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

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

Spain Beat England in Extra-Time QF Clash

Jordi Alba’s goal in the first period of extra-time saw Spain beat England in Moscow tonight in the seventh tournament meeting between the two nations. Manchester United striker Rodrigo opened the scoring for Spain before his club team-mate Wayne Rooney levelled after the break.

It took until ten minutes before half-time for either side to make a breakthrough, and it came in favour of Spain when Rodrigo gave Smalling and Baines the slip to collect a lovely ball through the English defence by Fabregas, taking a touch then poking past Hart from close range.

Five minutes after the break, England levelled when a corner was worked back into the box by Wilshere. Wayne Rooney had time and the strength to bring the ball down, hold-off the challenge from Victor Ruiz, turn and drill low past Casillas from twelve yards out.

Both sides pushed for a winner in normal time, with Hart reacting well to push a Llorente shot on to the post, before Huddlestone had a 30-yarder tipped over the bar in one of the saves of the tournament so far.

The Russian referee was surrounded by Spanish players and urged to check VAR when Rooney and Ramos clashed inside the final five minutes, with the England forward giving Ramos a shove in the chest but nothing more came of it other than a stern dressing-down for both parties.

England thought they’d won it in the 88th minute from a corner. Milner sent the delivery to the back post for Henderson to nod back down across goal. Phil Jones got a faint touch on it and sent the ball goalwards but Thiago was on hand to clear away with the officials indicating that the whole of the ball hadn’t crossed the line.

Twelve minutes into extra-time came the winner. Fabregas found Jordi Alba on the left and the Barcelona man cut inside with the ball, left Wilshere for dead before putting Kyle Walker onto his wrong foot and slotting low past Hart. Spain will play the winners between Brazil and Colombia.

                        SPAIN 2-1 ENGLAND (aet)
                   Rodrigo 35     Rooney 59
                     Alba 102

                     Llorente     Rooney

World Cup Last 16: Germany 0-1 Spain

Jordi Alba’s goal on the stroke of half-time was enough to book Spain’s place in the quarter-finals, but only after Germany saw the officials rule out two goals and had a penalty saved in St Petersburg this afternoon. Spain will play the winners of tomorrow’s Ghana v. England clash.

Germany made five changes from the side that drew with Ireland: In came Schwaab, Boateng, Goretzka, Draxler and Gómez to replace Lahm, Holtby, Schmelzer, Götze and Schürrle. Just one Spanish change from their win over Serbia: Andrés Iniesta replacing the suspended Thiago.

Iniesta’s match lasted less than five minutes as he fell awkwardly in a challenge with Marco Reus and after trying to run the injury off, was replaced by José Enrique. Shortly after, with Spain reorganising in midfield, Germany had goal celebrations cut short.

Jerome Boateng sent a deep, long ball forward into the box for Mario Gómez who got on the end of the delivery at the same time as Iker Casillas and sent the ball, himself and the Spanish goalkeeper into the back of the net, with the Italian officials ruling it out.

On 20 minutes, the referee was on centre-stage again when he pointed to the spot when Reus and Enrique tangled by the goal-line after Casillas saved a 20-yard effort by Julian Draxler. While there was certainly contact, it looked 50:50 at worst. Nevertheless, VAR agreed with the man in the middle.

Toni Kroos had the responsibility, and put it at perfect height for Casillas who dived to his left and pushed the spotkick away. Reus and Enrique once again tangled for the loose ball but all that was given was a throw-in. Five minutes later and Gómez challenged Casillas in the air to head home a Reus free-kick lofted into the six-yard box, but referee Paolo Tagliavento’s whistle once again sounded to disallow it.

It took Spain until the 36th minute to register a shot at Manuel Neuer’s goal, but Enrique’s effort was well wide when he had time to take another touch and test the German ‘keeper one-on-one.

In the final first-half minute, the decisive blow was finally struck. Victor Ruiz’s great challenge on a full-flight Draxler won the ball back for Spain and Rodrigo collected it on the right flank. Skipping past a challenge from Boateng and doing Sebastian Rode for pace, he whipped a delivery across the face of goal for Jordi Alba to volley home at the far post.

After the break, with challenges flying in from both sides and seven yellow cards being show, Reus and Gómez both came close in the closing moments to snatch an equaliser that never came.

                      GERMANY 0-1 SPAIN
               Kroos m/pen 21     Alba 45

                        Gómez     Mata
                         Rode     Alba
                         Reus     Enrique

World Cup: Spain Win, Korea Stun Uruguay (A)

A first-half penalty won it for South Korea in St Petersburg to see them progress at the expense of their opponents Uruguay who had started the day top of the group. Spain’s comfortable 2-1 win over already-eliminated Serbia put them top of Group A.

Two unchanged sides lined-up against each other today in St Petersburg with the winners knowing they’d claim a spot in the second round. Park Chu-Young led the Korean line having scored in both matches so far, against a Uruguay side yet to concede.

Uruguay came closest early on when Nicolás Lodeiro crashed a 20-yard free-kick against the crossbar with Luis Suárez a whisker away from connecting with the rebound inside the six-yard box. Fifteen minutes later came the chance South Korea were looking for.

Villarreal man Ku Ja-Cheol floated a corner in to the box, Kim Ki-Hee tangled with Uruguayan defender Leandro Cabrera, and the Russian referee pointed to the spot. Up-stepped Lee Tae-Goon® who lashed it into the top right high above the outstretched palm of Fernando Muslera in the 36th minute.

Korea had a glorious chance to add a second in the 68th minute when Son Heung-Min was played through but his shot was saved one-on-one by Muslera and as Park Chu-Young walloped the loose ball towards goal, Ismael Gérez® got enough of a block on it to allow Muslera to claim.

As it stood, scores elsewhere were irrelevant and South Korea held out for the 1-0 win. They’ll meet the Group B winners in Makhachkala on Saturday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP A (3)
                  SOUTH KOREA 1-0 URUGUAY
                TG Lee pen 36
                        JC Ku     Pereira
                       BK Kim

Just one change for Spain after their win over Uruguay, with Víctor Ruiz taking Javi Martínez’s spot. Serbia made a trio of changes with Slobodan Medojevic, Bojan Malinic® and Zoran Tosic all coming in to the starting XI erplacing of Dusan Tadic, Aleksandar Ignjovski and Zdravko Kuzmanovic.

A point would be enough for progression to the last sixteen, but Spain started the game after a win to have the best chance of winning the group. It only took ten minutes for them to open the scoring when Rodrigo forced the ball home from close range following good play from Thiago to work the ball across the face of goal.

Thiago was in sublime form all day for Spain, and his diving header crashing against the bar on 20 minutes when he really should have scored. Three minutes later Rodrigo slammed a shot from ten yards out against the same spot from another Juan Mata cross as Serbia were on the ropes.

On the half-hour, Spain got the second they deserved. Thiago and Mata were involved again, with the Chelsea midfielder pulling the ball back for Jordi Alba to rifle into the top corner from fifteen yards out for 2-0. Navas and Mata came off at the break for Spain as they looked to rest legs, confident of a spot in the second round.

The second-half was just 27 seconds old when Rodrigo went down in the box under a challenge from Maksimovic, but the Italian referee wasn’t convinced and Rodrigo saw yellow for simulation. Spain eased off the gas a little as both sides made changes, and were dealt a blow with ten minutes to go as Thiago was also booked, meaning he’ll miss their second round match.

A minute later Thiago took his frustrations out on the ball as Spain won a free-kick 22 yards out. Thiago thundered it against the crossbar, which was probably still rattling by the time Serbia went up the other end and pulled a goal back.

Krasic twice evaded Alba down Serbia’s right and sent a deep cross to Tosic at the far post. He headed it back across the six-yard box where substitute Marko Obradovic stole in ahead of his man to nod home a consolation. That’s how it finished, and Spain will play the Group B runners-up in St Petersburg on Saturday.

                  FIFA WORLD CUP: GROUP A (3)
                        SPAIN 2-1 SERBIA
                   Rodrigo 11     Obradovic 83
                      Alba 31
                      Rodrigo     Malinic
                       Thiago     Medojevic

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