last quarter-final game. The hosts' fans were sent into cacophony euphoria when Denis Cheryshev curled in a superb effort into Danijel Subasic's top corner after half an hour. That lead lasted only eight minutes, as Andrej Kramaric headed home Mario Mandzukic's cross to restore parity. The second half produced no goals, although Ivan Perisic hit the post for Croatia and Fyodor Smolov tested Subasic in stoppage time. Extra time came, and midway through the first half of it, Domagoj Vida heading in Luka Modric's corner. Russia were staring at elimination, but snatched a late equaliser through Mario Fernandes, whose glancing header from Alan Dzagoev's free-kick meant we'd be having penalties. Russia took the first kick, and got off to the wrong foot, Smolov denied by Subasic, before Marcelo Brozovic scored to put Croatia ahead. After two kicks each, though, it was 1-1 in the shootout, after Igor Akinfeev denied Mateo Kovacic. But Croatia regained their advantage when Fernandes rolled his kick wide, then after four successful kicks- one of which was a close shave from Modric- Ivan Rakitic had the chance to win it for the Croats. It was just like the Denmark game, and like the Denmark game, Rakitic made no mistake from the spot, sending Croatia into a first World Cup semi-final for 20 years.

Hit...

Croatia: Advanced to a first World Cup semi-final since 1998, and won't be short of confidence over going all the way.

Miss...

Russia: The sun has finally set on the hosts campaign, who responded well to that extra-time setback, only to go out on penalties.

 

Matter of Fact

  • Dele Alli is the youngest English player to score at the World Cup since Michael Owen in 1998.
Published in International Watch

Only two days into the knockout round, and penalties arrived. Football’s tension-inducing and nerve-shredding answer to Russian Roulette was on show on Day 18 of the tournament, and a big name was one of the casualties:

 

Spain 1-1 Russia

There was a clear favourite here. Spain had underwhelmed a bit in topping their group, but they were still Spain, and from their side of the charts, the path to the final wasn’t as difficult. But first up: Russia. The hosts had achieved minimum expectations in reaching the last 16, and even on their own patch, were clear underdogs, coach Stanislav Cherchesov describing this game as one of life and death. 12 minutes in, it looked like it would be death, as Russia went behind after Sergei Ignashevich diverted Marco Asensio’s cross into his own net. Spain had the early breakthrough, and surely that would set the tone for a rather comfortable win, possession was being dominated as expected, and La Roja were in control. But four minutes before halftime Russia would be handed a lifeline, quite literally, as Gerard Pique handled in the Spanish box. Artem Dzyuba made no mistake from 12 yards, and at the interval, the scores were level. Spain were still expected to dominate, and they did, but to little avail, other than Igor Akinfeev denying Andres Iniesta and Rodrigo Moreno in quick succession, the Russian goalie was barely tested. Onto extra time, and still more Spain possession, little substance; they racked up over a thousand passes in the game, but it amounted to little; which meant we would have penalties. After four successful kicks, Koke stepped up for Spain, and his effort was saved by Akinfeev, before Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev scored for Russia, either side of Sergio Ramos keeping the Spaniards in it. As Iago Aspas came forward for their fifth, he knew he had to score to keep Fernando Hierro’s team alive. He didn’t. Akinfeev saved again. The most astonishing World Cup story was written; Russia would be heading to the last eight, Spain’s road ends here.

Hit…

Russia: Defended bravely over 120 minutes, showed great resolve to come back after conceding early, and earned their luck on penalties to go through. The last eight beckons, and even a potential last four spot seems very much achievable.

Igor Akinfeev: The Russian skipper became a national delight, after two penalty saves sent his side to the quarter-finals.

Miss…

Spain: One of the favourites to win the tournament, things got off to a rocky start with the sacking of Julen Lopetegui, and Spain didn’t look to recover from it. The performance had been unconvincing from the group stage, and, despite making pass after pass here, they paid the price for being toothless up front.

 

Croatia 1-1 Denmark

It was an explosive start in Nizhny Novgorod, as Mathias Jorgensen gave Denmark the lead after just 58 seconds. Their advantage only lasted for double that amount of time, Mario Mandzukic levelling for Croatia, and the score was 1-1 after three minutes and 50 seconds. If it looked like it would set the tone for the rest of the game; it didn’t. The rest of the 90 minutes were rather drab, and so were the first 23 of the extra 30 that followed, until Luka Modric played in Ante Rebic, who rounded Kasper Schmeichel but was fouled by Jorgensen before he could score. A penalty was awarded, which Modric failed to convert, his weak effort held by Schmeichel, much to the approval of his dad in the stands. That meant this game would follow the one earlier in Moscow and go to a shootout. The first two attempts failed, Christian Eriksen denied by Danijel Subasic, then Milan Badelj was foiled by Schmeichel, then four successful kicks followed, one of which was Modric who atoned for his miss. Then Subasic saved from Lasse Schone. Advantage Croatia. Then Schmeichel denied Josip Pivaric. Advantage lost. Then Subasic foiled Nicolai Jorgensen. Match point Croatia. And Ivan Rakitic would make no mistake with his kick, sending the Zlatko Dalic’s team to the last eight.

Hit…

Croatia: Looked like they were heading for another shattering exit early in a major competition, but luck was on their side and they head to only their second ever quarter-final.

Kasper Schmeichel: His side may have lost eventually, but they wouldn’t even have made it to the shootout were it not for his penalty save, and he did keep them in it for as long as he could with two more. Named Man of the Match afterwards, and deservedly so.

Danijel Subasic: Schmeichel may earn all the plaudits, but the opposing goalkeeper was Croatia’s hero with three saves in the shootout.

Miss…

Denmark: Made the perfect start in the game, but eventually lost in the shootout, with a number of poorly-taken kicks.

 

Matter of Fact

  • Sergei Ignashevich is the oldest player to score an own goal in the World Cup, at the age of 38.
  • Spain have never beaten the host nation in a major tournament, with five defeats in five.
  • Danijel Subasic is only the second goalkeeper in World Cup history to save three penalties in a shootout, after Ricardo for Portugal against England in 2006.
Published in International Watch

FIFA World Cup 2018: The Final 16

Friday, 29 June 2018 10:59

Uruguay

World Cup so far: It’s been ‘so far, really good’ for Uruguay, especially results-wise, with three wins from three in Group A. Uruguay are the only side in the World Cup that haven’t conceded a goal yet, in fact they haven’t done so in the whole of 2018.

How far can they go: Oscar Tabarez’s side have shown defensively solidity and compactness, and will come up against a side with similar traits in Portugal in the last 16. The belief of going past the last 16 and last eight, especially when their defence has a front two like it does to look up to.

Best player: Uruguay’s biggest selling point at this tournament has been their defence, with a centre-back pairing of Diego Godin and Jose Maria Gimenez, who are the defensive at club level for Atletico Madrid. Gimenez has complemented his defensive solidity with contributions at the other end, bagging that late winner against Egypt.

Russia

World Cup so far: Despite defeat in their final group game against Uruguay, Russia have had a wonderful tournament so far. Ranked lowest of the 32 teams at the start of the World Cup, and tipped by many to go home after three games, the hosts began with a bang, two wins from two- with eight goals scored- sealed them a place in the last 16 with room to spare.

How far can they go: Russia will meet Spain in the next round, but, despite coach Stanislav Cherchesov’s given target of the semis, have surely matched expectations at the very least. Elimination would be by no means disastrous, qualification would spark mayhem.

Best player: No Russian player has caught the eye more than Aleksandr Golovin. The CSKA Moscow midfielder was instrumental in those two wins, playing a role in five of the eight goals scored, and sat out the defeat to Uruguay.

Spain

World Cup so far: On the face of it, finishing top of Group B after the crisis that rocked their camp right before the tournament began would constitute a really good World Cup so far for Spain. But the football hasn’t been as swift, or fluid as expected, it’s come in flashes, but no consistency: of the four six goals they’ve scored, only one was typical La Roja. But it could easily have been worse.

How far can they go: It’s still Spain, so winning the World Cup isn’t out of the question, particularly if they hit stride. Cutting some uncharacteristic errors and sloppiness is key, though.

Best player: After the talk of whether he’d fit into the Spanish style, Diego Costa has offered Spain a secondary outlet in attacking. Without his goals, they’d be back home by now.

Portugal

World Cup so far: So far, so Portugal. The European champions haven’t thrilled anyone so far, but they’ve got the job done, as expected. There were a few scares for La Selaccao, but they’re in the knockout stage.

How far can they go: Portugal are not short of the belief, nor the tactical discipline, to go as far as lifting the trophy on July the 15th. It won’t be pretty, but they know how to make it effective.

Best player: I don’t know, some bloke named Cristiano Ronaldo.

France

World Cup so far: On one hand, top of Group C, two wins from three, no losses and one goal conceded for France. On the other, Les Bleus have scored just three times themselves, and have managed to conjure up the dourest of displays with the most talented of squads. There’s a definite room for improvement.

How far can they go: The expectation is still to be champions come the end of the tournament, and France still have the ability to match that. Improvement is still very much required, or maybe not, sometimes keeping it tight till the end can land the ultimate prize anyway.

Best player: No one has really stood out for Didier Deschamps’ team, although Paul Pogba has played a part in all of their three goals so far.

Denmark

World Cup so far: The second round was the immediate aim for the Danes, and it’s been achieved.

How far can they go: Denmark face Croatia in the last 16, a game they may well considered to be of nigh-equal opponents. The last eight isn’t beyond them.

Best player: Pione Sisto has done his growing reputation no harm so far, but it still has to be Christian Eriksen.

Croatia

World Cup so far: An excellent tournament so far for Croatia, who are one of only three teams to have gone through with a 100% record.

How far can they go: A meeting with Denmark in the next round means a quarter-final place is very much achievable. Problem is Croatia have had wonderful group stages of tournaments in the recent past, only to falter at the first hurdle of knockout football.

Best player: The midfield pair of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic have had wonderful tournaments so far, Modric with two goals in as many games.

Argentina

World Cup so far: Close to shambolic, performances have been nowhere near convincing, and they did ride their luck to get past the group stages.

How far can they go: Many back home have declared that their tournament starts now, but performances need a massive upgrade, especially at the back, if they’re to stay in it for long.

Best player: It’s hard to not say Lionel Messi, but Ever Banega’s performances have been more than commendable so far.

Brazil

World Cup so far: There have been a few scares for Brazil, but they reached the last 16 with two wins out of three, topping their first round group for the 10th time in a row, and the surprise early departure of Germany means Tite’s team are the highest-ranked side in the tournament.

How far can they go: Winning the World Cup is as much the expectation from the fans as it is with the players.

Best player: Two goals and one assist in three games makes Philippe Coutinho Brazil’s standout man so far.

Switzerland

World Cup so far: Seven points from three games is no mean feat, and Switzerland, if they needed to, have given evidence to those who doubted why they should be ranked sixth in the world.

How far can they go: They haven’t gotten to the last eight in well over half a century, a meeting with Sweden in the last 16 is one in which they’ll fancy their chances.

Best player: Xherdan Shaqiri is always the go-to man in attack, but a side with such a gameplan as theirs, goalkeeper Yann Sommer is important, and has been showing it with some impressive saves.

Sweden

World Cup so far: Qualifying for the second round was the achievable aim before the tournament began. Topping a group with the world champions, and topping convincingly, almost defies belief.

How far can they go: They face Switzerland in the next round, and are not short of confidence on going beyond that game.

Best player: Andreas Granqvist has kept a cool head in this tournament, both at the back and from the penalty spot.

Mexico

World Cup so far: For the seventh World Cup in a row, Mexico have made the last 16.

How far can they go: El Tri haven’t gone beyond the last 16 in any of the previous six World Cups, and face Brazil in this year’s.

Best player: Guillermo Ochoa continues his wonderful time on the world stage, following up from four years ago.

Belgium

World Cup so far: Three wins out of three, with nine goals scored, Belgium have been arguably the most impressive side so far in this World Cup.

How far can they go: Winning the World Cup is not out of the question, but a potential last-eight meeting with Brazil could be tough. They play Japan on Tuesday in the last 16, though.

Best player: Romelu Lukaku has four goals in two games in this tournament.

England

World Cup so far: Qualified from the group with some comfort, not something common with English sides of recent past, although the selection and display in the final game has left many less than thrilled back home.

How far can they go: The departure of Germany means they probably won’t be knocked out on penalties. A meeting with Colombia on Tuesday will provide its own stern test, but the semi-finals no longer look implausible.

Best player: Harry Kane currently leads the golden boot chart with five goals.

Colombia

World Cup so far: Los Cafeteros started the tournament with a defeat which looked to set the tone for a troubling World Cup, but recovered well to finish top of Group H.

How far can they go: Colombia face England in the last 16, they’ll do so with little fear. The semis doesn’t seem such an outlandish target.

Best player: James Rodriguez has tried to pick up where he left off in Brazil, but, despite his displays so far, has struggled to stay fit. His replacement for the first game, Juan Fernando Quintero, has done himself no harm, and now looks like he can’t be dropped.

Japan

World Cup so far: Perhaps the least fancied side in Group H when the draw was made, Japan started with a win against Colombia, and, despite defeat to Poland in their final group game, have made the next round, by virtue of having less yellow cards than Senegal.

How far can they go: Akira Nishino’s side have never made it past the last 16, and face a tough test in the form of Belgium on Tuesday.

Best player: Takashi Inui and Yuya Osako haven’t done badly in this tournament so far. Keisuke Honda continues to play the role of impact sub very well.

 

Last 16:

June 30- France v Argentina (Kazan)

June 30- Uruguay v Portugal (Sochi)

July 1- Spain v Russia (Moscow)

July 1- Croatia v Denmark (Nizhny Novgorod)

July 2- Brazil v Mexico (Samara)

July 2- Belgium v Japan (Rostov-on-Don)

July 3- Sweden v Switzerland (St. Petersburg)

July 3- Colombia v England (Moscow)

 

Published in International Watch

The former Super Eagles captain said that the Nigerian players gave their best, but admitted their best was not enough on the night.

According to Okocha, inexperience in the Nigerian team was pivotal to the team lost to the La Albiceleste.

Gernot Rohr boys were on the verge of booking a place in the next round of the World Cup, after Moses had cancelled out from the spot Messi’s first half opener, but an 87th close range finish from an unmarked Marcus Rojo dashed all hopes of such dream.

Okocha, who represented Nigeria at the 1994, 1998 and 2002 World Cup said that the Nigerian players never capitalised on their chances – saying the La Albiceleste deserved their place in the next round of the competition.

“If you want to be harsh on the Nigeria team, is that we didn’t capitalise,” Okocha as quoted by Goal. “We didn’t keep two or three players up there to hurt them. We were limited in terms of experience.

 “Credit to Argentina, they threw the kitchen sink at it, and they deserved to win.”

Read Also

Maradona hospitalised after Argentina’s victory

On the second goal Nigeria conceded on the night, the former Bolton Wanderers man added, “Poor defending there. We should have recognised to come in a good position at the time the cross came in.

“Moses acted late there. I can’t fault the effort of the players, they gave their all, but at the end of the day, it was not good enough.”

On the VAR call not to award Nigeria a second penalty, as Rojo was seen on replay to have headed a Musa’s cross to his arm, Okocha rather put off the blame from the VAR call – saying Ighalo should have converted the resulting effort.

He said further, “Ighalo should’ve scored or he should’ve at least worked the keeper.”

Published in Awa Football

The Argentine great has been reported to have been hospitalized after the La Albiceleste 2-1 victory over Nigeria on Thursday.

Goals from Messi and Marcus Rojo saw the two time World Champions through to the next stage of the World Cup – where they will be meeting France.

Read More

Argentina are a disgrace - Maradona

Maradona, was seen acting erratically during the match -dancing with a Nigerian female fan before the match commenced, shown to have fallen asleep at the halftime break, and also seen on screen pointing his middle finger while celebrating Marcus Rojo 86th minute winner, according to New York Post have been reported to have been hospitalized.

According to the reports, Reason the football great was hospitalised remains unclear.

Published in International Watch

There's only so many times one can say 'football, bloody hell', yet there's almost no time it's not appropriate. The curiosity, confusion and chaos that comes with the game almost unrivalled, and Russia 2018 continues to throw a fair bit of chaos in our faces.

 

Uruguay 3-0 Russia

With qualification assured from both sides, it was a meeting in Samara to decide who would decide Group A between Uruguay and the hosts. There was going to be a fair changes to the sides, having one eye on the last 16 already, Russia resting star man Aleksandr Golovin, while Uruguay did without Jose Maria Gimenez. But there was no rest for the powerful front two of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani, and it was the former who struck first, deceiving Igor Akinfeev with a free-kick early on to put Uruguay in front. La Celeste doubled their lead not long after, Diego Laxalt's shot deflecting in off Denis Cheryshev, then Russia compounded their first half woes when Igor Smolnikov got sent off. Uruguay had never won all of their three World Cup group games since 1954, but Cavani would seal victory here which would assure a 100% group record.

Hit...

Edinson Cavani: After knocking on the door so many times, the PSG man finally got his first goal of this World Cup. It was the first time he's scored in a World Cup game which Uruguay ended up winning.

Uruguay: A 100% record out of Group A, Oscar Tabarez's resolute and hard-to-breakdown side will fancy their chances of going far in this tournament.

Miss...

Russia: A bad day at the office for the hosts, who would have been glad this game didn't have qualification riding on it.

 

Saudi Arabia 2-1 Egypt

If the Uruguay-Russia game was the battle for top spot, then the clash between Egypt and Saudi Arabia was the battle to not finish bottom. Egypt went in front inevitably through Mohammed Salah, with an impudent chip, before Salah himself was guilty of missing a gilt-edged chance moments after opening the scoring. Saudi Arabia were given a chance to level before halftime with a penalty following a handball by Ahmed Fathi, but Fahad Al-Muwallad saw his shot tipped to the bar by Hossam El-Hadary. The Saudis were given another penalty soon after, this time following a foul by Ahmed Hegazi, and this time it was converted, via the boot of Salman Al-Faraj. Chances were few and far between after the break, but an uneventful second half was settled in stoppage time by Salem Al-Dowsari, to hand Saudi Arabia the spoils and consign Egypt to the foot of Group A.

Hit...

Saudi Arabia: Juan Antonio Pizzi's side grabbed their first win in the World Cup since 1994, after 12 previous failed attempts.

Hossam El-Hadary: His side may have lost, but, after setting a new age record at the World Cup, the goalkeeper did well to save Saudi Arabia's first penalty.

Miss...

Egypt: Still await a World Cup win, and here were robbed of even a point with that late goal, capping off a disappointing tournament.

 

Spain 2-2 Morocco

A point would do for Spain as they went up against Morocco in Kaliningrad, but they fell behind early, a mix-up between Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos let in Khalid Boutaib, who made no mistake when one-on-one with David de Gea. Boutaib did miss a one-on-one with De Gea afterwards, but not before Spain equalised after some delightful build-up play was finished off by Isco. Morocco weren't letting up though, Nordin Amrabat crashing he bar with a thunderous effort, before substitute Youssef En-Nesiry headed the Atlas Lions back in front. Spain levelled again, though, Iago Aspas with a lovely back-heeled finish that was initially disallowed for offside, then given after the referee consulted with VAR.

Hit...

Khalid Boutaib: Scored Morocco's first goal on the World Cup since 1998.

Miss...

Spain: One of World Cup favourites laboured to a point here, finding Morocco hard to breakdown and offering little assurances in their own defence.

 

Iran 1-1 Portugal

Portugal were in pole position for qualification as they squared up with Iran in Saransk, a point would be enough, while Iran would go through with a win. As expected, Iran were compact at the back, as Portugal created little, but a moment of brilliance from Ricardo Quaresma and the outside of his right boot gave La Selaccao the lead at halftime. Portugal were given a penalty early in the second half, after VAR consultation, but Cristiano Ronaldo fluffed his lines, his effort from 12 yards saved by Ali Beirenvand. VAR consultation came into play once again, reviewing what looked like a possible red card for Ronaldo, but the verdict was yellow, then the technology was consulted for a possible Iranian penalty, which was given. Karim Ansarifard converted, and Iran were within one goal of the next round. But it wouldn't come, the closest they came was Sardar Azmoun hitting the side-netting. The final whistle went and the reaction of the Iran players, from tears of despair to beating the turf in agony, highlighted how close Carlos Queiroz's team came.

Hit...

Iran: Their World Cup road may have ended, but they did themselves no harm reputation-wise. Queiroz had stated before the game that they didn't want to be glorious failures, but they have reason to be proud of their showing.

Ricardo Quaresma: Came up with his own contender for goal of the tournament with his trademark outside of the foot finish.

 

Matter of fact

  • Hossam El-Hadary became the oldest player to appear in the World Cup, at the age of 45, surpassing Colombian Faryd Mondragon's record of 43, set in the previous tournament.
  • Uruguay haven't conceded a goal in 2018.
  • Mohammed Salah's opener for Egypt was the first time the Pharaohs have ever taken the lead in World Cup history.
  • Cristiano Ronaldo is the first Portuguese player to miss a penalty in the World Cup (excluding shootouts), after seven successful takes before.
Published in International Watch

The Real Madrid and Spanish national team captain has proclaimed the Barcelona forward as the La Albiceleste greatest player of all time.

Sergio Ramos has said that Lionel Messi was the best player in the Argentine football history.

Speaking on various issues after his country’s hard-fought 1-0 victory over Iran on Tuesday, the former Sevilla man, who described Maradona as ‘one of the greats of the game,’ said Messi remained the number one player in Argentina.  

"I respect Maradona because he's one of the game's greats,” Ramos, as quoted by AS .

“In my opinion he was a genius, but I'd also add that in Argentinian football everyone knows that Maradona is light years behind the number-one, which is Messi.”

Read Also

Argentina are a disgrace, Maradona

Messi has failed to inspire the La Albiceleste to winning a trophy – losing three finals in the space of two years.

With the 3-0 defeat to Croatia on Thursday, the Argentine are on the brink of crashing out of the group stage of the World Cup – with their hopes of qualifying  lying on the outcome of a favourable outcome in the match between Croatia and Iceland, and if they could slog out a win in their game against Nigeria on Tuesday.

Published in International Watch

Nigerians have took to their various social media handle – reacting and savouring the Super Eagles’ commanding victory over Iceland on Friday afternoon

A drab first half, which the three time African champions had the larger share of possession, but could not have any shot on target was improved on in the second half – with two goals from Ahmed Musa deciding the tie.

The win meant that if Nigeria could get at least a draw in their next game against the Albicelseste of Argentina, and Croatia could force Iceland to a draw, or lose by a margin not more than three, the Super Eagles will move to the next round of the Mundial.

Savouring the moment, Nigerians in their usual fashion have taken to the social media spewing out different shades of opinions, jokes and so on.

A Twitter user with the name DADDY THE FATHER @SemilooreAkoni has likened the joy in the country aftermath the Eagles' triumph to that that was witnessed when Abacha, who has been dubbed as Nigeria’s worst ever dictator died on June 8 1998.

@SemilooreAkoni wrote: “The last time Nigerians were this happy was when Abacha ate apple and died.

 

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Eleventh Hours and Eagles Lift-off: Fallout from Day Nine of the World Cup

Remembering Nigeria’s 2026 World Cup Triumph (10km Offside)

Another Twitter user also joked that the improvement in the second half from the players could be as a result of the coach threat to arrest the players with the Nigeria Special Anti-Robbery Squad (SARS).King of Ikorodu @OtunbaBillz: “See them playing like Rohr threatened them with SARS at halftime.”

Jeffrudeen @VillageParrot also wrote: “In less than 90 minutes,Ahmed Musa has made Nigerians happier than Buhari has in 3 years.

Also, Nigerian musicians were not left out of the party, with Olamide Adedeji, aka Badoo full of confidence - saying all that is left for the Super Eagles is to defeat the Argentines in their next game.

Olamide Adedeji @olamide_YBNL wrote: “Na to chop Argentina eyes remain now ! Nigeria issa goal !!!

Michael Collins better known as Don Jazzy, who was proud of the Super Eagles’ performance wrote on his twitter handle @DonJazzy: “We did thissss. If I catch any geh this night. Na belle straight.

Meanwhile, Jonathan Akpoborie has warned the players not to get carried away with the victory over Iceland.

The former Nigerian international wrote on his Twitter @ Akpoborie: “Job is not done yet, there is still plenty of football to be played against Argentina.

Published in Awa Football

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