World Cup Group C: Matchday Two Review

After 22 matches at the World Cup we still don’t have a team mathematically confirmed in the last sixteen, though we have lost a second side in Saudi Arabia who now cannot make the knockout stages after defeat by Wales today in Samara. Top two Italy and Ghana drew 2-2.

Two changes for Wales with Adam Matthews and Hal Robson-Kanu replacing Gareth Owen and Joe Ledly faced an unchanged Saudi Arabian side, and it was the former who opened the scoring with half-hour played. In a game of few chances, Hal Robson-Kanu got on the end of a Gareth Bale cross to volley home from close range.

Within ten minutes, Wales had doubled their lead. Jack Collison fed the ball to Bale who jinked his way out wide, leaving the Saudi midfield in his wake. Bale crossed low from the left and Collison met it first-time around the penalty spot to drill Wales two-up.

A pair of late yellow cards for Saudi Arabia raised the tension as they pushed hard to get something out of the game, but Wales held on and now know that a win against Ghana on Wednesday will see them make the last sixteen.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP C (2)
                 SAUDI ARABIA 0-2 WALES
                                  Robson-Kanu 30
                                  Collison 39
                    Al-Dosari     Taylor

Italy were stunned by a double body-blow right at the end of the first-half as Ghana stormed into a two-nil lead at the break at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow, but fought back in a match they otherwise dominated to rescue a point and stay top of Group C.

The 2014 runners-up had a vast amount of shots, but wayward finishing was almost their downfall as Ghana went ahead through Waris Majeed nineteen seconds into first-half stoppage time. Somehow he got ahead of three Italian defenders to poke home André Ayew’s cross at the near post.

112 seconds later it was two-nil when Ayew’s through-ball to Majeed beat the offside trap and the Pescara striker outpaced Bonucci before bending a low drive around Sirigu with 47:07 showing on the clock.

Italy came out swinging after the break and had a goal back just 41 seconds from the restart through Gianluca Caprari. The Arsenal man collected Faraoni’s ball down the right-hand side of the box before cutting in and firing past Larsen. Provider turned scorer midway through the second-half when Marco Faraoni intercepted a wayward Ayew pass, brought the ball forward 30 yards then bent a low shot home for an equaliser and his first international goal.

Florenzi and Marchisio both hit the bar within four minutes of each other, but a third goal wasn’t coming for the Italians. They stay top of Group C on goal difference, and avoiding defeat against Saudi Arabia will see them safely through to the knockout stages.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP C (2)
                        ITALY 2-2 GHANA
                   Caprari 46     Majeed 45+1, 45+3
                   Faraoni 63
                     Nocerino     Boateng