Wednesday, September 30, 2020

Russia 2018 – Group G – Round one overview

Tunisia 1-2 England – Game overview

England managed just their third win ever in the opening game of a World Cup as a Harry Kane brace sunk Tunisia in Russia. England started the game in a brilliant fashion and the chances were coming thick and fast.

Jesse Lingard missed a couple of chances, as did Dele Alli, but England didn’t have to wait long for the breakthrough. The goal came after 11 minutes when John Stones’ powerful header was clawed out by the keeper, only for Kane to pop up and turn the ball home.

From that point, England remained on top and Jesse Lingard missed a golden opportunity to double the lead. Ashley Young delivered a fantastic ball into the back post, and it seemed for all the world like Lingard would hammer it home. However, he couldn’t time his volley right and saw it dribble past the post.

Russia

Then, controversy struck. Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan gave a penalty when Fakhreddine Ben Youssef ran into Kyle Walkers flailing left arm. Ferjani Sassi stepped up and calmly slotted the penalty past Jordan Pickford. The referee also missed two incidents in which Harry Kane was wrestled to the floor in the box, both of which looked much worse than Walker’s offence.

Russia World Cup taking off

In the second half, England lacked the urgency that they played with in the first period. This was largely due to a change in shape by Tunisia as they looked to match England with three centre-halves. They sat deep in an attempt to frustrate the England boys, and they succeeded for the most part. That was until Gareth Southgate introduced Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek who injected a lot of energy and pace into a side who were in need of a boost.

It took until the 91st minute for the goal to come, but it did eventually happen. Again, the goal came from a corner as Harry Kane nodded home following a flick-on from Harry Maguire. The goal gave England a much needed three points as they draw level on points with Belgium at the top of the group.

Lazy Fan verdict

I think the win is exactly what England need at the start of the group. I was absolutely blown away by the statistic that this was just England’s third win in a World Cup opener. The win was obviously great, but not perfect. I think we could have done with a comfortable three or four goal win to really kick-start the tournament.

Going forward, the boys need to take momentum from the late winner and hammer a few past Panama next week. If they want any chance of winning the group, I feel like goal difference could be key to that. Therefore, as many goals as possible is what’s needed when they face Panama in Nizhny Novgorod next Sunday.

Belgium 3-0 Panama – Overview

Belgium picked up a rather comfortable win today in Sochi as they blew past a weak Panama side. It wasn’t all plain sailing though as the Panama side set up very defensively with the intention of frustrating Roberto Martinez’s side. For the opening 45 minutes, it did work and they looked very comfortable defensively, and very dangerous on the counter.

Eventually, the goal did come. It took a 47th minute moment of magic from Dries Mertens who smashed a beautiful volley into the far corner to break the deadlock. After that, the quality of the Belgian side shone through as Romelu Lukaku netted twice to seal the win. The first goal came when Kevin De Bruyne played a glorious outside of the foot pass into the box for Lukaku to head home. The second one came from a breakaway in which Eden Hazard played a nice through ball into Lukaku’s feet and he coolly lifted the ball over the on-rushing keeper.

Belgium's Romelu Lukaku shining in Russia

The win puts Belgium top of the group after one game with a two goal advantage over second placed England who are level on points. Next up for Belgium is Tunisia at the home of Spartak Moscow on Saturday afternoon.

Lazy fan verdict

I don’t think Belgium were necessarily at their best today, but they got the job done and that’s all that really matters. I think the first half performance can be put down to the fact it was the first 45 minutes of a World Cup campaign. However, I do believe there is still a hell of a lot more to come from this side.

From a Panamanian perspective, today was a monumental occasion for the country regardless of the result. Their first ever game in a World Cup, what a moment for the country. I don’t think they would be overly bothered about the score in any of the games to be honest, but they’d love to celebrate a World Cup goal. They nearly experienced that on more than one occasion today. Let’s be honest, if it’s going to happen, it will be against England.

It will be very Interesting to see how the second round of fixtures go in Russia. They will be played across next weekend.

In the meantime, here’s the group table:

Team        Pts         GD

Belgium       3            3

England       3            1

Tunisia         0            -1

Panama        0           -3

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Kieran Harm
Kieran hails from Newcastle-Upon-Tyne and holds a degree in Sports Journalism from the University of Brighton. He covers a range of sports, specialising in football and NFL. Kieran is a long-suffering member of the Toon Army as well as a very proud member of Broncos Country.

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