World Cup diary 2018 – Monday 02 July
Russia (1) – (1) Spain [Russia win 4-3 on penalties]
Well I’m fairly much speechless even a day after the game. Spain with all the possession but created very little, with Russia just content to sit back – it wasn’t a great watch at all. On the one hand Spain got what they deserved because they didn’t have the guile to breakdown the hosts. However, for me, yet again the VAR and referee have come up with a wrong call, when Spain were denied a penalty in the closing minutes of Extra-time. As a free-kick was swung in there was a case for three Spanish players being pulled down, yet the referee deemed none of them to be fouls – a quite startlingly decision. Just where is the consistency in this tournament. And then to cap it all off the BBC pundits in the studio made no mention of the incident. Really?
Croatia (1) – (1) Denmark [Croatia win 3-2 on penalties]
With my frustration at events still lingering from the earlier game, I wasn’t really in the mood for this one and ended up only tuning in for the Extra-time and penalties. It appears that Croatia made heavy weather of things with perhaps the tag of favourites in this tie being a burden for them. However, despite the heroics of Danish ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel, he was outdone by his Croatian counterpart Danijel Subasic who saved three penalties in the shoot-out.
Well I’m hoping my enthusiasm can be reignited with the two clashes today, starting with:
Brazil v Mexico
This will be the fifth encounter in World Cup Finals for these countries. The first came in 1950 when the tournament was played in Brazil and in a Group 1 game, the hosts swept to a 4-0 win. Four years later in Switzerland the result was even more emphatic as Mexico were on the end of a 5-0 beating in the group stages. Their third meeting in the World Cup came in Chile in 1962 with Brazil winning 2-0 including a goal from Pele. Just four years ago in Brazil, the two sides played out a 0-0 draw in Group A, which saw Mexico break the run of defeats, but they have yet to score against the Brazilians in any of the four games. What a time to get a first goal.
It’s been a tournament with a number of the big guns going out – will Brazil really be another casualty? I can’t see it, but who would have said, Argentina, Germany, Portugal and Spain would already be on the plane home.
Belgium v Japan
There has been one meeting in the Finals tournament before, back in 2002 when Japan co-hosted with South Korea. In a Group G game in the Saitama Stadium, a crowd of 55,258 saw the teams play out a 2-2 draw. Belgium went ahead through Marc Wilmots (57’) with Japan level two minutes later through Takayuki Suzuki. Junichi Inamoto then put Japan ahead on sixty-eight minutes, only for Peter Van Der Heyden to level things up with fifteen minutes remaining.
Belgium are a gifted team and you would expect them to progress, but after the way Russia frustrated Spain yesterday, is this the game-plan for the Blue Samuri?