Croatia, Japan, Lionel Messi: Five days at the World Cup

June 19 to 23.

The 2018 FIFA World Cup continued with surprising wins for Senegal and Japan and the start of the second round of group games. Florence Lloyd-Hughes has the lowdown on week two of the tournament.

Quick recap:

  • Russia were dominant again and secured their place in the knockout rounds with a 3-1 victory over Egypt. Mohamed Salah struggled on his return from a shoulder injury but he did get on the scoresheet with a consolation penalty. Uruguay also secured a win and advanced to the next round in their easy group game against Saudi Arabia.
  • Portugal and Spain both meandered to 1-0 victories over Morocco and Iran respectively.
  • In Group C, Australia scored their second penalty of the tournament to secure a point against Denmark after Christian Eriksen’s impressive early strike, while France’s Kylian Mbappe blasted the French into the next round and sent the Peruvians home.
  • Brazil left it late to beat Costa Rica, but goals from Philippe Coutinho and Neymar showed why the South American giants are still a threat.
  • Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri led Switzerland to the first comeback win of the World Cup, as they beat Serbia 2-1.
  • Nigeria proved they have more than just a pretty kit with an impressive display against a surprisingly disorganised Iceland team. Leicester City’s Ahmed Musa grabbed himself two goals in a rejigged Nigeria line-up.
  • Belgium flexed their muscles with a 5-2 victory over Tunisia. Goals from Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Michy Batshuayi sealed qualification for the Red Devils.
  • Mexico continued to dominate Group F with a win over South Korea. Son Heung-min’s 90th-minute screamer couldn’t save South Korea.

Saving the best till last: Japan and Senegal surprise in Group H

Colombia 2-1 Japan:

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James Rodriguez underwhelms

Colombia hoped that 2014 World Cup hero James Rodriguez could inspire a comeback after a moment of madness from Carlos Sanchez left the door open for Japan. Sanchez claimed the first red card of the tournament with his deliberate handball in the opening minutes. The resulting penalty was confidently put away by Shinji Kagawa.

Rodriguez was eventually brought on in the second half, when Colombia had already levelled through a clever free-kick from Juan Quintero. He failed to inspire a victory and Japan eventually grabbed the winner with Yuya Osako’s late header.

Rodriguez was left out of the starting line-up after injuring his calf in training. He also came off the bench as Colombia eliminated Poland from the tournament after they beat them 3-0 in their second game.

Senegal and Japan clean up

senegal

Source: @mutazahmed_10

Senegal shocked many with a 2-1 victory over Poland but it was their fans that caught most the attention.

As the team danced their way to glory, Senegal’s fans stayed behind after the game to collect rubbish and clean up the stands. Images of the clean up efforts went viral as did similar pictures of Japan and Colombia’s supporters.

Argentina 0-3 Croatia –

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Lionel Messi and Co in disarray

Luka Modric’s magnificent strike put Croatia into the knockout stages and put even more pressure on Lionel Messi and Argentina.

Argentina could still qualify for the next round but Nigeria and Iceland are also fighting for that final spot.

Messi was quiet throughout this fixture and struggled to gain any momentum or get into any rhythm. The superstar didn’t get any help from his team-mates either as a calamitous Willy Caballero and non-existent midfield made matters worse for Argentina.

Manager Jorge Sampaoli’s decision to take off Sergio Aguero straight after Croatia took the lead was questionable, while his replacement, Gonzalo Higuain, showed little enthusiasm.

Argentina now face the prospect of a rare failure to get out of the group stages of a World Cup. The last time they suffered such fortune was in 2002, when they were part of a ‘Group of Death’ alongside England, Sweden and Nigeria.

Germany 2-1 Sweden

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Are Germany back?

Germany were on the verge of exiting the competition on Saturday night but for a last minute free-kick from Toni Kroos. Despite the victory, the Germans still look susceptible to any sort of counter-attack.

The Mexico game was a wake-up call and Sweden definitely provided a further reality check. Antonio Rudiger and Jerome Boateng look particularly poor at the back. Even if Germany progress, it looks like they still have plenty to work on.

Follow Florence on Twitter at @FloydTweet

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