A terrific day of football saw changes and upheavals in Groups D & E of the 2018 World Cup. Nigeria opened things up for them and Argentina after beating Iceland, followed by Brazil needing two injury time goals against Costa Rica to almost seal qualification, ending with Switzerland coming from behind to beat Serbia, and grab pole position in one of the two tickets to the Knockout Stage out of Group E.
Nigeria 2 Iceland 0 (Match Highlights)
After being used as an example for Africa’s inferiority to European football following their loss to Croatia, Nigeria put it all behind them and gave Iceland a dose of reality, unleashing Ahmed Musa in the second half, capping off two counter attacks, including a second goal that was a one man show of speed, determination and brilliance. Musa became Nigeria’s leading scorer in World Cup tournaments with 4 (2 in this tournament), while breathing new life into the qualification hopes of Nigeria and Argentina. Iceland missed a penalty in the 83rd minute (Gylfi Sigurdsson).
Group D Table
Croatia are in the round of 16, with first place almost guaranteed. Argentina need to beat Nigeria and hope Iceland don’t win against Croatia in order to make it into the round of 16. Iceland need to beat Croatia and hope Argentina and Nigeria draw, but goal difference will play a part too. For Nigeria, a draw against Argentina might be enough; a win would guarantee a place in the next round.
Brazil 2 Costa Rica 0 (Match Highlights)
It was hard. Just as hard as against Switzerland, perhaps even more. But Tite must have realized that having Roberto Firmino and Douglas Costa on the pitch works wonders against tight defenses. He must have, right? The two subs set up Brazil’s injury time goals – one by Philippe Coutinho (his second of the tournament) and the other one, deep in the 96th minute, by Neymar, who went down on his knees and burst in tears afterwards, giving us a glimpse on the amount of pressure he’s under. Or perhaps it was another part of his notorious theatrics.
Serbia Switzerland (Match Highlights)
Perhaps the best match of the World Cup so far, filled with political rivalries, officiating mistakes and mostly great football. Serbia’s size and mifield helped dominate the first half, taking the lead through Aleksandar Mitrovic. But once again, the Swiss didn’t let an early conceded goal take them out of the picture. A fine goal by Granit Xhaka tied the match and a 90th minute breakaway by Xherdan Shaqiri sealed the comeback, peppered with Albanian and Kosovo eagle gestures. German referee, Felix Brych, missed a clear penalty on Mitrovic in the second half, held down by 2 Swiss defenders. Not quite clear how VAR assistants didn’t intervene.
Group E Table
|4||Costa Rica (E)||2||0||0||2||0||3||−3||0|
The loss to Switzerland means Serbia probably have to beat Brazil on the final day in order to make it into the round of 16, and still hope for Switzerland to lose (unlikely) against point-less Costa Rica. Brazil? Only a loss to Serbia while Switzerland don’t lose to Costa Rica will knock them out of the tournament.
Goal of the Day: Ahmed Musa (Video Link)
Now the all-time leading goalscorer for Nigeria in World Cups, Musa scored a wonderful solo effort to put the Super Eagles up by two goals against Iceland, putting Nigeria in second place in the group while giving Argentina one last lifeline to remain in the tournament, if they can beat Nigeria in a few days.
4 goals: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
3 goals: Denis Cheryshev (Russia), Diego Costa (Spain)
2 goals: Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Harry Kane (England), Artem Dzyuba (Russia), Mile Jedinak (Australia), Luka Modric (Croatia), Philippe Coutinho (Brazil), Ahmed Musa (Nigeria)
1 goal: Yuri Gazinsky, Aleksandr Golovin (Russia), Jose Maria Gimenez, Luis Suárez (Uruguay), Nacho (Spain), Paul Pogba, Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe (France), Sergio Aguero (Argentina), Alfred Finnbogason (Iceland), Christian Eriksen,Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark), Aleksandar Kolarov, Aleksandar Mitrovic (Serbia), Hirving Lozano (Mexico), Neymar (Brazil), Steven Zuber, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland), Andreas Granqvist (Sweden), Dries Mertens (Belgium), Ferjani Sassi (Tunisia), Shinji Kagawa, Yuya Osaka (Japan), Juan Quintero (Colombia), M’Baye Niang (Senegal), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland), Mohamed Salah (Egypt), Ante Rebic, Ivan Rakitic (Croatia)
Goals in the tournament: 58 in 26 matches, 2.26 per match so far.
Day 10 Matches:
Belgium vs Tunisia (Group G)
South Korea vs Mexico (Group F)
Germany vs Sweden (Group F)