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Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 19 July 2018

World Cup 2018: Day 15 as it happened - Januzaj stunner leads Belgium past England as Group G winners

Also in action today were Senegal v Colombia and Japan v Poland before Panama v Tunisia

Adnan Januzaj celebrates after scoring the opening goal for Belgium against England in their World Cup Group F contest. Alastair Grant / AP Photo
Adnan Januzaj celebrates after scoring the opening goal for Belgium against England in their World Cup Group F contest. Alastair Grant / AP Photo

12.00am: Back at it again on Saturday

The 2018 World Cup takes a well deserved break on Friday ... although we're not sure how to fill our time tomorrow!

Then we're back at it again on Saturday with the first of the last-16 matches.

To recap, here are the fixtures and kick-off times (UAE):

Saturday

France v Argentina (6pm)

Uruguay v Portugal (10pm)

Sunday

Spain v Russia (6pm)

Croatia v Denmark (10pm)

Monday

Brazil v Mexico (6pm)

Belgium v Japan (10pm)

Tuesday

Sweden v Switzerland (6pm)

Colombia v England (10pm)

See you all again on Saturday!

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11.50pm: Belgium set up last-16 tie with Japan

There we have it: the group stages are now complete and the line-up for the last-16 is now confirmed. Belgium's narrow win over England, courtesy of a fine Adnan Januzaj strike, sets up a meeting with Japan, while Gareth Southgate's side will take on Colombia.

Here is the match report from the Kaliningrad Stadium.

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10pm: Teams ready for kick-off

As expected, plenty of changes from both sides...

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8.40pm: Heartbreak for Senegal

After the first round of matches today, we now know who has advanced from Group H. Colombia top the group and are joined in the last-16 by Japan.

But spare a thought for Senegal, who head home after becoming the first side to miss out on the Fair Play table having earned two more yellow cards than Japan.

Read Richard Jolly's report and analysis from Colombia's win over Senegal.

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3.15pm - Tite embraces 'huge expectations' on Brazil to lift a sixth World Cup

Our man John McAuley attended Brazil's 2-0 win over Serbia in Moscow that saw them top Group E and set up a last-16 clash with Mexico in Samara on Monday.

After the game, Brazil manager Tite said his players will embrace expectations as World Cup favourites.

"We don't live off expectations, we live off reality," he told a press conference immediately following the Serbia win. "This is a team that is growing mentally stronger in the competition and taking the pressure with a good performance on the pitch and a balanced team."

The pressure to perform on Brazil will have only strengthened after Germany’s exit, although Spain, France and Argentina have advanced, too. Irrespective of that, Tite’s men will be confident of going all the way in Russia, given they have not been beaten in more than a year. It is a run that includes 10 victories.

"There are huge expectations, but we are evolving and consolidating," said the former Al Ain and Al Wahda manager.

Read the full story here.

Brazil manager Tite says expectations are growing on his side to win the World Cup following Germany's elimination at the group stage. EPA
Brazil manager Tite says expectations are growing on his side to win the World Cup following Germany's elimination at the group stage. EPA

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1.50pm - Maradona: I am very much alive

Diego Maradona was shocked by how his World Cup health scare on Tuesday was reported and insists: "I am very much alive."

The 57 year old, who captained Argentina to World Cup glory in 1986, said he had been suffering from neck pain as he attended his country's game against Nigeria earlier this week.

But he denied reports he had been hospitalised and demonstrated his good health with an appearance on Telesur's De La Mano del 10programme.

He said: "I was shocked that [reports suggested] there had been a stretcher, an ambulance. Nothing happened.

"We were all together, the Telesur team and my team, and we could not believe how social networks started to make a big lie, which made no sense, go viral like that.

"It makes me a bit angry."

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1pm - Schadenfreude sweeps web after German downfall

The internet turned cruel for Germany fans on Thursday as online mockery swept the globe following the defending champions' shock World Cup elimination.

A stream of memes and jokes flooded social media after a stunning 2-0 defeat to South Korea condemned Die Mannschaft to their earliest exit in 80 years.

"Don't mention the VAR," was a common refrain, while Brazilian media gleefully took their revenge for Brazil's 7-1 humiliation by Germany at the last World Cup in 2014.

"AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA..." read a tweet from Fox Sports Brasil that ran to 272 characters.

In dramatic scenes in Kazan, Kim Young-gwon's stoppage-time opener was ruled legitimate after intervention from the Video Assistant Referee, before Son Heung-min added the second goal minutes later.

"Germany's fastest exit from Russia since 1943," posted one user, while another tweeted a picture of Germany towels reserving all the seats on an empty plane.

Mexico fans were particularly delighted after South Korea's last-gasp win allowed them to qualify for the last 16 behind Group F winners Sweden - while Germany finished rock bottom.

Aeromexico offered a 20 per cent discount on flights to South Korea, tweeting an image of a plane with doctored "AeroCorea" livery and the slogan, "We love you Korea!"

Ryanair tweeted a picture of an unhappy Germany fan, offering "Low fares" -- a reference to German coach Joachim Low.

One joke in German showed a supermarket check-out assistant asking Low, "Do you collect points?" with the manager answering, "No."

Meanwhile, England striker-turned-TV-presenter Gary Lineker revised his famous maxim that "Football is a simple game. Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans always win."

"Football is a simple game," Lineker tweeted.

"Twenty-two men chase a ball for 90 minutes and at the end, the Germans no longer always win. Previous version is confined to history."

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12.35pm - Germany pay the price for too many pre-World Cup warnings going unheeded

Pretty damning analysis from Richard Jolly:

Certainly, Joachim Low got much wrong. The dissent extended to his first captain. “Leadership? Personality? Mentality?” asked Michael Ballack on Twitter. Germany lacked all. There were problems in attack, midfield, defence and, eventually, in goal. The assumption was that Germany would display their usual ability to peak in tournaments. The reality is the malaise began before Russia. They have only two unconvincing wins in nine games and no clean sheet since November. The warnings went unheeded.

A common theme among the defending champions who have crashed out at the first hurdle – France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014 – has been an understandable loyalty to champion players who proved past it. Low displayed it. This was a tournament too far for the admirable, slowing Sami Khedira. Collectively, Germany looked off the pace. It made the omission of the electric Leroy Sane all the more of an error even if Julian Brandt, the man preferred, was actually one of Germany’s better players.

Read the full article here.

Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, centre, said: 'Even if we had made it in the last 16, everyone would have liked to play against us.' EPA
Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, centre, said: 'Even if we had made it in the last 16, everyone would have liked to play against us.' EPA

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11.40am - Joachim Low will discuss Germany future 'calmly'

Joachim Low will consider his future as Germany manager after the defending World Cup champions suffered a shock group-stage elimination.

A 2-0 defeat to South Korea in Kazan following stoppage-time goals from Kim Young-gwon and Son Heung-min condemned the four-time champions to an ignominious bottom-place finish in Group F.

Asked whether he will continue in the role he has held for the last 12 years, Low, 58, told a press conference: "That's hard to say. Of course, it takes a couple of hours to look into that. I'm shocked, I'm shocked because we didn't manage to pull it off.

"Where we go from here, we'll have to talk about it calmly. It will take me some hours now to come to terms with it. I'm incredibly disappointed by this elimination."

Read the whole story here.

Germany manager Joachim Low looks dejected following a 2-0 defeat to South Korea in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup. Reuters
Germany manager Joachim Low looks dejected following a 2-0 defeat to South Korea in the group stage of the 2018 World Cup. Reuters

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11.11am - Ramos and De Gea train with Spain

Diego Costa, Andres Iniesta, Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos were among the Spain players taking part in training on Wednesday as they prepare to face host nation Russia in the last 16 on Sunday.

Manager Fernando Hierro held a session at the team base in southern Russia with some of the players' relatives watching on from the stands.

Spain are expected to fly to Moscow on Saturday where they will train one last time before the referee blows his whistle to start the game at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday at 6pm UAE time.

See the video here.

Sergio Ramos trains with his Spain teammates ahead of Sunday's World Cup last-16 clash with Russia. Reuters
Sergio Ramos trains with his Spain teammates ahead of Sunday's World Cup last-16 clash with Russia. Reuters

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10am - Messi sits out training as Argentina prepare for France clash

Argentina trained at their team base near Moscow on Wednesday, a day after beating Nigeria 2-1 to earn what seemed an unlikely place in the World Cup knockout stages.

World Cup winners in 1978 and 1986, Argentina were on the brink of a humiliating early exit after drawing 1-1 with Iceland and losing 3-0 to Croatia, but Marcos Rojo's late winner against Nigeria means a mouthwatering last-16 clash with Group C winners France awaits them.

A large number of the senior players, including Lionel Messi, didn't take part in the training session in Bronnitsy on Tuesday as they recover and prepare for the France game.

See the video here.

Lionel Messi, right, celebrates with Argentina matchwinner Marcos Rojo. EPA
Lionel Messi, right, celebrates with Argentina matchwinner Marcos Rojo. EPA

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8.30am - Good morning!

It's Day 15 of the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

Before last night's shock result that saw world champions Germany eliminated at the group stage for the first time since 1938, we threw sports editor Graham Caygill and deputy sports editor Steve Luckings to reflect on the first two weeks of the tournament.

While most of the focus was on Lionel Messi's Argentina scraping through to set up a last-16 showdown with France, there is also an in-depth discussion about VAR and whether it's been good for the tournament or not.

Have a listen.

PODCAST

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TODAY'S PREVIEWS

England and Belgium battle it out for top spot in their group on Thursday as the remaining teams at the World Cup digest Germany's astonishing exit from the tournament in Russia.

Both sides - packed with Premier League talent - have sailed through Group G, winning their two games and are now in the curious situation of weighing up whether they even want to top the section.

Their battle in Kaliningrad follows the dramatic exit of Joachim Low's 2014 winners, who finished rock bottom of their group after a 2-0 defeat to South Korea, the final humiliation after a campaign that never caught fire.

Low, who led his side to glory against Argentina in the 2014 World Cup final in Brazil, refused to be drawn on his future in the immediate aftermath of Wednesday's result.

Despite a huge scare for Lionel Messi's Argentina, who needed a late goal from Marcos Rojo to edge through to the knockout phase on Tuesday, all of the tournament's remaining big guns are through to the last 16 in Russia.

There has even been some talk that England might have an easier route at the World Cup if they lose in Kaliningrad.

But manager Gareth Southgate said his team are focused on winning, not on plotting a particular route through the knockout stages.

"We need to keep winning football matches and we want to breed a mentality that everybody in our squad wants to constantly win," said the manager.

"We've not won a knockout game since 2006. Why we would be starting to plot which would be a better venue for our semi-final is beyond me really."

England impressed in their opening two World Cup games, beating Tunisia 2-1 in Volgograd and thumping Panama 6-1 in Nizhny Novgorod.

But in Belgium they face the world's third-ranked side, and a squad loaded with world-class talent such as Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne.

INTERACTIVE WALL CHART

Captain Harry Kane is the top goalscorer at the World Cup with five goals so far and the Tottenham talisman is likely to start against Belgium.

But Southgate did concede he would probably make some changes for a clash that neither side needs to win.

Opposite number Roberto Martinez is expected to make wholesale changes to his team, with Manchester United forward Romelu Lukaku almost certain to miss out after picking up an ankle knock in Belgium's 5-2 win over Tunisia.

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Read more:

Richard Jolly: Unlike Italia 90, for Belgium and England defeat in Russia offers certain benefits

Richard Jolly: Gareth Southgate a hard man to please after England rout hapless Panama 6-1

Comment: Perspective needed over furore caused by images of leaked England team

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Unlike Southgate, the former Everton and Wigan manager said he was approaching Thursday's game with one eye firmly on the knockout rounds.

"We want to perform well but I think the priority is not to win," he said.

"That's the reality. We wanted to qualify, we've done that. There are players who have been in very demanding games so it's very important for us to protect and give every player the best opportunity to be in the best condition in the knockout games."

WATCH: The last time England met Belgium at the World Cup at Italia '90

In the other remaining first-round games on Thursday, Japan, Senegal and Colombia are all chasing the two qualification spots in Group H, with Poland out of the picture.

Japan, on four points alongside Senegal, take on Poland in Volgograd while the African team play Colombia, who have three points, in Samara.

Japan manager Akira Nishino has warned his players against complacency when they meet the already eliminated Poles.

After years of struggling to progress to the latter stages, James Rodriguez's tournament-topping six goals steered Colombia to their best-ever finish of the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago.

Jose Pekerman has refused to entertain the prospect of seeing Colombia's stuttering World Cup campaign end at the first hurdle.

"We came here for more, so it wouldn't be a good result for us not to reach the second round," Pekerman said.

Aliou Cisse's Senegal will attempt to succeed where the rest of their continental rivals failed, with Egypt, Morocco, Nigeria and Tunisia all out.

Friday is a rest day in Russia. The last-16 ties start Saturday, with France taking on Argentina in Kazan and Uruguay facing Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal in Sochi.