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LaLiga 2018 World Cup diary: Round-up of every match in Russia

LaLiga 2018 World Cup diary: Round-up of every match in Russia

Tuesday 3rd July

Last 16: Sweden 1-0 Switzerland

In what is being dubbed as one of the worst knockout round matches ever in a World Cup, Sweden got the luck they needed to reach the quarter-finals.

Numerous chances flew over the bar, but Emil Forsberg got the all-important winner when he shot from outside the box took a big deflection off of Switzerland’s Manuel Akanji, sending goalkeeper Yann Sommer the wrong way.

Sweden thought that had a penalty when Martin Olsen was brought down by Michael Lang, but VAR judged it to be just outside the area. Lang was shown a red for the foul though, as his push knocked the Swede when he was 1-on-1 with the goalkeeper.

The resulting free-kick forced a save from Sommer, before the whistle blew for full-time.

Last 16: Colombia 1-1 England (England won 4-3 on penalties)

A historic night for England, as they won their first-ever World Cup penalty shootout, but the drama was so nearly avoided.

A heated encounter, Harry Kane was brought down in the area for a penalty in the second half, which the Tottenham striker coolly dispatched.

The Three Lions looked to have won it when Barcelona defender Yerry Mina equalised for Colombia from a header in injury time.

Extra-time could not separate the two teams, meaning penalties would decide the winner.

The curse looked to have struck again when Jordan Henderson had his penalty saved by David Ospina, but Mateus Uribe crashed his shot against the bar.

Then it came down to ex-Sevilla striker Carlos Bacca, who spent last season at Villarreal, but his effort was well-saved by Jordan Pickford. And Eric Dier stepped up to take the winning penalty and earn the Three Lions a quarter-final clash against Sweden.

England’s penalty hero Jordan Pickford

Monday 2nd July

Last 16: Brazil 2-0 Mexico

Mexico had been one of the most exciting teams of the group stages but were overpowered by a Neymar-inspired Brazil.

Both sides had chances in the first half, but they were all too close to the goalkeepers. Yet, the former Barcelona forward took the lead six minutes after the break.

Shuffling around outside the box, a backheel to Willian and a burst of pace allowed the drive towards to the byline, fire in a low cross for Neymar to tap in from three yards out.

And with the game coming to a close, Brazil wrapped up the victory as scorer-turned-provider Neymar sped towards the goal, only to pass past Mexico’s former Malaga and Granada keeper Guillermo Ochoa for Roberto Firmino to score into an empty net.

Last 16: Belgium 3-2 Japan

When Real Betis’ new signing Takashi Inui scored for Japan to make it 2-0, they thought they had secured an historic quarter-final place.

Genki Haraguchi collected a long pass from Getafe midfielder Gaku Shibasaki on the right and shot across Thibaut Courtois and into the net. Inui doubled the lead minutes later, as he unleashed a 30-yard screamer and the Belgian keeper had no chance.

The Red Devils looked like they were heading out, but an incredible comeback broke the Asian nation’s hearts.

First, Jan Vertonghen’s looping header crept under the bar, before Real Madrid target Eden Hazard whipped in a cross for Marouane Fellaini to nod in for the equaliser.

Then in injury time, Kevin de Bruyne’s low cross into the box was dummied by Romelu Lukaku for an unmarked Nacer Chadli to get a sensational win.

Belgium will face Brazil in what is expected to be a thrilling quarter-final.

Former Barcelona forward Neymar opened the scoring for Brazil as they beat Mexico

Sunday 1st July

Last 16: Spain 1-1 Russia (Russia won 4-3 on penalties)

Spain are out! The 2010 world champions were beaten by the hosts.

It looked like La Roja were going to ease into the quarter-finals after taking the lead in the 11th minute through a Sergei Ignashevich own goal. Real Madrid midfielder Marco Asensio’s inswinging cross was turned in by the Russian defender’s leg after getting caught in tussle with  Los Blancos’ Sergio Ramos.

But the hosts got the equaliser just before half-time. Barcelona centre-back Gerard Pique handled the ball from Artem Dzyuba’s header to gift them a penalty. The Russian striker took it and sent David de Gea the wrong way.

Few chances followed, normally kept out by goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. After no more goals after extra-time, it was penalty shootout. Atletico Madrid’s Koke and Celta Vigo attacker Iago Aspas had their efforts saved to give Russia a famous victory and send La Roja home.

Last 16: Croatia 1-1 Denmark (Croatia won 3-2 on penalties)

Another all-European last 16 clash and this one had an explosive start.

Denmark were in the lead inside a minute after a long throw caused mayhem in the penalty area, and Mathias Jorgensen got enough on his shot to get the ball over the line.

Just moments later, Croatia were level and in fortunate circumstances. Atletico Madrid full-back Sime Vrsaljko powered a low cross into the area, only for Denmark’s clearance to come off one of their own and land at the feet of Mario Mandzukic to fire in from a few yards out.

After a thrilling first four minutes, the rest of the game was disappointing. In extra-time, Real Madrid’s Luka Modric had a penalty saved by Kasper Schmeichel that could have won it for Croatia, but instead ensured a shootout was needed.

The Danish keeper stopped two more, but Danijel Subasic saved three in the shootout, with Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic slotting home the winning penalty.

Barcelona defender Gerard Pique and Barca legend Andres Iniesta could not stop Spain from getting knocked out

Saturday 30th June

Last 16: France 4-3 Argentina

Into the knockout rounds and it did not disappoint. France vs Argentina are two sides who were among the favourites for the tournament, but they kicked off the Last 16 in style.

Fans did not have to wait long for a goal, as an incredible burst of pace by 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe saw him drive into the penalty area, only for Marcos Rojo to bring him down. Atletico Madrid’s Antoine Griezmann stepped up and gave Les Bleus a 1-0 lead.

But Argentina fought back, first through ex-Real Madrid winger Angel di Maria, who fired a beautiful curler past Hugo Lloris. Sevilla right-back Gabriel Mercado gave the South Americans the lead, after getting the last touch on Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi’s shot to send the French goalkeeper the wrong way.

Yet, France had their own comeback planned, with defender Benjamin Pavard hitting a sensational volley, a potential goal of the tournament, to pull them level, before Mbappe truly announced himself on the big stage with a four-minute double.

His first came from some nifty footwork in the box, before his shot was too powerful for Franco Armani to keep out. He got his second after storming into the box and coolly slotting past the oncoming Argentine keeper. France were 4-2 up.

Former Atletico striker Sergio Aguero still had time to get a late consolation goal, getting his head on the end of a Messi cross. But it was not enough as the two-time winners were duly beaten by a Mbappe-inspired France.

Last 16: Uruguay 2-1 Portugal

After the France vs Argentina thriller, one of the best players in the world in Messi was leaving the World Cup early.

Uruguay made sure the other was heading home too, as Edinson Cavani scored twice to see of Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal.

The first came through a header from the Paris Saint-Germain man, after Barcelona ace Luis Suarez delivered an inch-perfect cross.

Former Real Madrid defender Pepe got the Iberians back on level terms, but Cavani got his second seven minutes later, with Suarez once again assisting for his strike partner to curl his shot past Rui Patricio and send Uruguay into the quarter-finals.

Ex-Barcelona defender Javier Mascherano and Barca superstar were knocked out of the World Cup along with Argentina

Thursday 28th June

Group G: England 0-1 Belgium

It was the battle for top spot. Much talk had ensued over whether it would be better to lose and finish second for an ‘easier’ draw.

Both sides rested key players with their place in the knockout stages already confirmed and Belgium made sure they went into the next round with three wins from three.

Real Sociedad’s Adnan Januzaj drove into the penalty area, faked right to go left and give himself a yard of space from England full-back Danny Rose to curl a delightful effort past Jordan Pickford.

Group G: Panama 1-2 Tunisia

A dead rubber match with both teams already out, but it was a chance for Panama to earn their first victory in their debut World Cup.

They took the lead, as Jose Luis Rodriguez’s shot came off Yassine Meriah to send Tunisian goalkeeper Aymen Mathlouthi the wrong way.

Yet, the Africans equalised after Wahbi Khazri fired a low cross for Fakhreddine Ben Youssef to slot into an empty net.

And the Sunderland attacker got a goal of his own, much in the same fashion, as another low cross left Khazri with an unmissable opportunity, duly slotting home to give Tunisia their first World Cup win since 1978.

Group H: Senegal 0-1 Colombia

So near, yet so far for Senegal, as Barcelona defender Yerry Mina’s second-half header sent Colombia through top of Group H and the Africans home.

With Japan also losing 1-0, Senegal were pushing for an equaliser, knowing that if the scores stayed the same, they would be going out on fair play rules.

But they could not find a way past David Ospina and Senegal ended any African hopes by being eliminated for having more yellow cards than Japan.

Group H: Japan 0-1 Poland

This game ended in a farce, as Japan knew that, despite the defeat, they were going through by having less yellow cards.

Poland had taken the lead through Jan Bednarek’s header, as the already-eliminated Europeans got their first points of the tournament.

But Japan had been told that Senegal were also losing by the same scoreline and decided to pass the ball around the defence for the final 10 minutes, rather than risk conceding again.

Poland were not interested in pushing forward if their opponents could not be bothered to attack, knowing they were already out and winning.

The game fizzled out as the Asians’ reliance on Senegal not getting an equaliser had paid off and they went through as runners-up.

Wednesday 27th June

Group E: Switzerland 2-2 Costa Rica

Late drama in Nizhny Novgorod secured a draw for Costa Rica against Switzerland.

Costa Rica had the first few  chances, forcing Yann Sommer into a couple of saves and they struck the crossbar, but it was the Swiss who took the lead on the half-hour mark.

A cross from the right found Breel Embolo who nodded the ball down to set up Blerim Dzemaili to strike the ball into the net.

Into the second half, Kendall Waston equalised for the Central Americans from a corner. Two minutes from time, Josip Drmic gave Switzerland the lead once again as Denis Zakaria delivered a low cross for the striker to score.

But moments later, Costa Rica were awarded a penalty, which Bryan Ruiz dispatched for a deserved draw.

Group E: Serbia vs Brazil
Brazil comfortably saw off Serbia as they advance to the next stage of the World Cup.

Ten minutes before the break, Barcelona midfielder Paulinho gave Brazil the lead, getting a miniscule touch on club team-mate Philippe Coutinho’s long-range pass to beat goalkeeper Vladimir Stojković.

Midway through the second half,  it was 2-0 with Thiago Silva heading in from a corner a simple near-post header from a corner.

Group F: Mexico vs Sweden

Sweden rallied together to secure qualification to the knockout stages.

The Swedes took the lead five minutes into the second half through full-back Ludwig Augustinsson volleying home from Viktor Claesson’s initial attempt. Former Malaga and Granada goalkeeper Guillermo Ochoa would have been disappointed as the shot was right at him.

Just past the hour mark, the skipper Andreas Granqvist made it 2-0 from the spot with a perfectly placed penalty into the top corner.

With 16 minutes to go, Sweden were 3-0 up thanks to a Mexico own-goal from Edson Alvarez, as he attempted to clear, the ball hit off his other leg and crept into the net.

Group F: South Korea vs Germany

A shock victory from South Korea lead to Germany’s group stage exit – their first since 1938.

The reigning champions dominated the majority of the game with huge chances falling to Leon Goretzka, Timo Werner, Mario Gomez and Mats Hummels.

But it was South Korea who took the lead in the 92nd minute, as Toni Kroos took a light touch, and the ball fell to an unmarked Kim Young-gwon to tap it past Manuel Neuer.

Minutes later, Neuer found himself in the opposition’s half, with Germany still needjng to win. But he was dispossessed, and a long punt upfield found the path of Heung Min Son, who tapped it into an empty net to send the Germans home.

Tuesday 26th June

Group C: Australia 0-2 Peru

Peru won their first game at a World Cup since 1978, beating Australia and denying the Socceroos a place in the knockout stages.

It took Peru 18 minutes to score their first goal as a cross delivered from the left was met by Andre Carrillo, finishing with a fine volley into Matt Ryan’s far post.

Just after the break, Peru doubled their lead thanks to Paolo Guerrero, as he swivelled and shot past Ryan. His goal, made him the third oldest South American to score at a World Cup.

Group C: France 0-0 Denmark

A rather boring game between France and Denmark in Moscow lead to the first goal-less draw of the tournament.

The first notable chance of the game came just past the half-hour mark as Barcelona winger Ousmane Dembele feinted past the Danish defence, but his shot dipped and bounced just wide of Kasper Schmeichel’s goal.

Ten minutes into the second half, Denmark came close as Christian Eriksen’s distant free-kick was spilled by Steve Mandanda, but the goalkeeper reclaimed the ball before Andreas Cornelius could pounce.

Group D: Nigeria 1-2 Argentina 

It took a late Argentina winner to secure their spot in the knockouts.

Lionel Messi gave the South Americans the lead as an floating ball from Ever Banega found the Barcelona ace who delightfully set himself to finish with his weaker foot past Deportivo La Coruna’s Francis Uzoho.

Five minutes into the second half, Nigeria were awarded a penalty after ex-Barca defender Javier Mascherano brought down Leon Balogun. Victor Moses stepped up to take the penalty and he sent debutant goalkeeper Franco Armani the wrong way.

With moments left of the game, Argentina scored their winning goal, as Sevilla defender Gabriel Mercado whipped in a cross which Marcos Rojo dispatched fine volley to give the South Americans victory.

Group D: Iceland 1-2 Croatia 

Croatia kept their perfect record going, as they struck late to secure victory over Iceland.

Despite Iceland dominating the chances, it was Croatia who took the lead in the 53rd minute, the ball bouncing around in the box, before Milan Badelj pounced and struck the ball into the net.

Iceland were awarded a penalty as the ball hit the hand of Liverpool defender Dejan Lovren. Gylfi Sigurðsson stepped up and equalised.

On the brink of full-time, Iceland gave up possession in their own half and Inter Milan winger Ivan Perisic made them pay, firing into Hannes Þór Halldórsson’s far post.

Monday 25th June

Group A: Saudi Arabia 2-1 Egypt

Saudi Arabia recorded their first World Cup victory since 1994, as a late goal beat Egypt.

Egypt took the lead through their superstar Mohamed Salah as he was played over the top before lobbing Yasser Al-Mosailem, who found himself in no-man’s-land.

Four minutes bef0re half-time Saudi Arabia were awarded a penalty following a handball, but it was saved by Essam El-Hadary, the oldest player to feature in a World Cup game at the age of 45. Yet, deep into injury time in the first half, the Arabians had another spot-kick, with Salman Al-Faraj giving his side the lead.

And they found a winner in the 95th minute with Salem Al-Dawsari, who was on loan with Villarreal last season, finishing with a fine volley into the far corner.

Group A: Uruguay 3-0 Russia

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The hosts were beaten for the first time in their World Cup .

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez gave Uruguay the lead after ten minutes from a free-kick, finishing low and out of reach of Igor Akinfeev.

Uruguay then made it 2-0 in bizarre fashion, a distant shot from Diego Laxalt taking a heavy deflection off Villarreal winger Denis Cheryshev, and the Russian goalkeeper could not react in time.

Went from bad to worse for the hosts as Igor Smolnikov was shown red for his dangerous tackle on Laxalt.

And in the final minute, Uruguay made it three as Edinson Cavani tapped the ball in from a rebound after Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin’s initial header was saved by Akinfeev.

Group B: Iran 1-1 Portugal

Late drama in Saransk denied Portugal top spot of Group B.

They took the lead through veteran winger Ricardo Quaresma with a beautiful finish with the outside of his foot from the edge of the box and beyond the helpless Alireza Beiranvand.

Portugal continued to pile the pressure onto Iran, and were awarded a penalty after Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo was brought down with VAR confirming the foul. Ronaldo stepped up to take it, but Beiranvand saved it.

In second-half stoppage time, Iran were awarded a penalty of their own after VAR decided the ball struck Cedric’s hand as the ball was headed down by Sardar Azmoun. Karim Ansarifard’s penalty was perfectly placed into the top corner to earn his side a draw.

Group B: Spain 2-2 Morocco

A late Spain goal secured top spot of Group B.

After 14 minutes, Spain were behind after a loose touch from former Barca legend Andres Iniesta and hesitation from Real Madrid’s Sergio Ramos allowed Khalid Boutaib to pounce and finish through the legs of David de Gea.

Moements later though, La Roja were level through Isco, as Iniesta dribbled his way into the box and squared the ball to the Real Madrid maestro, who slotted the ball into the roof of the net.

Nine minutes from full-time and Morocco took a deserved lead from a corner, whipped in by Getafe midfielder Fayçal Fajr and met by Malaga forward Youssef En-Nesyri, who headed the ball into the corner past a watching De Gea.

Cue the drama. With the last few seconds of the match, Los Blancos full-back Daniel Carvajal’s low cross found Iago Aspas who flicked the ball into the net. It was initally disallowed for offside, but VAR came through and awarded the Celta Vigo man the goal.

Sunday 24th June

Group G: England 6-1 Panama

England comfortably saw off Panama to secure qualification into the knockouts.

John Stones got the ball rolling as he found the net with a header from a corner. Harry Kane got his first goal of the game from the penalty spot, before Jesse Lingard struck a sweet curling shot into the top corner.

Stones got his second as the ball fell to him for the rebound. The Three Lions made it 5-0 on the brink of half-time, with another penalty from their captain.

Kane got his hat-trick just past the hour mark in rather unusual fashion as Ruben Loftus-Cheek took a shot from distance and the ball hit Kane’s heel, and left Jaime Penedo completely rooted and helpless.

Panama scored their first World Cup goal ever after 78 minutes, with Felipe Baloy, sliding for the ball from a free-kick and beating Jordan Pickford at his near-post.

Group H: Japan 2-2 Senegal

Japan came from behind twice to secure a draw against Senegal.

Sadio Mane gave the Africans the lead after he gathered the ball from some poor goalkeeping by Eiji Kawashima. Just past the half-hour mark, Real Betis winger Takashi Inui made things level, with a fine finish into the far corner.

Despite multiple opportunities for Japan to take the lead, it was Senegal who found the second goal, a ball squared across goal was pounced upon by Moussa Wagué to smash it into the roof of the net.

Six minutes later, Japan equalised, Khadim N’Diaye attempted to gather a Japanese cross, but he completely missed and the ball was squared to Keisuke Honda who had the simple task of tapping the ball into the net.

Group H: Poland vs Colombia

Poland’s elimination was confirmed as they suffered defeat against Colombia.

Five minutes prior to half-time, the South Americans took the lead, as the corner was taken short and Juan Fernando Quintero’s cross was met by unmarked Barcelona defender Yerry Mina.

Midway through the second half, Colombia made it 2-0 and Radamel Falcao rolled back the years, with a fine ‘trivela’ finish into the far corner. Minutes later, it was three, as Juan Cuadrado was played one-on-one and finessed the ball with his right foot to Wojciech Szczęsny’s left.

Saturday, June 23

Group F: South Korea 1-2 Mexico

Former Real Madrid striker Javier Hernandez secured victory as Mexico closed in on place in the knockout stages.

Ex-Real Sociedad forward Carlos Vela had given El Tri the lead from the penalty spot, before Hernandez dispatched past the South Korean goalkeeper in a lightning quick couter-attack.

Tottenham’s Son Heung-min got a late consolation but was not enough with the Asian side now needing a miracle to progress.

Group F: Germany 2-1 Sweden

Real Madrid midfield star Toni Kroos came to the rescue for Germany, with a neatly worked free-kick finding its way past Swedish goakeeper Robin Olsen for a late, late winner.

Ola Toivonen had netted the opener, chipping Manuel Neuer for a sensational opener and putting Die Mannschaft on the brink of another shock defeat.

Marco Reus pulled one back, before Jerome Boateng was shown a second yellow card.

Despite being to 10 men, Germany and Kroos scored late on to put them back into contention for the knockout stages.

Group G: Belgium 5-2 Tunisia

It was a goalfest as Real Madrid target Eden Hazard netted twice for the Red Devils.

A penalty in the sixth minute gave Belgium and the Chelsea forward their first of the evening, before Romelu Lukaku scored either side of a goal from Tunisia’s Dylan Bronn to send the Europeans into half-time 3-1 up.

Hazard got his second just after the break, before club team-mate Michy Batshuayi got in on the act late on. Yet, there was still time for Wahbi Khazi to pull back another consolation goal as Belgium ensured their place in the next round, while Tunisia were eliminated.

Friday, June 22

Group E: Brazil 2-0 Costa Rica

It took Brazil right up to the 90th minute to secure victory against Costa Rica.

Costa Rica did start off brightly and could have taken the lead after 13 minutes, as the ball was pulled back to Celso Borges, whose shot went just wide of Alisson’s goal.

And then began the Brazilian dominance, a goal was rightly ruled out in the 26th minute, as Gabriel Jesus wandered offside as Marcelo’s shot came towards him, which he controlled and blasted past the ‘keeper.

In the second half, it continued, as Jesus hit the crossbar from a close-range header, Phillipe Coutinho had his shot blocked, Neymar forced a stunning reflex save from Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas before pouncing on some lazy Costa Rican defending attempting to curl the ball into the net, but the ball went slightly over.

VAR was called into play, as Neymar went down inside the box, a penalty was initially given, but after consulting VAR, Costa Rica were awarded the free kick for Neymar’s simulation.

In the 90th minute though, Brazil’s dominance paid off and they scored their first goal with some precise movement. Marcelo’s cross was nodded down by Roberto Firmino into the path of Jesus, who set up Coutinho to power through Navas’ legs.

Five minutes later, the game was sealed by Neymar, finishing off Douglas Costa’s squared ball.

Group D: Nigeria 2-0 Iceland

Nigeria cruised to a 2-0 victory against Iceland.

Gylfi Sigurdsson had the first chance of the game from a free kick which forced a save out of 19-year-old Deportivo La Coruna goalkeeper Francis Uzoho.

Alfreð Finnbogason came very close, as another set piece from the right wing was whipped in, taking a faint touch off the Iceland striker and went just wide of Uzoho’s goal.

Four minutes into the seconf half, it was the Super Eagles who took the lead. A driving run from Victor Moses on the right side lead to a cross falling to Ahmed Musa who took a great touch to set himself up for the volley and blast it past Hannes Þór Halldórsson.

On the 75th minute mark, Nigeria made it 2-0 and it was Musa with the individual effort as he showed his lightning pace to get past Kári Árnason before going around Halldórsson and slotting the ball into the net.

Iceland were awarded a penalty as Finnbogason was brought down by Tyronne Ebuehi. VAR was once agani consulted. Sigurdsson stepped up to the penalty spot and blasted his effort above the crossbar off-target.

Group E: Serbia vs Switzerland

A late Xherdan Shaqiri goal was enough to defeat Serbia.

Serbia took the lead after five mintues, as Dusan Tadic’s cross was met by Aleksandar Mitrovic, who powered a header past Yann Sommer.

Serbia had the opportunity to make it 2-0 as Tadic delivered a corner into the box and Duško Tošić was left completely unmarked in front of the goal, but he completely missed his effort.

The Swiss found the equaliser seven minutes into the second half. Shaqiri’s initial shot was blocked and it fell to Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka on the edge of the box who unleashed a rocket into Vladimir Stojković’s goal.

Serbia felt as though they should have had a penalty as Mitrovic was held by two Switzerland players and wrestled to the ground.

That decision proved crucial as Shaqiri got the winner at the death.

The Stoke winger was fed through, just inside the opposition’s half, and escaped his marker to race towards goal, slotting the ball between the oncoming Stojković to give the Swiss all three points.

Thursday, June 21

Group C: Denmark 1-1 Australia

It was a thrilling encounter between the two nations that were expected to be battling for progression from the group, alongside France.

Denmark got the upper hand early on, as Nicolai Jorgensen nudged the ball across the edge of the penalty area for an oncoming Christian Eriksen to volley past Mathew Ryan in the Australia goal.

The Socceroos had been trying to use their aerial ability to find the net, instead Mathew Leckie’s header found Yussuf Poulsen’s arm. Referee initially waved play on, but VAR confirmed handball and a penalty was awarded. Mile Jedinak stepped up and finished comfortably.

Denmark will need to get a point against France in the final game to ensure safe passage to the next round, while Australia need only a two-goal win over Peru and for the Danes to be defeated to make it through.

Group C: France 1-0 Peru

France have one of the most exciting attacks in world football at the moment, but also one of the youngest.

There were concerns that they may not be experienced enough, but those critics were silenced as 19-year-old Kylian Mbappe was in the right place at the right time to tap in Olivier Giroud’s deflected shot, making him their youngest scorer at a World Cup.

Peru had tried to find an equaliser, but could not find a way through Les Bleus’ talented defence. It means they exit the tournament, while France progress.

Group D: Argentina 0-3 Croatia

There was a feeling that this game was already lost for Argentina before a ball had even been kicked.

A disappointing performance against Iceland had put pressure on the South Americans, in particular Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, who looked stressed during the national anthems.

And he grew frustrated throughout the game, as a lack of service hindered his display greatly.

As for Croatia, they dismantled Argentina, firstly with Willy Caballero gifting the ball to Ante Rebic who duly volleyed wonderfully into the goal.

With ten minutes to play, the Europeans turned on the style, as Real Madrid’s Luka Modric used his quick feet to find a yard of space before unleashing a 30-yard screamer past the Argentine goalkeeper.

Then Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic rubbed salt in the wounds, as the South Americans’ defence was left in tatters. Caballero came off his line to chase Real Madrid’s Mateo Kovacic, who spotted Rakitic free, with the former Sevilla man tapping into an open net.

Argentina’s fate is now out of their hands, needing Iceland to perish to already-qualified Croatia and for themselves to beat Nigeria to ensure they progress.

Wednesday, June 20

Group A: Uruguay 1-0 Saudi Arabia

Despite another sub-par performance, Uruguay did enough to secure their place in the knockouts.

Uruguay took the lead after 23 mintues in a rather fortunate fashion. From a corner, Saudi goalkeeper Mohammed Al-Owais attempted to punch the ball clear, but misjudged it, falling to Barcelona’s Luis Suarez, who has the easiest task of tapping the ball into a completely empty net.

Saudi Arabia did waste a chance as a cross from the left-hand side was missed by Atletico Madrid defender Diego Godin, and hit over the bar by Hattan Bahebri, an attempt which should’ve at least been on target.

Uruguay had chances to double their lead. Edinson Cavani found himself with space on the left wing but his cross was headed over by Carlos Andrés Sánchez.

Lucas Torreira’s shot from the edge of the box hit Cavani and left the Saudi shot-stopper rooted, but the ball went narrowly widem, before another effort from the PSG striker was well saved by Al-Owais.

Group B: Portugal 1-0 Morocco

This fixture was a game of who had the goalscorer. And it was none other than Real Madrid’s Cristiano Ronaldo who decided it.

He did not take long either, as he dived low to head in Joao Moutinho’s cross for his fourth goal of the World Cup.

Otherwise, Portugal looked lifeless and appalling, none more summed up than by former Los Blancos defender Pepe’s shameful theatrics.

On the other hand, Morocco enjoyed plenty of opportunities and looked the better side throughout, but could not find the finishing touch and became the first team to be knocked out of the competition.

Group B: Iran 0-1 Spain

Iran must have picked up some tips from Iceland, soaking up the pressure and defending valiantly, just as the Nordic side had done against Argentina days earlier.

But they could not hold on and Spain found a way through. Atletico Madrid’s Diego Costa received the ball in the box, but as he attempted to get it under control, it bounced off his leg and past the stretching Alireza Beiranvand in the Iran goal.

The Middle Easterns did not sit back, pushing for an equaliser, at one point even having the ball int he back of the net, only to be ruled offside. They joined Morocco in exiting the tournament, while Spain ensured a place in the knockout stages.

Tuesday, June 19

Group H: Colombia 1-2 Japan

Colombia fell to a surprise defeat at the hands of Japan.

Japan were awarded a penalty and handed a one-man advantage after five minutes, as Colombian midfielder Carlos Sanchez used his hand to block a Japan re-bound. Shinji Kagawa stepped up and slotted the penalty down the middle of the goal, but David Ospina went to his right.

30 minutes later, and things were level, as Juan Fernando Quintero’s free kick was struck low, underneath the wall and despite Eiji Kawashima’s best efforts, the ball went just over the line.

Japan continued to pile on the pressure with chances falling to Real Betis’ new signing Takashi Inui and Hiroki Sakai, but it was Yuya Osako who gave Japan the winner, nodding home from a corner.

Group H: Poland 1-2 Senegal

A superior Senegal beat a sub-par Poland side.

Senegal took the lead after 37 minutes, as Everton’s Idrissa Gueye took a shot from the edge of the box, which took a lethal deflection off Thiago Cionek and wrong-footed Wojciech Szczęsny.

Five minutes into the second half, Robert Lewandowski’s free kick yards from the “D” forced a stretched save from Khadim N’Diaye.

That proved crucial as moments later, the Africans made it 2-0, after confusion between substitute Jan Bednarek and Szczesny allowed M’Baye Niang to get to the ball before either of them, and tap the ball into an empty net.

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Four minutes from time, Poland gave themselves a glimmer of hope as a lofted free kick was headed into the corner by Grzegorz Krychowiak. But it wasn’t enough.

Group A: Russia 3-1 Egypt

Russia cruised to another comfortable victory, and secured their place in the knockout phase as Egypt were all-but out of the competition.

The Pharaohs began strong as Trezeguet attempted to curl the ball into Igor Akinfeev’s far post, but the ball went just wide. Egypt’s returning star Mohamed Salah also had a chance on the half turn, which also went narrowly missed.

Two minutes into the second half, Russia took the lead through an Egypt own goal. Russia’s initial cross was punched clear by Mohamed El-Shenawy, but it fell to Robin Zobnin, whose shot was deflected by Ahmed Fathy into his own net.

Villarreal winger Denis Cheryshev made it 2-0 as the ball was squared to him and he was handed the simple task of tapping it in.

Artem Dzyuba made it 3-0 only three minutes later as he chested the ball down, took a slight touch, before finessing the ball perfectly into the corner.

Egypt were awarded a penalty as Salah was brought down, which was initially thought to be a free kick, but VAR showed that he was fouled inside the area.

The Liverpool attacker stepped up to the spot and struck the perfect penalty into Akinfeev’s top left corner, beyond his reach.

Monday, June 18

Group F: Sweden 1-0 South Korea

Andreas Granqvist’s penalty was enough to see of South Korea.

In the 20th minute, Sweden had their first chance when Marcus Berg had a shot from right in front of the goal, but Cho Hyun-Woo made a stunning save to deny him.

Just after half-time, South Korea had a chance of their own, as Koo Ja-Cheol headed the ball into Robin Olsen’s side netting.

Just past the hour mark, Sweden were awarded a penalty after a consultation with VAR. The captain Granqvist stepped up, sent the ‘keeper the wrong way to give Sweden their first win of the World Cup campaign.

Group G: Belgium vs Panama

Belgium saw off Panama in rather comfortable fashion, although it took the Red Devils a while to get going.

Panama goalkeeper Jaime Penedo was forced into multiple saves from Yannick Ferreira Carrasco, Dries Mertens and Eden Hazard.

But Belgium eventually took the lead two minutes into the second half through Napoli forward Mertens. The ball fell to him in the corner of the box, he took it first time on the volley, and it flew into the back of the net past a helpless Penedo.

Panama did have a chance, Michael Amir Murillo was played in on goal by Édgar Yoel Bárcenas, with Belgium and eex-Atletico Madrid wing-back Carracso nowhere to be seen. Thankfully for the Europeans, fellow former Atleti star Thibaut Courtois prevented an equaliser.

With 69 mintues on the clock, Belgium made it 2-0, as Kevin De Bruyne drifted his way into the box, delivering the ball towards Romelu Lukaku with the outside of his boot to head home.

Moments later, it was 3-0 as they broke from their own half, Hazard driving towards the Panama goal and played the ball into Lukaku’s path, who dinked the ball over Penedo.

Group G: England 2-1 Tunisia

A late Harry Kane goal was enough for England to beat Tunisia.

England dominated the early stages and forced Tunisia keeper Mouez Hassen into a stunning save by Jesse Lingard.

But England did take the lead after 11 minutes from a corner, John Stones with the initial header which was fantastically saved by Hassen, but Kane was on hand to score the rebound.

Just past the half hour mark, Tunisia were awarded a penalty after the consultation of VAR, as Kyle Walker’s arm made contact with Fakhredine Ben Youssef’s face. Ferjani Sassi stepped up to take it, placing it just beyond Jordan Pickford’s grasp.

England had multiple half-chances to make it 2-1, but in the 90th minute, the Three Lions got the winner and it was Kane again. Kieran Tripper’s corner was flicked on by Harry Maguire and an unmarked Kane had the simple task of heading the ball into the net to give England their first win of the campaign.

Harry Kane scores the winner as England beat Tunisia

Sunday, June 17

Group E: Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia

Aleksandar Kolarov’s sublime free-kick was enough to get Serbia off to a winning start against Costa Rica.

Costa Rica had the first chance of the game after 12 minutes, as they worked a corner towards an unmarked Giancarlo Gonzalez, who could only header the ball over the crossbar.

Five minutes into the second half, and Serbia had a great chance to take the lead as Aleksandar Mitrovic was played in, but his shot was well saved by Real Madrid’s Keylor Navas.

Six minutes later though, Serbia were ahead and it was the veteran Kolarov with a stunning free kick that was always going away from the helpless Navas.

Group E: Brazil 1-1 Switzerland

Brazil had stars all over the pitch, but it wasn’t enough to beat Switzerland.

Just 11 minutes in and Brazil had their first chance, as Neymar squared the ball for Paulinho, but the Barcelona midfielder got his legs tangled, shooting narrowly wide.

But minutes later, Brazil were ahead and it was Coutinho with a trademark goal, whipping a shot from outside the area into  the corner of the net and past Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer.

After the break, the Europeans were level as Xherdan Shaqiri’s corner was met by Steven Zuber, who was poorly challenged to head home.

For all the chances the Brazilians had, the ball wouldn’t get past Sommer and the South American side had to settle for a point.

Group F: Germany 0-1 Mexico

Definitely the shock of the tournament so far, as Mexico’s direct and pacy attack was too much to handle for reigning champions Germany.

Despite being among the favourites for the World Cup, Die Mannschaft always looked like the weaker team as they were punished by an exciting El Tri outfit.

The Mexicans got their reward after 35 minutes as a quick counter-attack saw Javier Hernandez pass to winger Hirving Lozano, who shrugged off a Mesut Ozil challenge and smash past Manuel Neuer.

They defended astutely thereafter to earn a famous win and put them in pole position for top of the group.

Saturday, June 16

Group D: Argentina 1-1 Iceland

Lionel Messi’s Argentina were held by a solid Iceland team, in their opening game, as Messi missed a penalty.

It took 19 minutes for Argentina to take the lead and it was Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero with the goal, as he took a left footed shot on the spin and powered it into the net.

Four minutes later though, and Iceland were level as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s low cross to Bjarnason was saved by Willy Caballero, but Alfred Finnbogason was at hand to convert the re-bound.

On the brink of half-time, Sigurdson showed great feet to get around Maximiliano Meza and attempt the far post finesse, but it was saved by Caballero.

Just past the hour mark, Argentina were awarded a penalty as Messi was pushed in the back Hörður Björgvin Magnússon. But the Barcelona forward was denied by film director Hannes Þór Halldórsson.

On the brink of full-time, Cristian Pavon attempted a whipped cross, which turned into a shot, which forced Halldórsson into a fine reflex save, and that was the game. A disappointing start from the South Americans.

Group D: Croatia 2-0 Nigeria

Luka Modric captained his Croatian side to a comfortable victory against Nigeria.

Croatia took the lead after 32 minutes, as Modric’s corner was whipped in and flicked on by Ante Rebic, then a slight header from Mario Mandzukic was deflected into the Nigerian net by their own player, Oghenekaro Etebo.

Chances kept falling to the Croatian players, but they were awarded a penalty after 69 minutes, from a Modric corner, Mandzukic was held, and brought down by William Troost-Ekong. It was Real Madrid man and Croatia skipper Modric with the perfect penalty to make it 2-0.

A comfortable victory for Croatia, who were rarely troubled by the Nigerians.

Group C: France 2-1 Australia

France had VAR and technology to thank for their victory against Australia, as it was required for both of their goals.

Despite a faster start from France, Australia had the best first chance of the game as a deep free kick from Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy hit Corentin Tolisso, which forced Hugo Lloris into a quick reflex save.

VAR was called into play for the firsst time in World Cup history after 56 minutes, as Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann was bought down by Josh Risdon with the slightest of touches, althougb it seemed the Aussie got a faint touch on the ball. Griezmann’s spot kick was sublime and unsavable and France were ahead.

On the hour mark, Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti cleared the ball with his hand in his own box and Australia were awarded a penalty, which was converted by Mile Jedinak.

France took the lead again, in the 80th minute, and once again technology was called into play as Paul Pogba’s shot deflected off Aziz Benich and looped over Matt Ryan, off the underside of the crossbar and just over the line.

France won the game 2-1, but will have to play much better against “superior” opposition if they want to win the World Cup

Group C: Peru 0-1 Denmark

Peru had the best first chance of the game as André Carrillo dispossessed Vigo’s Pione Sisto and took a shot from the right side of the box, and forced a save out of Kasper Schmeichel.

VAR was called into play after a Peuvian penalty appeal as Christian Cueva was brought down by Yussuf Poulsen of RB Leipzig. Although the penalty wasn’t given at first, a penalty review eventually lead to the Peruvian penalty, which was taken by Cuevas, who sent the ball high into the stands.

On the brink of the hour mark, Denmark took the lead as Poulsen turned from villain to hero as Christian Eriksen slid the ball into the path of the 24-year old striker, who slotted the ball past Pedro Gallese.

Peru almost replied instantly as Edison Flores forced Schmeichel into a fine save and minutes later, Cueva’s pass into Paolo Guerrero, who attempted the back-heel was so close. Jefferson Farfan also had a chance to score, as the ball was squared to him and he was open, but his shot was well saved by Schmeichel.

Friday, June 15

Group A: Egypt 0-1 Uruguay

Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin captained his Uruguay side to a late victory against Egypt.

Barcelona forward Luis Suarez had the best chance in the first half to open the scoring after 24 minutes, but he dragged his shot wide of the goal. In fact, Suarez himself had four shots in the first half, as many as Egypt’s shots combined, two of his shots were off target, one was blocked and one was on target. Chances fell to Vecino and Cavani too, but neither troubled the Egyptian keeper.

In the second half, Uruguay instantly played much better football and Suarez again with the chance, but El Shenawy made a fantastic save to deny him. The one time Cavani and Suarez did link-up, Suarez couldn’t convert the shot as the ball was smothered by El Shenaway as Suarez took to long to do anything, as he attempted to round the ‘keeper.

Egypt were limited to shots from distance, which never really troubled Muslera.

Uruguay had a golden chance to make it 1-0 as Cavani’s free kick hit the inside of the post and came straight back out to an unmarked Uruguayan, but his shot was blocked by his own team-mate Sanchez. Minutes later though, two minutes from time, Sanchez whipped in a free kick from the right hand side, and it was Atletico Madrid defender Jose Gimenez to head the ball into the corner and give Uruguay their first points of this World Cup campaign.

Group B: Morocco 0-1 Iran

Leganes winger Nordin Amrabat suffered a concusion and had to be substituted as his side suffered a late defeat against Iran.

It was Amrabat who provided the first opportunity for the Moroccans as his low cross was met, but it went over the bar.

Iran had their first chance after 32 minutes of play as Sardar Azmoun was played in through on goal by Amiri, but Azmoun’s shot was saved Mohamedi.

Despite the early Moroccan dominance, it was Iran who were victorious, and Iran scored their winner in second-half stoppage and had Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz to thank, as a free kick on the left-hand side was whipped in and the forward made too much contact, and it went into the back of his own net.

Group B: Portugal 3-3 Spain

Spain and Portugal played out a 3-3 draw as Fernando Hierro took charge of La Roja for the first time.

It only took four minutes for Portugal to get on the score-board, and it was from the spot as Cristiano Ronaldo was brought down by his Real Madrid team-mate Nacho Fernandez. Ronaldo converted comfortably as he sent David de Gea the wrong way, and he had his first of the tournament.

Spain were level 20 minutes later through in un-Spanish fashion. A 60 yard long-ball from Sergio Busquets found Diego Costa, who brought the ball down and dummied his way left and right in front of Jose Fonte, before finding the corner.

Moments later, Isco had a thunderbolt of a shot which hit of the crossbar and smashed the line, although it didn’t go over the line.

On the brink of half-time, Portugal were ahead and it was Ronaldo who scored it, although he had the Spanish goalkeeper to thank for it as the shot was straight at the shot-stopper, but De Gea let it slip through his grasp and into the corner of the net, an uncharacteristic mistake from the Manchester United man.

After the break, Spain were equalised again and it was Costa with his second of the game. Andres Iniesta’s free kick from the edge of the box was lofted towards the far post and headed across to the Brazilian-born striker, who was on hand to tap the ball into the net.

And Spain were ahead shortly after, with Nacho atoning for his early mistake with a stunning strike. The ball fell to him on the edge of the box and the Real Madrid defender took it on the half-volley, sending it crashing off the inside of Rui Patricio’s post and into the net.

Two minutes from time, Portugal were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, Ronaldo territory, and it was five-time Ballon d’Or winner who sailed into the corner to complete his hat-trick as De Gea was rooted to the spot, only able to watch the mastery.

Thursday, June 14

Group A: Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia

Villarreal winger Denis Cheryshev was among the best performers for hosts Russia, netting twice, having only come on as a substitute for the injured Alan Dzagoev in the 24th minute in this opening match of the 2018 World Cup.

Yury Gazinsky scored the opener, before Cheryshev doubled the lead with some brilliant trickery in the box.  Artem Dzyuba made it 3-0 by powering a header into the corner. In stoppage time, Cheryshev scored another, this time with the outside of his boot, setting an early contestant for goal of the tournament.

Aleksandr Golovin, who had already grabbed a couple of assists and played incredibly well, rounded off the show with a pin-point free-kick from the edge of the box, final score 5-0.

Despite sending nine players on loan to La Liga clubs in January in a bid to improve their ability ahead of the World Cup, they failed to register a single shot on target and keeping hold of possession was a struggle for Saudi Arabia.

Russia’s next game will be against Egypt on Tuesday, while Saudi Arabia will have to face Luis Suarez’s Uruguay on Monday.