The busiest day so far in the 2018 World Cup didn’t flood us with goals, but did give us a better picture of who will battle for what in Groups C & D, with Argentina disappointing alongside Lionel Messi against Iceland, while France, Denmark and Croatia all set themselves well on the path for a knockout stage ticket thanks to narrow, perhaps somewhat convincing victories.
France 2 Australia 1
The first use of VAR in the World Cup helped France take the lead from the penalty spot, but Australia, presenting an uber-physical and nagging approach (which is just what they should do considering their limited selection), came back and present the French side with plenty of problems. In the end, Paul Pogba (or was it an own goal) gave France a win they didn’t necessarily deserve, but not one that was enough to quell the critique from back home, which only grew more vocal after the match.
Peru 0 Denmark 1
One of the most entertaining matches in the tournament thus far, with a talented yet naive and wasteful Peruvian side, filled with players who seem to prefer a fancy dribble over making the right choice. And still, Peru can lament a missed point or even three, adding to the South American daily misery from the penalty spot with a woeful miss by Christian Cuevas just before the half time whistle.
Denmark did find Christian Eriksen a bit more easy to operate in the second half, and the Tottenham star set up the winner by Yussuf Poulsen. Kasper Schmeichel, with a performance that probably made dad proud, made sure Denmark started the tournament just right.
Group C Table
Argentina 1 Iceland 1
There was a fine opening goal by Sergio Aguero, and an opportunistic equalizer by Alfred Finnbogason. But everyone is talking about Lionel Messi and another example of his problems from the penalty spot, missing once again in a match that he failed to heavily influence. Iceland struggled to get the ball into Argentina’s half in the final 45 minutes, but defended well enough, or luckily enough, to earn their first ever World Cup points. Jorge Sampaoli will be under fire for his lineup selection, and late introductions of Cristian Pavon and Ever Banega.
Croatia 2 Nigeria 0
As many expected, without being too brilliant, the Croatian efficiency was too much for Nigeria, which rarely risked Pletikosa and a solid Croatia defense, buoyed by an own goal and a Luka Modric penalty kick. For Nigeria, the absence of Kelechi Iheanacho in the first half while over-relying on Victor Moses and Mikel is something to think about. Croatia don’t really have a problem to fix, but could have used quicker and better decision making from their main men in the middle, Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
Group D Table
Hero of the Day – Kasper Schmeichel
The Danish goalkeeper stopped a penalty and kept the Danish goal without any balls in the net with accurate timing on crosses and quick reactions on the line. Also got a tad lucky that Guerrero’s cheeky heel didn’t go in.
Goal of the Day – Sergio Aguero
There weren’t too many positives for Argentina to take from their 1-1 draw against Iceland. One of the few was Aguero’s splendid power strike from inside the box to give his side a temporary lead.
3 goals: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
2 goals: Denis Cheryshev (Russia), Diego Costa (Spain)
1 goals: Artem Dzyuba, Yuri Gazinsky, Aleksandr Golovin (Russia), Jose Maria Gimenez (Uruguay), Nacho (Spain), Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann (France), Mile Jedinak (Australia), Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Alfred Finnbogason (Iceland), Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark), Luka Modric (Croatia)
Goals in the tournament: 21 in 8 matches. 2.62 per match.
Day 4 Matches
Costa Rica vs Serbia (Group E)
Germany vs Mexico (Group F)
Brazil vs Switzerland (Group E)