Saturday’s early games at the 2018 World Cup saw France fail to live up to expectations in a lucky 2-1 draw with Australia (N’Golo Kanté was solid as ever in midfield however and Olivier Giroud, a second-half substitute, was credited with the assist on Pogba’s winner) and Argentina do even worse in a 1-1 draw with Iceland (Caballero a bit shaky in goal, but blame should fall on their forwards failing to take their chances including Messi from the penalty spot).
Saturday’s late games, for which we didn’t have live blogs, included two wins for two favored teams, with Denmark beating Peru, who missed a penalty, 1-0 and Croatia beating Nigeria 2-0.
In the first of those games, young Andreas Christensen started alongside Simon Kjaer and by all accounts put in a solid shift until he was forced off ten minutes from time with an apparent injury. Christensen limped off under his own power, and afterwards it was confirmed that he was simply suffering from a cramp — though that raises the question about his conditioning, which became an issue in the second-half of the club season as well. Still, that’s good news for Andreas, unlike for his teammate William Kvist, who suffered a broken rib, ending his World Cup.
The late game saw Croatia handle Nigeria, both in terms of the scoreline and in terms of physicality as well, racking up tactical fouls by the dozen to prevent The Super Eagles from taking flight. Victor Moses drew a Hazard-ian 5 (called) fouls while dribble-happy midfielder Oghenekaro Etebo was at the receiving end of a whopping 8 (called) fouls.
It is really unfortunate that Croatia happened to tangle with Nigerian players on the right side of Nigeria's attack, notoriously where Victor Moses launches counter attacks.— Sébastien Chapuis (@SebC__) June 16, 2018
Special mention to Croatia's attackers tally of 11 fouls ! pic.twitter.com/AOtcbZIwQn
Ironically, it was a Nigeria foul on Mandzukic that put the game out of reach, with Modric converting his penalty. Earlier, Etebo had scored an unfortunate own goal after some horrendous set piece defending, which was already an issue in the warm-up matches for Nigeria.
Mikel, Moses & Co are now in a tough position in what was already a tough Group D. They play Iceland next in what is absolute must-win on Friday and then face Argentina in a showdown of 2005 U20 World Cup stars Lionel Messi and Mikel John Obi the Tuesday after.