Brazil stutter to late victory against Costa Rica

The third game in Group E was played between Central American country, Costa Rica and South American country, Brazil in Saint Petersburg. Following the Brazilians draw against Switzerland in the opening game, they needed to win against Costa Rica to go to the top of their group, however they needed a better performance compared to the last game as the Brazilians struggled to dominate the Swiss last time out.

In the first half of this match, both sides struggled to create openings. Before the game was fifteen minutes in, Brazil defender Casemiro had to be treated after having a nose bleed, following a clash in the first few minutes with a Costa Rican player. However the knock wasn’t so serious as all the Brazilian player needed was his nose to be cleaned up by the medical team before he came back onto the pitch, shortly afterwards.


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Clean up operation: Casemiro gets attention following a bizarre nose bleed and a member of the medical team, applies a tissue to stop the flow of blood from his name.

The first half ended goalless and following this the Brazil coach, Tite decided to take Willian off and replace him with Douglas Costa as the Chelsea midfielder was struggling on the right throughout the entirety of the first half, so the Brazilians needed more creativity to find a way of winning the second half against their stubborn opponents, who would exit the World Cup if they lost the match and were trying everything to make sure that the scoreline stayed nil nil, which was now frustrating the Brazilians as they had been the better side in the second half. The situation almost changed later on in the half as Brazil were awarded a penalty for a foul on their charismatic striker, Neymar. However the penalty was overturned on VAR review as evidence showed that the Brazil forward had dived as there was no contact at all, as the Brazilian striker tumbled down in the penalty in three stages. The decision not to award the penalty enraged the Brazilian’s as they all thought it was a penalty in their eyes, whilst this was happening the Costa Ricans were appealing for Neymar to be booked for simulation, only the referee ignored the protests, as both sides were still keep each other at bay.

Neymar dive

Neymar tumbles under no contact whatsoever from Costa Ricas’, Giancarlo González (wearing number 3) as VAR, overturned a penalty for the first time in this years World Cup.

As the game went on, it didn’t look like there was going to be a break through whatsoever in this match. When the clock was ticking down towards the end of the game, the Brazilians were playing with a lot more confidence unlike the first half and it was beginning to become clear to see. As the board went up for stoppage time, Brazil went up to Costa Rica’s end of the pitch and crossed the ball into the box, where Gabriel Jesus touched the ball down for Coutinho who followed in by slotting the ball under the legs of the diving Costa Rica goalkeeper, Keylor Navas. Surely Coutinho’s goal would be the winning one in this game.

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Jumping for joy: Coutinho celebrates giving Brazil the lead in the first minute of stoppage time, which knocked Costa Rica out of Russia 2018.

It wasn’t as with the last kick of the game, Neymar scored a tap in on the volley, following a cross from Douglas Costa as Brazil pushed to eliminate their opponents from the Group Stage. The relief on Neymar’s face was clear to see as at the final whistle, he sat in the centre circle and was crying tears of joy as he couldn’t hide his happiness after Brazil finally won their first game at the 2018 World Cup.

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Neymar points to the fans after scoring the winning goal late on during the seventh minute of stoppage time, which means Brazil have to win the next group to qualify for the round of 16.

What’s Next?

Brazil face Serbia in their final game next Wednesday at 7 o’clock in Moscow, whilst Costa Rica end their campaign against Switzerland, also at 7 o’clock in Nizhny Novgorod, the same day.




Colombia stunned by Japan in end to end game in Saransk

In a clash of two sides who were both in the same group during Brazil, the opening game of Group H was played between Japan and Colombia. The Japanese were the underdogs coming into the match, which was played at the Mordovia Arena that only opened in April this year. However within three minutes of the game starting, Colombia’s game plan was changed significantly as Carlos Sanchez was sent off for deliberately handling the ball after Shinji Kagawa shot after he followed in Yuya Osaka’s shot after Colombian goalkeeper, David Ospina made a good save to keep him out at first. The decision was easy for the Slovenian referee Damir Skomina, who handed out the first red card of this years’ World Cup  in the fifteenth game of the tournament.

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Flash point: Colombia players protest to the referee after midfielder Sanchez was given the second fastest red card in World Cup history. After he moved his arm into an un-natural position to stop the ball from going into the back of the net.

After the red card Sanchez was still remonstrating with the referee, which ended up taking up three minutes of the first half and despite all this Japanese midfielder, Kagawa stood and waited to take his countries penalty. Once Sanchez had left the pitch, Borussia Dortmund’s Kagawa stepped up and scored to give the Asian side a shock lead against their South American opponents, so early on into the the game. Kagawa penalty V Colombia.JPG

Kagawa celebrates scoring the opening goal of the match with Yūya Ōsako (left) running to celebrate with his international team-mate. Both players play their football outside of Japan, as they play in the German Bundesliga with Borussia Dortmund and Werder Bremen respectively.

The Japanese lead for thirty-three minutes after scoring from the penalty spot, however this changed after Colombian captain Falcao was fouled by Makoto Hasebe, right on the edge of the penalty area. Juan Quintero stood over the ball, but what would he do with the free-kick? Would he go over or under the wall? The answer was in fact the latter, as Quintero put the ball under the jumping Japanese wall and it was a moment that Japanese goalkeeper would rather forget as Eiji Kawashima parried the ball over the line. Following this, the goalkeeper tried to protest the decision as he believed the ball had not crossed the line, yet Goal-line technology proved otherwise as Kawashima had put the ball a few centimetres over the line with his effort to save the free-kick.

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Error of judgement: Eiji Kawashima, who plays for FC Metz in France, reacts late as Juan Quintero’s goal catches him by surprise after the wall jumped expected the ball to go over the wall and not under it. 

As the second half began, Colombia brought on their star of the World Cup in Brazil, James Rodriguez to try and put the game to bed against their Asian opponents however he failed to make the break through as Japan were the better team in the later stages of the game. Both sides pushed for what would surely be the winning goal of the contest in what was becoming an entertaining game in Saransk. Both teams were trying to put the game to bed and the break through goal came with seventeen minutes of time remaining as Yūya Ōsako headed from a corner to make sure that Japan got their own back after being thrashed by the same opponents, 4-1 in the 2014 World Cup. The result was meant a lot to the Japanese players as the day before the game a strong earthquake hit Osaka, which left three people dead dominated the pre-match build up and the emotion shown by the Japanese players was clear to see at the final whistle as Japan held on for what was only their fifth win in World Cup Finals against Colombia, who were quarter-finalists in the last World Cup.

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Heads up: Japanese forward Yūya Ōsako, heads home from Keisuke Honda’s corner as Japan get all three points in the opening game as Japan made the most of Colombia’s shocking start to the 2018 World Cup to upset their opponents, who played eighty-seven minutes with ten men, which severely changed the South American’s sides tactics for the rest of the match.

What’s Next?

Japan play Senegal in Yekaterinburg at four o’clock  on the 24th June, where a win would virtually assure their qualification to the last sixteen of the World Cup and potentially could knockout Senegal if they lose to Poland later. Colombia play Poland next at seven o’clock in Kazan later the same day, where a defeat could see the Colombians eliminated from the tournament at the group stages.


Tunisia humbled by Kane double as England earn 2-1 win in Volgograd.

In a repeat of the opening game from France during the 1998 World Cup, Tunisia met England in the second game in Group G, after Belgium had beaten Panama 3-0 in the earlier game in Sochi. Tunisia who are appearing in the World Cup for the first time in 12 years made a slow start in the opening few minutes of the first half.  In which they were made to pay for their pedestrian pace in the first 10 minutes of the match. A few minutes later, England took the lead from a corner, the original effort was saved by Tunisian goalkeeper Mouez Hassen, however Harry Kane was the quickest to react and he scored from two yards out to give his side the lead which they deserved after dominating the opening exchanges of their opening game.

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Harry Kane, who plays for Tottenham Hotspur in his native England is mobbed by Kieran Trippier (left) and John Stones (behind Kane) after giving England a well deserved lead against their African opponents, Tunisia.

A few minutes after Harry Kane’s goal, Tunisia ‘keeper, Hassen went off injured with what looked like to be a shoulder injury after colliding with the goal post after saving an effort from Jesse Lingard and he was replaced by Ben Mustapha, just 15 minutes into the game. At this point, Tunisia still had not got into the game and were not at the same level as their opponents. Surely after the rare substitution of their goalkeeper, the African side surely wouldn’t find an equaliser against their English counterparts in the warm evening heat in Volgograd.

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Distraught: Mouez Hassen leaves the pitch in tears after injuring himself in a freak accident after he collided with  the post whilst making a save to keep the scoreline 1-0 to England.


Twenty minutes after the substitute was made, Tunisia were awarded a penalty after Kyle Walker was penalised for elbowing Tunisian forward Fakhreddine Ben Youssef. However, the awarding of the penalty was controversial. Yet the referee wasn’t in two minds when it came to the penalty, which enraged the England players as they were adamant that Walker’s foul was not that bad, but the referee was having none of it. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and equalised the Tunisian goal, punished England for missing a whole load of chances before the equalising goal came about, as the European side failed to take their opportunities including Raheem Sterling. Who missed an open goal from a few yards out as England couldn’t double their lead.

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Paying the penalty: the moment, Kyle Walker fouls Tunisia’s Fakhreddine Ben Youssef in the penalty area with the use of an apparent elbow.

In the second half of the game, Tunisia did their best to frustrate to England to try and get a point against their opponents. The story could have been different though as England were denied a couple of penalties in the latter stages of the game, as Harry Kane was wrested to the floor twice in the penalty area. However, the referee Wilmar Roldan and VAR, failed to see spot incidents in what was an horrendous night for the VAR system as the fouls on Harry Kane were clear and obvious. This clearly shows that the system still has a few teething problems and this outraged the England players as if the penalty was given, England would have had the game out of the site in early stages of the second half.

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Controversy: Kane is wrestled to the floor in the 51st minute by Yassine Meriah (wearing number 4 for Tunisia) but it went unpunished by both the referee and the VAR team during the game.

As the game drew towards a conclusion, England were awarded for their resilient approach in the latter stages of the game and the winning goal came from a Maguire flick-on, which was scored by Harry Kane, who scored a brace in his first appearance at World Cup finals came up with the winning goal in the first minute of stoppage time. The result means England beat Tunisia again, in the World Cup, twenty years after beating them in France during the group stage.  Furthermore, England’s win means that they are now unbeaten in their last seven meetings again African nations, with four wins and three draws, yet this was the only the second such match in which they failed to keep a clean sheet.

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Golden Boy: Kane (far left) heads home the winner as the Tunisian defenders stand and watch the unmarked England captain score from three yards out to put the game beyond Tunisia, towards the end of the second half.

What’s Next?

England host World Cup debutants, Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on the 24th June at one o’clock. Where a result would all but seal England’s qualification to the next round of the World Cup as well as sealing Panama’s exit from the competition. The day before Belgium face Tunisia in Moscow also at one o’clock, a Belgium win would seal their qualification beyond the group stages and a defeat for Tunisia would like Panama seal their exit from the World Cup Finals.








Killer Swedes devour South Koreans

The second game in Group F saw the first ever meeting between Sweden and South Korea in Nizhny Novgorod. Sweden, who are appearing in their first World Cup since 2006 and were without Zlatan Ibrahimovic for the first time in a major tournament, started nervously against the South Koreans. The Koreans started the opening few minutes the better team but couldn’t turn their chances into the decisive goal in the game. In the 20th minute, South Korean goalkeeper, Cho Hyun-woo made a wonder save to deny Marcus Berg from point blank range as the Swedes began to dominate the game.

Cho Hyun-woo save

Cho Hyun-Woo, who plays for Daegu in his native South Korea, saves Berg’s effort on goal in the first half in Nizhny Novgorod.

However, in 28th minute of the game, South Korean defender Park Joo-ho pulled his hamstring whilst trying to retrieve an errant pass meaning that his World Cup could be over depending on the severity of the injury; his replacement was Kim Min-Woo. As the first half drew on, the game became very scrappy with both sides tallying up the foul count as they tried to push for a goal. The first half ended goalless, despite the Swedes dominating the football, however, the South Koreans defended stoutly to keep the scoreline down. The play began to open up with the Swedes creating the better chances after the injury to Park Joo-ho.

Park Joo-ho injury

Hamstrung: Park Joo-ho clutches his hamstring as his game is over after just 28 minutes following an effort to retrieve a stray pass that caused him to pull up and he was stretchered off shortly afterwards.

In the second half, Sweden started quickly out of the blocks with Emil Forsberg having the best opportunity after 49 minutes: he missed from 18 yards out, which was mostly down to the pressure of two South Korean defenders who stood in his way as the game stayed goalless.

Emil Forsberg miss, 18 yards out

Forsberg puts his effort over the bar as the Swedes began to dominate the second half and South Korea tried to play out for a point in their opening game.

The South Koreans struggled to catch up with the pace of the Swedes as the game went on.  However as the game shifted towards the hour mark, South Korea had their best chance of the game.  Unfortunately the header by Koo Ja-cheol, ended up in the side netting of the goal, if it had been on target then Swedish goalkeeper, Robin Olsen would have had no chance of saving it as he didn’t have his near post covered. The game, turned on a penalty decision, just after the hour mark, as Kim Min-Woo committed a clumsy tackle on Viktor Claesson. This was not seen as a penalty at first by the referee, yet as South Korea went up the other end, the referee consulted VAR and reversed his decision. This incensed the South Korean players as they had the opportunity to score a goal at the other end, following the tackle in their penalty area.

Kim Min-Woo foul

The tackle which resulted in the VAR being used, but did the referee leave the decision too late to change his mind?

When the penalty was given, the Swedish penalty taker was a surprising choice as central defender, Andreas Granqvist stepped up and scored the opening goal of the game. Arguably the Swedes deserved the lead for dominating the game throughout against a stubborn South Korean defence, which stood firm right up until the penalty decision.  South Korea were trying to get a point against the better team. Yet, could the Swedes hold on for their first win in the opening game in the World Cup finals since 1958 (60 years ago) or would they concede an equalising goal against their opponents? The answer was no, as Granqvist’s penalty proved to be the winner in the end. This means that Sweden’s wait for a win in their opening game at World Cup finals is over, all thanks to their 33 year old central defender. Granqvist most recently played his football in Russia for Krasnodar, having played  for the Russian Premier League club for the last five years. He will Helsingborgs IF in his homeland after the World Cup.

Granqvist penalty

Winning moment: Sweden captain, Andreas Granqvist who will re-join his first club, Helsingborgs IF after the World Cup, stepped up to end Swedes long, long drought for a win in the opening game in World Cup finals.

What’s Next?

South Korea play Mexico at four o’clock in Rostov on the 23rd June, where a defeat might be enough for the South Koreans to be eliminated at the group stages. Whereas, Sweden entertain Germany at seven o’clock later on the same day in Sochi, where a Swedish win would knockout the World Cup holders.  This would mean that the current holder would have been eliminated in the group stages for the past four World Cups.