World Cup Awards: Golden Boot, Best XI…

Chilean striker Diego Rubio has won the Golden Boot from this year’s FIFA World Cup ahead of Leandro Damião of Brazil and Italian Giuseppe Rossi. 25-year old Rubio – who plays for Corinthians in Brazil – scored sis goals in five matches, including a hat-trick against Ivory Coast. Damião also hit six goals but over all seven of Brazil’s matches.

Full-back Jordi Alba has won the adidas™ Golden Ball for his role in Spain’s march to the trophy. He played in all but the opening group game win over South Korea, and scored three goals including winners in knockout matches against Germany and England. Golden Boot winner Diego Rubio was voted runner-up, with Austrian left-back David Alaba third.

Spartak Moscow centre-back Christian Fernández was voted the Best Young Player, with the 20-year old impressing in his four appearances for Argentina, earning an average rating of 8.27 as well as scoring in the 3-0 win over Egypt. Iker Casillas has won his second Lev Yashin Award, with the Real Madrid and Spain goalkeeper keeping two clean sheets and conceding just five goals in Spain’s FIFA World Cup triumph.

The spectacular 50-yard lob by Oscar to open the scoring in Brazil’s 2-0 quarter-final win over Colombia has been voted Goal of the Tournament, with the game’s second goal from Rafael Tolói named as runner-up. Third went to Lucas Ocampos who scored the third in Argentina’s 3-0 win over Egypt in the group stage.

  • FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Stats:
    • 186 Goals (137 in Group Stage)
    • 210 Yellow Cards (146)
    • 13 Red Cards (8)
    • 15 Penalties Awarded (12)
    • 9 Penalties Scored (8)
    • 3 Own Goals (1)
    • 2 Hat-Tricks (2)

Champions Spain unsurprisingly have five players named in the tournament’s Best XI, with a further three players named in the overall squad. Runners-up Italy are represented by four players, with two making the starting eleven.

  • Goalkeeper
    • Iker Casillas (Spain)
  • Defence
    • Jordi Alba (Spain), Christian Fernández (Argentina)
    • Ryan Shawcross (England), Marco Faraoni (Italy)
  • Midfield
    • Thiago (Spain), Alessandro Florenzi (Italy)
    • Rodrigo (Spain), Lionel Messi (Argentina)
  • Strikers
    • Diego Rubio (Chile)), Fernando Llorente (Spain)

FIFA World Cup 2018 Final: Spain 3-1 Italy

Spain have won their second World Cup after a 3-1 win over Italy in Moscow tonight, their second time lifting the famous trophy and their fourth major international honour in ten years. Llorente’s first-half brace helped inflict a second consecutive Final defeat on Italy after they lost to Brazil in 2014.

Four changes for Spain after their semi-final win over holders Brazil: Víctor Ruiz, Juan Mata, Cesc Fàbregas and Rodrigo were all restored to the side in place of Thiago, César Azpilicueta, Rubén Pardo and Jesús Navas.

Just two changes for Italy from the side who beat Argentina: Sebastian Giovinco started up front and Antonio Nocerino returned after suspension, replacing Gianluca Caprari and Claudio Marchisio respectively.

Spain rocked the stadium by scoring the second-fastest goal in a World Cup Final, with just 01:52 on the clock when they took the lead. It started at the back for Italy when ‘keeper Sirigu played the ball to Criscito who was caught napping by Rodrigo.

He played it square to Fabregas who knocked it high into the box. Juan Mata met the delivery, heading back across goal to the far post where Fernando Llorente rose above Bonucci and Astori and looped his header past Sirigu.

Just before the half-hour mark, Llorente doubled the lead. Sergio Ramos, already cautioned, timed his strong challenge on Criscito on the Italian left flank to perfection and found Rodrigo marauding up the wing. He looked up before flighting a ball over the top for Fernando Llorente to out-pace his man and slot home a second.

Five minutes before the break, Llorente nearly had his hat-trick. Fàbregas robbed Poli in the centre-circle and sent the ball clean through to the Milan man, but 1-on-1 with Sirigu he sent the ball inches wide.

Italy had to come flying out of the traps after the break, and were nearly back in the game in the 54th minute when Faraoni headed Chiellini’s long-throw onto the underside of the crossbar before Ramos dived to clear the ball off the line. If Italy started to believe today wouldn’t be their day, then Spain confirmed it just 90 seconds later.

Jordi Alba won a corner for Spain on their right, and took it himself. Pique flicked-on at the near post and Álvaro Dominguez arrived at the far post to bundle home his first senior international goal as Spain became only the third team to hold a 3-0 lead in a World Cup Final (after 1982 and 1998).

Late on, Giuseppe Rossi came within inches of moving level with Chilean striker Diego Rubio on six goals for the tournament when he smashed a 25-yarder against the woodwork. The bar was probably still rattling when Italy scored a consolation in the 88th minute.

Poli won the ball from Fàbregas on halfway and found Giovinco. He did all the work for the Italian left before picking out Giacomo Bonaventura who took a touch before letting fly with a daisy-cutter that crept in by Casillas’s right-hand post for the Pescara midfielder’s first senior goal for Italy.

Gerard Pique lifted the trophy for Spain who won 6 of their 7 matches here in Russia, only being held by Uruguay in a stalemate back in the group stage. Their UEFA Championship qualifiers begin in September after friendlies against Brazil and Argentina in August.

                   FIFA WORLD CUP 2018: FINAL
                        SPAIN 3-1 ITALY
               Llorente 2, 28     Bonaventura 88
                 Domínguez 56

                        Ramos     Chiellini
                    Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow

Brazil Take Third Against 10-Man Argentina (WC)

Brazil beat Argentina for the first time at a World Cup since 1982 as the holders won the Third Place Playoff for the third time in their history. Tonight’s feisty encounter in St Petersburg saw Argentina play for over 50 minutes with ten men following Matías Silvestre’s first-half dismissal.

Brazil once again made changes at the heart of their defence, perhaps showing why they were playing in tonight’s match and not in tomorrow’s final in Moscow: Diego Munhoz and Rômulo replaced Dedé and Rafael Tolói from their defeat by Spain.

Three changes for Argentina after their semi-final loss to Italy: Mateo Musacchio, Miguel Ángel Stegman and Javier Mascherano coming in for Julián Velazquez, and injured pair Paulo Gamboa and Franco Zuculini.

After his disastrous display against Spain, Marcelo needed to restore his reputation as a talisman in the Brazilian defence and he was heavily involved in the opening goal. His drive towards the box pulling the Argentine defence out of shape and when his drive from eighteen yards wasn’t held by Sergio Romero, Oscar was on hand to tuck away the loose ball from twelve yards.

108 seconds after the restart, Argentina were level. Mascherano and Stegman played a neat one-two before the ball was played round the outside for Lionel Messi to latch onto and drill across goal past Rafael and in off the far post for his first goal in Russia.

In the 18th minute, Silvestre collected a yellow card when he was caught in possession by Rômulo and then held his man back as the Brazilian started to break on a counter.

Midway through the first-half Brazil retook the lead. Romero’s route to come and claim Marcelo’s in-swinging corner was blocked off by a combination of Munhoz and his own defender Silvestre, and Sandro had a simple finish at the far post to slot home.

Then came an eight minute period that killed the game for Argentina. Mascherano saw yellow for a trip on Lucas Leiva, with the resulting free-kick 25 yards out skimming the bar from Oscar. Straight up the other end, Francisco Fidalgo was also booked after he handled the ball as he went to meet Musacchio’s cross.

Peruzzi was lucky to escape a caution when he brought down Oscar 30 yards out, but was punished when as the free-kick came in, he hauled Munhoz to the ground and the Italian referee pointed to the spot. Leandro Damião put it to Romero’s left and Brazil led 3-1.

Seven minutes before the break, Silvestre and Damião were in a race down the Brazilian right with the 2014 winners looking to breakaway and put the game to bed. Matías Silvestre made a futile attempt to win the ball from behind, brought down his man, and was shown a second yellow: the thirteenth red card of the tournament.

                       BRAZIL 3-1 ARGENTINA
                     Oscar 10     Messi 11
                    Sandro 25     Silvestre s/o 38
                Damião 33 pen

                      Marcelo     Silvestre
                       Rômulo     Mascherano
                       Neymar     Fidalgo
                  Gazprom Arena, St. Petersburg

World Cup Semi: Italy Set-Up All-Euro Final

Italy are in consecutive World Cup Finals for the first time in their history after a 2-0 win in Moscow this evening, the first time that Argentina have ever lost a World Cup semi-final. A goal in each half will see Italy return to the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday to meet Spain in the ninth all-European final.

Both sides lost a man to a second yellow card in their quarter-final wins, and Gary Medel’s suspension forced the only change for Argentina who brought in Julián Velázquez. Two changes for Italy: Gianluca Caprari took Sebastian Giovinco’s spot up-top, while Andrea Poli came in for the suspended Antonio Nocerino.

Argentina had the best chance in the opening exchanges and were unfortunate not to be ahead in the 18th minute when Lucas Ocampos headed wide at the far post from the edge of the six-yard box from a deep cross by Veláquez. His miss was made worse ten minutes later when Italy took the lead.

Poli shadowed Sergio Agüero down the Argentinian left, before showing him outside and winning the ball, quickly getting it up-field to Caprari. He found Alessandro Florenzi who hit the goal line before sending a ball across the six-yard box for Giuseppe Rossi to slot home at the far post to open the scoring.

Italy had a chance to go into the break two-up when they caught Argentina on a counter in the final minute of the first-half. As they broke forwards, Silvestre’s challenge on Florenzi only played the ball into the path of Forestieri who beat Velázquez for pace but hit the post when one-on-one with Sergio Romero.

Within three minutes of the interval, they had the second to seal it. Marco Faraoni got away from Marcos Rojo down the right and whipped a low ball into the near post where Gianluca Caprari flicked it goalwards and past the outstretched arm of Romero. Italy saw the game out and go through to Sunday’s final against Spain, six years after they met in the Euro 2012 Final.

Argentina will play Brazil for 3rd on Saturday in St Petersburg. In qualifying for Russia, Brazil won 2-1 in Buenos Aires back in November 2015 while Argentina won the return fixture 2-0 in São Paulo in January last year.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: SEMI-FINAL
                        ITALY 2-0 ARGENTINA
                     Rossi 28
                   Caprari 48

                       Astori     Zuculini
                    Marchisio     Silvestre
                      Faraoni     Gamboa

World Cup Semi-Final: Holders Go Out to Spain

A first-half brace from Fernando Llorente helped extend Spain extend their unbeaten run to fifteen matches and gained revenge for their quarter-final exit four years ago to Brazil, as the holders were beaten in St. Petersburg with two defensive mishaps contributing to their downfall.

Brazil restored Dedé back to the starting XI in place of Diego Munhoz in their only change from the 2-0 win over Colombia, while Spain made four changes from their extra-time win over England: César Azpilicueta, Rúben Pardo, Andréas Iniesta and Fernando Llorente came in to replace Victor Ruíz, Cesc Fabregas, Juan Mata, and Rodrigo.

Spain were ahead with just 130 seconds on the clock at the Gazprom Arena, when Azpilicueta launched a long throw in towards Pardo on the edge of the six-yard box. Brazil ‘keeper Rafael didn’t come to claim, and amidst the confusion it was Marcelo who got the fateful final touch and diverted it into his own goal – just the third of the tournament.

It was a lead that didn’t last long, as less than two minutes from the restart, a neat ball from Lucas Leiva was played in towards Leandro Damião who had his back to goal on the edge of the ‘D’. He turned, held off Álvaro Domínguez, and slammed into the top corner from just inside the box for an instant leveller.

Quarter of an hour later, Marcelo once again was involved in Spain taking the lead. He shadowed Jesús Navas down the right before the Spaniard crossed from the goal line. The delivery was cleared but only as far as Iniesta whose shot from 20 yards was parried. Fernando Llorente slotted home the rebound as arms went up in unison towards the assistant referee, but it was Marcelo’s ambling back who played everyone onside.

Things went from bad to worse for Brazil just 90 seconds later. Kicking-off and comfortably passing the ball between them, and starting to push forwards, under no pressure at all Sandro’s ball to Tolói was under-hit and Fernando Llorente stole the ball inside the centre-circle. He had just Dedé to beat for pace before he rounded Rafael and slotted home a third.

With three-quarters of the game still to play, Brazil were done. They briefly rallied in the final 25 minutes but Ramos and Pique were equal to everything thrown at them, and Casillas was largely untroubled.

Spain head to Moscow on Sunday to play the winners between Italy and Argentina. Curiously, Brazil’s first match after the World Cup will be a friendly against Spain in Seville on 15 August.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: SEMI-FINAL
                        SPAIN 3-1 BRAZIL
                 Marcelo og 3     Damião 5
              Llorente 20, 22

World Cup Quarter-Final: Argentina 1-0 Chile

Argentina are through to the semi-finals after a fiery 1-0 win over a Chile side that finished the game with ten men after Gary Medel’s late dismissal. Stegman’s goal put Argentina into the final four, which on the two previous times they’ve been there, they went on to lift the trophy (1978 and ’86).

Seven players had already gone in the book when 21-year old Boca Juniors midfielder Miguel Ángel Stegman, on as a half-time substitute for Lucas Ocampos, got on the end of Fidalgo’s low ball across the six-yard box to put Argentina in front on his 20th appearance for his country.

There was enough time left in the remaining thirteen minutes for the yellow card count to reach ten including a second of the night for Chilean midfielder Gary Medel when he tripped Paulo Gamboa right in front of the Italian referee in the middle of the park. Gamboa and team-mate Franco Zuculini will both be suspended for Argentina’s semi-final against Italy on Wednesday.

                    ARGENTINA 1-0 CHILE
                   Stegman 77     Medel s/off 85

                       Gamboa     Medel
                      Stegman     Vidal
                   Mascherano     Carmona
                         Rojo     Andía