2018 Russia World Cup Update – 3

Japan profited from Colombia’s nightmare start to the World Cup as they secured a victory against 10 men in their Group H opener in Saransk, despite James Rodriguez’s late introduction. Colombia conceded a penalty and had a man sent off inside three minutes, with Carlos Sanchez dismissed for handling Shinji Kagawa’s shot at a goal left exposed by terrible defending. After the first red card shown at this World Cup – and the second fastest in history at two minutes 56 seconds – Kagawa scored the spot-kick.

Senegal deservedly defeated Poland in a game of few chances to claim the first win by an African team at the World Cup – although there was a hint of controversy about their second goal. M’Baye Niang sprinted back on to the field of play after injury and immediately intercepted a backpass from midfield, beating former Arsenal goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny and Southampton defender Jan Bednarek to the ball. He then slotted into an empty net – to the confusion and disgust of several Poland players, who protested in vain to referee Nawaf Shukralla. The Lions of Teranga had taken the lead shortly before the break when a shot from Everton’s Idrissa Gueye took a huge deflection off the unfortunate Thiago Cionek.

Russia moved to the brink of qualifying for the last 16 of the World Cup after the host nation beat Mohamed Salah’s Egypt in St Petersburg. Russia, who beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening game, took the lead thanks to a bizarre 47th-minute own goal from Ahmed Fathi, who diverted Roman Zobnin’s shot into his own net. Denis Cheryshev doubled Russia’s advantage after he finished from Mario Fernandes’ pull-back, before Artem Dzyuba sealed the victory with a fine individual goal. Liverpool forward Salah, playing for the first time since sustaining a shoulder injury in the Champions League final, converted a penalty after he had been fouled – but it was not enough to mount an Egypt fightback.

Uruguay’s slender victory over Saudi Arabia ensured that they and host nation Russia reached the last 16 of the World Cup. Luis Suarez scored the only goal at the Rostov Arena, sweeping in from close range on his 100th international appearance. It was hard on the Green Falcons, who were knocked out despite a vast improvement from their 5-0 defeat by Russia in the tournament’s opening game. Cristiano Ronaldo continued his sensational start to the World Cup with the winner as Portugal knocked Morocco out of the tournament. All eyes at the Luzhniki Stadium were on the Real Madrid star after his hat-trick in Portugal’s opening game with Spain and, typically, he did not disappoint. It took the captain only four minutes to make his mark in the way Morocco had feared, diving to get on the end of a Joao Moutinho cross and planting an unstoppable header into the net.

Spain edged out a gallant Iran in an absorbing contest to ensure they will reach the World Cup knockout stage with a draw in their final group game. The 2010 champions needed a fortuitous Diego Costa goal after half-time, having been frustrated in an opening period in which they had 81% of possession. Iran, who defended admirably until the ball ricocheted in off Costa, instantly showed more intent and thought they had levelled, only for Saeid Ezatolahi’s strike to be ruled out for offside. Denmark manager Age Hareide said video assistant referees are taking the “charm” out of the World Cup after Australia scored a debatable penalty to keep their last-16 hopes alive. Australia cancelled out Christian Eriksen’s fine opener when Mile Jedinak converted from the spot after Yussuf Poulsen’s handball in the area was penalised by VAR. The ball struck Poulsen on his trailing arm as he contested a header with Mathew Leckie.

Kylian Mbappe’s first-half strike helped France overcome – and eliminate – a resilient Peru to earn a spot in the knockout round of the World Cup. Ricardo Gareca’s side, buoyed on by their passionate support inside the Ekaterinburg Arena, came alive in the second half after falling behind in the 34th minute but ultimately could not find the equaliser that would have prevented their exit. Monaco’s Mbappe was the player to punish the Peruvians when he tapped in Olivier Giroud’s deflected shot, coming after a period of France dominance. Argentina are facing the prospect of an early World Cup exit after a dreadful error from goalkeeper Willy Caballero set Croatia on their way to victory and a place in the last 16. It was a dogged defensive second-half display from Croatia, illuminated by a moment of magic from their own masterful number 10, Luka Modric. His curled shot from range drifted beautifully beyond Caballero’s dive to put his side two ahead, before Rakitic’s injury-time tap-in sealed a victory that moves the Europeans through to the knockout stage and also leaves them in a strong position to win the group.

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