Belgium all but sealed their place in the last 16 after a thumping 5-2 victory over Tunisia, with both Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku netting braces.
Roberto Martinez’s side got off to the perfect start, with Hazard converting from the penalty spot after he had been felled in the box by Syam Ben Youssef.
10 minutes later, the Belgians doubled their advantage, this time courtesy of Lukaku who fired home after Dries Martens pinched the ball off Ali Maaloul.
However, Tunisia hit back soon after, with Dylan Bronn scoring from a Wahbi Khazri free-kick.
Just before the break, Lukaku nabbed his second of the game, this time via a cool dinked finish.
The Belgians were simply too good for their north African opponents and early in the second period, Hazard made it 4-1, latching on to a Toby Alderweireld pass before rounding ‘keeper Ben Mustapha and slotting home.
Hazard’s Chelsea team-mate, Michy Batshuayi, came off the bench on 68 minutes, and had an eventful afternoon, hitting the bar (courtesy of a dreadful miss) and seeing another effort cleared off the line before finally getting on the score-sheet in injury-time after a superb cross from Youri Tielemans.
There was still time for Tunisia to net again, with Sunderland playmaker Khazri scoring from a Hamdi Nagguez centre.
The game wound end in a deserved 5-2 victory for the potent Belgians, who are in pole position to top Group G, courtesy of their eight-goal haul across their first two games.
After the break, the Swiss rallied with Arsenal midfielder Xhaka scoring a belter to level the scores on 52 minutes.
Serbia were unlucky not to win a penalty when Mitrovic was wrestled by, not one, but two defenders in the Swiss box. However, even with VAR in operation, the Serbs’ justified protests were somehow ignored by the officials.
Then, at the death, Stoke winger Shaqiri scored a superb solo goal, dribbling from the half-way line before firing past goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic.
As with Xhaka, Shaqiri celebrated the goal by making the double eagle celebration, a nod to their Albanian origins, something which would incense the Serbs.
In the aftermath of the game, the Serbian press condemned Xhaka, whose father was imprisoned by Yugoslavia for pro-Kosovan protests, and Shaqiri for their ‘provocative’ gestures which put the still raw political tensions of the Balkans very much in the spotlight in Russia.
Aside from the political fallout, Switzerland look a decent outfit and one capable of giving anyone a game this summer.
VAR was finally implemented to catch out a diver at the World Cup today, specifically during Brazil’s Group E match against Costa Rica.
No prizes for guessing that Neymar was at the centre of the feeble penalty call in question, with the forward conning a spot-kick by simply screaming and sitting down in the penalty area (but only after striking a dramatic ‘Christ the Redeemer’ pose).
Initially, Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers adjudged that Giancarlo Gonzalez’s minor grab at Neymar’s shirt as the two players brushed past one another was substantial enough to warrant a penalty.
However, a review was called for and sure enough, Kuipers overturned his decision after seeing it again on the pitchside screen – thus robbing Neymar of his ill-gotten gains…
Excellent stuff. Couldn’t have happened to a bigger pipsqueak.
After spending 90 minutes going round in circles, Brazil finally got their backsides in gear beyond the 90-minute mark, when a goal apiece from Philippe Coutinho and Neymar saw them snatch a barely-deserved 2-0 victory.
Argentina’s World Cup hopes lie pretty much dead and buried following their 3-0 defeat to Croatia – so much so, in fact, that one TV station decided to hold a mock funeral in the wake of the loss.
There was a sombre atmosphere to post-match proceedings in the studio of Argentinian broadcasters TyC Sports, with the channel’s presenter and pundits holding an actual proper minute’s silence to express their sadness.
For 60 painfully awkward seconds, the six mourners stood in silence, doing their level best to look respectful and maintain the super-serious nature of the situation.
It quickly became clear that several of the studio guests aren’t entirely serious about the absurd requiem, which it should be noted was being held before Argentina have even been knocked out of the competition.
The Albiceleste still have a mathematical chance of making it to the knockout phase of the competition going into their final group game with Nigeria.
They also reached the last final, but that was four years ago so obviously doesn’t count.
Over three decades on from that fateful afternoon at the Azteca, Peter Shilton refuses to even budge on his unrelenting loathing for Diego Maradona – the man who bested him by foul means at the 1986 World Cup.
On 22nd June of that year, Maradona infamously used his divine appendage to beat Shilton to a high ball and put Argentina 1-0 up over England, eventually sending the Three Lions out at the quarter-final stage on a wave of blood, sweat, tears and righteous indignation.
Funny then, that on the 32nd anniversary of the Hand of God, Maradona should find himself distraught and despondent over Argentina’s embarrassing performance in their 3-0 defeat against Croatia at the 2018 World Cup.
Of course, Shilton, the man who has harboured a deep personal vendetta against Maradona since they crossed flight paths in Mexico City, couldn’t resist the urge to weigh in with some heavy karmic chide…
God was looking down on me this morning! Having watched the worst football Argentina has played in a World Cup on the eve before the anniversary of the hand of god incident pic.twitter.com/6HFxJYIKMT
The interminable ‘Lionel Messi versus Cristiano Ronaldo’ debate is one of modern football’s most tedious, with both players’ respective greatness now defined, revised and redefined/denounced every passing 90 minutes.
While it’s perfectly acceptable to prefer one to the other, true pilgrims know and accept that both players are exceptional; different, but exceptional nonetheless.
Spanish radio station Partidazo de COPE have happened across a snippet of leaked audio which they assert to be a conversation between Simeone and Mono Burgos, his right-hand man at Atleti, conducted in which the former firmly nails his colours to the Ronaldo mast.
Audio del Cholo Simeone to ‘ Mono ‘ Burgos: “Messi is good but because it is accompanied by extraordinary footballers. For a normal team, think Germán… Messi or Christian? Who would you choose? ”
Audio del Cholo Simeone al ‘Mono’ Burgos:
“Messi es bueno pero porque está acompañado de extraordinarios futbolistas. Para un equipo normal, piénsalo Germán… ¿Messi o Cristiano? ¿A quién elegirías?” pic.twitter.com/xdXpl28gs3
It was never going to be pretty, but rumours emanating from the local press paints a picture of full-scale mutiny in the Argentina World Cup camp.
The Albiceleste find themselves on the very verge of elimination after capitulating against Croatia in their second group game, slumping to a wretched 3-0 defeat in Nizhny Novgorod.
It would appear that the blame is being squarely laid at the feet of coach Jorge Sampaoli, who even resorted to the unedifying spectacle of begging fans to forgive him in the direct aftermath of the match.
I would beg for their forgiveness, especially those who made such a great effort to be here. And I repeat what I said, I’m responsible. I was just as dreamy-eyed as any fan before.
So I’m hurt. I did the best job I could and I quite simply did not find a way to give them what they wanted.
Sampaoli also claimed that Argentina were “mentally broken” by the result and that his talisman, Lionel Messi, had his brilliance “clouded by the reality” of the rest of the team.
Later on Thursday evening, Argentinian television channel Todo Noticias claimed that the squad banded together and asked that Sampaoli step aside for the third and final group match against Nigeria.
According to the station’s anonymous source, Sampaoli may have even accepted the request with Jorge Burruchaga set to take the reigns, though rival broadcasters TyC Sports seem a little less certain…
Despite claims on here, TyC are not claiming players have asked Jorge Sampaoli be sacked before Nigeria game. It mightn’t be the worst idea but TyC actually say the opposite
Argentina found themselves on the wrong end of a 3-0 defeat to Croatia on Thursday, a result which leaves their World Cup survival in the balance.
Both sides had chances to score in the first half, with Mario Mandzukic heading wide from close range and Enzo Perez firing wide when presented with an (almost) open goal.
After the break, the shaky Argentinians eventually conceded after a dreadful error from Willy Caballero, with the Chelsea reserve ‘keeper misjudging a unnecessarily deft pass that set up Ante Rebic to volley home.
In the second half, Argentina boss Jorge Sampaoli sent on Paulo Dybala, Gonzalo Higuain and Cristian Pavón to get his side back into the game.
RB Leipzing have confirmed that Julian Nagelsmann will be their new head coach, but only after the culmination of the 2018/19 season.
Nagelsmann will remain in charge at Hoffenheim for one last season, where he famously became youngest manager in Bundesliga history (largely out of necessity) when he assumed control of the first team in February 2016, aged just 28.
1899 were wallowing down in 17th on that day, but went on to deliver themselves from relegation thanks to the fresh impetus afforded to them by their budding coach.
Since then, the club have finished 4th and 3rd under his inspired, progressive tutelage.
Having already been linked heavily with Bayern Munich, Arsenal and Borussia Dortmund, it’s been announced this afternoon that Nagelsmann will continue his prolific progression with cash-rich Leipzig, who, for the record, finished sixth in the German top flight last season.
Nagelsmann has agreed a four-year contract at Leipzig, which will begin after he has led Hoffenheim into the Champions League for the very first time.
The 30-year-old is under contract at his current club until June 2021, but facilitated the move to Leipzig by triggering a release clause that lies therein.
Speaking to the Hoffenheim website, Nagelsmann explained the situation:
It was important to me to ensure clear conditions.
I owe it to Hoffenheim and all of its employees, as well as to the team and the fans, in a historic season in which we are competing in the Champions League for the first time, not to have constant assumptions about me and my future.
Now everyone knows and we can focus professionally on the upcoming, difficult tasks.
Everyone knows that I will be burning and doing everything I can to reach our ambitious goals until the last hour of my commitment to Hoffenheim.
Say what you like about Leipzig and their swollen corporate bankrolling, but By ‘Eck is this a smart piece of business on their part.
Speaking to the press at Germany’s World Cup training camp, Sami Khedira showed some fleet mental footwork (should such a thing exist) to evade a cheeky ruse from a Swedish journalist.
During a media session in Vatutinki on Thursday afternoon, Expressen reporter Ludvig Holmberg attempted to lure Khedira in by offering both him and his Mannschaft teammates early plane tickets home from the World Cup.
Germany suffered a shock defeat against Mexico in their opening Group F tie, with the reigning champions now set to face Sweden in a make-or-break second outing.
“When you lose against Sweden on Saturday, you’re already on your way home so I have some boarding passes for you and your teammates,” came Holmberg’s opening gambit.
However, Khedira was more than prepared for battle and sure enough the Juventus midfielder quickly snuffed out the danger with devastating politeness…
“Thank you, but we won’t need them. We think we can win this game,” came Khedira’s response.
“Maybe you’ll need them after the game instead?” said Holmberg, once again trying to slot the joke home on the rebound.
However, Khedira refused to let the punchline cross the line, replying “I think we’ll need them on the 16th July (the day after the World Cup final),” before walking off.
Bit of a painful outcome for the boy Ludvig, but we’re sure he’ll be able to run it off eventually.
As you can well see, the home shirt features a charming lion motif while the away is entirely dedicated to the city’s architecture, including the cathedral and the railway bridge across the Yenisei – a UNESCO heritage site, no less.
(HOME) Lions are dangerous and single-handed, but when there are many, no force can resist their pressure. A lion never allows himself to be fed up with old successes.
Every day for him – a new challenge, a new pursuit of a dream. We are not going to be content with former victories, and we: the first season in the Premier League awakens new aspirations in us.
(AWAY) We cherish in our hearts the memory of what city we represent. The new form is not only an opportunity to share our pride in Krasnoyarsk with fans and rivals, but also an additional responsibility for everyone who will at least once come out on the field.
One looks like a child’s bedspread and the other looks like a souvenir tea-towel and we’re totally okay with both.
In fact, we’re even tempted to submit a bulk pre-order.
1. The competition is open to all Pies readers worldwide.
2. The competition closes at midnight (BST) on Friday 29th June, 2018.
3. Only one entry per household and/or email address is allowed. Any duplicates will be ignored. Entries sent in through agents or third parties will be disqualified. Late, incomplete or otherwise ineligible entries will be disqualified.
4. The winner will be selected at random from all correct answers and notified by email as soon as possible.
Burger King have apologised and rescinded a promotion in which the fast food chain offered free burgers to Russian women who successfully manage to get pregnant by World Cup footballers.
The scarcely believable offer saw Burger King willing to hand over a “lifetime supply of Whoppers” to any woman who became impregnanted by anybody playing at the World Cup during the tournament.
Of course, the promo was panned from the moment it was announced, with critics branding it “sexist” and “demeaning” – as well as being utterly, utterly lecherous and insanely immoral.
Image: Burger King Russia
The offer promised to reward women who managed to acquire “the best football genes” that would “ensure the success of the Russia team for generations to come” with as many Whopper burgers as they could eat in their lifetime.
All trace of the offer was removed from Burger King’s social media accounts earlier this week, with the company issuing an apology via the VKontakte television network.
We offer apologies for the announcement we made. It was too offensive.
Roy Keane has once again been speaking his bleak, hostile mind, this time fondly recalling the time he spent with Carlos Queiroz, his former assistant manager at Manchester United.
While watching Queiroz’s Iran side lose out to Spain as a pundit for ITV, Keane was asked for insight into the Portuguese’s coaching style.
The former responded with a terse and predictably violent anecdote in which he entailed the biggest regret he holds from the pair’s two spells working together – not ripping Queiroz’s head off when he had the chance…
Good coach though.
Pies’ can only speculate as to how many people from Keane’s past he feels the specific regret of not injuring them fatally applies to. Most? All?
Some may be amused by the curmudgeon act on the pundit sofa, but good grief does the permanent sullen demeanour start to grate after a while.
Spain may have (just) emerged victorious come the final whistle, but it was Iran who provided the true highlight of the Group B tie between the two sides, and maybe of the entire World Cup to date.
With time sapping away and Iran advancing up the left flank, Milad Mohammadi lined up the old Steve Howey special: a front-flip throw-in into the Spain box, complete with a little kiss for the ball.
However, a split second before launch, the left-back was suddenly hit by the realisation that this probably wasn’t the right time for such outlandishness and aborted the manoeuvre altogether, leading to a wonderful sheepish backtrack…
Man, if you can’t enjoy that on repeat for a good solid few hours, then apologies but you’re not a proper football fan.
As for the match, a single ricochet off Diego Costa’s inadvertent knee was enough to snare his side the win, though it was about as unconvincing as it gets.
Iran employed a staggering amount of spoiler tactics for the entire duration of the evening and even had a goal disallowed by VAR, but just fell short against a Spain team that once again looked a long way off being potential tournament winners.
A single Cristiano Ronaldo goal after four minutes was enough to oust Morocco from the World Cup, with the North African side trying hard but ultimately failing to make their dominant display at the Luzhniki Stadium count for anything.
As the game drew on and Herve Renard’s team turned the screw in an increasingly desperate search of an equaliser, it should come as little surprise that good old Pepe resorted to his usual loathsome tactics to counteract the pressure and siphon away the time.
Amid a crowded box, the Portuguese defender tangled with opposite number Medhi Benatia, leading to the former hitting the deck in spectacular fashion after being tapped on the shoulder…
The problems began two months ago, after a planned shutdown of ammonia plants for maintenance work. C02 is a by-product of ammonia production, with plants like these serving as the primary source for the gas.
It got worse when further plants were closed as a result of “technical issues”.
CO2 plays a crucial role in the canning and bottling of beer and is also used in draft beer taps too.
The gas is also commonly used in slaughterhouses to stun and kill animals. So, no gas means no quarter-pounders or steaks.
Football fans probably won’t be too worried though.
As Jeff Goldblum says in Jurassic Park: “life finds a way” – even if that “way” involves drinking paint thinner to stay buzzed.
Alan Sugar, a member of the House of Lords, has brought yet another wave of consternation and hostility his way by sharing a truly awful, racist ‘joke’ about the Senegal World Cup team.
The following tweet was posted and then hastily deleted on Sugar’s account on Wednesday morning, the day after Senegal beat Poland in their opening match.
Sugar felt that spark of inspiration, opened Twitter, prodded at the screen with his grubby thumbs and committed this utter abomination unto the world. A truly astounding thought process.
Obviously, swathes of folk began admonishing Sugar within an instant, leading the 71-year-old to inexplicably defend the ‘joke’, explaining he thought it to be simply a bit of “fun” but that he’d removed it if people found it offensive.
Lo and behold, a few minutes later, the original Tweet was deleted, with Sugar doubtlessly still unable to see what he did wrong. He was only having a laugh, after all.
Good grief. The man is an imbecile. Once a dim spiv, always a dim spiv.
While we’re on the subject of Senegal and racism, we heartily recommend Zito Madu’s (@_Zeets) rather excellent article for SB Nation examining the weighted language repeatedly used to describe black and African football teams and players.
It goes a long way toward explaining precisely what the problem (still) is.
After watching their side get off to a winning start against Poland, Senegal fans put a temporary halt to the celebrations by staying behind after the final whistle to help tidy up their section of the terrace at the Otkrytiye Arena in Moscow.
Several diligent supporters were seen collecting the debris and organising it all into neat little piles for the stadium staff to dispose of…
Jack Wilshere has confirmed that he will leave Arsenal when his contract finishes at the end of June.
After holding talks with new Arsenal boss Unai Emery, the 26-year-old has decided to leave the club he joined back in 2001 at the tender age of nine.
Wilshere made the announcement on Instagram, saying:
Following a number of extensive conversations with those at the club, and in particular a recent meeting with the new manager, Unai Emery, I felt that I was ultimately left with little choice but to make the decision that I have due to purely footballing reasons.
My intention throughout these discussions has always been to remain an Arsenal player.
I have been on the books at Arsenal for 17 years and have always felt part of the fabric of the club.
Such was my desire to stay that I had in fact agreed to sign a financially reduced contract in order to commit my future to the club.
Last season, Wilshere made 29 starts under Arsene Wenger and looked to be finally rediscovering his form and fitness after a number of injury-strewn years.
However, the Stevenage-born schemer will now start the new season in someone else’s colours, with the likes of West Ham, Crystal Palace and Southampton all thought to be keen on the gifted player.
For your love, for your commitment and fighting spirit, for THAT Norwich goal, for the FA Cups, for the 2013/14 goal of the season, for the 2014/15 goal of the season, for the 197 appearances, for the 17 years and for just being you…
The first half was a disappointing affair, but soon after the break, the hosts took the lead, via a fluke own-goal from Ahmed Fathi, with the unlucky full-back losing his balance and diverting Roman Zobnin’s shot into his own net.
Russia were the better side throughout, and just before the hour-mark, the went 2-0 up with Denis Cheryshev netting his third goal of the competition after a slick team move.
Towering striker Artem Dzyuba made it 3-0 soon after, courtesy of a superbly deft solo effort that draws him level with Cristiano Ronaldo (three goals) in the Golden Boot stakes.
Egypt did their best to get back into the game and, on 73 minutes, Salah scored from the penalty spot after a VAR review rightly judged that he had been fouled in the box by Zobnin.
Unfortunately for Salah and co, they couldn’t build on that goal, with the hosts securing a deserved 3-1 victory.
That win all but sees the Russians qualify for the last 16, with their haul of eight goals scored the joint-most by a host nation in the opening two games of a World Cup finals.
Senegal weathered a late uprising to secure Africa’s first win at the 2018 World Cup with a 2-1 victory over an oddly listless Poland.
Marshalled by ex-captain Aliou Cisse, the only black coach at the tournament, Senegal took the lead mere minutes before half-time when Everton midfielder Idrissa Gueye drove a deflected shot in off Thiago Cionek’s legs.
Poland then proceeded to let the match pass by them as Adam Nawalka’s disjointed, lacklustre side idled along without imposing on Senegal in the slightest.
Robert Lewandowski, quiet and frustrated all game, did have a freekick repelled by Khadim N’Diaye, though the ‘keeper wasn’t really close to being beaten…
Sure enough, the Poles then sunk themselves even further into the mire on the hour when Grzegorz Krychowiak dropped a clanger in midfield that ultimately presented The Lions of Teranga (now that’s a fine nickname) with a gift of a second goal.
Indeed, Krychowiak let loose a sloppy back-pass that was gobbled up by Mbaye Niang, who dodged past the charging Wojciech Szczesny and walked the ball into the gaping maw of the Polish net.
In fairness to Krychowiak, he had been unaware of Niang’s loitering as the forward had only just been waved back onto the pitch by the referee.
Speaking of Niang, he’s now had one shot at a World Cup and used it to score his first ever international goal. Not a bad ratio.
Still… and let’s not let Szczesny off the hook either. Another goalkeeper who cannot resist the urge to come haring out upfield at a moment’s notice. Surely staying put in his goalmouth and forcing Niang to beat him properly would have been the correct decision in the circumstances?
Anyway, Poland and Krychowiak did manage to salvage a shred of dignity at the death when the PSG man met a deep freekick with a smart header to pull one back for the Poles in the 86th minute…
Sensing a shift in psychology, Poland then continued to push for an equaliser, showing the kind of zeal and creativity that had previously eluded them.
Ultimately, however, they were beaten by the whistle, thus beginning their World Cup campaign with a rather underwhelming result and performance.
Much more gumption will be required against Colombia and Japan if they hope to get out of the group.
As for Senegal, we think this GIF sums it all up quite nicely…
Many thanks to the wonderful Kelly Welles for that little belter!
With Unai Emery gearing up for his maiden season in charge, Arsenal have rejigged their first team coaching staff and announced the various choppages and changes today.
The biggest news is that Steve Bould has been retained as assistant head coach (a job he will share with Juan Carlos Carcedo), while Jens Lehmann has been bumped as goalkeeping coach after just one year in the role.
After learning of his fate, the German, who made over 150 appearances for the Gunners between 2003 and 2008, broadcast the news via Twitter with a very slightly vinegary message…
Japan became the very first Asian side to defeat South American opponents at a World Cup (in 18 games betwixt the two) by seeing off Colombia in Group H.
Truth be told, Los Cafeteros were derailed with less than three minutes on the clock, when Carlos Sanchez was shown the first red card of the tournament for heroically sacrificing himself to deny a clear goal-scoring opportunity with his hand.
According to Opta, Sanchez’s sending-off (02:56) has entered the record books as the second fastest in World Cup history, the first being Jose Alberto Batista’s ultra-quick dismissal for Uruguay against Scotland in 1986 (54 seconds).
Shinji Kagawa scored the resulting penalty to nudge the Blue Samarai into an early lead – a lead which lasted until the 39th minute, when Juan Quintero fooled everybody by rolling a deliciously cheeky freekick underneath the wall…
Rather amusingly, Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima spent the next couple of minutes wagging his finger and protesting that he’d kept Quintero’s effort out, despite the referee and the goal line technology having already confirmed otherwise.
The second half was a more pedestrian affair, as Colombia contended with their numerical disadvantage and left Radamel Falcao hopelessly isolated up front on his own.
Despite an odd lack of intensity, Japan kept the pressure on as their opponents began flagging and finally forced themselves a historic winning goal in the 73rd minute when Yuya Osaka got his head on Keisuke Honda’s corner…
So that puts Japan, who only changed their manager 70 days ago, in pole position in the group standings with Poland and Senegal yet to play.
Given their solidarity at the back and fair goal-scoring threat going forward, it looks, at least for the time being, like they might just be able to scrape through.
If Cristiano Ronaldo ever extends an invite to drop round for a bit of lunch, just politely pass on the opportunity.
That’s the considered advice of Patrice Evra, Ronaldo’s former teammate at Manchester United, who made the mistake of accepting the Portuguese forwards’s kind offer back in the day and very soon came to regret his decision.
Speaking on ITV Sport’s World Cup podcast, Evra opened up about what ended up being the worst lunch break in the world.
When Cristiano invites you for lunch at his house, just say no.
He [Ronaldo] said, ‘Patrice, come over after training.’ I went, you know I was really tired, [and] at the table there was only salad and plain white chicken so I was like, ‘Okay’, and water, not any juice and we started eating and I was thinking some big meat would be coming after that but there was nothing.
He just finished and he stood up and he started playing with a ball, doing some skills and he said, ‘Let’s do some two-touch.’
Plain chicken and foliage? Hast thou not got anything moist?
Anyway, the French left-back continued his anecdote with a subtle note of indignation in his voice:
I was like, ‘can I just finish eating?’
‘No, no let’s play two-touch,’ we start playing two-touch. After that he said let’s go to the pool to swim, I was like okay… after going in the jacuzzi, the sauna, I’m done.
I say, ‘Cristiano why have we come here, have we come here because we have a game tomorrow, or just for lunch?’
So that’s why I would recommend to anyone when Cristiano invite you to his house, don’t go – just say no because this guy, he’s a machine, he doesn’t want to stop training.
Evra also shed a little light on Ronaldo’s infamous competitive streak, centred around a seismic shifting of power within the table tennis hierarchy at United:
With Rio Ferdinand, they were playing table tennis and Rio beat him [Ronaldo], and we were all screaming and Ronaldo was so upset.
Then he sent his cousin to buy a tennis table, he trained for two weeks at home and he came back and he beat Rio in front of everyone.
So that’s Cristiano Ronaldo, so that’s why I’m not surprised today why he wants to win another golden ball, why he wants to win the World Cup.
He may be an unstoppable goal-scoring juggernaut of a striker these days, but it wasn’t very long ago that Harry Kane was struggling to convince anybody that he was going to be able to cut it at the tippy top level.
To that end, Rafael van der Vaart has shared his first impressions of Kane upon seeing the youngster training at Tottenham for the first time way back when.
Spoken with genuine fondness and admiration, the Dutchman freely admits he thought Kane was a bit… well, a bit shit.
Arsenal are on the cusp of clinching themselves a new goalkeeper after reportedly striking a deal to sign Bernd Leno from Bayer Leverkusen.
As per BBC Sport‘s righteous Gunners oracle David Ornstein, the Premier League side have agreed to pay €22million (around £19.3million) to acquire Leno’s services.
A routine medical is now due to take place, with personal terms currently being negotiated (The Guardian have it that Leno will sign a five-year contract).
Basically, Arsenal have a foot in the door.
That said, uncertainty remains as to whether Leno is being brought in as a direct replacement for Petr Cech or David Ospina, but seeing as Cech has been handed the No.1 shirt for next season, we’d suggest the smart money is on Ospina getting moved along.
Ornstein also adds that Arsenal are “optimistic” about closing a deal to sign combative Uruguayan midfielder Lucas Torreira from Sampdoria too.
Unai Emery and Sven Mislintat are overhauling that squad like it’s going out of fashion.
We had giant locusts in 2014 and tear-supping moths in 2016 so, in-keeping with latter day big tournament tradition, England’s opening Group G encounter with Tunisia saw the official launch of the 2018 World Cup insect mascot – or, more accurately, a cloud of about eight million of them.
Thanks to a combination of warming summer temperatures and its proximity of the vast Volga River and the marshland thereabouts, the Volgograd Arena was descended upon pre-match by an infuriating swarm of nibbling midges and mosquitoes.
The local authorities used helicopters to spray industrial amounts of pesticide over the stadium the day before the match to help clear up the problem, but the impact was negligible as both England and Tunisia players were seen being driven slowly insane during the warm-up.
The FA instructed the England team to apply swathes of high-strength insect repellent throughout the night, with several players seen re-coating themselves with spray during stoppages in play.
However, despite the precautions, it would appear that the Three Lions digested their fair share of mosquito matter over the course of the night, with two-goal hero Harry Kane detailing the extent of the irritation.
We got told before that there was going to be quite a lot of flies and when we went out for the warm-up it was a lot more than we all kind of thought.
We had a lot of bug spray on before the game, halftime, which was important because there was some of them in your eyes, some of them in your mouth,
But I guess that’s part of just dealing whatever comes your way and the team coped with it well.
That said, one man who wasn’t phased by the insect plague at all was Tunisian head coach Nabil Maaloul, who was too gosh-darned preoccupied to notice it.
I did not feel the midges because I was so focused on the team, on the game.
Maaloul sounds like the kind of fellow who happily lets flies buzz around in the window all day without actively seeking to smash their brains through their backsides with a rolled-up copy of the TV Times.
Cho Hyun-Woo may have ended up on the losing end of one of the World Cup’s more forgettable games, but his point-blank range save from Marcus Berg will live long in the memory.
Not least because the Daegu FC stopper denied his Swedish counterpart using nothing but his instincts, his quick reactions and his face…
Firmly abiding by the age-old goalkeeping adage: It doesn’t matter how you keep them out, as long as you keep them out.
Once considered something of a liability for the national team, thanks to a reputation for misjudging high balls, Cho found himself thrust into the limelight after earning a starting spot against the Swedes.
The 26-year-old has only been capped seven times by South Korea but looked calm and experienced beyond his years in the first half.
We’ve no idea how he made it into the stadium so quickly, but no sooner had Ryan Giggs finished up plying us with his riveting pre-match punditry for ITV was he spotted in the crowd at Sweden’s FGroup F opener against South Korea.
Even more curious was the ex-Manchester United winger’s decision to don full Swedish milk maid regalia for the occasion…
While it’s no secret that Iceland are one of the most fervently-supported teams at major tournaments, it would appear that the entire country is making a special effort for the World Cup.
According to data compiled by Iceland’s national broadcasting service RUV, they came within a mere fraction of absolutely every last person watching television in Iceland being tuned into their side’s hard-earned opening Group D draw against Argentina.
As per the RUV numbers, the highest viewership was measured at 14:54, which was the last minute of injury time, with the station’s share of the overall television national audience topping out at a whopping 99.6%.
This, in short, shows that almost everyone who was watching the TV in Iceland at this time was watching the game.
The remaining 0.4% presumably opting for whatever the Icelandic equivalent of ‘Homes Under Under The Hammer’ on the other channel.
RUV also confirmed that 60% of the overall population watched the match, up from the 58.8% that watched Iceland knock England out of the Euro 2016.
An astonishing glimpse into who some of these England stars were as infants – Jordan Pickford was Maxine Peake, Kyle Walker was Moira Stewart, Ashley Young was Phil Lynott, Dele Alli was clearly Gary Wilmot, Jordan Henderson was a different human being altogether and Jesse Lingard was… well, a slightly more mature-looking Jesse Lingard.
As for Harry Maguire, that photo just raises more questions than it answers.
You’ve simply got to feel for Neymar whenever you watch him play football – a beautiful tropical fish merely trying to survive amid an ocean of ravenous predators.
To be born positively dripping in technique and talent, but also saddled with one of the most delicate pain thresholds known to mankind is a cruel and ironic twist of fate.
Case in point being his performance against Switzerland last night. The poor lamb was sent out to the slaughter, kicked from pillar to post by beastly Swiss thugs while the so-called referees once again proved too cowardly to put an end to the clear and obvious abuse.
Pies don’t have the precise stats to hand, but we’d estimate that Neymar spent somewhere approaching 75% of the Switzerland game screaming, contorting and squirming on the ground in sheer agony.
It would seem that never a match goes by where he isn’t subjected to these brutal and targeted beatings. How he manages to pick himself up and mentally steel himself to go again is nothing short of wondrous.
That’s the price of being so celestially gifted, we suppose.