2018 Russia World Cup Update – 4

Philippe Coutinho and Neymar bailed Brazil out with stoppage-time strikes against Costa Rica following another uninspiring display at the 2018 World Cup. Coach Tite’s team were heading for a second inglorious draw when Barcelona midfielder Coutinho popped up to poke home from Roberto Firmino’s nod down. And with seconds remaining Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, tapped in Douglas Costa’s cross to secure Brazil’s first win of the tournament. Ahmed Musa scored both goals as Nigeria swept aside World Cup debutants Iceland to leave Group D intriguingly poised with one round of games to go. The Super Eagles would have gone out with defeat but came good in Volgograd. Musa showed superb technique to fire Nigeria ahead on the half-volley before the Leicester player rounded keeper Hannes Thor Halldorsson to make it 2-0.

Iceland missed a late penalty – awarded after a video assistant referee review – when Gylfi Sigurdsson fired over. Switzerland took a huge step towards the last 16 of the World Cup as Xherdan Shaqiri scored a brilliant solo 90th-minute winner against Serbia. The Stoke City player collected the ball near the halfway line before dribbling away from the defence and slotting past Serbia goalkeeper Vladimir Stojkovic. Granit Xhaka had scored a superb equaliser for Switzerland after Aleksandar Mitrovic put Serbia in front with a header in the fifth minute. Javier Hernandez scored his 50th international goal to help Mexico take a big step towards the last 16 of the World Cup with an impressive win over South Korea, despite Son Heung-min’s stunning late strike.

Having upset defending champions Germany in their opening game in Group F, Mexico proved again they will be a test for any side should they reach the knockout stages. They took the lead in Rostov-on-Don through Carlos Vela’s penalty – the 14th of the tournament already – on 26 minutes after Jang Hyun-soo’s handball. Toni Kroos’ injury-time winner against Sweden revived defending champions Germany’s hopes of becoming the first side to retain the World Cup since Brazil in 1962. Ola Toivonen’s deft first-half lob had left Joachim Low’s side facing elimination but Marco Reus, starting in place of Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil, prodded in an equaliser as Germany assumed control after the interval. The champions then had Jerome Boateng sent off late on for a second yellow card but continued to chase the game knowing a draw left their fate in others’ hands.

And they were rewarded in the final minute of five added on when Kroos tapped a free-kick short to Reus before sweeping the return pass into the top right corner from left of the penalty area. Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard both scored twice as Belgium strengthened their lead above England at the top of World Cup Group G by crushing Tunisia with a devastating attacking display. While Roberto Martinez’s side are not through to the last 16 yet, a win for England over Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday will see the Red Devils and Three Lions progress. That would leave their meeting in Kaliningrad on Thursday to decide who tops the group and it is Belgium who hold the upper hand there, with their sparkling finishing in the sunshine at the Spartak Stadium leaving their goal difference significantly better off.

England recorded their biggest win at a World Cup to overwhelm Panama and secure a place in the last 16 before their final Group G game with Belgium. Harry Kane played a captain’s role once more with a hat-trick to become the tournament’s leading scorer, as England built on their opening victory against Tunisia with an impressive show of ruthlessness and quality. John Stones opened the scoring with an early header before Kane added the second with a thunderous penalty after Jesse Lingard had been fouled. Lingard added the third in the 36th minute with a brilliant curling effort from 25 yards and, as Panama crumbled, Stones crowned a slick set-piece routine by heading his second and Kane made it 5-0 before half-time with another penalty after he was wrestled to the ground.

Japan and Senegal remain well placed to reach the knockout stage of the World Cup – and a last-16 date with England or Belgium – after an entertaining draw in Ekaterinburg. Sadio Mane put Senegal ahead from close range after an awful mistake by Eiji Kawashima, the ball flying past the Japan keeper after his attempted punched clearance hit the Liverpool forward. Japan were level before half-time through Takashi Inui’s lovely curling finish, before Yuya Osako hit the crossbar. Nineteen-year-old defender Moussa Wague thought he had sealed Senegal’s second straight Group H win with a fine finish from an angle but substitute Keisuke Honda salvaged a point for Japan moments after coming on. Radamel Falcao scored his first World Cup goal as Colombia got their tournament in Russia up and running with an impressive victory that ended a lacklustre Poland side’s hopes of reaching the last 16.

Yerry Mina nodded in James Rodriguez’s cross shortly before half-time to put the South Americans ahead. Falcao, who missed the finals four years ago with injury, then broke through in the second half before driving a low strike into the far corner and Juan Cuadrado capped off a fine team performance with an accomplished finish after racing on to Rodriguez’s sublime ball behind the Poland defence.

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