World Cup diary 2018 – Tuesday 19 June
Long live King Harry! No, I’m not prompting some massacre of all those in line to the throne of England, but merely praising the performance of Tottenham’s Harry Kane. His two-goal salvo, the first after eleven minutes gave The Three Lions the perfect start in a first-half in which they created enough chances to have put the game beyond Tunisia by half-time. However, as every England fan knows, the national team never does anything easily and after a soft penalty for the African side was converted before the break by Sassi after thirty-five minutes, the game became one of attrition as Tunisia tried to hang on to a point by fair means or foul. Tunisia’s cause was helped by VAR not being used when King Harry was wrestled to the ground rugby-style twice in the penalty box from corners, but England continued to knock at the door and a minute into stoppage time, Kane slipped his marker and headed home to ensure a 2-1 victory as the nation signed in a huge collective relief. A vital win and confidence boost for Gareth Southgate’s young charges.
In the other game in England’s group, Belgium were eventually comfortable 3-0 winners over Panama, but it took until the forty-seventh minute for Mertens to break the deadlock, before a Lukaku brace (69’ and 75’) saw The Red Devils secure the win and top spot in Group G. In the other game of the day in Group F, a rather scrappy game saw Sweden win 1-0 thanks to an Andreas Granqvist just past the hour. It showed that VAR works in that the correction decision was given, but also illustrated how it is messy within football rather than the rugby codes which have natural stop and starts. In this case play had continued with South Korea on the break after Kim Min-woo’s foul on Viktor Claesson, only for the game to be stopped for the review. And after the failings of the use of VAR in the England game, I’m not totally convinced that there is a consistent application of the technology.