England and Belgium battle it out for top spot in their group on Thursday as the remaining teams at the World Cup digest Germany’s astonishing exit from the tournament in Russia.
Both sides — packed with Premier League talent — have sailed through Group G, winning their two games and are now in the curious situation of weighing up whether they even want to top the section.
Their battle in Kaliningrad follows the dramatic exit of Joachim Loew’s 2014 winners, who finished rock bottom of their group after a 2-0 defeat to South Korea, the final humiliation after a campaign that never caught fire.
Loew, who led his side to glory against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, refused to be drawn on his future in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday’s result.
Despite a huge scare for Lionel Messi’s Argentina, who needed a late goal from Marcos Rojo to edge through to the knockout phase on Tuesday, all of the tournament’s remaining big guns are through to the last 16 in Russia.
There has even been some talk that England might have an easier route at the World Cup if they lose in Kaliningrad.
But coach Gareth Southgate said his team are focused on winning, not on plotting a particular route through the knockout stages.
“We need to keep winning football matches and we want to breed a mentality that everybody in our squad wants to constantly win,” said the manager, who has created a relaxed atmosphere for his young charges.
“We’ve not won a knockout game since 2006. Why we would be starting to plot which would be a better venue for our semi-final is beyond me really.”
England impressed in their opening two World Cup games, beating Tunisia 2-1 in Volgograd and thumping Panama 6-1 in Nizhny Novgorod.
But in Belgium they face the world’s third-ranked side, and a squad loaded with world-class talent such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.
– Kane factor –
Captain Harry Kane is the top goalscorer at the World Cup with five goals so far and the Tottenham talisman is likely to start against Belgium.
But Southgate did concede he would probably make some changes for a clash that neither side needs to win.
Opposite number Roberto Martinez is expected to make wholesale changes to his team, with Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku almost certain to miss out after picking up an ankle knock in Belgium’s 5-2 win over Tunisia.
Unlike Southgate, the former Everton and Wigan manager said he was approaching Thursday’s game with one eye firmly on the knockout rounds.
“We want to perform well but I think the priority is not to win,” he said.
“That’s the reality. We wanted to qualify, we’ve done that. There are players who have been in very demanding games so it’s very important for us to protect and give every player the best opportunity to be in the best condition in the knockout games.”
In the other remaining first-round games on Thursday, Japan, Senegal and Colombia are all chasing the two qualification spots in Group H, with Poland out of the picture.
Japan, on four points alongside Senegal, take on Poland in Volgograd while the African team play Colombia, who have three points, in Samara.
Japan coach Akira Nishino has warned his players against complacency when they meet the already eliminated Poles.
After years of struggling to progress to the latter stages, James Rodriguez’s tournament-topping six goals steered Colombia to their best-ever finish of the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago.
Jose Pekerman has refused to entertain the prospect of seeing Colombia’s stuttering World Cup campaign end at the first hurdle.
“We came here for more, so it wouldn’t be a good result for us not to reach the second round,” Pekerman said.
Aliou Cisse’s Senegal will attempt to succeed where the rest of their continental rivals failed, with Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia all out.
Friday is a rest day in Russia. The last-16 ties start Saturday, with France taking on Argentina in Kazan and Uruguay facing Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in Sochi.
FINAL ATTRACTED 1.12 BILLION VIEWERS! Russia 2018 is best watched World Cup ever, says FIFA
A record audience of more than 3.5 billion people watched this year’s World Cup in Russia, with the final between France and Croatia attracting 1.12 billion viewers, world soccer’s governing body said on Friday.
FIFA said 3.572 billion viewers – more than half of the global population aged four and over – watched some part of the official coverage, which was broadcast live in every territory worldwide from June 14 to July 15.
The global in-home TV audience watching at least one minute of the coverage accounted for almost 3.3 billion viewers, a 2.2 per cent increase on the 2014 edition hosted in Brazil, according to FIFA’s audit of audience data published on Friday.
A further 309.7 million caught the action on digital platforms, public viewing areas or in bars and restaurants.
France’s 4-2 victory in the final, which gave them their second World Cup title following their triumph in 1998, was the most watched game of the competition.
It was followed by England’s semi-final defeat to Croatia and the other last-four clash between France and Belgium.
“These figures really do support the claim that Russia 2018 was the best World Cup ever,” said FIFA’s chief commercial officer, Philippe Le Floc’h.
“The fact that half the world’s population watched the FIFA World Cup reflects not just the high quality of our award-winning live coverage, but also that fans everywhere are insatiable for world-class football.”
The World Cup coverage reached around 1.6 billion individuals in Asia, with 655.7 million viewers (18.4 per cent of the global total) in China, who failed to qualify for the tournament.
The 2022 edition of World Cup will be held in Qatar.
HE HAS A VERY GOOD RELATIONSHIP WITH CHILDREN! Mbappe donates £384,000 World Cup 2018 earnings to charity
French professional footballer, Kylian Mbappé, will donate money earned from featuring in the 2018 World Cup tournament in Russia to a sports charity that works with disabled and hospitalised children, Premiers de Cordee.
According to Sports Illustrated, the 19-year-old who plays as a forward for Paris Saint-Germain was paid £17,000 per game and pocketed £265,000 for being part of the team who won the tournament.
Speaking to Le Parisien, Premier de Cordee charity general manager, Sebastian Ruffin said:
“Kylian, he’s a great person.
“When his schedule allows it, he intervenes for us with pleasure.
“He has a very good [relationship] with children, he always finds the right [words] to encourage them.
“I sometimes even feel that [he] takes more pleasure to play with the kids than the kids themselves.”
Mbappe, who joined PSG for a fee of around £166m from Monaco after a season-long loan, was named Young Player of the World Cup.
Mbappe became the first teenager to score in a World Cup final since Pele in 1958.
TENS OF THOUSANDS! Croatians give heroes’ welcome to World Cup squad
Tens of thousands of Croatians gave a heroes’ welcome to their team in Zagreb on Monday after the squad returned from Russia following their World Cup final defeat.
A crowd estimated at more than 100,000 thronged the capital’s main square to see the players, led by captain and World Cup Golden Ball winner Luka Modric, parade through the streets on an open-top bus.
Cheering fans, many waving flags and wearing the famous red and white shirt of Croatia, held up banners celebrating the runners-up after their gallant 4-2 defeat by France.
“This is how Croatia is loved,” read one banner. Another said: “We are few, but we believed and that is enough”.
Many even skipped work to celebrate the team reaching their first ever World Cup final.
“I closed my office to welcome our heroes. I put a sign up reading ‘Today, July 16, 2018’, office closed due to our Vatreni (‘the Fiery Ones’ in Croatian),” doctor Sanja Klajic told AFP.
Earlier noisy fans awaited their side’s appearance by singing a popular song “Play on my Croatia, when I see you my heart is on fire!” while watching the plane carrying the team progress to the capital on a giant TV screen.
When the plane, accompanied by military jets and emblazoned with the logo “Bravo Vatreni” flew overhead the crowd cheered and chanted “Hands up, hands up!”.
After landing at the city’s airport around 3:25 pm (1325 GMT), the players emerged to shrieks from fans at the terminal.
Two military men test positive for coronavirus in Bayelsa
JUST IN: Communications minister, Isa Pantami, loses aunt
I cooked for Don Jazzy in my home – Dencia
Girls are never to be trusted- Young Nigerian boy writes heartbreaking post to his ex-girlfriend on her birthday
82 years old man stabs his wife, 70+, to death in Imo
Children don’t compliment my lifestyle- Lady who removes fallopian tube reveals
See how Nigerians reacted to Shade Okoya’s 43rd birthday celebration (video)
JUST IN: Wike compensates victims, deceased families of 2019 elections
How to identify a gentleman- Ghanaian counsellor Adofoli teaches ladies
Do face masks made from clothes prevent Covid-19? NAFDAC provide answers
Man who leaked Buhari’s speech before nationwide broadcast has been caught
Rolls-Royce to cut up to 8,000 Jobs
I will resign from Buhari’s government if… – Keyamo
North Korea dictator Kim Jong-Un is reportedly dead
Man, brother in-law beat wife’s ‘boyfriend’ to death
Kaffy pens down painful tribute to Kodak
I nearly committed suicide over N20m debt – Real Warri Pikin
Armed men on motorcycles attack Lekki security guards (video)
Corpse of actress Destiny Etiko’s dad arrives Enugu for burial [Video]
Video: I have three chronic health conditions and I’m a Covid-19 survivor – Nigerian lady
My baby likes big ass so I’m getting another butt surgery – Bobrisky
Video: CCC member ties son in sacks, locked him inside wardrobe for four days as punishment for stealing
Policeman shoots Nigerian, one other dead in Ghana
There’s no coronavirus in Nigeria – Pastor David Ibiyomie
News3 days ago
FG announces resumption date for schools In Nigeria, Universities, polytechnics and Others.
Gossip3 days ago
Baby giveaway: Here’s why this Nigerian doctor is willing to let her child go for five years
News3 days ago
NECO gets new Registrar
News3 days ago
Ogun Govt extends lockdown by another week
Entertainment3 days ago
Blessing Okoro teaches women how to ‘use’ men (Video)
Politics3 days ago
Lagos finalises register to open guidelines, set to restart economy
Crime3 days ago
Police in Ebonyi wade into alleged sexual exploitation of 20-year-old by aunt
Metro3 days ago
Missing Limb: Army rejects N150m demand by student shot by soldier