The 2018 World Cup Finals kicked off in Russia today with the first of 64 games in one month.

The opening day saw the host nation take on Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis started impressively, knocking the ball around with speed and accuracy but it didn’t take long for Russia to score the first goal. Yuri Gazinsky rose highest to meet a cross from the left and he guided his header past the goalkeeper.

Denis Cheryshev, an early sub for Djagoev who pulled up with a hamstring injury, doubled the hosts’ lead over the beleaguered Saudis three minutes before half time when he eluded three green jerseys in the box and rifled home.

Saudi Arabia toiled to no effect and Artem Dzyuba stepped off the bench to head home a third in the second half and Cheryshev looked to have put the icing on the cake with a lovely finish off the outside of the boot in stoppage time.

There was one more fine finish to come, though, when Alexander Golovin swept home a direct free-kick with the last action of the game.


Reader Comments (89)

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Darren Hind
1 Posted 12/06/2018 at 19:23:55
Watching the World Cup warm-up games at the moment is very misleading. Those going to the party are in strictly preparation mode. Those who are not, are generally experimenting.


Nicholas Ryan
2 Posted 12/06/2018 at 19:24:48
In terms of quality control, I suppose "In the current Germany World Cup squad" is about as good as it gets! By the way, some reports of the USA v France friendly, are suggesting that Antonee Robinson had Griezmann in his pocket!!
Mike Gaynes
3 Posted 12/06/2018 at 19:34:00
Darren, France started the same lineup they're expected to start next week. Obviously the intensity isn't the same, but they weren't experimenting.

Nicholas, that would be an overstatement, but he did win the ball from him twice. Griezmann spent more of his time on the opposite side torturing US right-back, Shaq Moore.

Darren Hind
4 Posted 12/06/2018 at 19:55:33
Mike,

France are going to the party. They were the team in preparation.

Darren Hind
5 Posted 12/06/2018 at 20:32:00
Things will be a little different next week. France will be one of the favourites.

I have been pleasantly surprised by England. I stopped watching them years ago because I couldn't bear the predictable misery and failure over rated superstars like Gerrard, Lampard, Rooney, Ferdinand and Scholes would repeatedly serve up. In fact I would go back even further, However.

I tuned in to see how Pickford was doing and thought this current bunch seemed a lot more genuine, I like that they are not being touted as "certainties" by the knobheads who hog our screens.

Some very talented players amongst the English ranks. A semi-final place would not be out of the question for me.

Darren Hind
6 Posted 12/06/2018 at 20:41:23
Interesting tip, Andy.

I hadn't thought about it until you mentioned it, but there does look to be an awful lot of draws in those group stages.

Might just follow your lead there...

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

7 Posted 12/06/2018 at 20:41:54
Andy @ 22.

Didn't you say recently you were 'going large' on Belgium for your World Cup punting...?

If so, this article on the Beeb might encourage you:

Does history tell us who will win in Russia?

Paul Tran
8 Posted 12/06/2018 at 21:50:42
The preliminary friendlies are all well and good, but it's the teams with the strong mentality that come to the fore in tournaments.

So my dogs' inheritance is on Germany.

Best bet for any tournament is in any England game, back a draw or the other team. Do it nice and late to let the pissed patriots get their money on and watch the odds get skewed.

If England use their main attacking asset, pace, they may surprise us and do better than we think. Either way, at least we'll be better to watch. Southgate has revamped the mental support the squad gets, which is long overdue, so let's hope that works as well as the players' pace.

Ash Moore
9 Posted 13/06/2018 at 07:17:42
Interesting that some of the posters I respect here are quietly talking up England in the World Cup. A semi-final, Darren???


John Pierce
10 Posted 13/06/2018 at 07:31:23
England might struggle against the smaller teams were pace is often nullified with a defensive first tactic.

I suspect they might fare better against better quality, with those sides decidedly a level better might over egg the pudding and let England in on the counter.

But to go far you need more than that. I might proffer they give a big gun a bloody nose but will be unable to repeat the dose.

John G Davies
11 Posted 13/06/2018 at 07:44:58
England? 2nd at best in the group. Knocked out in Round of 16.
Sam Hoare
12 Posted 13/06/2018 at 09:03:28
John, I agree, I think England have it in this team to turn over one, possibly even two, of the big guns but not more than that. They still struggle to keep the ball as well as the best teams.

I think our set pieces might really help as Trippier in particular has excellent delivery and with the likes of Cahill, Kane, Dier and Stones we have some decent aerial threat.

As long as we don't choke (as vs Iceland) I could see us making quarters or semi.

Mike Corcoran
13 Posted 13/06/2018 at 09:10:42
England will go out to Brazil or Germany in the quarters. Nailed on
Martin Nicholls
14 Posted 13/06/2018 at 09:12:33
As someone who has no interest in England, may I remind posters that on this site the words "us" and "we" refer to our Club, Everton FC.
Chris Gould
15 Posted 13/06/2018 at 09:19:16
To win a World Cup, you need someone to come of age and have a standout tournament. I wouldn't be surprised if Kane top scored and we made it to the semis. We just don't have enough in the middle of the pitch to go any further.

We are probably a Paul Scholes away from being a very very good team. Who is the ball player in our team? Who from the midfield splits defences? It's a shame as we look strong in all other areas.

Michael Lynch
16 Posted 13/06/2018 at 09:24:35
I just hope that the England team give us something to shout about. I'm going into the World Cup finding it hard to muster any enthusiasm, but at least we have a young squad which makes it a bit easier to get behind them, rather than the usual journeymen who don't really seem to give a shit.

I can only see the usual disappointment ahead but it would be great to get through a couple of knockout rounds, make the close season a bit more fun!

Steve Brown
17 Posted 13/06/2018 at 11:47:40
Spain have sacked their manager one day before the World Cup. Only one man for the job – step forward Lardiola.
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

18 Posted 13/06/2018 at 12:11:30
I sympathise with Spain. The timing of Lopetegui appointment at Real was appalling. And judging by the statement of the Spanish federation, neither he nor Real had the courtesy to inform them of negotiations.

Spain's task at the World Cup just got a wee bit harder.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

19 Posted 13/06/2018 at 13:05:05
Here is a link to a quick and easy predictor as to who is going to win the World Cup.

Link

Just select who you think will finish 1st and 2nd of each group and the KO phase will be automatically calculated. Continue predicting the match winner all the way to the final.

I predicted 1st place group finishes for Brazil, Germany and Belgium which potentially results in a Brazil v Belgium quarter-final and a possible England v Germany. My semi-final line-up was Brazil v France and Spain v Germany with Brazil triumphing in the final.

I may have to re-think that with the announcement of the dismissal of the Spanish manager this morning.

Brian Williams
20 Posted 13/06/2018 at 13:30:18
Jay.

I have England finishing second to Belgium in the group, beating Colombia in the first knock out game, losing to Germany in the quarter-final and a final of Brazil v Germany.

George Stuart
21 Posted 13/06/2018 at 14:37:25
Just reading around the World Cup and I'd forgotten De Bryune was Belgian... Phew, I thought, you know their squad is really really strong.Then I thought, is Martinez still their manager? (Yup).

Could they fluke a World Cup win and we'd be the club that rejected a World Cup winning manager? That would be right.

Michael Kenrick
22 Posted 13/06/2018 at 14:39:59
Erm... No, George, that wouldn't be right. He was not a World Cup winning manager when we sacked him. That's all that matters.
Michael Kenrick
23 Posted 13/06/2018 at 14:41:59
Canada, US & Mexico joint bid wins the right to host the World Cup in 2026

The 2026 tournament will be the biggest World Cup ever held - with 48 teams playing 80 matches over 34 days. — Oh gawd no! I started losing interest when they went to 32 teams...

Sixty matches will take place in the US, while Canada and Mexico will host 10 games each. — That's 80 matches... OMG! Absolute madness.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

24 Posted 13/06/2018 at 14:49:48
Agreed Michael @ 21. The expansion to 48 teams is overkill.

32 is an optimum number which doesn't need any jiggery-pokery (as was the case when FIFA expanded numbers from 16 to 24 teams) as to who qualifies for the KO stages.

48 dilutes the quality of 'the product'.

With 3 hosts – USA, Mexico and Canada – that also implies 3 automatic qualifications and 3 top-seeded teams, who on FIFA rankings wouldn't otherwise merit it.

Mike Gaynes
25 Posted 13/06/2018 at 14:55:12
Hallelujah!!!

Hopefully the three countries will be back on speaking terms with each other by then and the current idiocy will be just a bad, distant memory.

Michael (#21), "absolute madness" is right. And for a 48-team World Cup, the multi-nation bid will become the norm from now on. No single nation could host that many games.

Gerry Quinn
26 Posted 13/06/2018 at 14:58:12
Mexico v Germany final!
Steve Ferns
27 Posted 13/06/2018 at 15:00:24
Michael, I used the BBC predictor application before. It's amazing how many poor games there are, even in the knockout stages. If we go to 48 games, then there's going to be some shite played.

When I was a kid, the World Cup was the pinnacle. Now, it's a lesser standard than most of the big 5 leagues, and even the later stages are inferior to the quality on show in the Champions League.

The other great thing about the World Cup was watching teams full of great players you've never heard of before. Sure, there will be one or two players surprising in each side, and maybe a few of the "lesser" sides will surprise with their quality. Serbia in particular are a good technical side, much better than you would expect. But the days of only knowing a few of the big players from the likes of Brazil and Argentina are gone. Most of us could name the entire first XI of the likes of Brazil.

The last time I remember being shocked and surprised was the emergence of Chile under Bielsa, but Bielsa was attracting noise prior to the 2010 world cup, with his side's exploits in qualification, and their performance at the World Cup was not unexpected to those who were already aware of what Chile had been doing to the rest of South America in qualification.

Steve Ferns
28 Posted 13/06/2018 at 15:03:24
Hey Jay, how confident are Brazil? Is the overconfidence from 2014 causing them to try to temper expectations? What about the weather, are they playing in any cold places and will that really have an effect judging by the amount of Brazilians who have played for Shaktar and in the Russian Leagues?
Jamie Crowley
29 Posted 13/06/2018 at 15:05:06
Thrilled we won 2026 bid with our neighbors.

Over the moon. I will begin today to set my hard earned dollar aside to take my family of seven to see my America play.

I’m not sure of the automatic qualifying of the three teams? That is absurd admittedly. I believe what will happen, this current cycle clearly not being an accurate barometer, is that the US and Mexico will qualify traditionally, and only Canada will end up getting the automatic bid. Time will tell.

Great news for soccer fans in the States.

Tom Bowers
30 Posted 13/06/2018 at 15:15:07
Most of the first round of games are mismatches on paper but I am sure there will be a surprise or two.

Most of the teams will be able to defend well enough even if just parking the bus but the teams with the extra class up front will win through and that means the usual suspects like Brazil, Germany, France, Spain and Uruguay.

England have severe limitations none more so than Southgate and if Harry Kane is muted then neither Vardy nor the very wasteful Sterling will compensate but Rashford may just come of age if used properly.

Steve Ferns
31 Posted 13/06/2018 at 15:16:02
Jamie, any room in your budget for your extended family who will want to see England play?!
John Pierce
32 Posted 13/06/2018 at 15:55:59
Sad but inevitable that FIFA has morphed a festival of football into a Frankenstein's monster.

The process is so unwieldy it excludes many countries from hosting as a sole country, many I suspect are now excluded on technical prerequisites alone.

Joint bids are not to my liking, desperate and lacking cohesion. Even more so when two of the three nations have hosted in recent memory.

Really disappointed for Morocco, it would have been novel, a great spot for most of the footballing world, both proximity to Europe/game times and for that region, amazing! Nothing like this has happened there in forever?!

But the expansion lends itself to joint bids it can accommodate more sides and therefore host teams, sadly weakening the competition significantly.

Already on the wane it makes a World Cup of clubs more likely one might think.

Sad times.

Jamie Crowley
33 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:07:16
Steve @31 -

If games are hosted in Orlando, I live 2 hours away. You can crash at the Crowley Compound for a night or two. ;0)

Bear in mind I have 5 sons, and 3-4 of them will be out of the house then, so hopefully not as chaotic or loud as it currently is!

John Pierce @32 -

I completely understand your stance on the exclusion of countries with these joint bids. But frankly the US, Mexico, Canada bid will be very good for soccer on the whole. There will be much more money generated with a massive US audience pumping millions into respective FAs. The infrastructure here is ready to go - no more human slaves building shiny new stadiums and dying in the process, or "making" abhorrently low and unethical wages. There's many other positives including the growth of the game here - which I'd argue is good for the global game.

I don't feel bad at all for Morocco. We're better suited to host the world frankly.

But I do agree with you FIFA are a Frankenstein's monster.

Jamie Crowley
34 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:13:32
My family and I also filled out our groups and "brackets" last night.

England knocked out in the quarter-finals.

Final 4 of France, Brazil, Germany, Belgium.

Final Germany - Belgium.

Champions Germany.

Bobby Brown-Shoes will outscore everyone, winning games by 5-4 and the like. It's Belgium's year to make it's mark. But Germany is simply too good to not win it in my opinion.

My bracket had Germany knocking out England. Please know I hope I'm wrong, and I'm very pleased the English are undefeated in World Wars. ;0)

Steve Ferns
35 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:24:33
Cheers, Jamie, I'll be happy to kip on your porch, unless Compound Crowley is in 'Gator territory!
Dave Abrahams
36 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:31:46
John (32),

I agree with your closing remarks that the World Cup is on the wane. I will pick my games to watch but have no real interest in the competition and I haven't had much interest in it for a long time, but that is just me...

For the supporters who are looking forward to it, I hope you all enjoy a very good competition with plenty of good attacking football.

John Pierce
37 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:33:40
Jamie, I get it. I live in New Jersey, as an expat I'd love to see a World Cup in the country I live in. Dispose my distaste, is hypocritically go to every game I could!

Re Steve, easy access to New York City from my place by the way! 😜

But frankly once you've had the World Cup you should have to wait your turn, Mexico (twice) and the USA have their chance to make a difference. It's the World Cup right, what's the point if you just juggle the competition amongst a select few?

Perhaps using the money argument was not the road to go down? We all know Fifa are corrupt, and if they had done their job properly by disseminating money around the world surely Morocco or its ilk would be in a position to win a bid?

Whilst Russia & Qatar have been horribly executed the sentiment was right.

But with expansion the likelihood of even a country like Australia hosting is all but null and void. China perhaps, so what countries are left that haven't hosted that could host a 48-team World Cup?

I know the argument is more a moralistic one, and money talks but finally the monster has broken its shackles and will never be tamed.

Rob Halligan
38 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:34:14
This will be the third time the World Cup Finals will be held in Mexico since England's one and only time as being host country. What happened to sharing it around?

In my opinion, stadiums in this country have come an awful long way since 1966, with no building of new stadiums (except hopefully us) required.

Hopefully we will be in a new stadium before too long, and along with Wembley, the Emirates, the Olympic stadium, Spurs' new stadium, Old Trafford, the Etihad, St James's Park, the Stadium of Light, Villa Park, Anfield, as well as slightly smaller capacity stadiums such as the King Power, and Elland Road, this country is well more than capable of holding the World Cup Finals.

If it were to be a joint British bid, we can include Hampden Park, Celtic Park and the Millennium stadium.

So, as Jamie says, no more human slaves building shiny new stadiums and dying in the process, required in this country either.

So come on, FIFA, start playing ball and share the World Cup around...

Mike Gaynes
39 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:43:43
Rob, mate, keep your hopes up. Qatar could still step on the ball.

UK 2022!

Steve Ferns
41 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:44:20
Rob, England won't get the World Cup. Read what's being said about the fallout from the bidding process. The UK is seen as a place that won't give FIFA what they want. FIFA suspend the laws of the land to let their gravy train roll in and hoover up the cash and then roll out not caring what they left behind them. Qatar has strict rules on alcohol... no problem, we'll suspend them during the World Cup.

FIFA also want tax breaks, and loads of other things. The UK will not cede to the FIFA demands, and most importantly, the UK press will scrutinise everything FIFA get up to, and that's scrutiny that they don't want. FIFA won't come back to the UK until they are ready to run the game in a way that is cleaner and can stand up to the scrutiny of the press.

Jamie Crowley
42 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:53:42
Rob and John -

I agree with both of you regarding World Cup venues.

I think there should be a measured analysis of where to have the Cup to grow the game, as well as paying homage to developed countries who've been soccer's heart since near the beginning - like Brazil last cycle. And of course economics simply must come into it.

I see no reason why a World Cup couldn't be held in China. It would create a ton of revenue, and bring a massive country into the fold that hasn't seen soccer success. Australia could easily host the event I'd think? But they'd have more of an uphill battle I think to secure it.

Regarding Rob's suggestion of a joint bid, I'd suggest a UK - Ireland bid. Might be the single best venue for a World Cup ever. Could those two countries actually join forces for an economic windfall? I'd think so. It would strengthen the bid as well as two countries who historically have had some pretty serious "issues" come together to host the world's biggest sporting event.

And isn't that what the World Cup is about after all?

Celtic Park, the stadium not to be named for the team not to be named in Scotland, Aviva, Croke Park (never been is that a viable option?), Wembley, Manchester's two stadiums, and of course the new Bramley-Moore location - just to mention a few of the myriad of options there would be.

China in 2030, UK / Ireland in 2034. I'll be 64 years old if it's hosted in the UK in 2034. I'd definitely get over my fear of flying and make the trip across that massive body of water for a World Cup in England, Scotland, and Ireland.

In fact, if God took me on that trip I'd be satisfied, because I'm not sure it would get any better than that.

James Hughes
43 Posted 13/06/2018 at 16:59:46
Mike, there is no way in a month of Sundays that Qatar World Cup will not happen. They could do what they want and FIFA would not and could not change the event.

I agree with Rob that the next bid should be a joint UK bid, that may change the voting preferences of those involved of awarding the event. Having all involved may sway things and there would be four lots of people trying to win votes. The FA has long been highlighted as still living in the past and maybe old-fashioned attitudes are still on display when networking.

On a sidenote, is it possible the USA joint bid won because no-one wanted the FBI coming after them... :) :)

John Pierce
44 Posted 13/06/2018 at 17:08:02
Steve, hinted at it but the FA are despised at the political level in FIFA. Often seen as snobby towards many parts of the football world, and in direct opposition to the cottage industry of corruption which thrives under FIFA.

We have long passed up any chance of hosting for a marginally higher moral ground, not saying much is it?

It would take a massive sea change in both organizations for bid to be politically acceptable.

As for joint British bid? Nah the FA are well up themselves England can host any World Cup. What is more likely is a joint bid from Scotland, Wales and Ireland, it's not England and FIFA/UEFA get to piss the FA off.

Frank Wade
45 Posted 13/06/2018 at 17:14:11
Jamie, Croke Park has a 82,000 capacity including about 15,000 standing. It hosted Ireland's games during the Aviva construction, so assuming the standing isn't an issue, would be viable. It was part of the recent failed Irish bid for the rugby World Cup. Recently hosted the Rolling Stones and has Taylor Swift rolling by this weekend.
Jay Wood
[BRZ]

46 Posted 13/06/2018 at 17:23:32
Steve @ 28. How confident are Brazil? EXTREMELY confident, but then, no matter who is managing or the quality of the squad, they are the same every four years. Historically, you might say, with good reason. The talk here is all about landing the 'Hexa' – their sixth World Cup title.

But let me give you a wee insight into the Brazilian football fan psyche. I have to say, in all my travels, they are the most fairweather of fans I have encountered.

Now as footy fans we all have a moan during a game if the team or a player is underperforming, but with Brazilian supporters, it can be extremely vitriolic (and violent!) towards their own team.

I laughed in absolute amazement at one Serie A game in which the supporters of the losing team were going absolutely ape shit at the manager within 30 minutes of the kick-off. The heavily armed Military Police that attends matches moved in to (barely) control the near riot. By the game's end, the losing team turned it around and the self-same supporters who wanted to lynch the manager an hour before were now raucously singing his praises.

In the city I live, my own father-in-law (92 years old!!!) some years back simply changed his support from one city rival to t'other because his original side were losing too often and sliding down the leagues. Could you ever envisage the day or any scenario you could give up your Blueness for t'other lot of a different hue? No... me neither.

The scars of 2014 run very deep. And so they should. For me, the 7-1 defeat to Germany is the most shocking result in the history of the game. Brazil doesn't lose competitive games at home. They very rarely lose at home at all. So – as the live images of the home crowd showed (and that was just a microcosm for the whole nation) – it was a deeply, deeply traumatic event.

Brazil is party capital of the world and Brazilians will take any excuse to throw a party. Post game - be it club or national football – there will be the setting off of fireworks and motorcades on the streets. The night of Brazil 1 Germany 7, I have never known the streets so subdued.

But that was 2014. This is 2018 with the excellent Tite in charge. Tite has deliberately selected emotionally stable players (thus no room for the eye-popping David Luis, substitute captain for the suspended Tiago Silva the night of that crushing defeat to Germany). Altogether, they are a more mature squad, with fair more talent certainly in the attacking front (2014 – Jo and the aging Fred... seriously? vs 2018 – Neymar, Jesus, Coutinho, Willian and Firmino). The latter just edges that comparison, wouldn't you say?

But nothing surpasses Brazil as a location to be during the World Cup. Over in the UK (and other countries) you may see a few St George's displayed in windows and flying from verandahs and mini-flags in cars.

In Brazil, it's full-on carnival time. Whole urban streets are decorated with green and yellow streamers the length of the street. Every household flies the national colours. The actual roads themselves are painted with all manner of football-related motifs: the national flag, badge and shirt; the World Cup trophy and mascots; images of players; mini football pitches... it's amazing!

Four years ago, Gabriel Jesus was preparing for the World Cup in Brazil doing just that - see first link below. Now, he will line up alongside Neymar in Russia, representing his country.

Link

And Jesus' efforts is a shitty example of how streets are transformed. For a better idea of how Brazilians decorate their neighbourhood for the World Cup, watch the slideshow in this next link:

Link

Oh! And the weather will have absolute zero impact on their performance. No more, no less than any other team.

Steve Ferns
47 Posted 13/06/2018 at 17:37:19
Thanks for that Jay.

The weather has a big impact on us. Our players (all of the British isles) are always out of gas come the summer tournaments and will be even more so in extreme heat. This World Cup should suit England more than any for a while.

Also, I think most of England’s big players should still have something left in the tank. It wasn’t a long hard season for many except the Liverpool players.

The winter break is going to be a turning point for the fortunes of the national side. It’s not just the English, but any English based players are usually out of gas come the World Cup or the euros. The winter break should change that.

Fran Mitchell
48 Posted 13/06/2018 at 17:44:39
Indeed Jay, Brazilians are a different breed when it comes to football. Never have I seen so many people support numerous teams, and the level of their support very much depends on how well they are playing at the time.

In terms of Brazil's hopes for the world cup, they are confident, and there is a sense of making up for the disaster of 4 years ago.

And this team is of another level compared, as you said, best Brazilian manager since Scolari Mk 1, best attack since 2002 (but still nowhere near that level), best left-back in the world. If they play Germany again, it will be interesting, but I fear that Brazil may crumble yet again under the pressure (yet Tite is the manager to have for high-pressure games)...

Steve Ferns
49 Posted 13/06/2018 at 17:48:49
I still can’t believe that the average attendance for serie A (Brazil) is now less than the average attendance for MLS. that surely shows the fickleness you allude to, eh jay? Only go the game when they’re winning.
Rob Halligan
50 Posted 13/06/2018 at 18:22:37
Steve, you say the winter break should help the national team, I'm not so sure.

As we know, the third, fourth and fifth rounds of the FA Cup take place in January and February, when a lot of teams play reserve players anyway, thus giving some of the bigger names a two-week break. Any Premier League teams knocked out in any of these rounds also get a two-week break, or at least ten days, as I think there may well be a midweek fixture, certainly after the fifth round, though I may be wrong on that.

Also it's a nap that during the two-week break teams will be flying to warmer climates to play friendly games, or so-called warm weather training.

If the FA want a successful national team then they need to introduce a longer winter break, and clubs should be prevented from flying halfway round the world just to make a few bob, which will never happen.

I personally think starting the season on the first Saturday in August would be beneficial for the national team. The season would then end around the first Sunday in May, giving about six weeks before the start of the World Cup or European Championship Finals.

Just out of curiosity, how are clubs going to fit in the fixture which would normally be played n the winter break period?

Steve Ferns
51 Posted 13/06/2018 at 18:33:08
Rob, the evidence points to the break having a big effect, particularly if it's a month-long break. Enforcing no games in this period is key.

Lots of players go into the break with fatigue and carrying knocks. Playing with fatigue increases your chance of injury. Having two weeks off should ease the fatigue and give a player time to recover from the knock.

If you really want to prove that the Premier League season is not a hindrance to the national side, have a look at how many Premier League players (of other nationalities) also struggled at the World Cup. There's few examples of a Premier League player having a starring role at the World Cup despite the money they all worth or paid.

The mid-season break is necessary. It should be slightly longer though.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

52 Posted 13/06/2018 at 18:37:56
Fran @ 48 - are you in Brazil as well?

As you say, one person can enthusiastically support multiple teams. I can understand it to a degree. Outside the big metropolises, there aren't many big teams to follow, certainly if you live in the remoter, less populous states.

Often a Brazilian from such states will support one of his local teams (who usually play in Serie B, C or D) for the annual state championship and in addition support a big team from both Sao Paulo and Rio during the season proper.

I also think the 'selecao' is more resilient than 4 years ago. I predicted before a ball was kicked in anger against Germany that Brazil would lose, based just on how hyped up they were in the presentation ceremony. In a recent TV report, Brazilian commentators made the same observation – how the players were more concerned in paying homage to the injured and absent Neymar (as if he had died!) rather than concentrate on the task at hand.

Don't forget also, Brazil recently beat Germany in Germany by a single goal which flattered the hosts. Curiously, since Tite took over, the two teams who have played them best was Coratia in the 1st half in the recent game at Anfield, and... England! In the 0-0 draw at Wembley. I think they will go very, very close.

And Steve @ 49. Low attendances are not necessarily related to the fickleness of fans. It is simply economics. It is still a largely working-class game in Brazil and the low salaries the fans receive doesn't leave them with much in the way of disposable income to justify paying to watch a game live at the stadium.

When they don't have to pay, fans turn up in their tens of thousands to watch an open training session, or simply send their team off at the airport if travelling to an important game.

The likes of Corinthians and Flamengo – two of the biggest supported clubs – have had 40,000 supporters attending a training session this year already, and 10-15,000 overwhelming the airport to see their team off.

And when the likes of those two meet, you could fill the Maracana 4-5 times over.

Dennis Stevens
53 Posted 13/06/2018 at 18:48:39
Jamie (#42),

You do realise that a joint UK & Ireland bid isn't 2 countries in footballing terms, it's 5! We could suggest a joint British Isles team but doubt it would be popular almost anywhere.

Jamie Crowley
54 Posted 13/06/2018 at 19:19:38
Dennis, you're right.

It's that whole, "It's one country, but it's actually 4 countries" that my feeble American brain can't wrap itself around!

Four separate FAs would indeed mean the UK would need to go it alone.

I wonder if the 5 countries together would waive the automatic qualifying condition to host?

The idea is even beyond hypothetical. I'd just like to see England host, and bringing in neighbors would help the cause.

Steve Ferns
55 Posted 13/06/2018 at 19:27:48
One country, four nations Jamie.
Tony Abrahams
56 Posted 13/06/2018 at 19:35:37
Reading about Brazil, has just given me my first bit of excitement regarding this World Cup Jay.

I’ve been to Rio, watched a Rio cup game, (I was lead to believe its a pre-season tourno) and after reading what you have just wrote, then I really wish I was going to your adopted home this week mate.

Anyway it’s been a long time since I saw a great tournament, and although this might be an age thing, I hope this is what we get. Maybe even the most arrogant of races can change, once they have seen the joy that a World Cup can bring?

John McFarlane Snr
57 Posted 13/06/2018 at 19:57:59
Hi Steve [51] I'll nail my colours firmly to the mast, I'm a member of the "Club Before Country Brigade" and a bit of a dinosaur regarding football, but you may have guessed that from some, if not all, of my posts.

I firmly believe that the vast majority of match-going supporters share my view, and if asked the question, "Would you prefer your club to win a trophy or England to win the World Cup?" would without exception, prefer the latter.

I know that you and I are from different generations, and we view the game differently, you are of the camp that studies team formations, whereas I see only eleven players per team, and care not for formations – my concern is that each player gives of his best.

In my opinion, for what it's worth, football is being transformed from a sport into a science; every week, we're informed of how many miles players run, how many tackles are won etc; we managed quite well without this unnecessary information for years.

Regarding the mid-winter break, it was always recommended to combat weather conditions when grounds were unplayable, now that grounds are as pristine at the end of the season as they were at the beginning, that doesn't apply.

The tiredness of the players is quoted now for the reason to have a break; again it's only my opinion, but I believe that if a player is told often enough that two games a week are too many, he will believe it.

I've no doubt that we will touch on this subject, when we have our little get-together.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

58 Posted 13/06/2018 at 19:58:37
Tony @ 56. Brazil is going through (yet another!) of its perennial crisis. It's barely 2 weeks ago the country came to a standstill for a week. No petrol at the gas stations. No gas bottles for domestic cooking. Empty shelves at the supermarkets.

And yet, there is an electric buzz in the air on the eve of the World Cup.

Escapism from the day-to-day drudgery and ongoing political and corporate corruption investigations...? Quite possibly.

But I can categorically say Brazilians would be totally bewildered at the indifference and hostility shown by TWers to the national team as is frequently aired on here. It's a totally alien concept to them.

But then, they've had a fair bit more to keep them interested in the World Cup and the national team then Engerland has offered since 1966.

Tony Abrahams
59 Posted 13/06/2018 at 20:37:27
That's exactly it Jay, escapism is always better when absolute joy, is brought on by absolute brilliance!

I'm thinking about the football now, Germany, France, Belguim, Spain, Portugal, Argentina, Brazil. I've enjoyed watching Mexico, in recent tournaments, and hope this young England team can play without fear.

In fact, let them all play without fear, and hopefully give us a feast of football, like when I was a child in 1982. Zico, Socrates, Eder and Falcao, with the awful Serginio leading the line, but Paula Rossi's Italia, were definitely worthy winners by the end!

Jamie Crowley
60 Posted 13/06/2018 at 20:38:20
Duly noted Steve.

One country, 50 independent states. Helps me make sense of it.


The whole Engerland dynamic absolutely floored me when I learned of the feeling towards the English national team in some quarters on TW in 2014.

It never once crossed my mind that you could care less about your national team. I'd give body parts for the USA to win the World Cup while I'm on the right side of the grass.

I still have a very difficult time understanding it to be honest. Despite all the similarities the cousin-countries have, there's cultural differences to be sure.

In fact, off topic, I understand it's a bit of a "rip" to ask someone to dinner over there? What is that?? If you ask someone here to come over for dinner, you enjoy them and would enjoy hosting a meal and your guest's company. Over there it's like a "I'm busy, don't bother me" thing if you say, "you should come over for dinner." ?? Is that correct?

Someone enlighten me. I come to these pages to learn a thing or two. How does that add up and make sense?

Tony Abrahams
61 Posted 13/06/2018 at 21:06:09
Most of our houses, are too small for loads of guests Jamie, so the culture is usually to meet up, and maybe go to a restaurant, or the pub!

I remember when I lived in New Zealand, lovely place, lovely people, but once everyone had met, they all used to go to someone's house, rather than stay out to enjoy themselves.

I couldn't get my head round it, Jamie, just like I couldn't get my head round one of my American cousins, who would let people buy his ale all night, but would never take a cigarette off anyone because he said that made him feel like a bum!

Frank Wade
62 Posted 13/06/2018 at 21:26:54
Jamie, in Ireland, it's the same as you describe. Invite someone over for dinner. Enjoy their company and a few drinks. Taxi home. Not as common now as before, I have to add, and more likely, as Tony says to meet at a restaurant, saving on the clean-up afterwards. Crowley is a common name in County Cork, so maybe an inheritance.
Frank Wade
63 Posted 13/06/2018 at 21:32:52
The Irish are always 100% behind the team at major tournaments. Sadly not good enough to qualify too often to enjoy it all. Flags, bunting, homecoming parades, deserted streets on match day etc. I haven't seen any barefoot youngsters painting the pavements though.

Jay, I enjoyed your posts on what the World Cup means to Brazil.

Dave Abrahams
64 Posted 13/06/2018 at 21:49:43
Frank (63), yes Frank, me and my wife were in Dublin on the day they had a welcome home parade for the Irish team, when Jackie Charlton was manager. There was a very popular song in the hit parade about Charlton and the Irish team: Criack and Jack were in the title of the song.

Anyway it was a great day and the pubs were packed with a great atmosphere everywhere you went. We were involved with a large group of young Irish people even though we didn't know any of them, but made very welcome.

One of the lads asked me and my wife what part of Ireland we came from, after we had been talking and singing with them for a couple of hours. I said Liverpool and left it that, don't think he was any the wiser.!!!!!!!!

Steve Ferns
65 Posted 13/06/2018 at 21:57:11
Jamie, one thing you need to understand is that people are a bit different in Liverpool. Whenever you are in a different part of the UK and someone hears your accent, people often make a joke that is really bordering on racism. Something like, "Scouser over here, watch your wallets / hubcaps lads!". Who even has hubcaps on their cars in 2018 anyway?

But being accused of being a potential thief by a stranger, sure one who thinks he's being "funny", is something that makes us a bit defensive. Other jibes are usually associated with poverty.

It creates something of a detachment from the rest of the country. That, our unique accents, and some other characteristics. Liverpool is also the ONLY Catholic City in the UK (no, Belfast and Glasgow have a minority of Catholics) and so we have a different religion to rest of the country. So there's a major indifference that occurs to England.

People of Liverpool are fiercely patriotic towards the city though. Take the boxing, Tony Bellew was massively supported by Red and Blue, despite being a proud blue himself. If someone from Liverpool is competing at something other than football, then they can count on the city being behind them.

John @57, as stated above, I am not really an England fan. Last time, we had a load of Liverpudlians (Baines, Barkley, Rooney, Gerrard) and I think there was other Evertonians (Jagielka), so I was very much behind England. This time, we have just Pickford, so it's not exactly pulling me in.

One thing that really annoys me about England fans, actually at the games, is the songs they sing, and this whole England identity. I don't and can't associate with it at all. England doesn't have a national anthem, but we use Britain's. I hate it, if there is a God, I certainly wouldn't want him to save the Queen, so I'd never sing it. I think I'd exercise my right to play for Ireland just to get away from it.

James Flynn
66 Posted 13/06/2018 at 22:59:05
Frank (45) - Nothing to do with the World Cup, but your mention of Croke Park brought back childhood memories.

Gaelic Park is in the far-North Bronx. Still there and open. From a child to my young teen years, it's where my dad would take us to watch the Irish games; Irish football and hurling. It was a place where only my dad and us kids spoke English with an American accent.

Everyone one, included my dad, still called it by its old name, Croke Park. Clearly in reference to the original.

No point to all this. Just reading "Croke Park" brought back those memories. And in the spirit of 1,500 Irish and unlimited alcohol in one place, I received my first busted-bleeding-sutured, battle scars at Gaelic Park up in the Bronx.

Frank Wade
68 Posted 13/06/2018 at 23:05:53
Dave, Great to hear you have good memories of your Dublin visit. Make sure you let me know through Lyndon if coming again, Steve and Jamie too, We can do dinner.

That song was 'Give it a lash Jack' written for the Italia 90 expedition. Thanks for reminding me Dave, just listened to it again now, a good laugh. Link

Last Tuesday was the 30th anniversary of Ireland's first match at a major championship and folksinger Christy Moore wrote a song called Joxer goes to Stuttgart. I'm sure it was given an airing at your session Dave. Well worth a listen. Link

Steve Ferns
69 Posted 13/06/2018 at 23:11:55
Thanks Frank, I mean to visit Wexford and see the town of Ferns where my paternal grandfather's family is from. I'd also have to tour the rest of the isle to see relatives in other parts, but seeing as two branches hail from Dublin itself, I would certainly be passing through.

I've always planned to cycle around Ireland, particularly around Cork and Kerry, it looks great cycling around there.

Frank Wade
70 Posted 13/06/2018 at 23:15:13
James, never been to New York, but Gaelic Park is well known on this side of the Atlantic as the home of the GAA and famously hosted the All-Ireland Football final in 1947.

In a similar way I was lucky to be brought up in Marino, a 15 min walk from Croke Park and my Dad brought me to all the games as a youngster. He had a couple of blocks of wood in a brown paper bag for me to stand on.

Great times. Great memories. We owe our Dads so much.

Frank Wade
71 Posted 13/06/2018 at 23:29:09
Steve, I can definitely offer you a bed for your Wexford and Dublin legs, no sleeping on the porch for eminent Evertonians. My wife is from a neighbouring town Enniscorthy, about 9 miles from Ferns.

Coincidentally, my grandfather was a champion Irish Cyclist, won the English Open 5 Mile in Bristol in 1935 and he told me in the early 60s that Everton were the Irish team, so here we are. If you get the weather, the countryside in West Cork and Kerry is unbelievable.

Jamie Crowley
72 Posted 14/06/2018 at 04:04:08
Frank,

Someday I'll take you up on your dinner offer.

You mention, "Everton were the Irish team". When I was going over all the teams in the Premier League 10 years ago, that was one of the major reasons I "chose" Everton. That and the city of Liverpool having such a large Irish immigrant population. Plus a hell of a lot of other reasons I won't bore you with.

But, then again, I did not choose – I was chosen. Deigned by God this decision to be Blue.

Steve @ 65,

I greatly appreciate your reply. Helps me understand. Thank you sir.

James Flynn
73 Posted 14/06/2018 at 15:15:52
Frank (70) - Yes, good times and memories.

First time watching Irish football, even little me knew something was different. Asking my dad about it, he got this little smile and said, "They don't allow the English game here."

Not his preference, because he loved soccer. Had to wait for Winter time to go there and watch footy. But during the Summer season, it was forbidden.

And between games, marching bands of drums and bagpipes! Great times for a boy out with his dad.

Cheers.

Michael Kenrick
74 Posted 14/06/2018 at 16:13:12
And they're off!

Lively start too. Love the way the Saudi's are playing.

Michael Kenrick
75 Posted 14/06/2018 at 16:14:09
Russia score! It's a fairytale!!!
James Hughes
76 Posted 14/06/2018 at 16:32:45
Steve #65.I realise you posted that yesterday but that is a strange claim to make.

Liverpool is also the ONLY Catholic City in the UK.

Is it compulsory, do I ask my parents to relocate ?
Wasn't common knowledge to me when growing up there either,

Doesn't bother me either way as the last time I went to church that didn't involve wedding or funeral was in the 70's

Steve Ferns
77 Posted 14/06/2018 at 16:39:53
Sorry if it caused offence James. It’s just an illustration of how we’re a little bit different to the rest of the country. And the point is that catholics are in the majority in the city. We’re not all catholics.
Lev Vellene
78 Posted 14/06/2018 at 16:56:36
Totally not a top level match, but the Russians were clearly better during the first half. At half the time I'd had several deja-vu's compared to watching Everton last season, from both sides... Not a quality-stamp, that...

Well, it can only get better from here!

Dave Abrahams
79 Posted 14/06/2018 at 17:06:28
Frank (68) yes Dublin was fine we had a great time there,the first night Celtic were playing, love them but never went, when they came back to the hotel ( Celtic supporters) we had a great time until the drink took over, when the ales in the wit is out, it was all sorted out without any bloodshed.

We then went down to Wexford by Dart (train) and stayed in a boarding house owned by a real Irish character, made me and my wife laugh and cooked a lovely Irish full breakfast ( and I mean full) the boarding house was close to two churches built exactly the same, coming out of mass on the Sunday morning every person I passed wished me a " good morning " I felt like a celebrity until I realised it was just the Irish way.

If I ever go back Frank I'll let you know, I enjoyed Ireland a lot, the country and the people, mind you if you are from Liverpool you are halfway Irish to begin with.

James Hughes
80 Posted 14/06/2018 at 17:24:14
Steve, no offence was taken at all.

I agree with most of what you said there. Left home in '83 and the jokes about hubcaps etc still occur now. So I got your drift mate.

Gerry Quinn
81 Posted 14/06/2018 at 17:24:24
Anyone else think Saudi number 10, Al Sahlawi is a spitting image of Cenk Tosun?
Frank Wade
82 Posted 14/06/2018 at 17:55:01
5-0 to Russia without being great. Just think how many of these games we'll see when extended to 48 teams. All great goals it has to be said.
Lev Vellene
83 Posted 14/06/2018 at 18:28:54
Gerry #81

The sprayed on hair & beard look? Not too dissimilar! :D

Let's hope for better execution of chances on Tosun's part, though!

Darren Hind
84 Posted 14/06/2018 at 19:29:57
I've got Switzerland in the sweep. That's a team who have gone right under my radar, I know very little about them – probably for good reason.

Nevertheless, in recognition of my support for my new team, I have just had a little nibble at 9/1 for them to beat the boys from Brazil.

Warraya mean, I've just thrown my money away???

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

85 Posted 14/06/2018 at 22:27:52
Switzerland is a dark horse, I reckon, Darren.

Everyone notes Brazil have gone something like 20 games under Tite in 2 years with (off the top of my head) 17 wins, a couple of draws and a single 1-0 defeat (a meaningless exhibition game against Argentina in Australia last summer, with both sides missing their big names).

Switzerland's record in the same time is almost identical – a single defeat. And a good few have not noticed that of all the group games, this clash is the highest ranked meeting of all 48 group matches: Brazil 2nd in FIFA rankings, Switzerland 6th.

Remember also they had a decent World Cup in Brazil, only losing out to eventual finalists Argentina with a last-minute goal at the end of extra time in the quarterfinals.

The squad is pretty much the same, so battle-hardened for the rigours of the World Cup. They have a mean defence, big mobile units all over the park and a touch of magic dust in their forwards.

The Brazilian manager, Tite, has stressed a lot that if his team is not focussed, they could lose their opening game to the Swiss on Sunday.

Steve Ferns
86 Posted 14/06/2018 at 22:36:08
I think you're barking up the wrong tree there ,Jay. Switzerland have a good record because they haven't played many good sides.

Switzerland Results

Go all the way back to after the last World Cup. They've not had a big result other than Portugal and a friendly draw against Spain. If I remember correctly, Portugal had a man sent off in that game too. Maybe, Switzerland are pretty good. The reality is they've not been tested much for 4 years, and when they have they've been beaten. I think they can get out the group, but they're unlikely to get past the round of 16. In a one-on-one game, anything is possible, but the Swiss are unlikely to attack enough to get the win, a draw is the best they'll hope for.

Edit: no it was the Swiss who had 10 men, Xhaka got sent off at the death.

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

87 Posted 14/06/2018 at 22:58:29
I was about to correct you about the sending off Steve. I watched that game live, as I did the final decisive game in Lisbon in the 'winner take all' with Portugal to decide the group winners and who had to have a play off.

Switzerland swamped Portugal at home, and Portugal played their best game of the qualifiers in the final game to overrun the Swiss. Best not talk about the play-off games with Northern Ireland, or Andy Crooks might spontaneously combust.

What the Swiss will be is extremely disciplined and well organized. The two times I have seen Brazil 'negated' under Tite was vs England at Wembley and the recent first half vs Croatia in our fair city.

Not saying they will go all the way, but they have enough about them to take advantage of any side who aren't fully on their game.

Tite is fully aware of this threat. If how Brazil lined up in training today is any indicator, he is going to play it bold, with Neymar, Jesus, Willian and Coutinho all starting (he usually plays one or other of the latter two, but seldom both together), and going with Casimiro and Paulinho in midfield, and dropping Fernandinho for one of Willian or Coutinho.

Steve Ferns
88 Posted 14/06/2018 at 23:07:50
Jay, I could see a Swiss draw, but not a win. And if the Swiss do get a draw, then Brazil will find other European sides able to do the same and suffocate the life out of them and win on penalties.

If the Swiss do get beaten easily, perhaps that could be an indicator of how the Brazilians will be able to overcome any European suffocation tactics.

Who do you reckon is in the best shape from Europe? Belgium have all the problems you associate with Belgium and they're doubled by all the problems you associate with Martinez. France have a big problem called Deschamps (he still doesn't know his formation, never mind his XI), Germany look like they're much weaker judging by recent results, Spain just sacked the manager and that'll have an impact, Portugal weren't the best side 2 years ago, and Cristiano Ronaldo Aveiro shouldn't be able to carry them the way he did two years ago. I don't think any of the Europeans are in top shape, though I thought Spain were getting there until they went and committed suicide!

Surely, this is a tournament for your adopted country to finally win on European soil (for the first time since '58)?

Jay Wood
[BRZ]

89 Posted 14/06/2018 at 23:37:06
Steve, maybe it's because I've had so much exposure to them and observed how much they've progressed under Tite that I can't see beyond Brazil as eventual champions.

There doesn't appear to be an outstanding European side for the reasons you stated, but Belgium has an embarrassment of riches and if it clicks, they may prove the best flag bearers for Europe.

Unless Messi has an outstanding tournament, I just don't see Argentina progressing beyond the quarters at best. Germany just look off-key, but... it IS Germany! You just know they will have a good tournament. Portugal lucked out to be crowned European Champions 2 years ago. Spain are more potent for me of the Iberian sides, but the removal of the manager on the eve of the World Cup has got to have some detrimental effect on their preparations.

As for England, I'm guessing they are using Russia as a testing ground to expose this young squad to tournament environment at the highest level ahead of giving it a crack in 4 years time.

With the successes of the junior England sides in recent years, there does seem to be a development and progress plan in place for England's better players which offers encouragement for the future.

Frank Wade
90 Posted 15/06/2018 at 00:28:13
Steve, Interested to hear what your opinion is of Golovin, Russian No 17. He looked very impressive today. Great vision and delivery and worked hard in attack and defence.

The question will always be for players like this: Can he do it in Premier League?

Andrew Lum
91 Posted 15/06/2018 at 05:08:57
Fantastic performance by Golovin. I thought he and Dowell are very similar players. Natural footballers. Does anyone think likewise?

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