Southgate's World Cup

Gareth Southgate named his provisional 23-man squad for the World Cup in Russia on 16 May 2018 and sadly Lewis Cook only made the list of standby names, but the squad that was picked was youthful and intriguing and no longer stained by players who were injured or had not been performing well. So will Gareth have a good World Cup? Cherry Chimes will review the matches this summer and we'll see how far England get.



Cherry Chimes took apart in Squawka's World Cup guide chart commenting on Group E. You can download the Wallchart with predictions all the way to the final - Download chart.
Day 25


France 4 v 2 Croatia
Vive La France!

France have become World Cup Champions, but they needed the assistance of a poor VAR decision and a Croatian own goal, as well as their good play to set them on their way. Mandzukic opened the goal scoring at the wrong end to give France the lead and when Peresic scored just before the half hour to level things up we had a game on our hands. But the crowd were denied a great spectacle when the referee was directed to VAR for a potential handball which was not deliberate. Still the penalty was given to France and it enabled Greizmann to score and France to play on the counter at 2-1 up. The second half saw a big effort from Croatia but an Mbappe breakaway goal looked to have killed them off. Despite the unwanted appearance of spectators on the pitch the game was quickly resumed and Pogba hit a deft left foot shot that beat the Croatian keeper all ends up to make it 4-1. The game seemed over but Hugo Lloris made a mess of a clearance and Mandzukic profited to make it 4-2. That was the end of the scoring and this likeable World Cup came to an end with France lifting the Cup.


Day 24
England 0 v 2 Belgium
Belgium just too good for England for a second time

The game that nobody wants to have to play came around for the second time for these two teams. But it was Belgium like before who were destined to win. A fourth minute goal by Meunier put the Belgiums on their way and while England had a good deal of possession they buckled again with a Belgian breakaway eight minutes from time when Eden Hazard beat Pickford to make it 2-0. England finish the tournament in fourth.


Day 23
England 1 v 2 Croatia
England say goodbye to their World Cup dream
England couldn't have made a better start with Kieran Trippier smacking in a 25 yards free kick in the first five minutes. England had shown again that they were a team that could not easily be stopped from set plays. Maguire then had another chance from a corner but headed wide. Perisic then shot just wide for Croatia before he ha another shot that missed. Rebic then shot from distance and Pickford saved. A great chance provided by Ali came to Lingard who shot wide from the centre of the box. Harry Kane breaks through only to hit the post and see the keeper clear even if he was offfside. England just held their own in the second half for a large part, but Croatia were growing in strength and Perisic beat England defenders to get a high foot to a cross that saw the equaliser on 68 minutes.
England were up against it. Holding on for 90 minutes was hard enough. The extra time flew by and yet few open chances were created until the second period when Criatia broke English hearts with Mandzukic beating Pickford from close range.

England's World Cup is over but for the third place play-off. But the team has found respect again and uplifted the nation for a few weeks this summer. There is a belief that England can compete with the strong nations and this is the beginning not the end.



Day 22

France 1 v 0 Belgium
France await

Mbappé was quick to show his pace as he attacked form the kick off. Belgium soon got in their stride though and France found it increasingly hard to get control of the ball. But when France broke with Pogba the threat was clear with Mbappé bursting through the middle until Courtois raced out. De Bruyne gave Hazard a chance on 15 minutes and the Chelsea player shot just wide of the right post. Matuidi replied by hitting a viscous shot that Courtos was then equal to. Hazard came close to opening the scoring until Varane just got a glancing head on his shot. Lloris had to come out sharply to stop Fellaini after de Bruyne's chip. Alderweireld bent a superb shot from a corner at the French goal but Lloris made an equally fantastic save to his right. Giroud was playing on the last man but couldn't control a long ball over the top. Giroud goes close with a dipping header from Pavan's free kick. Mbappé pulls a descent ball back for Giroud but the shot is poor. Mbappé works the ball for Pavard but the full back can't beat Courtois on the angle. De Bruyne sweeps a ball into the box but Umtiti misses it and it comes harmlessly off of Lukaku 0-0 half time.

Lukaku gets into the game but heads over. Giroud has a half chance but has Kompany deflect his shot. Umtiti score with a header from a corner. Near post goal on 51 minutes. Bappé finds Matuidi but Alderweireld defends well. Mbappé back heels to Giroud but he can't get a shot past Dembélé. De Bruyne slashes his shot into the ground. lloris punches a Mertens cross away. Fellaini goes close with a header from Mertens' delivery. Hazard makes a great run and is caught by Giroud but no free kick - unbelievable. Witsel brings a sharp save from Lloris. Free kick for Belgium. France clear. Lukaku almost gets on the end of a long ball. Griezmann pulls a save from Courtois but not much power. Pogba to Tolisso and Courtois saves.

Day 21

Croatia 2 (4) v 2 (3) Russia

It's Croatia but only just
Croatia and Russia didn't hold back with both teams testing each others defences in the first five minutes. Playing a 4-4-2 Croatia seemed to have less time on the ball. Rakotic had a great chance to score from a free kick but hit it well over. Russia were playing on the break with pace but couldn't get in properly behind. The final ball was not quite there for Russia. Croatia's rhythm had been disrupted though. Peresic put a header wide on 29 minutes. But Cheryshev kept his scoring record going by hitting a screamer from 25 yards out on his left foot. The crowd was lifting Russia as soon as they got over half way. Cheryshev's late runs were catching Croatia in trouble. Manzukic now chips a ball into Kramaric and he heads low into the goal to make it 1-1 just before half-time.

Whether the Russian energy levels could remain as high in the second half was perhaps the factor which would decide this. An overhead from Kamaric is straight at the keeper. Russia are dropping deeper. Russia's keeper punches and doesn't clear. Peresic's shot hits the left post and runs along the line but not in. Croatia on top. Fernandes in to Erokin to head over. Modoric in the box, deflected and Vrsaljko blocked for a corner. Russia are hemmed in. Subasic, Croatia's keeper is in trouble. He's carrying on. Smolov shoots from wide on the right and Subasic makes a good save in aded time.

Extra time
Croatia are the limping wounded. Modric is halted on his way to goal. Golovon picks up a bad pass and Smolov is in - taken down - no pen!Corner for Croatia - Vida has just headed the ball into the Russian net! It was like in slow motion. Erokin heads wide for Russia.

Is there any way back for Russia? Corner to Russia. Kuzyaev hits a good shot but the keeper saves it. Smolov drags a great cross in but the keeper punches away.Free kick to Russia. Oh my Fernandes has scored with a header 2-2. Superb flick header into the corner of the goal. Zobnin shoots and pulls a low save from Subasic. Brozovic just sees the ball run under his foot.

Penalties

Russia first - Smolov saved, Brozovic scores right side 0-1 to Croatia, Dzagoev bottom right 1-1. Kovacic saved bottom right, Fernandes shoots wide left, Modric hand on it and in off the left post 1-2 Croatia, Ignasevich scores bottom left 2-2, Veda top left 2-3, Kusyaev bottom left 3-3. Croatia can win with this next penalty - Rakitic bottom left 3-4 Croatia win.


England 2 v 0 Sweden
If one Harry doesn't get you another one will

England might have started the game nervy but they grew into it. Sweden did not offer a great threat on goal until Claesson shot from distance. Harry Kane also attempted a shot form outside the box but it was England's corers that were the danger and Harry Maguire got his timed header right on 30 minutes to put England ahead. Sterling could have made it two when he broke into the box but cut back and shot wide. He did it again moments later when he could have passed. 1-0 at half time was good enough though.

The second half needed an early save by Jordan Pickford and he did magnificently to keep out Berg's well directed header. England sowed it up though when Deli Ali put England 2-0 up with a close header. Pickford still had to make some great saves from Berg but England were not to be denied. They ran the game and kept Sweden at bay well enough to reach the semi-final. Wednesday night just got interesting!


Day 20
Brazil 1 v 2 Belgium
Belgium knock the five times winner out 

This game was quite in the first few minutes but once de Bruyne had had a shot from distance the game picked up and with Brazil's first corner Thiago Silva should have scored but hit the post. Belgium's immediate counter with Lukaku showed how dangerous they would be. Paulhino would have another missed opportunity from a Brazilian corner as Brazil began to try and camp in Belgium's half. Fellani hit a poor shot before a corner for Belgium ended up with an own goal by Fernandinho at the near post. Jesus almost scrambled in an equaliser. Coutinho then had a snap shot that was well saved. De Bruyne took the game away from Brazil wit a super strike from the right side of the box after Lukaku's run. The shot was drilled in. Jesus can't quite get his header on target. Brazil just haven't reacted yet to the way Belgium have set up. Marcelo tries a shot that is deflected and Courtois saves from Coutinho bending a shot to his left. De Bruyne's free kick is tipped over.

Brazil are slow to get any urgency going. Belgium are ready to counter all the time.Neymar goes looking for a penalty and it looked such a clear dive. But why no yellow card? Paulinho almost gets past Courtois but can't get the shot past him. Jesus gets caught by Company and it's a VAR decision. It's no penalty. Hazard just flashes a shot wide on the break after de Bruyne picked him out. Courtois has a strong right hand to keep out Thiago Silva. Brazil are going out with a whimper I feel. It's going to be a European winner. Hazard comes close to laying the killer ball. Coutinho floats a lovely ball in and Augusto heads in Brazil's first goal of the night. Firmino turns and shoots over. Hazard beak but a poor pass. Brazil are going to test Belgium now. Coutinho to Augusto and he pulls a shot wide - he was right through the middle. Can Belgium hold on for 10-15 minutes? Neymar pulls it back for Coutinho and he hits a horrid shot. Belgium are out on their feet. They find Hazard though and he draws the foul.Cross for Neymar and he doesn't make contact. There was a hand in the face but no penalty. Brazil are running out of time. Hazard picks up another foul. Costa finds Neymar and Courtois turns the ball over - corner. De Bruyne wins a corner now. That's it.



Uruguay 0 v 2 France
France first semi-finalists

Uruguay didn't have their full attack out for this quarter-final with Cavani consigned to watching from the stands. Still the South American's made a game of it for most of the first half until Raphael Varane headed the Frenchman in to the lead. They had Hugo Lloris to than though for keeping their lead in the first half when he made a spectacular save from Martin Caceres.

The second half never quite materialised for Uruguay because their keeper, Fernando Muslera let a long distance shot from Antoine Greizmann slip through his hands and into the net. It should have been a routine catch but the keeper tried a punch and completely misjudged the flight of the ball.


Day 19

Colombia 1 (3) v1 (4) England
England survive penalty shoot out! 

England started by getting a lot of free kicks and corners. Colombia were inviting the pressure. Sterling had the first good attempt blocked but Trippier did well to get down the right and find Kane with a header that he just couldn't quite get on target after the first 16 minutes. England are definitely the away team - the noise from the Colombian fans is huge.  Cuadrado has a shot blocked but it almost broke to Falcao. D Sanchez just beats Maguire to a header on an English free kick. Sterling has a good run at the Colombian defence. Quintero has a wide shot from outside the box. Maguire is starting to come forward well. Free kick for England in a great spot. Barrios gets a yellow carded for head on chest and then raising it up to Henderson's chin - violent conduct! Should be red. Trippier hits it wide. Why isn't Ken on free kicks? Kane puts a long shot wide. Quintero has a shot from range but Pickford gathers it well. Lingard chips over. Half-time 0-0.

Colombia's only tactic is to rough England up. D Sanchez just beats Henderson to the header. Penalty! Carlos Sanchez holding Kane. Henderson is carded for moving his head back against Mina. Kane smashes it down the middle 1-0 England. After three minutes waiting to take the kick - justice. Quintero takes a free kick but D Sanchez can't control the ball in the box. Trippier crosses for Alli and he just heads over. Falcao is booked arguing that Maguire went down over nothing. Bacca is booked for an elbow on Stones. This is getting ridiculous. Colombia want a brawl. Lingard is now booked for a foul. Lingard just needed to cross to find Kane, but D Sanchez blocks.

England clear well from Bacca. England on the break, Sterlng to Lingard - down, he gets nothing. Walker makes an error and Bacca finds Cuadrado and he had a clear shot at goal but leant back - it's over. Colombia pressing but Falcao heads wide. Falcao shot from distance doesn't test Pickford. Great save by Pickford from Uribe's long shot. Mina scores from the header! Trippier headed up but couldn't stop it. 1-1 in fifth minute of added time.


Extra time

Bacca comes to the near post but Pickford is first to the ball. Bacca's header is deflected wide. Rose is on for Young. Falcao heads wide. Maguie did enough. Second period of Extra time and Vardy hots the shot at Ospina - offside. Another half chance Vardy scuffs his shot. Pickford out quickly at the other end. Rose goes close - misses by a whisker! Dier heads over from a corner. Cuadrado gets a yellow card. 

Penalties
Colombia go first Falcao - top of the goal in the middle 1-0. Kane next, bottom left 1-1. Cuadrado top left 2-1. Rashford bottom left 2-2, Muriel bottom right, Henderson saved bottom right 2-3, Uribe hits the bar, England can recover this, Trippier needs to score. top left 3-3. Bacca saved by Pickford, to the top right win it Dier bottom right get in!!! 3-4 to England.


Sweden 1 v 0 Switzerland

Sweden make the quarter-finals in tight game
There was not going to be much to choose between these two teams and it came down to who could find a finish in front of goal wth Sweden managing to get there with the help of Forsberg getting a deflection from Akanji.  Marcus Berg should have scored earlier in the first half but his shot was well saved by Sommer.

Both teams squandered chances, but the big miss came from Sweden's Ekdal who shot horrible wide instead of simply heading at goal. While Shakiri was the class act he couldn't get on the end of a move and Sweden were the stronger team with most of the possession and shots. Granqvist did most to ensure it was Sweden that came out on top.



Day 18

Japan 2 v 3 Belgium
Belgium get out of jail

Kagawa hots the first shot for Japan against Belgium. Belgium are finding Japan well organised. Japan are quicker to the ball at the moment. De Bruyne is being closely marked and Japan are tackling hard. Witsel wins a corner from a deflected shot. Lukaku in the box struggles to turn but gets a corner. Belgium are finding Lukaku but his shots are getting blocked. Japan are marshalling the danger away. Lukaku has it on the six yard box but he can't get the ball from Yoshida on the floor. Japan getting more flustered now at the back. De Bruyne hits the post! Inui gets a header off but straight at Courtois. Hazard has a shot blocked. Belgium are turning up the pressure but can't find a way through. Nagatomo plays a ball in and Osaka sees it roll off his feet and between Courtois legs before the keeper falls on the ball. Mertens' snap shot is easily saved. Half-time 0-0.

Great move by Japan on the break, Vertonghen has missed the ball, can Haraguchi finish - yes he can! 1-0 Japan. Mertens and Hazard comes straight back at Japan and hits the right post. Shock on the cards, Inui has made it 2-0. Kagawa set the move up with some skill and the Inui finds the bottom right corner. Meunier puts the perfect cross in and Lukaku manages to head it past the goal. SaKai gets round the back and Belgium manage to keep him out. Meunier fires over. Great ball in for Lukaku but Yoshida is there to block. Corner for Belgum, keeper punches and Vertonghen has returned the a header that's plummeted into the far right corner 1-2. Japan are still going forward.

Belgium are being fouled on the break away but it ends up with de Bruyne getting a corner from a deflected shot. Hazard gets the cross over and Fellani makes it 2-2 a header from six yards out. Belgium looked out -now they are level with 16 minutes to go. Inui on the run, chance - he's blocked. Honda great run and Kompany just puts him off. Chadli's header is saved and Lukaku's header is put over the bar! Vertonghen's shot is parried by the Japanese keeper. Inui gets a shot away and Courtois saves at his near post with Witsel almost scoring at the wrong end. Japan have a free kick no time left - Honda to take. Courtois makes the save to his right. Corner to Japan - Belgium on the charge Chadli has won it in the last minute. Tragedy for Japan. All the way down the other end de Bruyne found Meunier and the cross was dummied by Lukaku for Nacer Chadli to tap it in - what a game!



Mexico 0 v 2 Brazil
Functional Brazil find their way past Mexico

An early punch out from Alisson. Neymar then has a shot palmed away. Vela is starting to get more of he ball. Brazil still have the majority of possession though. Neymar is getting into the action more. Jesus has a shot palmed away. Neymar hits a free kick over. Stopping Brazil was a big ask for Mexico but they held them up to half-time. Brazil's breakthrough came on 51 minutes when Willian slid the ball across the box and found Neymar running i to make it 1-0. Vela forces Alisson into a save from outside the box. Willian pulls out a good save from the Mexican keeper. Lozano flashes the ball across the box but there are no Mexicans there. Neymar puts a shot wide of the left post.Herrera gets through but Guardado's strike is blocked. Can Mexico take this game to extra time? Mexico force a corner. It's just not falling for the Mexicans. Neymar is in on the left and he squares it for Firmino to make it 2-0 with two minutes to go. Firmino couldn't miss from there. Brazil have been methodical without being sensational and have got the job done.



Day 17
Denmark 1 (2) v 1 (3) Croatia
Croatia sneak through in the penalty shoot-out

Denmark get an unexpected early lead from a throw in. There was no hurry for Criatia to clear the box and Delany and the Jorgensen keep it alive and Jorgensen has seen his shot creep over the line. Mandzukic restores the score to 1-1 - Croatia back in it with their first attack. We haven't had five minutes yet! Comical defending from Denmark this time. Croatia are getting their passing game into top gear and have a free kick. Modric is pulling the strings on midfield. Mandzukic goes down in the box and Knudsen was clumsy. Braithwaite gets in for Denmark but hits a duff shot. Schmiechel has to make a save and Rakitc lets fly. Modric on the free kick and Lovren goes close with the header. Rakitc brings a good save from Schmeichel.

Second half - Denmark are having more of the ball. Croatia are hanging deep. It's tense. Poulsen is starting to come alive when he gets on the ball. Delaney is also pushing forward for Denmark. Perisic gets Croatia upfield for a corner. The game is falling into a tactical stalemate. Denmark have done well since the break. Jorgensen has a pop shot but it's at the keeper. Erikssen doesn't strike the ball well. At the other end Modric shoots wildly. Rebic fires a shot from range that's held. Perisic puts a stooping header over. Croatia getting closer. Schöne sees a decent half volley go wide for Denmark. A long throw for Denmark - alarm bells. Croatia deal with that one okay. We're into added time. Rakitic shoots inches wide. Braithwaite returns the punch out from the keeper with a strong volley but it is also wide of the goal.


Extra time - Knudson with the long throw - i almost gets to Jorgensen. Denmark are pressing now and are getting behind Croatia's defence. Mayhem from Knudson's long throw. Schöne goes very close but dan't hit the target. Schmeichel tips over the bar from Kamaric's cross. Sisto is on -Denmark have fresh legs. Sisto has a good run with a turn and shot. Another Danish long throw but Jorgensen hits the shot poorly. Croatia are going to get a penalty. Modric puts Rebic through and Jorgensen takes Rebic down. Big moment this. Modric will take the penalty. Schmeichel has saved it! Low to the left. Wow! Modric has another go from distance but Schmeichel is equal to it. Denmark deserve to win this for me. I didn't start out thinking that way.

Penalties

Eriksen goes first - saved and post! left side. Can Croatia open the scoring? saved by Schmeichel's feet, Kjaer top right 1-0 Denmark, Krameric scores bottom left 1-1, Vrsaljko 2-1 Denmark bottom left, Modric down the middle 2-2, Schöne saved, Croatia can take the lead, Pivaric saved low to the right, it stays at 2-2.Jorgensen is next for Denmark he's hit the keeper's legs it's saved. Croatia to win the shoot out - Rakitic to take it. Can he hold his nerve? He's scored 2-3 Croatia are through.


Russia 1 (4) v 1 (3) Spain
Russia - penalty kings!

Russia were not given much of a chance by the pundits in this game. They did sit deep from the start but Golovin showed they could break with pace. getting hold of the ball would be the problem. Ramos caused pressure on Ignashevic off a free kick, and Ramos tries to stay on his feet and the ball is in from three yards. Awful defending - it's been given as an own goal. Great chance for Russia, Golovin just fires wide. Russia coming into the game at the end of the half. A penalty to Russia. Piquet is accuse of handball at a corner blocking Dzyuba's header. Dzyuba to take - 1-1. Game on, sent the keeper the wrong way. Costa tries to beat the keeper but the keeper does enough. Half time.

Ramos makes a mistake at the back but isn't punished. Spain can't quite get the run of a high bouncing ball in Russia's penalty box. Cherychev is coming in who has been great this World Cup. Golovin slips in the box no penalty. Iniesta is on for Spain. Russia are happy to sit in. It's all one way but Russia are defending well enough. Iniesta's drive has Akinfeev at full stretch to his right and the follow up from Aspas is too tight an angle. Spain keep getting corners but Russia survive. Smolov fires wide.

Who would have though Russia could take Spain to extra time? Carvajal in front of goal can't convert for Spain. Asensio hits a strike straight at Akinfeev. Aspas has space but has his shot blocked. Spain have a free kick and Piquet's header is right at the keeper. Rodrigo goes one-on-one but can't beat Akinfeev and Carvajal fires wide on the follow up. Aspas almost breaks through the Russian line. Spain are loading players in the Russian box. Spain go berserk from a free kick Ramos complains of being held. VAR could come in here. It looks soft and indeed it is play on. The rain comes down. Russian corner. Not long to penalties. Both teams are out on their feet. Rodrigo gets a shot away but it's saved. Lucky break off of the referee for Spain.

Penalties!
Spain to shoot first. Iniesta 1-0. Russia- Smolov - just 1-1 de Gea got finger tips to it. Piquet 2-1 to Spain. Ignashevich 2-2, Koke- saved, Golovin 2-3 to Russia, down the middle, Ramos scores 3-3, Cheryshev 3-4 to Russia, Aspas has to score and it's saved by a trailing leg! Spain are out. Akinfeev was amazing to save the last penalty to send Russia through.


Day 16

Portugal 1 v 2 Uruguay
Portugal sent packing by Cavani's goals

The Portuguese were looking to get ahead with an effort from Bernardo Silva and a long range effort from Ronaldo in the first five minutes. But Cavani made the first headline on seven minutes with a header from a left side cross from Suarez that he buried with great power. Fonte could have got a header on target from a corner but didn't make the most of it. Suarez is a real nuisance and goes close with a free kick. Bernardo Silva has probably been most in the thick of it for Portugal. Ronaldo has a free kick in a really dangerous position. What can he do? He hits the wall. Cavani doesn't quite catch a high bouncing half-volley - 01 half time.

Guerreiro fires over from a corner for Portugal. Pepe has scored though from another corner to breathe some life into the game. He climbed well to make the header. Uruguay have struck back. Cavani has scored a superb goal on the run bottom left corner. The Uruguayan keeper drops a cross and Bernardi Silva hits a lofted shot. Guerreiro has a wild shot. Portugal can't find the quality. Christian Rodriguez almost gets a third but doesn't have the legs. Quaresma gets a corner from his shot, but Uruguay hold out.


France 4 v 3 Argentina
Mbappé cuts down Argentina - best game of the tournament so far!

Free kick central is what this game brought right from the start. Greizmann was unlucky to hit the bar on eight minutes but it brought some life to the game. Mbappé shwed his power at driving at Argentina but it was a mad challenge by Rojo in the box to give France a penalty on 11 minutes. Griezmann stroked the penalty home with no problem. France go long with Pogba and it's Mbappé racing through again, but it's just outside the box. Pogba smashes the free kick over though. Griezmann drifts around the back of Argentina all too easily. Mercado goes close and claims a penalty which is waved away. Messi goes down but does not ask for a penalty. Di Maria has hit back from miles out - a cracking goal to make it 1-1 just before half time. Lloris couldn't get near it.

Di Maria has a taste for the game now, murdering the French fall-back. Messi's shot is helped in by Mecardo and France are behind 2-1. What have France got? The brutal side of Argentina's tackling is now going to come to the fore. Griezmann almost goes through the middle as Fazio makes a mess of giving the ball to the keeper, but it's poked wide. Pavard has hit a rocket -2-2. What a hit. Half-volley into the top left corner. Mbappé makes it 3-2 by putting in past Armani. The Argies have to go for it now. Oh my, it's another French goal racing through on the right Mbappé has scored again. The little touch from Giroud made it for Mbappé. Pogba on the counter, picks out Giroud - side netting. Kanté's break ends with Mbappé fluffing his pass. Messi finds Meza but the shot deflects to Lloris. Messi is through does everything right then hits a weak shot at Lloris. Aguero is blocked just in time. Late goal from Aguero - headed in from a deep Messi cross ball - 4-3. Mecardo fouls Pogba and it's all kicking off. Chance for Argentina but it's wide!
Day 15


England 0 v 1 Belgium
Did anyone want to win this game?
I was apprehensive as to whether we would see a decent game between these tow teams at the top of group G and I was rightly concerned if the first 45 minutes were anything to go by. Neither team played with much conviction as eight changes on each side left the game short of pace and quality. But Belgium did show some intent with Yuri Tielemans trying his luck from distance, but England had few opportunities other than a tame header from Vardy. 

Things suddenly changed when Adnan Januzaj opened up the goal scoring with a precision, curling shot that beat Pickford comprehensively. While Marcus Rashford had a one on one chance to level things up, England showed no appetite to rescue the game and non of the players will have done much to enhance their chance of shifting players that played in the first two group games. At least we all had a laugh when Michy Batshuayi tried to celebrate Belgium's goal when he tried to kick the ball into the net but hurt himself with the ball firing back off the post!

Panama 1 v 2 Tunisia
Tunisia come from behind
The interest in this game was probably pretty much zero outside the respective countries but the game had got the ingredients of a good game with two teams desperate to win their firsts game at the World Cup. And when Panama took the lead with an own goal from Meriah they looked to be on their way. Second half goals though from Youssef and Khazri sealed the win for Tunisia who go home with three points in the group stage and knowing that they pushed England all the way.

Senegal 0 v 1 Colombia
Senegal just fall short
Senegal were unlucky to exit the World Cup on fair play as they were much the better team in the first half against Colombia. Senegal managed 10 shots compared to six from Colombia but Yerri Mina's header on 74 minutes killed Senegal's hopes.

Japan 0 v 1 Poland
Did Japan deserve to go through?
Japan were perhaps the luckiest team to progress in Russia with their in ability to take risks, but they were triumphant even in defeat to a 59th minute goal from Jan Bednarek just because they ha less yellow cards than Senegal. 


Day 14

Brazil 2 v 0 Serbia
Brazil start to get the Samba going as they claim top spot in Group E

Neymar and Coutinho link up early to show Serbia they are in for a tough night. Jesus is through but the keeper narrows the angle well and it's offside anyway. Brazil are trying to go through the middle of Serbia's defence when perhaps they would be more effective getting down the flanks. Serbia are finding it hard to hold on to any possession. But they have forced a corner. Serbia doing better now. Neymar shoots across goal. Jesus can't quite find his feet to get a good shot on goal.

Serbia starting to get into good areas - Mirtovic has an overhead kick going over. Paulinho beats the keeper in a race and chips it in to make it 1-0 to Brazil. A bit of individual skill to get into the gap and Coutinho finds him. Neymar bends a shot over the bar.

Switzerland have a three on two break but can''t make it count. Brazil have to put Ljajic's cross over. Neymar takes on the keeper on the break and Serbia's keeper saves the shot with his legs. Mitrobvic sees a cross come in off the keeper but heads it right against Fagner with the keeper beaten. Big let off for Brazil. Serbia are starting to get some pressure on the Brazilian goal. Tadic to Mitrovic but no finish! Molinkovic-Savage shoots wide. Brazil are rocking. Mitrovic hangs with a header but the keeper saves it. Serbia getting closer.


Thiago silva scored with a simple header from a corner. Serbia are going home. Filipe Louis drives a shot that is well pushed away by the keeper. Willian pulls back to Neymar who hits it down into the ground and over the bar. Stojkovic pulls the ball off of Neymar when he looked certain to score. Zikovic slices well. Brazil are starting to look decent, even if Neymar is not yet on the boil. Jesus gets Neymar in, around the keeper - no Stojkovic saves well.



Costa Rica 2 v 2 Switzerland
Costa Rica finally hit form too late - Switzerland take the second spot in Group F

It takes Switzerland just over half an hour to get in front after Stephan Lichtsteiner breaks down the left and a knock down by Embolo falls nicely for Dzemaili to score. Costa Rica are back in the game after a header from Kendall Watson on 56 minutes. A second goal for Switzerland just underlines their second place in the group two behind Brazil on goal difference. A good cross from the right that Josip Drmic puts away to make the 2-1 score line. Joe Campbell is fouled in the box. Costa Rica are not finished, another goal from the penalty spot- 2-2 - Bryan Ruiz ex-Fulham scores in off the bar, from the spot kick, and off the keeper's back.



South Korea 2 v 0 Germany
Bye Bye Germany - you're out!

Son Heung-min blasts a high shot from the corner of the box. Germany have a real shock with Neuer spilling a free kick and almost presenting a present for the South Koreans to take the lead on 19 minutes. Jung Woo-young took the free kick that gave Neuer all kinds of problems. Germany just don't look like a team that are going to win the World Cup. The game is going at such a slow pace, it's hard to see hoe Germany can step it up and find their quality. South Korea are happy just to sit in. Reus has a strong shot blocked.Werner creates an opening but his shot is deflected over. Hummels fights for the ball in the six yard area but South Korea's keeper drops on the ball. Hector fouls Lea-Jae Sung, just when Werner hits the post. There's no composure about this German side. Son Heung-min clips a shot wide when he could have fed in Lea-Jae Sung - 0-0 at half time.

An early shot from Jung Woo-Young is easily saved. Germany create their best chance. Kimmich makes the cross and the keeper saves well to his right from Goretzka. Free header but he couldn't beat Cho Hyon-Woo. The ball is pulled back for Werner, but he volleys wide. South Korea are getting the breakaways but just need the final pass to stick. The ball comes wide to Ozil and Kroos who hits it wide. Werner hits another shot wide from a corner. Son Heung-min dives in the box and is booked. South Korea had the opening but Moon Seon-Min takes too long and Hummels gets back. Gomez now can't get in front of his man to finish. Both sides are just giving the ball away. A good break from South Korea but the wrong side of the post from Son Heung-min. South Korea's defence are just holding out. But Germany are risking everything putting so many players forward. Kroos is next to shoot over. Hwang Hee-Chang almost gets his cross in but has a corner. Hummels misses a header on six yards from Ozil's cross. Kroos pulls a good save out of the Korean keeper. South Korea score but the flag is up for offside. We go to VAR -Kim Young-Gwon has put the Koreans in the lead.

Hummels heads over the bar. Ju Se Jung robs Neuer up the field. An open goal for Son Heung-min - 2-0! Brandt goes close - great save. Header over by Hummels.


Mexico 0 v 3 Sweden
Sweden and Mexico both through

Sweden almost take the lead from the start with a free kick that is headed on just in front of Granqvist. Ochoa handles outside the box. Forsberg whips in a free kick that the keeper pushes away. Lozan finds Vela who is well-positioned for Mexico on the run, but he drags the shot wide left of the post. Hernandez handballs and Mexico have a VAR decision - no penalty. Lustig feeds on to Bergand the keeper makes another good save. Forsberg shoots over from a Lustig cross. 

Germany are in trouble - Sweden's left back scores to put them above Germany in the group. Berg has his shot blocked and Augustinsson just hammered the goal in as the ball drifted to him unmarked at the back post. Hector Morino fouls Marcus Berg in the box. Big moment here. Granqvist makes it 2-0 with a penalty conversion. Mexico are having a nightmare. An own goal from Alvarez makes it 0-3 from a throw.


Day 13

Nigeria 1 v 2 Argetina
Argentina saved by Messi and a Man Utd player

Tagliafico had the first shot for Argentina against Nigeria. Nigeria replied with an effort from Musa which was much closer. Mascherano gifts the ball to Iheanacho but the Nigerian forward doesn't beat the last man. Lione Messi has taken Nigeria apart with a run that set him against Omeruo and there was only one winner - shooting right across the keeper - Messi opens the scoring 1-0 Argentina. Higuáin is closed down by Uzoho, Nieria's keeper as he soots. Di Mariá goes down from Balugun challenge - yellow card. Good shooting position for Messi - he hits the post!

Nigeria have a lifeline. Mascherino holds Balogun but it shouldn't be a penalty. The Nigerian player has leant back and won the penalty. Victor Moses rolls the ball in easily 1-1. If it stays like this Argentina are out. They have 40 minutes though to get ahead again. Di Maria dives in the box but gets nothing. Mikel plays scintillating stuff in midfield, Musa beats his man on the left and Ighalo makes a good dummy and Nididi hits a shot over. Ighalo has missed a great chance just eight yards out. He got it all wrong swinging his shot wide, but VAR is being checked. the ball rolled off of Balogun's head and onto his arm. No penalty. Higuáin puts a shot over from inside the box.

Etebo hits the side netting from his free kick - close. Argentina throwing everything at this claiming for a penalty, but it's not given. Mecardo crosses and Argentina score! Great scenes with Argentina's whole squad celebrating in a big heap by the corner flag. Marcus Rojo has struck a sensational volley. It's 2-1 to Argentina. Four minutes left. Argentina have finished second in Group D behind Croatia.



Croatia 2 v 1 Iceland
Croatia kill off Iceland at the death

Iceland worked hard against Croatia. Sigurddson tested Kalinic from range with a free kick, before Finnbogason went close with a shot that narrowly missed on the right post. The best chance came just before half time when Gunnarsson brought a great save out of Kalinic in the Coratian goal high to his right.

Croatia have perhaps ended Iceland's hopes. Badelj has scored for Croatia. The midfielder ran on to the ball well around the penalty spot and struck downwards and past Halldorsson to make it 1-0 on 53 minutes. Lovren has given a penalty away with a handball. Sigurdsson has scored from the penalty spot to give Iceland hope.

Croatia have made things impossible for Iceland. A second Croatian goal from Perisic has seen off the Icelandic team.


France 0-0 Denmark
Bore-draw sees France top group C

France and Denmark played out a goalless draw. It had to happen some time and these two teams would hardly benefit from a winner as they both go through and the match would have only decided who finished to of the group. With Australia losing there was no pressure on Denmark to get forward and as a spectacle it was perhaps one of the less entertaining games of the World Cup so far with the teams receiving boos at half time. France at least had the better goal threat having 11 shots but only three on target. If you were thinking about seeing the highlights - don't bother!


Australia 0 v 1 Peru
Peru get a well deserved win

Australia had it all to from the start of this game but they had an even bigger task when Peru took the lead on 19 minutes. Guerrero's run up the left wing was well found and his cross was met full on the volley by Carillo who found the bottom left corner of Australia's goal. It came against the run of play. Leckie had a free shot at goal but Australia had been caught offside. Rogic gets around the back but Leckie can't get in front of his market and has to be satisfied with a corner.

Australia then fell 2-0 behind just after half time when Guerrero doubled the lead on 67 minutes. Tim Cahill heads wide. Aziz Behich is free on the back post but can't pick out Cahill in time.

Flores drives his shot and hits the post. Guerrero has been flagged offside so it would not have counted.



Day 12

Spain 2 v 2 Morocco
Spain make hard work of topping the group

Piquet was lucky to stay on after a two-footed challenge on Boutaïb. Morocco took an unexpected lead on 14 minutes when Boutaïb raced away to beat the Spanish defenders and slip the ball under De Gea to make it 1-0. Spain only took five minutes to equalise. A clever run by Inesta opened up Morocco's defence and Isco levelled things at 1-1. Boutaïb was in again from a throw in and De Gea had to make the save to keep it at 1-1.

Morocco can't get out of their half. Morocco have gone 2-1 up! A towering header from the corner from En-Nesyri on 81 minutes. But Spain have gone and scored again. It's 2-2, Iago Aspas has scored on 91 minutes, back heel following a corner. It's not offside are consulting VAR. That's changed things at the top of Group B.



Portugal 1 v 1 Iran
Portugal get pegged back - it's Uruguay for them

It only took Ronaldo two minutes to get a shot away in Iran's box but he hit it straight at the keeper. iIan replied with Jahanbakhsh breaking down the right and squaring for Amiri but his shot was weak and well wide. The keeper, Beiranvand, and Ezatolahi got in each other's way but João Mario hit his shot well over. Iran's keeper then gets away with dropping a cross. Jahanbakhsh almost beats Portugal's Rui Patrício to the ball but the Portuguese keeper takes a blow and gets the ball. A free kick sees Ezatolahi get a header on target. Portugal a resorting to Ronaldo shooting from distance. Iran are looking increasingly positive. Roicardo Quaresma comes up with a stunning goal. Cutting in and outside of the right foot he curls the ball into the top left corner.


Ronaldo goes down after Ezatolahi knocks into him. VAR is looking at it. It's now a penalty. Ronaldo to go level with Harry Kane on five goals in the tournament and it's saved. Head in hands! Pepe blocks a cross just in time. Andre Silva unleashes a high shot. Rona;do catches Pouraliganji on the face - VAR possible red! It's yellow! VAR again on Cedric possible handball. It;s taking for ever - referee goes to look. It's a penalty and Ansanifard scores 1-1. Terami misses a great chance for Iran to win the game.




Egypt 1 v 2 Saudi Arabia
Saudi Arabia win first World Cup match to finish third in group A

Mo Salah's World Cup is over after finishing fourth in group A with Egypt's 2-1 defeat to Saudi Arabia. The afternoon had started well for Sala and his team mates when the Liverpool striker scored the opener in the 22nd minute. He raced on to a long ball with two defenders chasing and lobbe dthe keeper to take the lead. Salah could have had a second in the first half but chipped wide on another one on one. Trézéguet also shot wide when he was clear in the box for Egypt. Essam El Hardy saved the spot kick from Fahad Al Muwalled on to the bar, after Ahmed Fathy was penalised for handball for blocking a cross. But asecond penalty followed when Gab held back Fahad Al Muwalled in the box and this time Salman Al Faraj equalised though from the penalty spot.

Saudi Arabia had by far the most chances in the second half and Essam El Hardy kept Egypt in the game until the winner came in the 90+5 minute, when Al Dawasari managed to get free on the inside right and shoot across the keeper and into the net.



Uruguay 3 v 0 Russia
Uruguay are starting to improve

Cheryshev made the first big mistake on fouling Nandes just outside the box. 6 Suarez buried the free kick in the right corner with great precision. The Russian defender Gazinsky strangely pushing the wall and making it easier for Suarez to score. Uruguay were fortunate to get the second from a deflected shot. Smolnikov made two rash challenges in the game and was sent off before half time.

Uruguay kept the pressure up with Carvani going close a few times before he scored a scrambled goal from a corner to make it 3-0. A convincing win for Uruguay.



Day 11

Poland 0 v 3 Colombia
Colombian carnival

To evenly equipped teams lined up in this game. Neither could afford to make a mistake and it led to a game with high energy but low incident in the first half hour until Colombia had a short corner enabling Rodriguez chipped the ball beautifully to Mina to score with a header. The atmosphere was great with so many Colombians in the Kazan stadium. Cuadrado was catching the eye on the right wing for Colombia. Colombia are keeping the ball better now.

Cuadrado continues to be the out ball for Colombia. Falcao has a dreadful shot though after he is picked out by the winger. Poland just don't have another gear. Quintero has a good shot blocked. Lewandoski gets in behind but Ospina makes an important save. Colombia have this game now, a great pass by Quintero and Falcao tucks the goal away under Szczesny. Twenty minutes for Poland to save the game. Colombia have not finished yet. On the break Cuadrado is in and he has outstripped the defence and takes it early for a great finish 3-0. The pass was outstanding to get Cuadrado in.

Cuadrado tries a back heel that is just cleared off the line by Bednarek. Poland have been a big second best. But 
Lewandoski has a dig from 25 yards and Ospina touches it over.

Japan 2 v 2 Senegal
Senegal let victory slip through their fingers

Senegal were quick to take advantage f sloppy defending by Japan as Wagué outstripped the defence on the right and a poor header by Haraguchi invited the shot by Sabaly which is punched by Eiji Kawashimi right onto the feet of Saido Mané who has not problem in finding the net 1-0 to Senegal. Awful goalkeeping mistake. The Japanese keeper makes a better save from Wagué's shot to his left. japan worked their way back into the game though with Inui finding a low curling finish after being found in the box by Nagatomo on 34minutes. Niang then brings a good save from Kawashima.

Osako has a free header but just picks the keeper out. Niang goes close with a drive from distance. Osako had a n amazing chance to slot home a goal for Japan and yet let the ball run under his foot in the six yard area. Inui hits the bar on the break. Japan are running this now. A ball across japan's six yard area sees Wagué thump home a goal for Senegal Sabaly made the cross and it was touched on by Niang before Wagué made the finish 2-1 on 71 minutes. Terrible defending from Senegal sees Honda scores to make it 2-2. What was the keeper doing? Both teams are going for the win. It's ended 2-2.


England 6 v 1 Panama
Captain Kane is the hat-trick hero

England took little time to dispense with Panama.While they were edgy in defence in the first 10 minutes with Panama catching England flat footed after a mistake form Maguire that saw Edgar Bárcenas shoot wide from the left side. But England gathered themselves and are proving one of the teams that pose a significant threat at set pieces. A corner opened the scoring for England with John Stones heading in unmarked on eight minutes. Jee Lingard was then toppled in the box and Harry Kane smashed the penalty in the top left corner after 2 minutes. Jesse Lingard then scored the best goal with a curling shot that picked out the top right corner on 36 minutes. England were purring and all Panama could do was to foul to halt the England train. A well worked free kick saw John Stones head in his second after Sterling had seen his header parried. Stones also won a penalty before half time as he was bundled over by Fidel Escobar and Kane grabbed his second to make it -0 at half time.

England were less forceful in the second 45 minutes But Loftus-Cheeks' deflected shot hit Kane's heels and England ent 6-0 up. on 62 minutes. Kane was then subbed but England failed to add to their score and Panama even pinched a goal themselves with superb finish from Felipe Baloy volleying in from a free kick with 12 minutes to go. This was a comprehensive victory as any this year's World Cup, and it took England to the top of Group G, needing only a draw against Belgium to finish top of the group and qualification for the next stage already assured. We still don't know if they are World beaters so the game against Belgium will tell us much more.





Day 10

Germany 2 v 1 Sweden
Lucky, lucky Germany - Kroos quality wins the day

Draxla should have got Germany off to the perfect start but his shot os cleared off the line. Germany are swarming forward, A Swedish break sees Forsberg muscled out of it by the two German centre-halves. Germany are getting around the back far too easily at the moment. Sweden look like they have their hans full and don't have a lot to hit back with unlike Mexico. But Berg is in one on one and didn't score with Neuer making the save. Is it a penalty? No VAR interruption. Oh, the replay shows Marcus Berg is pushed by Jerome Boateng. All this money spent on VAR and it's not used! I think we can say that Sweden do have a threat on the break and this German defence is not great against pace. Sweden are getting more possession. Toivenen gets in between the central defenders and lobs Neuer. Rüdiger just can't get there. Substitute Gündogan has a drive and Olsen keeps it out and the rebound from Müller 1-0 Sweden. Claessen has a good break but can't finish it. Neuer has to make a big save from Berg's header just on half time.

Germany are back in it. A cross from the left and Reus gets a knee to it from seven yards 1-1. Kroos gets a deflection - corner. Sweden on the rack. Müller goes close with a header. Hector has a shot saved by Olsen. Reus jumps over the cross - any connection would have scored. Kroos sees a deflected shot go over. Olsen pushes out a cross. Gomes is offside, but misses anyway from six yards. Werner puts the ball in and Granqvist just avoids an own goal. Forsberg hits a great volley off a corner but it's right at Neuer. Neuer plucks a long shot out of the air. Berg just offside.

Last 10 minutes. Werner sweeps a shot over from Müller's cross. Boateng's off - two yellows. Berg was fouled from behind. Free kick and Neuer just beats Guidetti to the ball on the six yard box. Great save from Olden from Gomes' header. Five minutes of added time. Who can get a late winner?

Brandt hits the post and Werner is offside. How come Brandt didn't start the game? He has had a great shot in both games when he has come on for Germany. Kroos hits a free kick - straight into the top corner! Germany have won it. Lucky, Lucky Germany.


South Korea 1 v 2 Mexico
Mexicans can get the tequila out
Mexico used the space well to expose South Korea. The South Koreans were making plenty of fouls. They were fortunate to get a penalty when Jang Hyun soo goes down and the cross from Guardado hits the South Koreans's upheld arm - penalty! Carlos Vela makes no mistake it's 1-0 to the Mexicans. Son Heung-min has three attempts to score but only gets a corner. It's end-to end in the second half. Mexico are finding space though on their left. Jo Heyeon woo saves well from Guardado. Lozano has a shot blocked by Ki Sung-yeung. Hernandez has settled it. A great breakaway goal. Hernandez came inside the defender and cut the ball back past the keeper - great goal. 

South Korea are still battling and Son Heung-min pulls a fabulous goal out of nowhere. Edge of the box and he finds the top left corner 1-2, but it's injury time. Too late for South Korea.


Belgium 5 v 2 Tunisia
Belgium get the job done early

The Belgians took early control of this game when they were given a penalty in the first six minutes. Hazrad gratefully scored before Lukaku made it 2-0. What we didn't expect we for Tunisia to strike back but Bronn made a game of it with his goal. It took until half time for Belgium to go 3-1 yup with Lukaku's second and when Hazard made it 4- it was game over. Batshuayi made a mess of four or five chances, hitting the bar and firing wide before he finally got his goal and even at 5-1 Tunisia fought on and captain Khazri made the score a bit more respectable.


Day 9

Serbia 1 v 2 Switzerland
Shaqiri turns the tables on Serbia

Serbia were well on top against Switzerland in the first few minutes and when Mitrovic saw his first headed attempt saved by Sommer he soon had another chance to beat Sommer which he did from six yards to put the Serbs ahead. Dzemaili had a chance to put Switzerland back level but skewed his shot wide. Milinkovic-Savic also pushed a shot wide for Serbia as both teams went on full out attack. Zuber played a good ball on to then Dzemaili and then to Seferovic, but Stojkovic came out well to save the shot for the Serbs. At the end of the half Tosic could have made it two-nil from a corner but unmarked the defender couldn't make a good enough contact.


Serbia looked to busy for Switzerland to cope with but Switzerland had a response after Shaqiri saw his shot blocked, Xhaka found the corner of the net with a magnificent strike from outside the area. Shaqiri had his eye in and battered the post from wide on the right. Could Switzerland complete the turnaround? Mitrovic is held in the box to stop him jumping but there's no VAR. Gavranovic was well offside when he shot into the side netting for Switzerland. Serbia were holding on now. Gavranovic gets another chance but Stojkovic makes the save. Switzerland are looking the more likely to win this game now. Shaqiri has won in in the 90th minute on the break. Shaqiri ran beautifully across the line and Tosic couldn't catch him.


Iceland 0 v 2 Nigeria
The Nigerian party begins!

Iceland started well with a free kick that Sigurdsson struck at the top corner and Nigeria's keeper got across smartly to keep out. But Nigeria then had the majority of the possession with Iceland looking to hit on the break. Another late free kick just as the 45 minutes up should have given Iceland the lead but Finnbogasson just couldn't get a good enough touch to finish Sigurddson's cross off. Bödvarsson headed a following corner back across goal but Nigeria's luck held to keep it at nil-nil.

Etebo took the game to Iceland at the start of the second half with an early drive from 20 yards but Halldórsson got down well to hie right. Nigeria were to take the lead when a break down the right with Moses led to Musa taking the ball down in the box and smashing it past Halldórsson. Ndidi forced a one handed save as Nigeria pressed forward. The shot was taken from a good 35-yards out. Gíslason did well to create space but shot too high for Iceland. Balogan rose well to head just over from a Nigerian corner. Musa just crashes a shot against the bar. But then he is back on the ball agains and he has rounded Árnason and made it 2-0 to the Super Eagles. This is a lifeline to Argentina.

Var picked up Ebuehi's poor challenge on Finnbogsson in the box and a penalty was finally awarded to Iceland. Sigurdsson misses it with eight minutes to go - shooting well over. Iheanacho then put a shot wide. Bödvarsson is forced wide and his shot is saved. Iceland just haven't tested the Nigerian keeper.


Brazil 2 v 0 Costa Rica
Brazil go nuts over 2-0 win

While the shadows across the pitch made the game a difficult spectacle to watch in the first half, Costa Rica mad a good fist at attacking the blue stripped Brazilians. Gamboa's surge down the right for Costa Rica created the first opportunity for Borges as Brazil were split open but he could get his shot on target. Neymar was the target for constant fouling, but Jesus thought he had scored when Marcelo's pass had found him but he was in an offside position. Coutinho had a couple of drives from distance but his best play was in picking out Neymar on the left but the forward couldn't beat Navas to the ball in a straight race. Nil-nil at half time was no surprise with few openings created. Brazil are not looking like World beaters at this moment.

Brazil attacked better at the star of the second half causing confusion in Costa Rica's defence but Navas did well to beat Neymar to a loose ball in the box after a bit of a scramble in the box when a back pass caused all kinds of trouble. Jesus then hit the bar with a header, before Coutinho hit a shot that was cleared off the line. This was more the Brazil we had expected as they raised their tempo. Paulino provided a good low cross for Neymar who saw his shot touched over the bar and Coutinho also had a central shot that was right at Navas. Neymar had a superb chance to hit the net on the break on 71 minutes but he didn't get enough whip on his shot. He was going to get a penalty though on 77 minutes when he was held back by Gonzalez from shooting, all though he made the most of it. It should be a lifeline for Brazil - but on VAR review it was decided that it was no penalty. Neymar had over played it and the referee wasn't having it all though he did not book Neymar. A frustrated Neymar soon picked up a yellow for thumping the ball down in anger a moment later. Casemiro was next to shoot from outside the box but Navas made the save.


Six added minutes gave Brazil more time to win it and Coutinho came up with the goods just a minute into added time by slotting home from a knockdown from Firmino header and Jesus' touch. Firminio then missed a good chance to make it 2-0. Just to crown it, Costa finds Neymar in the box on the break and it's 2-0.


Day 8

Argentina 0 v 2 Croatia
What a Messi - the Argies are almost out

This was a cracking game with both teams making mistakes. A nervy Argentina needed Caballero to turn Perisics' early shot round the post. Both defences are over playing it at the back. A cross from Acuña hits the bar! Croatia almost let Perez in when Lovren misplaced a clearance but the Argentine player shot wide when it looked easier to score - he could have stroked it in. Manzukick for Croatia then missed a great headed chance to score when he was onside and closing in on the six yard box. Messi was not having much influence on the game. Croatia had another great play just before half time with Modric playing a magnificent ball to Rebic who has a bad first touch and shoots well over. Croatia are getting in on wide areas and Argentina gave Croatia too much space in the first half out wide.

Aguero was moving well and turned to shoot well, but his shot was well saved before Croatia broke and Cabellero had a moment of madness in chipping the ball to Rebec right in front of him and the finish on the volley was exceptional from Rebec to give the Croatians a deserved lead on 57 minutes. Argentina were in big trouble. Messi was in at the foot of the post but Rakitic and the keeper some how keep him out. Dybala is next to shoot over. Where is the quality for Argentina? Luka Modric then put the game out of sight for Argentina with a superbly driven goal right in the bottom right corner from 25 yards out. Rakitic smashes the bar with his free kick after he was badly fouled by Otamendi. Vida makes a great block as Argentina look to reduce the goal deficit. Rakotic has made it 3-0! Argentina are sunk.


France 1 v 0 Peru
Peru bow out
The Peruvians looked composed and refreshed in attacking the French until just after the half hour when they got caught in midfield by Pogba and Giroud capitalised on the mistake making a diagonal run inside the box and shooting. The deflection broke kindly to Mbappé who had an open goal to make it 1-0. Guerrero had missed a big chance just before the goal turning well but seeing his shot come off Lloris' boot. It had been a wake up call for the French. Hernández pulls another save out of Gallese in Peru's goal, France are in full flow now.

Peru showed a little more intent second half with Aquino unlucky not to hit an equaliser when he smashed a shot from distance against the outside of the cross bar. Another shot from distance from Carillo went over the bar as well. Advíncula also tried his hand on the angle for Peru, but narrowly shot over. Farfan acrobatically volleyed into the side netting as Peru tried to save the game. Alas they had failed to score and were out of the competition. France still have not shone despite winning their first two goals.


Australia 1 v 1 Denmark
Penalty keeps Australia in the tournament
This was a bit of a lightweight affair. Denmark started the game well with a precision finish from Spurs' Christian Eriksen after Jorgensen had put the ball beautifully into his stride to volley home after seven minutes. While Australia worked hard they did not look like scoring until a VAR decision was called upon and Poulsen was a judged to have handled the ball from a corner kick, and the Crystal Palace midfielder Yedinack was not put off by the stare down from Kasper Schmeichel and levelled before half time. For me, it was a soft penalty as Poulsen really didn't gain any advantage and didn't know much about the handball. But his arm was in an extended position, so I could see why it was given when the referee was asked to look at it. Without VAR though it would not have been a penalty. So is that good that we get more penalties with VAR?

Sisto put a good opportunity wide after Poulsen had broken into the Australian box but the two sides lacked quality in the last third and both sides surrendered possession very easily. Moy did get people off their seats with a blaze from outside the box that just lifted over Denmark's bar with 20 minutes to go. It was distressing to see Nabbout in so much pain after dislocating his shoulder. But the game continued. Australia were pushing for the win with Arzani and Lecki coming close in the last five minutes.



Day 7

Spain 1 v 0 Iran
Iran correctly VARRED from scoring 

We are still waiting for a 0-0 draw and this match had all the hallmarks of being a landslide until we saw just how Iran would go about their business. Attack after attack from Spain fell like water o the rocks as they got close to the Iranian box. Iran used everything at their disposal to cut down space and get blocks in and use the keeper's punch to stem the Spanish tide. David Silva went closest for Spain with an attempt that rose over the bar and a later shot that was deflected wide. Every corner for Iran was well received by a din of noise from the plastic horns their supporters kept buzzing and it was a real treat to see such determined tackling and defiance to hold back the Spanish attacks. Nil-nil at half time was well deserved and there was always a threat of a corner or free kick that would get Iran up the pitch and within striking distance of Spain's goal - a fascinating contest we had on our hands here.

In the second half the gaps started to appear in Iran's defence, Busquets went close pulling save out of Beiranvand before Amiri followed up but was beaten to the ball by the keeper. A shock almost came then when Ansarifard hammered a shot just into the side netting. But Spain found the bit of luck they needed when Costa turned into the box and a challenge bounced back off him and into the Iranian net - 1-0 to Spain on 54 minutes. Iran were attacking more now and Terami headed a cross wide before Ezatolahi scored after a free kick and goalmouth scramble, but the referees arm went up for a possible offside on 62 minutes. We waited for VAR, the goal was disallowed! Spain then had a great chance to score at a corner taken short and fed back to Ramos who drilled a shot that was held on the line by several Iranian bodies as `costa battled and the keeper finally got two hands to the ball. Termani then came inches away from getting the equaliser heading a whisker over after a deep cross fro the left. Have we seen a great Spanish performance or a Spanish side hanging on in this tournament? I feel that Spain might not quite be the team they were, but they are still very good. 



Saudi Arabia 0 v 1 Uruguay
Uruguay send us to sleep qualifying for the last 16

The Saudi's had shown signs of being able to compete better than they did n their first game with Uruguay not looking that threatening. But Uruguay were handed a simple opener when the keeper Al Owais came for a corner and missed it by miles to gift Suarez an easy tap in at the far post on 23 minutes. Saudi Arabia could get to Uruguay's box but then the finishing from Al Muwallard Al HArbi was rather lacking. Uruguay were fairly uninspiring.

The Uruguayan's could have made it 2-0 when Cavani found Sanchez with a deep cross but the header went wide. Cavani would also get a one on one in the 85th minute but the Saudi keeper saved well with his legs. A deflected shot from G Silva could have proved an embarrassing leveller for the Saudi's but it was never hit with enough power to deceive Muslera.



Morocco 0 v 1 Portugal
Morocco are the first team to exit the 2o18 World Cup finalsMorocco had chance after chance to beat Portugal but they couldn't find the net time after time. Arguably the best chances fell to the centre-back Benatia who had two clear opportunities which he blazed over. There was also a good chance for Morocco to score when Belhanda had a header saved, but it just wasn't Morocco's day despite their high intensity. In front of goal Tunisia were simply wasteful and had no composure unlike Ronaldo who took his early headed goal in the fourth minute to settle the tie.
Day 6

Russia 3 v 1 Egypt
The Russians are coming

There was a worry that Egypt would be overrun in the first 20 minutes of this game. Russia's opening win had set them up with a mentality that they were invincible and they set about attacking with everything they had. Golovin really should have tested El-Shewany in Egypt's goal when he made the most of Egypt playing out from the back but he scuffed his shot wide. Physically imposing, Russia continued to poor forward mainly down Egypt's right, but Egypt themselves showed moments of ambition when Trézéguet tried to bend a shot from the left side but it disappeared past the post. Mo Salah was a bit anonymous for the most part and was carefully shadowed. Egypt were starting to get into the game though. Cheryshev's shot from distance only just skimmed over the bar as Russia continued to have the most possession. Hegahzi and El-Shewany had one desperate moment at trying to keep a Russian cross out but neither keeper had any saves to make in the first 45 minutes. Even when Salah did get free in the box his turn and shot narrowly went wide.

The second half brought the goal Russia sought almost straight away. The Egyptian keeper chose to punch a cross from the right and Zobnin drove a shot into the box that Fathy lunged at and directed the ball into his own net. Just before the hour the game was up, Russia's Figuiera Fernandes pulled the ball back from the byline for Cheryshev to make it 2-0. The big forward Dzyuba then made it 3-0, chesting a ball down, then bursting through the Egyptian defence and slamming home another goal. Trézéguet's last contribution was to side foot a shot narrowly wide of the post, but Egypt needed goals. Surprisingly, Egypt got the chance with Salah being held back on entering the penalty box. VAR was needed to confirm it was in the box, but it was and Salah plated the penalty in the top right corner to make it 3-1. Egypt had 17 minutes to save the game. Russia kept coming forward though. A late tiered effort by sub Warda signalled the game was up for Egypt.



Senegal 2 v 1 Poland
The African flag rises

The African nations have not got off to a good start this World Cup but Senegal showed just what is possible with an energetic display against Poland. Both sides rushed their attacks and lost possession very quickly. It was a great clash of styles with Senegal electric on the break and Poland a little more patient but also keen to get the ball into the box. It was Senegal that kept testing Poland's back line and they got their reward when Gueye took aim and saw his shot deflected by Thiago Cionek into his own net on 37 minutes.

Salif Sane had to make a rash challenge on Robert Lewendowski as the Polish forward powered towards goal in a chance of his own making but a yellow card was not further punished when Lewendowski could not beat from the free kick. I expected Poland to create some further chances and they started to with Piszczek volleying wide after a great cross from the left. But Poland gifted Senegal another goal, when a ball back from Krychowiak put Bednarek and Szczesny in all kinds of trouble with Niang, zipping back on to the pitch, and able to nip in between them both and kick the ball into an empty net! A freakish goal. Poland were obviously felt aggrieved by Niang sudden reappearance but the referee must have allowed him to enter the play. In fact, I am not even sure he had gone off in the first place.

Poland kept going with Milik going close with 20 minutes to go. But Senegal could just defend and hit on the break now. Rybus challenged Ismaili Sarr in the box but VAR denies Cameroon a penalty. With four minutes to go Poland had hope when Kownacki headed in from a left wing cross. But it was not enough. Senegal could well reach the last 16.



Colombia 1 v 2 Japan
Carlos Sanchez sees red

Columbia were the creators of their own problems in the first few minutes of this game. Their centre half Davidson Sanchez misjudged a ball over the top and while the keeper saved the initial shot, from Osaka C Sanchez stuck out his arm to block the follow up from Kagawa and had to be dismissed as early as the third minute. Kagawa then rolled the penalty in straight down the middle. Cuadrado was sacrificed and Barrios was added to the game. Japan had a great chance through Inui to make it 2-0 but he screwed his shot wide. Columbia were playing great long balls through to Falcao and Quintero was unstoppable on the right wing. The 10 men of Colmbia forced their way back into the game when Quintero slipped the ball under the free kick wall to score at the near post.

Ospina made a good low down save from Osaka early on in the second half with Japan looking more threatening again. Inui then pulled an even better curling shot that Ospina was at full stretch to save. Saiki also shot right across goal with Japan certainly on top. The goal for Japan came eventually from a corner on 72 minutes with Osako getting up high and heading in off the far post. Rodriguez might have levelled on 77 minutes, but his shot was deflected over by Osako.



Day 5

England 2 v 1 Tunisia
Close call for England

You know what you are going to get when you watch England.  A game of drama and incidents and this one didn't disappoint. Of course England were going to start brilliantly get a goal up with their star man grabbing the first goal for his side.It would be too easy for the game to continue like that though. Queue the missed chances, Sterling can't ought his feet out, Lingard manages to pick out the only defender on the line, Henderson smashes a shot through a crowd that the keeper saves. The drama continued with Lingard managing to hit the post in a first half that England were well on top of. Stones misses fails to connect from six yards out! But then the decision-making from the referee went awol. Walker puts his arm up to shield the ball as it goes harmlessly across the box and Sassi runs into his arm - penalty! Are you sure referee? Goal Tunisia 1-1. Harry Kane being rugby tackled to the ground by Sassi. Decision, no VAR, no penalty! 
How is that possible? 

The second half made us even more nery. Tunisia came out like a side who felt they could get something from the game. Harry Kane was again bundled to the floor in the  box and no penalty for the English is the verdict. England are crying out for Rashford but it takes until the 68th minute to get him on. Then we see Tripier and Ashley Young taking free kicks? What? Get Rashford or Kane taking them Southgate. The agony is intensifying. Tunisia are wasting every second they can. Maguire has been the man of the match for ma and wins every header, but England need to vary it a bit. A final corner and Maguire rises again. Kane is there at the far post. He cranes his neck, arches it round and puts all his effort into the header - it's in!! England have their win. Enjoy it? Know, I hated every agonising minute, but that is what you get when you follow England. Three points is three points though and at least England have won a game at the Wold Cup. Perhaps we are not as bad a team as everyone thinks. England showed some fight and should have been out of sight by half time. They can improve on this and will expect to.



Belgium 3 v 0 Panama
I thought Panama would ship loads of goals. And they did eventually!
Belgium were sloppy and far from eager in their attempts to drive a few goals past Panama. The Central American side defender robustly and Torres at the back made a superb interception after 20 minutes when De Bruyne fired in a ball from the right and Lukaku was ready for a tap in before Roman Torres took it off his toes and could so easily have scored an own goal. Martens also played in Lukaku well only for the legs of Penedo to make a great save. Penedo also kept Hazard out at the near post. The two corners for Panama in the first half were cheered on and Cooper even had a shot from outside the box which flew over but showed some intent and some slick passing on front of goal. Nil-nil at half time was already a great result for Panama and England. Could they do as well in the second half I wondered?

Less than to minutes into the second half we found out with Mertens lashing a volley into the top corer of panama's goal to give Belgium the lead. Murillo then had a great chance to equalise but Courtois saved Belgium by coming out quickly. De Bruyne then played in a great cross for Lukaku to make it 2-0 on 68 minutes. A third goal from Lukaku added more respectability to Belguim's high ranking, chipping the ball over Penedo, but did little to help Panama's situation.



Sweden 1 v 0 South Korea
Who needs Zlatan? Sweden do actually!

Sweden might not have their iconic striker anymore but having overcome the Netherlands and Italy in their qualification they are determined to lay a major part in the finals. Getting a win over South Korea would be paramount knowing that Mexico had beaten Germany and while South Korea started well they rarely did much more than put crosses right across the pitch from one side to another. Sweden slowly grew in confidence with Berg and Claesson going close to scoring in the first 45 minutes. The break through came in the second half when VAR was called upon with Kim-Min Woo clipping Claesson in the box and Krasnodar put the penalty away calmly on 65 minutes. A great chance for Hwang Hee-Chan saw a ball in the box headed on and the South Korean striker then head wide. Both teams are going to struggle to score goals in this tournament which will be a saving grace for Germany.



Day 4

Brazil 1 v 1 Switzerland
Switzerland find Brazil's weak point
No one but the most ardent of Swiss fans would have given their team any chance against Brazil in the group E match, and the way Philippe Coutinho opened the scoring with a vicious curling , dipping shot gave no reason to believe Switzerland would find an answer. However, Brazil'a attack lacked the precision to unlock Switzerland again and Stephen Zuber headed an equaliser to stun the five times World Champions. Switzerland were far from overrun and will feel like this is an extra point in their campaign which gives them an excellent chance of escaping from the group stages should Brazil find form in their remaining group games.

Mexico 1 v 0 Germany 
Majestic Mexicans!
There are bot many teams brave enough to take the game to the World Cup champions but Mexico played with belief and tremendous skill to hound and confuse the Germans. On the break they were lightning quick. The Germans were given no time on the ball in midfield and the Mexicans were excellent at robbing Kroos and Ozil whenever they ventured forward. Mexico got their reward when Lozano beat Neuer on the counter-attack. Vela just marked Kroos out of the game. Javier Henández was playing with great intelligent runs and should have scored himself. Hummels and Boateng had their work cut out, Mexico's sweeping passes were cutting them apart, especially when Kimmich went to far forward on German's right handside. Ochoa did have to make one incredible save from a Kroos free kick, but Mexico had all the answers in the first half, even being happy enough to play out from the back under intense pressure.

Draxler was the German player trying to get things going second half, but Muller and Ozil kept quiet. The German machine just wasn't finding top gear, even if they were mounting some attacks. The counter was always a possibility with Hernández and Vela. But with Alvarez coming on you sensed Mexico were looking to shut up shop. Kimmich had a great overhead kick attempt that went wide an effort from Kroos on the edge of the box also screamed past the post. The German attacks kept coming but Layún almost made it two on the break for the Mexicans several times. Brandt then hit a cracking shot but it faded wide for Germany. Mexico deserved their win.


Serbia 1 v 0 Costa Rica
Kolarov free kick stunner
Aleksander Kolarov, Serbia's captain decided the match in Samara with a superbly struck free kick that found the top corner in the second half. Until then Serbia had dominated the possession and had the majority of the play even though Giancarlo Gonzalez had missed a fabulous headed chance to put Costa Rica in front early on. Newcastle striker Aleksander Mitrovic, who was on loan with Fulham last season, had plenty of opportunities to score including a one-on-one in the last few minutes but he didn't open his World Cup account. Neither team looks that strong and they both might find it hard to get through in a group with Switzerland and Brazil.


Day 3

Croatia 2 v 0 Nigeria
Oh Nigeria, daft defending!

Croatia had Luka Modoric to stroke the ball around the pitch to give the Croats plenty of possession against Nigeria. The first half Etebe own goal came from a simple corner, but Nigeria were guilty of not wining the header at the near post and after that Mandzukic was throwing thimself at the ball, so it was no surprise that the ball went in off a Nigerian bystander. Nigeria seemed to lack the necessary have a go attitude in the last third even if they were ordered when not in possession. Croatia should ave made it two-nil when Rebic shot over from a wicked cross from Rakatic with less than an hour gone. A silly penalty then given away by William Troost-Ekong for wrapping his arms around Mandzukic gave Modric the chance to slot another penalty away on this third day of the competition.



Peru 1 v 2 Denmark
Peru's penalty miss costs them dearly

Peru were left pondering missed chances in the match against Denmark. The start of the first half saw them overrun Denmark with the energy and sparkle in their play. Carillo almost opened the scoring cutting a shot back across Kasper Schmiechel, but the Danish keeper made a great low save to his right. Peru's striker Farfán also looked lively and was beautifully put through by Carillo only to have Kjaer slide in to block the shot, but Denmark came much more in the game after 20 minutes even if they didn't get great pressure on Peru's goal. Siston's little run gave Eriksen a good opportunity from a free kick but the ball came off the wall and substitute Schöne came closest with a well-driven low shot that the keeper needed a couple of attempts to keep hold of. But at the end of the half Cueva had his leg taken by Denmark's 20 in the penalty area and VAR was used to confirm the penalty. Cueva took responsibility for the kick but blazed his effort over the bar to leave the score 0-0 at half time. Denmark might have had most of the play but it was Peru with the clear chances to score.

In the second half, Peru were cutting through Denmark's defence with some great play, but then Peru's worst fears came true just before the hour when Eriksen broke and fed in Poulsen down the left and he finished cleanly to give Denmark the lead. Flores had a great chance to get Peru back level but he couldn't beat Schmeichel. The ball just would not go in for Peru. Guerrero headed straight at the Danish keeper. Rodriguez put a great header across goal that Farfán could not quite reach with Schmeichel scrambling. Then Advincula stood a cross up that goalscorer Poulsen had to head up off the line. A back heel from Guerrero just span wide! Jørgensen could have wrapped it up with 10 minutes to go but he could only hit his shot at Peru's keeper.

Another great chance fell to Farfán in front of goal from a Carillo pull back but he only hit the keeper on the line. Chances were coming at both ends and Eriksen was denied by a strong left arm of Peru's keeper. Peru had probably been the better side, but for all their great positive play they needed to finish one of their moves. Peru certainly brought excitement to the World Cup though and will hope for more luck next match.


Argentina 1 v 1 Iceland
Messi fluffs his lines

Argentina might have expected to rollover Iceland fairly easily but even when Aguero gave them an early lead with a stunning turn and shot in the box on 19 minutes. Yet, Iceland are not only an organised team they have an offensive side and Gylfie Sigurdsson was excellent all game in delivering crosses and Finnbogason was not going to miss from seven yards out. So the Premier League players were doing well and you'd expect Messi to put away a spot kick when he had the opportunity to after a soft penalty awarded to Argentina against Magnússon. But Messi just couldn't finish today and didn't find enough space all game to expose the Iceland defence. Pavón should have been given Argentina's second penalty of the game but the referee mistakenly thought he wen to ground to easy when there was contact. I like the way Iceland play because they make themselves hard to beat, get feet in where they're not favourites to win the ball and try and make the most of every second ball. Had Bjarnason taken his early opportunity in the first half when Argentina made a mess of playing out from the back it could have been an even more embarrassing day for Argentina.


France 2 v 1 Australia
Frenchman are less than convincing in first outing

France took on Australia in their first group game and came away with a 2-1 win. It was far from comfortable against the men from down under who more than blunted France's star players. Pogba looked uninterested while Griezmann struggled to get any possession in dangerous areas until he win a disputed penalty that was decided by VAR. It was far from being a clear or obvious penalty though and France were lucky to be given it. Griezmann struck the penalty away convincingly and yet within four minutes France's Untiti handballed a cross to give Jedinak the chance to draw level which he did. It was a daft penalty to give away. But France managed to get their win when Giraud was brought on. It enabled Pogba to finally get a forward run going and his challenged shot looped into the Australian net to make it 2-1. France will have to do much better than this to live up to their tag of being among the favourites, but a win is a win.




Day 2
Portugal 3 v 3 Spain 
Ronaldo sets the standardThe World Cup really got underway with the Group B match between Spain and Portugal. It was a sensational match with Portugal having a shock lead by half time with Ronaldo living up to his superstar name. But come the second half it was Spain who recovered their swagger with brilliant skills form Isco and a fabulous curling volley from Nacho. Diego Costa was nabbing his goals and Spain looked unstoppable, but Ronaldo still had the last word with a thunderous free kick that David De Gea could only stand and admire. De Gea himself had a Karius night, but it happens to the best.

The second day was also heartbreak for the two teams of Egypt and Morocco who had done the hard job of getting to the final minutes of their games only to concede right at the death. It was even more painful for Morocco as the own-goal for Aziz  Bouhaddouz was a horrible way to lose three points in the first game - some header though!


Day 1
Robbie Williams kicks off at the World Cup
I know it was a tragedy and injustice that England didn't get to host the 2018 World Cup and that Russia got the most votes, but I didn't think they would also nick one of our pop acts to get the tournament going! How did Robbie Williams get to replace Dianna Ross? I bet his other Take That buddies were less than pleased when they found out that Robbie was doing this one solo. Oh well, even if England are struggling to be an elite force at this World Cup this year, at least we had an Englishman get his hands on the microphone first. I only hope there is more than one Englishman singing at the end of the World Cup!

Russian's will certainly be smiling after scoring five goals against Saudi Arabia in the first match and the hosts made quite a mockery of their lowly World Cup ranking. We'll certainly look out for Denis Cheryshev in future games as he already has one of the goals of the tournament - not bad for a substitute - I think he might start in Russia's next match.

Problems for Rashford
England announced that Marcus Rashford is a doubt for England's first World Cup match against Tunisia on Monday having sustained a knock to one of his knees in training before England flew out to Russia. The striker had looked a certain starter for the first group game after his stunning goal against Coast Rica in the international friendly last week. The news is no doubt good news for Raheem Sterling who will be the likely beneficiary of the starting place. Whether Southgate is as worried about losing a player for the first game though is not clear when Belgium is probably the biggest hurdle for England in the group stage. Getting off to a good start though is crucial and if England struggle to be creative enough to score goals, critics will rue England's bad luck if Rashford is unavailable for the first game.


England can expect to be tested in Russia
The final warm up match against Costa Rica might not have got England supporters jumping off the sofa saying World Cup winners but Southgate can at least say he has players that enjoy wearing an England shirt. The mood of Elland Road was celebratory in 'Football's coming home' ringing out and Marcus Rashford picked up the rhythm faster than most. His goal was perfectly hit with dip and venom and while Costa Rica may have been slightly jet lagged, England chased and harried them all over the pitch. Delph in particular never stopped running. There are still questions about what Gareth's strongest back three are, but Maguire plays with a calmness that may give him one of the places. Danny Wellbeck also showed that he can be a goal threat with his second half goal. He may even have pushed himself ahead of Jamie Vardy who had a luckless night. 

Coast Rica hardly tested England but Butland and Pope made a save each when they had to. Surely, Pickford has the jersey, but all three keepers look free of the nightmares of Joe Hart and should have a good tournament. England go with hope more than expectation. Still, winning can become a habit and if Southgate can find out more about his players as the tournament goes on he could find a combination of players from the squad that thrive for him. I truly hope it happens. Yet, England have not been tested at all in recent games and they won't have that luxury in Russia.

What did we learn from Nigerian match?
Having watched 90 minutes of England against Nigeria in a pre-World Cup International friendly at the weekend I am finding it hard to get excited about England's prospects of taking the world by storm in a few weeks time in Russia. Southgate was keen to employ his three at the back formation that enable him to play a very attacking side with Jesse Lingard, Raheem Sterling and Deli Ali to support Harry Kane. While Sterling had a bit of a finishing shocker he is a player that will draw defenders, even when he goes down early in the box! Ali was less influential although the runs and movement from the forwards was praiseworthy in the first half. Lingard impressed the most with his ideas and ability to get behind the Nigerian defence. Kane dropped deep at times which did allow runners to go past him and yet it was demonstrated how much he is the striker who won't miss when he gets a clear sight at goal.

The midfield and defence are far from sturdy. Jon Stone looks out of form and has done for many months. Gary Cahill is trying to resurrect his England career and played a good 90 minutes with a fine headed goal, but it's in defence that we need him to excel more than anywhere and Maguire will probably get the nod over him. One player I did find show encouraging signs was Kieran Trippier who got forward well but his runs up the right did mean Carl Walker had to stay back and yet Walker is a great player coming forward.

The goal keeper situation looks to have been settled. Jordan Pickford looks assured and confident in goal with his distribution and even though he was beaten once he didn't look like making a mistake.

What did worry me was Southgate's slowness in reacting to Nigeria at the start of the second half. tactically he couldn't find a quick solution to thwarting the green shorts when they went to three at the back to match up with England. England need to play in more than one formation and I wanted to see Southgate switch things up. Instead he opted to bring on Ruben Loftus-Cheek and Danny Rose with some 20 minutes or so to go. Loftus Cheek did seem one-dimensional and more of a road block than a creative gem. Danny Rose seemed to be more on the floor than actually going at Nigeria. Welback and Rashford also failed to inspire me when they came on with Delph also used as a stabilising force when England try and hold on to games.

All I learnt is that England can play some nice football but can also be savagely exposed very quickly when they lose possession. Sterling has to fire more shots on target and not be as wasteful, while England need to get Kane on the ball more often in shooting positions. Dier is not as good as Henderson in the holding role and England need Henrderson's intensity to be on the front foot. I'm less confident than I was about England's prospects after this match and the feeling that Tunisia and Panama can't do anything against England is not as strong.


England Squad

Keepers
Pickford, Butland, Pope

Defenders
Cahill, Walker, Maguire, Jones, Stones, Alexander-Arnold, Trippier, Rose, Young

Midfielders
Delph, Dier, Streling, Alli, Loftus-Cheek, Henderson, Lingard

Strikers

Kane, Rashford, Vardy, Wellbeck

England games
2 June v Nigeria (friendly)
7 June v Costa Rica (friendly)
12 June Squad leaves for Russia
18 June v Tunisia (opening group game)
24 June v Panama (second group game)
28 June v Belgium (final group game)

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