The World Cup 2018 is veering towards an end with only a couple of matches to go. England play Belgium in the 3rd-4th place playoff match on Saturday before Croatia and France battle for the ultimate prize on Sunday. It has been a great tournament with a lot of upsets and shocks. Traditional powerhouses of football have tumbled and gone home early. Defending champions Germany have lost to Mexico and Korea, Argentina have lost to Croatia and Spain have been defeated by hosts Russia. Perennial favorites Brazil looked good until their quarter-final defeat against Belgium. Croatia have been the su .
World Cup 2018 draw: Five huge group stage matches you can't afford to miss at next summer's tournament • The World Cup group draw was completed in Russia's capital Moscow on Friday • • Russia face Saudi Arabia in the opening match of the tournament in Moscow • Portugal and Spain face each other along with Morocco and Iran in Group B By Published: 16:26, 1 December 2017 | Updated: 19:22, 1 December 2017 The 32 countries contesting next summer's learned their group-stage fate on Friday afternoon as the draw was held at the Kremlin in Moscow.
Gareth Southgate will be happy with his side's draw, which sees them paired alongside fellow Europeans , World Cup debutants Panama and 1998 group stage opponents . But while all of England's games will be a must-watch, what other fixtures should football fans mark in their diaries? Sportsmail picks out five group-stage fixtures every football fan can't afford to miss...
RUSSIA SAUDI ARABIA EGYPT URUGUAY As tradition dictates, the hosts will contest the opening game of the World Cup and it will come complete with the opening ceremony at the spectacular Luzhniki Stadium, which will also host the final a month later.
Expect an incredible show from the host nation and a fantastic atmosphere throughout the match. With Saudi Arabia and making up the two lowest-ranked sides in the competition, it is certainly not the glamour tie that organisers would have hoped for but represents a realistic chance for the hosts to get off to a winning start.
PORTUGAL SPAIN MOROCCO IRAN The reigning European champions will face their neighbours in the opening round of fixtures in Group B in what represents the first true heavyweight clash at next summer's World Cup.
Having won their first major title at Euro 2016 last summer, a Portugal side likely to be lead by Cristiano Ronaldo will go into the fixture with their tails up. , on the other hand, have suffered a decline from the dizzy heights that saw them win two European Championships and a World Cup in the space of eight years, but are threatening to rediscover their best form with the likes of Alvaro Morata and Marco Asensio emerging onto the world stage.
ARGENTINA ICELAND CROATIA NIGERIA As host Gary Lineker pointed out, have more volcanoes than professional footballers, but their team will be looking to make an explosive impact at their first World Cup against an side who barely managed qualified.
Having made the Euro 2016 quarter-finals and qualified for the World Cup with ease, Iceland go into the tournament on a wave of confidence and face an Argentina side currently in crisis. It all adds up to a potential giant killing for the mid-Atlantic island. And, if not, at least we'll see the famous Icelandic clap in action again. FRANCE AUSTRALIA PERU DENMARK It was form in the qualifying stages that saw them finish above 2010 finalists Holland, who failed to reach their second successive major tournament.
The Swedes then put in two incredible defensive displays to see them past four-time winners Italy in the European play-offs. Now, the Scandinavian nation have the chance to prove they are worthy of their giant-killer tagline against reigning world champions . The fixture could be made all the more tantalising if Manchester United striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic decides to put international retirement on hold.
England vs Belgium - Group G 28 June, 6pm - Kaliningrad Stadium, Kaliningrad BELGIUM PANAMA TUNISIA ENGLAND Both England and Belgium will have hoped to have sealed their place in the last 16 by the time this concluding fixture in Group G comes along, but the winner will be able to throw down a big gauntlet ahead of the knockout stages.
Should the form book prove true, it is also likely to decide who tops Group G and, in theory, receive an easier draw in the first knockout game. The winner of the group will face the Group H runner-up (Poland, Senegal, Colombia or Japan) while the runner-up will gave to deal with the winner of that same group.
Their last clash in the World Cup came in the Second Round at Italia 90 and saw England triumph 1-0 after extra time thanks to a goal from David Platt.
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Is your wedding band looking a little pricey? Just wait until the next World Cup, and tie the knot in the presence of Argentinian fans – they’ll happily provide the music for free! 24. Pretty much everything Putin did Russian President Vladimir Putin was only at two games, but managed to steal the show at both. His smugness in the face of Saudi Prince Mohammed bin Salman set the Internet on fire: Putin with an umbrella while everyone else gets soaked. Classic. — Balls.ie (@ballsdotie) 23.
England winning a penalty shoot-out (at long bloody last) In England’s quarterfinal tie against Colombia, the script looked written: They conceded a late goal, miss some good chances in extra time – surely what follows is a penalty shoot-out exit? 1998 - Jordan Pickford was the first England goalkeeper to save a penalty in a penalty shoot-out at a major tournament since David Seaman at World Cup 1998 against Argentina.
Crucial.— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) Not this time. England secured their first ever World Cup win on penalties thanks to some unlikely heroes – namely keeper Jordan Pickford, who made a fine save, and substitute Eric Dier, who slotted home the winning spot-kick.
The tension was real. 22. Brazil fans bringing the noise outside their team’s hotel Brazil’s fans were among the loudest and best represented in Russia this summer. Before their quarterfinal tie with Belgium, the fans who made it to Kazan spent the night giving their boys some extra encouragement outside the team hotel.
Check this out for atmosphere: Before Iceland’s opening game with Argentina, 30,000 fans (almost 10 percent of the country’s population) gathered outside Moscow’s Spartak Stadium for a spine-tingling rendition of their trademark Viking salute.
No wonder their players came away from the game with a point. 20. Senegal’s alternative warm-up Some teams warm up for matches with intense stretching regimes and games of one-touch. Others, well, they just dance. And the “Happiest Players Award” goes to… The Senegal fans in the Otkrytie Arena have been singing and dancing all game! 👏👏👏— COPA90 (@COPA90) 19.
Ronaldinho stealing Will Smith’s thunder at the closing ceremony The fast-paced opera rendition of Russian folk song ‘kalinka’ at the closing ceremony was quite a spectacle, and it was made complete by the unexpected buck-toothed joy and bongo expertise of footballing legend Ronaldinho.
Публикация от (@pro_mitino) 1 Июл 2018 в 11:49 PDT Imagine this: You’re in the World Cup Round of 16, and your team has made it to extra time against the star-studded Spainish national team.
What would you be thinking? Probably not food, I’m guessing. For these three spectacularly dressed fans, however, quenching their peckishness was top priority.
They became Russia’s meme of the tournament for their efforts: — Джентльмен (@Dekapittator) 17. Japan (almost) stunning Belgium in the Round of 16 Much-fancied Group G winners Belgium squared up against Japan in what looked set to be the least mouth-watering tie of the second round.
Oh, how wrong we were – it ended up being one hell of a game, with the Japanese setting themselves up for a historic upset after scoring two beautiful goals early in the second half.
It wasn’t to be, however; Belgium piled their biggest beanpoles forward and clawed it back to 3-2. What a comeback it was, and a heartbreak for the valiant Japanese. 16. It’s raining pints; hallelujah, it’s raining pints England, who went into the World Cup far from favorites, made it to their first semi-final since 1990, sending fans at home into delirium.
“It” didn’t come home in the end, but before England were knocked out by Croatia, Kieran Trippier’s semi-final goal sent half of London’s beer supply skyward in Hyde Park: 15. Luka Modric being Luka Modric 2018 was the year that perennial “dark horses” Croatia finally came of age. Key to the World Cup runners-up’s success was captain fantastic, Luka Modric, who took home the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player and gave us plenty to remember, including this beauty against Argentina: Luka Modric final stats vs Russia: 🎶 140 touches, 🅰️ 1 assist, 🗝️4 key passes, 🔫 3 shots, 💫 8/11 dribbles, 🎼 102/112 passes (87.3%), 💉 16/18 long balls, 🎨 4/10 crosses, 💪 4 fouls drawn, 🆙 2 tackles, ⚽ 1 penalty scored in the shoot-out, World class.
— Rafał (@InverseRM) 14. Messi sent packing after stunning 4-3 defeat to France Mbappe, penalty, surely! Di Maria – it’s a screamer! Pavaaaaaaaaaard!!!! Mbappe is the real life roadrunner, he’s even too fast for cameras 😂😭😂 — Footy Humour (@FootyHumour) 12. Neymar’s theatrics Many envisaged the Brazilian forward lifting the World Cup this summer, and while he made some strong appearances, his tournament will be best remembered for some very questionable diving antics.
Some say he’s still rolling… In spite of Neymar’s antics, Brazil was looking unbeatable before their quarterfinal tie against Belgium. The Red Devils then shocked them with a performance of kings - courtesy of a breathtaking save by Thibaut Courtois and a fine finish by Kevin de Bruyne to round off a magnificent team goal. Belgium’s “golden generation” progressed to the semi-finals and eventually finished third. 10. The foot of God Portugal’s exhilarating 3-3 draw with Spain was football at its finest: Long-range goals, silky passing, and an old-fashioned bully of a striker battling it out with perhaps the greatest player ever for the plaudits.
Ronaldo’s stunning free-kick was the ending the game deserved, while the match itself got the tournament started in style. One for the ages. 7. Stadium housekeeping If there were a “Class Act Award” for the fans, it’d surely go to the Senegalese and Japanese supporters, who took time to clean their stadium sections after games. Публикация от (@sportsyuk) 2 Июл 2018 в 10:57 PDT Let’s hope this catches on among other fans!
6. Humble Kante France’s N’Golo Kante is often touted as the “nicest man in football.” This was confirmed when, after winning the World Cup as one of the tournament’s best players, Kante had to be given the trophy by teammate Steven N’Zonzi because he didn’t want to impose on his teammates’ photo ops.
Steven N'Zonzi tells the players to let N'Golo Kanté hold the World Cup trophy because Kanté is too shy to ask and didn't want to impose on anyone.
Love this gesture by N'Zonzi and Kante's humility 🙌🏼— Futbol Stuff (@FutboIStuff) Then, despite standing at only 5’6”, Kante certainly didn’t try to block his teammates’ snap with French President Emmanuel Macron: الثور ثور 😂😂 — ⚽ (@4K__4K) Celebration of the tournament, hands down. Watch in slow motion for maximum effect. 4. The saves, oh, the saves While the goalscorers are getting most of the plaudits, let’s take a moment to look back on some of the legendary goalkeeping we’ve seen this summer.
First, there was Pickford: Save of the tournament from Courtois. — Joe Amart (@joe_amart) Lloris and Akinfeev were also among the picks of the top saves. Keepers, stand up. 3. The throw-in that never was It’s stoppage time in the biggest game of your life. You’re 1-0, and you get a throw-in that could lead to a goal.
What do you do? Unfortunately for Iran, Milad Mohammadi decided to do this: Публикация от (@thefootballist_) 21 Июн 2018 в 3:36 PDT Although the timing was questionable, we’re definitely glad he went for it (and then backed out).
Someone needs to make a 10-hour version of this ASAP. 2. Russia erupting after beating Spain Russia, who went in to the World Cup as the tournament’s lowest-ranked team, ended up getting to the quarterfinal by way of a spectacular defeat of 2010 champions Spain on home turf. This unexpected victory led to one of the biggest parties the nation has ever seen: The moment ⭐️ became ⭐️⭐️! // // 📺 Highlights 👉 — FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) France was clinical and effective from the tournament’s outset, and sealed off a perfect World Cup showing with a 4-2 victory over a strong Croatia side.
It was the best World Cup final in a long time, and the players and fans partied like there was no tomorrow: VIDEO: Revolution and football: French fans take to Moscow's Red Square to celebrate Bastille Day as they count down to the final between Les Bleus and Croatia — AFP news agency (@AFP) World Cup 2018 – we miss you already.
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World Cup 2018 ● Top 20 Goals