John Newsome provides more World Cup predictions and begins with a game featuring two teams that will be sending their fans home very disappointed.
SAUDI ARABIA v EGYPT
The good thing about all these 3rd round Group games is that both matches kick-off at the same time giving none of the teams an unfair advantage.
This is the final game of the World Cup 2018 for both teams as neither can qualify for the last 16. Saudi Arabia improved from their initial opening game against Russia and limited Uruguay to just 1 goal which came by the way of a goalkeeping error. The Saudi stopper Mohammed Al Owais misjudged the flight of a Uruguayan corner and let the ball float over his head allowing Luis Suarez to neatly slot home from close range. Having conceded 5 goals against Russia, this was a marked improvement and the Saudi’s, although eliminated, will take encouragement into this final game against Egypt.
Egypt had to get at least a draw against Russia after losing their opening game to Uruguay. That meant they had to risk superstar Mo Salah, fit or not as they knew they would be eliminated from the competition if they could not manage at least a point. Whilst showing glimpses of his majestic skills, even managing to win a penalty and then convert it with assurance, Mo was clearly still not 100% fit after the injury sustained in the Champions League final. The Russian’s with home advantage swept aside a below average Egypt side, who simply aren’t good enough if Mr Salah isn’t performing. Having lost 3-1, Egypt will go all out to beat Saudi Arabia.
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URUGUAY v RUSSIA
Both Uruguay and Russia have qualified for the last 16 so will see this game as a chance to rest a few and play a couple of fringe players who haven’t seen any action up to now. Uruguay have won both of their group games 1-0 and have not been entirely convincing. They had to rely on a defender getting the goal in the opener to Egypt and a goalkeeping error for the win against Saudi Arabia. Barcelona ace Luis Suarez got the all-important goal against the Saudi’s.
Russia have taken this competition by storm and as the host nation, they are gathering momentum. They comfortably beat the Saudi’s 5-0 in the opener and brushed aside Egypt in the 2nd game. An own goal just after the break in the game against Egypt settled the nerves, immediately followed up by a Denis Cheryshev goal, his 3rd of the tournament. Artem Dzyuba got his 2nd of the tournament to give the Russian’s a 3 goal lead before Salah got the consolation for Egypt. It really is a decision of who wants to finish top and potentially play Portugal in the last 16. The problem with that is who finishes 2nd gets to play Spain or vice versa. For now, both teams will rest players and see what develops.
Russia Win 2-1
IRAN v PORTUGAL
Quite simply, Iran can progress to the last 16 by beating Portugal. Whilst this looks an impossible task against the current European Champions, it’s not entirely out of the question as Iran put up a brave fight against Spain and were only beaten by a single goal. The Iranians won their opener and despite the loss to Spain, that win, puts them in this winner takes all position with Portugal. A draw will not be good enough as they would then have to rely on Morocco heavily beating Spain, which simply isn’t going to happen. The good news for Iran is they have their fate in their own hands and will go all out against Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portuguese.
CR7 scored his 4th of the tournament in the 1-0 win against Morocco, after his hat-trick in the opener. Unlike Iran, a draw will be good enough to take Portugal through to the last 16 regardless of what happens in the other group game. The winner and runner-up in this group know they will face either Russia or Uruguay in the last 16. With the knowledge that a win or a draw is good enough to progress, Portugal should be too strong for Iran and with Iran having to go all out for the win, this should play into Cristiano’s hands.
Portugal Win 2-0
SPAIN v MOROCCO
Again Spain know that a win or a draw is good enough to progress to the last 16 and also know they will face either the hosts or Uruguay for a place in the quarter-final. Spain got the all-important victory against Iran with a somewhat fortunate Diego Costa goal. The ball bounced off an Iranian defender onto the knee of Costa and went in giving Diego his 3rd of the tournament so far. A goal is a goal.
Regardless of what the result is in this game, Morocco can’t progress and are going home. The only real difference they can make is beating the Spanish heavily married with an Iran draw against Portugal, which would prevent Spain’s progression. Whilst the Moroccans have put up a spirited performance in both their games up to now, they simply lack the quality that is needed on the World stage. Spain should not lose this and will progress but have got to improve if they want to match their 2010 exploits.
BELGIUM v TUNISIA
After a tentative 1st half against Panama, Belgium came out for the start of the 2nd half and started to play and quickly overcome the stubbornness of the South Americans. Dries Mertens scored a spectacular goal to kick things off and Romelu Lukaku got his World Cup goalscoring off to a great start scoring a close-range header by way of a sublime pass from Man City Maestro Kevin de Bruyne. Big Rom got a 2nd with 15 minutes to go and that was that. Belgium off to a winning start and Panama will surely only be in Russia to prop up Group H.
Tunisia were beaten in their opener against England but did put up more of a fight literally than Panama did against Belgium. After going behind in the heat of Volgograd they were awarded a penalty which Ferjani Sassi coolly converted. Whilst they lacked real technical ability, they didn’t lack the use of the dark arts. Feigning injury, falling over with a slight touch, holding onto the English players at corners and genuinely cheating. Ultimately they got what they deserved and lost. Belgium should be too strong as well and a win here for the Red Devil’s would take them into the last 16.
Belgium Win 2-0
ENGLAND v PANAMA
England got off to a great start in their opening game against Tunisia even though they made hard work of it. Harry Kane got the opener and the Three Lions seemed in control in the opening 30 minutes. Inexplicably Kyle Walker forearm smashed the Tunisian
Fakhreddine Ben Youssef and the referee had no choice but to award a penalty, coolly despatched by Ferjani Sassi, although England stopper Jordan Pickford did get a hand on the ball. Kyle got himself in a bad position when the ball was floated into the box and swung his arm at Fakhreddine. Maybe in the Premier League, he would have got away with it, but not at the World Cup in Russia. The Tunisian’s frustrated England the whole of the 2nd half and after a couple of substitutions from Gareth began to apply pressure to the Tunisian defence and in the 91st minute, Harry Kane lost his marker and coolly headed home the deserved winner for England. This game against Panama should be easier and a win would send England into the last 16, meaning the final game against Belgium becomes a dead rubber for both teams.
Panama frustrated Belgium in the first half of their Group G opener but ultimately were not good enough and are really only here to make up the numbers. The Panamanian’ did collect 5 yellow cards, the most by a team up to now but none developed into red. They may use the same tactics against England but will again come up short and England should get the win they need.
England Win 3-0
JAPAN v SENEGAL
Japan surprised everyone with a superb win against Columbia. They were helped on their way with an early sending off when Columbian midfielder Carlos Sanchez only lasted 2 minutes before seeing red. Ex-Manchester United player Shinji Kagawa took immediate advantage of the dismissal and scored an early goal for the Japanese. Columbia did equalise in the first half but Japan gained control in the second half and the extra man paid dividends when legendary Rising Sun star Keisuke Honda came on in the 70th minute and made an instant impact supplying Cologne’s Yuya Osako who coolly slotted home the winner in the 73rd minute.
Senegal also got a surprise win in their opener against Poland again by the score of 2-1. They were also helped on their way by their opponents by way of an own goal. Only this time, the Senegalese made it 2 nil in the second half and didn’t let Poland equalise. Torino forward M’Baye Niang getting the 2nd on the hour mark. Poland did manage to pull a goal back in the 86th minute, but this was purely a consolation and The Lions of Teranga held on for a well-deserved win. Both teams will know that a win here will go along way to cement their place in the last 16.
POLAND v COLUMBIA
Both of these 2 were favourites to progress from Group H, even with talk of which one would face England in the last 16. However, both were on the end of a 2-1 defeat which now makes qualifying difficult for whoever loses this game and a draw isn’t really any good. Poland scored an own goal against Senegal, the unfortunate Thiago Cionek was the culprit that gave Senegal a head start. West Brom’s Grzegorz Krychowiak scored for Poland but this ultimately came too late and the damage was done.
Columbia also shot themselves in the foot early on in their game with Japan. Espanyol midfielder Carlos Sanchez was shown a red card in just the 2nd minute for handling the ball in the penalty area gifting Japan a chance to take the lead. Juan Quintero equalised in the 39th minute but Japan scored a 2nd in the 73rd minute inflicting the defeat on the Columbians. This will be a tight affair with so much at stake.
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