All the things that are hogging the conversation after the latest day of action in Russia 2018
World Cup talking points, Day 8: it’s all gone a bit Messi, French fancies and Latin passion
It’s all gone a bit Messi
Croatia’s extraordinary 3-0 dismantling of Argentina – inflicting the worst result on the south American side since they were thrashed 6-1 by Czechoslovakia at the 1958 World Cup in Sweden – kept up the trend of European sides enjoying home continent advantage: the tally now stands at 13 wins, four draws and just two defeats (Poland and Germany being the only nations to suffer losses). The Argentineans now need to win their final match against Nigeria and hope that other results go their way. If they go out in the group stages, it would be only the second time they have done so in 56 years and 14 tournaments.
The French team managed to struggle past a spirited Peruvian line-up and seal their place in the second round of the competition, and while the gulf between the sides on the pitch wasn’t that large, off the field it was yawning. Research compiled by a sports data company estimated that the value of the south American country’s squad was just €37.5m, while the French weighed in at €1.2bn, the most valuable in the competition.
French striker Paul Pogba’s decision to fly in his personal coiffeur from Britain on Wednesday to style his teammates’ hair similarly illustrated the difference between the haves and the have-lesses in international football.
The Latin American teams may be having a World Cup to forget so far – only Uruguay and Mexico have registered victories so far – but the noise in the stadia when they have been playing reflects just how many of their fans have travelled the considerable distance to Russia. Brazilian supporters bought the third highest total of tickets to the finals (72,512), with Colombia fourth with 65,234, Mexico on sixth with 60,302, Argentina seventh (54,031) and Peru coming in at eighth with 43,583 tickets purchased. They’ve created incredible atmospheres in the grounds to date, although one wonders whether the third round matches will see sparser crowds as teams like Peru play out meaningless dead rubbers.
Exit, pursued by a bear
The England team’s experience in major championships is usually defined by injuries to key players – remember David Beckham’s metatarsal in 2002 – but at this tournament it’s been off the pitch that the biggest danger has come. Manager Gareth Southgate dislocate during a 10km run yesterday, while earlier in the week a member of the media entourage based at Repino had to abandon a cycle through the countryside around the training camp when he was pursued for kilometres by a pack of wild dogs, and there have been warnings about bears in the woods.
The Australians continue to benefit disproportionately from the new technology being trialled at Russia 2018, as they picked up their second penalty (both of which have been converted by the owner of the finest beard at this tournament, Mile Jedinak) for exactly the same offence, a ball striking a raised hand in the penalty box. The UAE’s referee representative at the competition also made history by becoming the first official to use VAR to reverse a decision – after a case of mistaken identity, he rescinded a yellow card given to one Peruvian player and gave it to its deserved recipient following guidance from VAR headquarters in Moscow.
A lovely appreciation of the legendary Russian goalkeeper, Lev Yashin
Brazilians Neymar and Marcelo try to do the Floss dance