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


World Cup Group B: Matchday Two Review

Australia and Germany both have one foot in the last sixteen after they split the points in a 1-1 draw in Nizhniy Novgorod today, leaving them both on four points. Morocco and Ireland drew in Moscow for their first point each, meaning either needs a win and a four-goal swing next week.

Two changes for Morocco following their 1-4 defeat by Germany, with the most notable being a change in goal as 23-year old Zakaria Saïdi® replaced Ismaïl Kouha. Aït Fana also came in for Boussoufa upfront. Just one change for Ireland with Aidan White a straight swap for Stephen Ward at left-back.

Morocco took the lead after ten minutes on a counter attack when Kantari cleared a Shane long ball into the box. El Kaoutari attacked with pace on the break and found El Adoua. One touch to Belhanda who slotted through to Marouane Chamakh who took it first time on his left to drill low past Meara and in-off the far post.

Ireland’s equaliser came midway through the second-half when Shane Long brought down Murray’s cross into the box, rounded Saïdi and tucked home from close range. A draw was a fair result, but does neither side many favours ahead of their final fixtures on Tuesday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP B (2)
                      MOROCCO 1-1 REP.IRELAND
                   Chamakh 11     Long 65
                      Carcela     Cox
                      Chamakh     Pearce

Germany dominated against a resilient Australian side with 63% possession and over double the amount of shots, but had their early penalty were pegged back by a Rhys Williams goal to share the points. If either side avoids defeat next week, a place in the last sixteen awaits.

Australia survived a booking for Rhys Williams after just 30 seconds when he had a handful of Sebastian Rode’s shirt much to the disapproval of English referee Clattenburg. Just before the 20 minute mark, Clattenburg upset the Socceroos again when he pointed to the spot.

Rhys Williams was involved again as he tripped Rode in the box as the Frankfurt midfielder ran onto Götze’s through-ball. Williams somehow escaped a second yellow, but André Schürrle slammed the penalty into the top corner for his 20th international goal to give Germany the lead.

Right before the hour, Australia scored the goal to earn themselves a point, and it was Rhys Williams involved again. Luca Mavromatis® did all the leg work, bringing the ball forward 40 yards with little resistance before firing a shot at Manuel Neuer. The Bayern Munich ‘keeper got his hands to it but it was parried to Williams who had time to steady himself before slotting home.

Germany play Ireland on Tuesday in Moscow. Australia will face Morocco in Rostov.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP B (2)
                    AUSTRALIA 1-1 GERMANY
             Rhys Williams 59     Schürrle pen 19
                Rhys Williams
                Ryan Williams

World Cup Group A: Matchday Two Review

Uruguay and Spain kept their destiny in their own hands after the held each other in a stalemate in Rostov today, with Serbia eliminated after they lost 1-2 to South Korea in Kazan. Uruguay made just the one change from the 3-0 win over Serbia, with Lodeiro replacing Guerra in midfield.

Spain made three changes from the side who beat South Korea 2-1 last week, as Jordi Alba, Rubén Pardo and Jesús Navas replaced José Enrique, the injured Andreas Iniesta and Fernando Llorente respectively.

The European side just about edged it on balance of possession and chances, but in truth it was a game where both defences stood firm and resisted everything thrown at them. Botafogo midfielder Nicolás Lodeiro came closest to winning it for Uruguay, but Casillas reacted to tip his header round the post.

The 0-0 draw puts the sides in the top two spots on four points each, with Uruguay ahead on goal difference. At least one of them will progress to the last sixteen, and both will if they avoid defeat on matchday three.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP A (2)
                        SPAIN 0-0 URUGUAY                     
                       Thiago     Cavani
                         Alba     Suárez
                     Martínez     Pereira

Serbia made three changes from their defeat to Uruguay, with Pejcinovic in for Ivanovic as one of three at the back, Krasic replacing the injured Dimcic, and Sulejmani up front for Obradovic. One change in personnel for South Korea as Kang came in for injured defender Lee, going from 3-5-2 to 4-4-2.

A controversial early penalty rattled Serbia, and earned manager Sinisa Mihajlovic a trip to the stands in their 1-2 defeat by a South Korea side who know a win against Spain would book them a spot in the Second Round.

Italian referee Riccardo Di Fiore pointed to the spot with just six minutes played in Kazan when Neven Subotic bundled over Ku Ja-Cheol during a scramble in the six-yard box after Maksimovic cleared a header off the line. Lee Tae-Goon® calmly slotted home from the spot for his first goal in 32 caps.

The lead lasted just quarter of an hour before Lazar Markovic drilled home into the bottom corner from the edge of the area after being played in by Djuricic. Seven minutes later though, South Korea scored the eventual winner when Park Chu-Young nodded home from inside the six-yard box from BK Kim’s cross when Serbia didn’t clear a free-kick delivery into the area.

Matchday 3 sees South Korea meet Spain in Kazan, while Uruguay play Serbia in Moscow.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP A (2)
                       SERBIA 1-2 SOUTH KOREA
                  Markovic 23     TG Lee pen 7
                                  CY Park 30

World Cup, Day Six: Croatia 0-1 Mexico (H)

A stoppage time penalty at the end of the first-half was to take Mexico past Croatia in the final opening group match, meaning all 32 sides have now played at this summer’s World Cup. 25-year old Pumas UNAM striker Erick Torres converted for his 12th international goal.

Mexico’s competitive record now reads just one defeat and twelve wins over the past year as the CONCACAF Gold Cup winners beat their European opposition – ranked 6th in the world – in Volgograd tonight.

The match-defining moment came with the clock showing 45:23 as the fourth official had just finished indicating two additional minutes. Torres’s run to the edge of the box opened the Croatian defence, and he found Javier Hernández who was felled by Domagoj Vida.

Uzbek referee Irmatov pointed to the spot, and up-stepped Torres to send Blazevic the wrong way and Mexico went into the break with a goal advantage. They had the better of it in the second-half, and despite a late rally from Croatia to attempt to snatch a point through Rakitic and then Corluka, it remained 1-0.

Next up for Mexico are Scotland on Monday, with Croatia facing Colombia.

                    FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP H
                      CROATIA 0-1 MEXICO
                                  Torres pen 45+1
                     Vrsaljko     Esparza

World Cup, Day Six: Scotland 0-1 Colombia

Group H: Scotland’s first World Cup match in 20 years wasn’t a victorious one as Colombia got their campaign off to a winning start this afternoon in Samara courtesy of a first-half strike from 23-year old Internacional forward Alejandro Aparicio® in an otherwise even contest.

Both teams started the match cautiously, with the first effort on target with almost half-hour played providing the only goal of the game. A Colombian goal-kick was worked forward by Guarin and Carbonero, with the latter playing Aparicio through. His shot from the edge of the box was pushed away by Marshall, but Aparicio reacted quickest to slot home the loose ball.

Scotland twice tested Ospina before the break, but after the interval it was Colombia who tightened the screw, with Marshall called into action on five occasions but matched everything sent his way.

The final 20 minutes became a stop-start affair due to some niggly fouls and all six substitutions, and Scotland couldn’t find an equaliser amidst the broken-up play. They’ve got Mexico next, with Colombia due to face Croatia.

                    FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP H
                     SCOTLAND 0-1 COLOMBIA
                                  Aparicio 27

                        Berra     Aparicio
                      Forrest     Guarín

World Cup, Day Five: Austria 5-0 Costa Rica

Group F: Austria were absolutely rampant in a 5-0 demolition of Costa Rica in Makhachkala tonight, with ‘keeper Siebenhandl not required to make a single save. Not since Portugal’s 7-0 win over North Korea in 2010 had five different players scored for the same team in one match.

Despite the goalfest, it took until eight minutes before the interval for Austria to make the breakthrough. Christian Fuchs found David Alaba from a long punt upfield and the left-back outpaced Esteban Armijo before being hauled down in the box. Alaba took it himself but his tame penalty was saved by Keylor Navas, however Martin Harnik was quickest to react and slotted home the rebound.

Two goals in two minutes shortly after the break saw Austria pull 3-0 ahead. First, Deni Alar found the bottom corner from 22 yards out as he ran onto Fuchs’ through ball, then within 120 seconds Fuchs himself bent a free-kick in to the top left from 20 yards.

Route one provided a fourth with a little over 20 minutes to play when Alaba got on the end of a long ball from the ‘keeper, beating his man and drilling it into the top corner, and substitute Valentino Lazaro rounded off the scoring just four minutes after coming on. Alar knocked down Jonathan Schmid’s cross into the box, and Lazaro swept home from twelve yards out.

Next up for Austria are Brazil on Sunday, while Costa Rica face Slovakia.

                    FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP F
                      AUSTRIA 5-0 COSTA RICA
                    Harnik 37
                      Alar 52
                     Fuchs 54
                     Alaba 69
                    Lazaro 72
             (Alaba m/pen 37)

                       Kavlak     Montoya