A weird day in the World Cup.
England 0 vs. 1 Belgium
There was a massive amount of rotation on both sides as the two teams had already reached the Round of 16. The game was fairly even with no real talking points except the brilliant goal by Januzaj in the 51st minute. The loss on paper works in England’s favour as their pool of potential teams to face is less daunting than Belgium’s, but as we have seen with Germany nothing can be guaranteed. It should be an interesting few week ahead.
Panama 1 vs. 2 Tunisia
Tunisia go home with three points and a win to their name as they beat Panama in what was an tight game. Panama gained the lead in the 33rd minute after a Meriah own goal, and Panama managed to hold on for till half time. Tunisia responded in the second half with a goal by Youssef in the 51st minute to equalise, and Khazri gave them the lead in the 66th minute. Tunisia dominated the possession for the rest of the game and managed to see out the win.
Senegal 0 vs. 1 Colombia
Colombia reached the knockout stage thanks to a Mina goal in the 74th minute. The game had been a cagey affair till then with Colombia dominating possession but Senegal having more chances on goal. Colombia finished the group in first while Senegal who had the same goal difference and points as Japan go out of the competition due to the fact that they had more yellow cards. Truly the group of death.
Japan 0 vs. 1 Poland
While the first half was a cagey affair, Poland gained the lead and maintained it in the second half thanks to a Bednarek goal in the 59th minute. The game’s last ten minutes were probably the weirdest I have seen in football as Japan just kept the ball by passing amongst their back four. Japan could not concede a goal as it would give them a poorer goal difference than Senegal, and they did not go forward as it would open them up at the back. Japan basically played out the draw and hoped that Colombia would hold on to their lead. Thankfully for the Japanese they did and Japan go through to next round.
Group of death and who finishes first in group G?
England vs. Belgium
With both teams guaranteed a place in the round of 16 and level on points and goal difference this game can be seen as a small final. Belgium and England have both had dominant and cagey wins in the group and while Kane remains fit and ready there are doubts on whether Lukaku will feature or not. These sets of players know each other well but that will be put aside for this game as bragging rights will be key. This should be an entertaining game and the winner will finish first.
Panama vs. Tunisia
A final of sorts in this game as well due to the fact that both teams have zero points and both will want to go home with at least a win to their name. Panama and Tunisia have been poor but their support has been great and both teams having nothing to lose will go for the win.
Senegal vs. Colombia
Senegal go into this game knowing that a win would take them to the knockout stage while a draw would also be assure them a place but only if Japan lose. A loss would also see them through incase Japan also lost. Colombia need to win to keep qualification in their own hands, a draw could be enough but would come down to goal difference while a loss would send them home. Senegal have been excellent their games while Colombia have shown two different sides in their fixtures. This should be a close game and one that neither team will want to lose.
Japan vs. Poland
Japan lead the group and their situation is the same as Senegal’s, a win would guarantee them qualification and a draw would also be enough but Colombia would have to lose or draw in their game as well. If Japan lost and Colombia lost then Japan would still go through. Poland are playing for pride at this point as they have lost both their games. Japan need the three points but can wait and play on the counter Poland have nothing to lose as well and so this will be a cagey affair.
Beware of England while Group H remains wide open.
England 6 vs. 1 Panama
Panama were really poor and England lethal in a game which was finished in the first half itself. Stones opened the score in the 8th minute via a header and Kane added a second via a penalty in the 22nd minute after Panama had wrestled him down in the box. Lingard added a third in the 36th minute with a beautiful right footed shot into the top right corner. Stones scored his second and England’s fourth via another header, and another Penalty allowed Kane to add England’s fifth right before half time. Panama seemed to come out for the second half to deny anymore goals and almost accomplished the task but a shot by Loftus Cheek in the 62nd minute was deflected into the net by Kane to complete his hattrick and send England into raptures. Panama got the last laugh and Baloy scored a brilliant poachers goal in the 78th minute to give the Panama fans something to cheer about. England now lead Group G but have the same points and GD as Belgium which sets up them up for a mouthwatering final clash. Panama can hopefully build on their first goal by getting a point or more against Tunisia.
Japan 2 vs. 2 Senegal
Group H leaders went head to head and nullified each other in what was a highly entertaining game. Mané opened the scoring in the 11th minute but Inui equalised in the 34th with a brilliant shot from his right foot. Senegal and Japan cancelled each other out in attack and defence and the teams showed why they were leading Group H. Wagué put Senegal in the lead in the 71st minute even though Japan had been showing all the attacking prowess as Osako missed a clear cut chance and Inui hit the post. Honda equalised for the Japanese in the 78th minute becoming their first player to score in three successive World Cups. Japan and Senegal continued to create chance but both teams settled for the draw. Japan and Senegal both lead Group H and a win or a draw could be enough for both teams to make it to the knockout stages.
Poland 0 vs. 3 Colombia
Colombia dismantled Poland with Mina scoring the first goal via a header in the 40th minute and two great finished by Falcao and Cuadrado in the second half. Colombia and Poland both needed three points if they were to stand a chance for qualification and Colombia were up for the task. Poland now go into the last game with Japan only with their pride at stake while Japan will be fighting for a place in the next round. Colombia play Senegal in their final game and both teams can qualify with a win while a draw would be enough for Senegal but for Colombia it would come down to goal difference.
Germany resurrect themselves.
South Korea 1 vs. 2 Mexico
A Vela penalty in the first half and a goal by Hernandez in the 66th minute were enough to almost see Mexico through to the knockout stages. South Korea tried hard to breach the Mexican defence throughout the game and managed to with a brilliant goal by Son in the 93rd minute but it was too little too late. South Korea can still make it to the next round but they need to beat Germany in their last game and hope that Sweden lose to Mexico. Mexico themselves are not guaranteed qualification and need at least a point to reach the round of 16.
Germany 2 vs. 1 Sweden
Sweden opened the scoring via Toivonen in the 32nd minute and managed to see off the first half without any real threat on their goal. Germany seemed to come out a different side for the second half and were on attack mode from the 45th minute. Reus got an early goal in the 48th minute equalise for the Germans but Sweden stayed strong and seemed to be reaching towards a hard earned point but Kroos had other plans. A free-kick in the 95th minute was expertly swung into the top corner by Kroos to give Germany the win and three very important points. Germany have to beat South Korea in their last game to reach the last 16 while Sweden have to do the same.
Belgium 5 vs. 2 Tunisia
Belgium secured a place in the Round of 16 with an emphatic win against Tunisia in the early kick off. Eden Hazard opened the scoring in the 6th minute via a penalty spot and Lukaku doubed the lead in the 16th minute. Tunisia replied two minutes later to reduce the deficit to one goal but Lukaku added his second and Belgium’s third right before half time. Eden Hazard added his second in the 51st minute while Batshuayi added the fifth in the 90th minute. Khazri got a consolation goal in the 93rd minute but Tunisia will be going home after their last group game. Belgium seem to be on fire with the likes of Lukaku and Hazard in peak form, their final game comes against England which could determine which of the two finish in first place. Tunisia will play Panama in their last game and hope that they can go home with a win in their bag.
Will Groups G and H open up?
England vs. Panama
England won at the last minute against Tunisia a game in which they created several chances but failed to convert many of them. Panama were comfortably beaten by Belgium and could suffer a same fate against the English. Dele Alli is injured and all likelihood Loftus Cheek will be given a chance to impress. An England win could seal their qualification to the next round while a Panama win would throw the group wide open.
Japan vs. Senegal
The unlikely group leaders go head to head in what could be a crucial game for both teams. Japan played well against Colombia and deserved their victory while Senegal were strong against Poland and held on to claim three points. A win for either team would see that team qualify while a draw would open the group up for Poland and Colombia.
Poland vs. Colombia
Poland and Colombia both lost their opening games and both teams need to win if they are to fight for a place in the next round. Colombia on paper have a stronger squad but Poland were decent against Senegal. This should be a close game and the winner could give themselves a chance for qualification.
Can Germany bounce back?
South Korea vs. Mexico
Mexico won in emphatic fashion to beat Germany with a very impressive attacking display while South Korea were narrowly defeated by Sweden. South Korea need the win if they are to stay in contention for qualifying they will draw encouragement from Japan. Mexico are filled with pace in their attack and look like they could pose a threat to teams in future games. Mexico to win.
Germany vs. Sweden
Germany were shockingly poor in their loss to Mexico and need the win going into this game. Sweden had a much more even game against South Korea and narrowly managed three points. Germany have to attack and gain the three points while Sweden can play on the counter, this should be a cagey affair.
Belgium vs. Tunisia
Belgium were perhaps the most convincing team during the first round of games and will hope to seal their place in the knockout round with a win against Tunisia. Tunisia fought well against England but fell short in the final minutes, but they will draw encouragement from their performance and if they are able to hold on and manage a goal they could cause an upset. Tunisia played well but Belgium have too much talent, this should be an easy win for them.
European wins all around.
Sweden 1 vs. 0 South Korea
In what was a tight group F game VAR came to the rescue of Sweden awarding them a penalty in the 65th minute which Granqvist converted. South Korea had several chances throughout the game but were poor with their final pass. Sweden top the group with three points on par with Mexico while South Korea are third.
Belgium 3 vs. 0 Panama
After a cagey first half Belgium came out for the second at another level, Mertens opened the scoring in the 47th minute with a brilliant volley from the edge of the box. Panama seemed to lose the drive and Lukaku added a second in the 69th minute via a header following a brilliant cross by De Bruyne. Lukaku finished of the scoreline in the 75th minute with a deft chip finish over goalkeeper Penedo. On paper a Belgium victory was never in doubt but results in previous games had showcased poor performances by top teams, Belgium were not affected. Belgium now to group G with a game against Tunisia next.
Tunisia 1 vs. 2 England
England got of to a thrilling start in their World Cup campaign after Kane poached them into the lead in the 11th minute. The English dominated the first half with poor finishing letting them down on countless occasions. A dubious penalty was awarded to Tunisia in the 35th minute which Sassi converted. Tunisia seemed to have thought that they had come for a wrestling match as several fouls were overlooked by the referee and were not even noticed by VAR. It seemed that England were heading for a draw but cometh the hour cometh the man and Kane headed the ball into the back of the net in the 91st minute. England move to second on par with Belgium but below based on goal difference their next match comes against Panama.
Easy wins for Belgium and England?
Sweden vs. South Korea
Sweden and South Korea should be an interesting affair with both teams having good players. In a group that includes Germany and Mexico this game could provide valuable points to both teams. The game is too hard to call but both teams could get three points.
Belgium vs. Panama
With all due respect to Panama this should be a peace of cake for Belgium with the amount of talent at their disposal. The world cup is susceptible to shock results but the chance of Panama getting even a point is minute. Belgium to win but an epic shock if Panama are able to get a point or more.
Tunisia vs. England
Another result that on paper should go clearly in Englands favour. England along with Belgium should qualify from this group anything else would be embarrassing. England though do allow teams to shock them and Tunisia should feel encouraged by the way Costa Rica managed to gain points in 2014. England to win but not convincingly.
Belgium and England to go through, although with England you never know.
Belgium have participated in twelve World Cups, their first came in 1930 and their best finish has been fourth which they achieved in 1986.
Goalkeepers – Thibaut Courtois (Chelsea), Simon Mignolet (Liverpool), Koen Casteels (VFL Wolfsburg)
Defenders – Toby Alderweireld (Tottenham), Thomas Vermaelen (Barcelona), Vincent Kompany (Manchester City), Jan Vertonghen (Tottenham), Thomas Meunier (PSG), Dedryck Boyata (Celtic), Leander Dendoncker (Anderlecht)
Midfielders – Axel Witsel (Tianjin Quanjian), Kevin De Bruyne (Manchester City), Marouane Fellaini (Manchester United), Yannick Carrasco (Dalian Yifang), Thorgan Hazard (Borussia Monchengladbach), Youri Tielemans (Monaco), Mousa Dembélé (Tottenham), Nacer Chadli (West Brom)
Forwards – Romelu Lukaku (Manchester United), Eden Hazard (Chelsea), Dries Mertens (Napoli), Adnan Januzaj (Real Sociedad), Michy Batshuayi (Chelsea)
Manager – Roberto Martinez
Most Caps – Jan Vertonghen (101)
Captain – Eden Hazard
Star Player – Eden Hazard
If one were to pick the dark horses for this World Cup Belgium would be first on that list. With quality all over the pitch and Eden Hazard running the show the red devils as they are called should easily get into the round of 16, and could reach the semi-finals. Belgium played three friendlies in preparation for the World Cup drawing the first and winning the next two. Belgium are a team to look out for and if Martinez can strike the right balance between all the top players then we could have the potential World Cup winners in our hand.
Panama will make their first appearance in a World Cup this time.
Goalkeepers – Jaime Penedo (Dinamo Bucuresti), José Caldéron (Chorrillo), Alex Rodriguez (San Francisco)
Defenders – Michael Amir Murillo (New York Red Bulls), Harold Cummings (San Jose Earthquakes), Fidel Escobar (New York Red Bulls), Roman Torres (Seattle Sounders), Adolfo Machado (Houston Dynamo), Erick Davis (Dunajska Streda), Luis Ovalle (CD Olimpia), Felipe Baloy (Municipal)
Midfielders – Gabriel Gomez (Atletico Bucaramanga), Edgar Barcenas (Tapachula), Armando Cooper (Universidad de Chile), Valentin Pimentel (Plaza Amador), Ricardo Avila (Gent), Anibal Godoy (San Jose Earthquakes), José Luis Rodriguez (Gent)
Forwards – Blas Perez (Municipal), Gabriel Torres (Huachipato), Ismael Diaz (Deportivo Fabril), Abdiel Arroyo (Alajuelense), Luis Tejada (Sport Boys)
Manager – Hernan Dario Gomez
Most Caps – Gabriel Gomez (144)
Captain – Felipe Baloy
Star Player – Blas Perez
Panama have already achieved history by reaching their first World Cup, having been given a tough group with England and Belgium included, if Panama were too pick any points or a even a win it would be seen as icing on the cake. Panama played two friendlies drawing one and losing the other. Panama should give it their all because they are already winners in this competition.
Tunisia have participated in four World Cups, their first came in 1978, and they have never gotten past the group stage of the tournament. Tunisia return after having missed the last two World Cups.
Goalkeepers – Farouk Ben Mustapha (Al-Shabab), Aymen Mathlouthi (Al-Batin), Mouez Hassen (Chateauroux)
Defenders – Syam Ben Youssef (Kasimpasa), Yohan Benalouane (Leicester City), Yassine Meriah (CS Sfaxien), Oussama Haddadi (Dijon), Rami Bedoui (Etoile du Sahel), Dylan Bronn (Gent), Ali Maaloul (Al Ahly), Hamdi Nagguez (Zamalek)
Midfielders – Anice Badri (Esperance), Ferjani Sassi (Al-Nassr), Mohamed Amin Ben Amor (Al-Ahli), Ellyes Skhiri (Montpellier)
Forwards – Saif-Eddine Khaoui (Troyes), Fakhreddine Ben Youssef (Al-Etiffaq), Wahbi Khazri (Rennes), Ahmed Khalil (Club Africain), Bassem Srarfi (Nice), Saber Khalifa (Club Africain), Ghailene Chaalali (Eseperance), Naim Sliti (Dijon)
Manager – Nabil Maaloul
Most Caps – Aymen Mathlouthi (70)
Captain – Aymen Mathlouthi
Star Player – Wahbi Khazri
Tunisia have never gotten past the group stage, and it does not seem like they will get past this one either. Tunisia have a decent team but on paper it seems that they will be fighting Panama for who finishes third in the group. Tunisia played three friendlies in preparation for the World Cup, drawing the first two and narrowly losing the second to Spain. Tunisia could cause a few upsets and with a group that includes England one never knows they might make it to the round of 16.
England have participated in fourteen World Cups, their first came in 1950 and they managed to win the competition in 1966.
Goalkeepers – Jordan Pickford (Everton), Jack Butland (Stoke City), Nick Pope (Burnley)
Defenders – Kyle Walker (Manchester City), Danny Rose (Tottenham), John Stones (Manchester City), Harry Maguire (Leicester City), Kieran Trippier (Tottenham), Gary Cahill (Chelsea), Phil Jones (Manchester United), Fabian Delph (Manchester City), Ashley Young (Manchester United), Trent Alexander-Arnold (Liverpool)
Midfielders – Eric Dier (Tottenham), Jesse Lingard (Manchester United), Jordan Henderson (Liverpool), Dele Alli (Tottenham), Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Chelsea)
Forwards – Harry Kane (Tottenham), Raheem Sterling (Manchester Cit), Jaime Vardy (Leicester City), Danny Welbeck (Arsenal), Marcus Rashford (Manchester United)
Manager – Gareth Southgate
Most Caps – Gary Cahill (60)
Captain – Harry Kane
Star Player – Harry Kane
Their is an air of excitement around England this time, its not necessarily that people think that England will win the competition but it is more of what will we see. Gareth Southgate has picked a youthful side and has made several exclusions of England stalwarts. England played two friendlies in preparation for the World Cup and they won both. Southgate has also employed different techniques with the press and players to create an air of positivity around the team. England should get through the group and if they reach the quarter-finals of this competition it will be seen as a positive performance.