FMM18 World Cup Day 23

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the Last 16 games for the teams.

Quarter Final – France V Belgium

Two of Europe’s most star-studded attacking sides meet in the Quarter Final. France beat Northern Ireland 1-0, whilst Belgium required penalties to get past Uruguay. France take an early lead through Ousmane Dembele in the 13th lead. It takes Belgium 21 minutes to draw level, with Romelu Lukaku the man who scores. The teams enter the dressing rooms at half time with the score still at 1-1. Despite a wealth of attacking talent, the second half produces no goals. It takes one minute into extra time for there to be another goal; Radja Nainggolan puts Belgium into the lead in the 91st minute. France have 29 minutes to find an equaliser and extra time produces another goal in the 113th minute. The goal is scored by Lukaku and Belgium progress at the expense of France.

Quarter Final – Italy V Argentina

A Quarter Final clash between two countries with six World Cups between them. Argentina knocked out Germany in the Last 16, winning 2-0. 1-0 was good enough for Italy to progress at England’s expense. Argentina are spoilt with attacking talent, whilst Italy’s defence is as strong as ever. The score is level at half time, with neither team having been able to force a breakthrough. With extra time looking the most likely outcome, Andrea Belotti puts Italy into the lead in the 83rd minute. It’s enough for Italy’s campaign to continue as Argentina bow out.

Find out what happens on Day 24.

FMM18 World Cup Day 19

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the final games in Groups G and H.

Last 16 – Germany V Argentina

The final day of games in the Last 16 kicks off with a repeat of the 2014 final. And the 1990 final. And the 1986 final. As well as quarter finals in 2006 and 2010. So they’re familiar foes, albeit not this early in the tournament (excluding the group stage meetings in 1958 and 1966). The motivation for Argentina is avenging their loss four years ago (but can anything make up for losing the World Cup Final?), whilst for Germany it’s becoming the first team to retain the title since Brazil in 1962. Things go Argentina’s way in the first half and they take a 1-0 lead into the dressing rooms courtesy of a Sergio Aguero strike in the 26th minute. The second goal is always the crucial one and Lucas Biglia adds it with 20 minutes to go. Germany lose Tom Zeise to injury in the 73rd minute as they bow out surprisingly early.

Last 16 – Belgium V Uruguay

The final Last 16 match also sees a clash between a European and South American team, with Group G winners Uruguay taking on Group H runners-up Belgium. The Last 16 matches have been close, low-scoring affairs and this one proves no exception. Abel Hernandez is forced off with injury in the 33rd minute for Uruguay, but neither side is able to force a breakthrough before half time. Or full time. It takes 103 minutes for the scoring to be opened – Thomas Meunier being the man to find the back of the net and put Belgium into the lead. The lead lasts for 11 minutes before Diego Godin levels for Uruguay, taking the game all the way to penalty kicks. Belgium are immaculate from the spot and progress, winning the shootout 5-2.

Find out what happens on Day 20.

Russia 2018 – Last 16

Check out how accurate my predictions for the Last 16 were.

France V Argentina

Neither team have been at their best so far, but I think France are the better team and will beat Argentina.

Uruguay V Portugal

Uruguay are showing signs of growing into the tournament and are favourites, but Portugal are very different to beat and in Ronaldo, have a player who can turn a game in a moment. I think Uruguay will progress in extra time.

Spain V Russia

Home support has undoubtedly helped Russia, but they struggled in their first big test of the tournament and I think Spain will be too strong for them.

Croatia V Denmark

Croatia impressively topped a tough looking Group D and I expect them to advance against a Denmark side that progressed as expected.

Brazil V Mexico

A tough Last 16 draw for Mexico, but also for Brazil; Mexico beat the 2014 champions in the group and if they play like that again, Brazil could exit the tournament much earlier than expected. However, I expect Brazil to have too much for Mexico.

Belgium V Japan

Group H was an open group and Japan were able to qualify from it. I predict they won’t advance any further and Belgium will record a comfortable win.

Sweden V Switzerland

Sweden qualified from the tough Group F as winners and should not be underestimated, while Switzerland gained a credible draw against Brazil in Group E. A match that I predict will go to penalties, with Switzerland progressing.

Colombia V England

Any joy for England about being in the ‘easier’ side of the draw seems premature, with Colombia posing a stern test. Colombia’s loss in the group stages was a 2-1 loss in a game in which they played with 10 men for 87 minutes. It may require extra time, but I think England will progress.

My predicted Quarter-Finals

France V Uruguay
Spain V Croatia
Brazil V Belgium
Switzerland V England

FMM18 World Cup Day 15

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the previous matches in Group G and Group H.

Group H – Japan V Belgium & Wales V Argentina

Going into the final round of matches, the table looks like:

Despite being second in the group, Belgium are arguably in the strongest position as they are taking on Japan, who are bottom of the group. However, Japan could still qualify with a win and if Argentina lose to Wales. Argentina could qualify with a point from their game against Wales, but need a win to be certain of progressing. A draw would be good enough for Wales to at least qualify from the group, but a loss could see them eliminated. So to sum the group up, it’s all to play for!

Belgium don’t want to leave anything to chance and Romelu Lukaku opens the scoring against Japan in the 10th minute. Three minutes later, Sergio Aguero puts Argentina into the lead against Wales. Back in the Japan V Belgium game, Vincent Kompany leaves the field in the 14th minute due to injury. Argentina, who know a win is the only way they can guarantee they progress, double their lead through Paulo Dybala in the 16th minute. Dybala adds his second (and Argentina’s third), one minute before half time, putting them firmly in control of the game and their destiny in the tournament. Meanwhile, Belgium take a 1-0 lead into the break over Japan. Welsh hopes depend on the Japanese scraping a narrow victory over Belgium, especially when their hopes of getting anything out of their match disappear in the 68th minute when Neil Taylor is sent off. Belgium are reduced to 10 men in the 88th minute when Divock Origi receives a red card, but the Japanese are unable to take advantage.

As would have been expected at the start of the World Cup, Argentina and Belgium progress from the group. However, it was not the easy passage expected and both required wins in their final game. Credit must go to Argentina for recovering well from their opening loss. Wales had given themselves a good chance heading into the final round of matches, but Argentina ultimately proved too strong. Japan’s failure to score made things impossible for them in a tough group.

Group G – Germany V Mexico & Uruguay V Romania

Going into the final round of matches, the group looks like:

With all four teams on three points, knockout football has arrived early for Mexico, Uruguay, Germany and Romania. Mexico and Uruguay are in the strongest positions as if they both draw their games, they will progress. Germany and Romania know they must win if they are to remain in the tournament. If Mexico can hold Germany, the holders will be going out in the group stages for the first time since 2002…

A draw is good enough for Uruguay and Luis Suarez does their chances of achieving at least a draw no harm by putting them into the lead against Romania in only the 2nd minute. Germany, who know they must win, take the lead against Mexico in the 7th minute through an Edmund Risse goal. Jose Giminez doubles Uruguay’s lead in the 22nd minute. Three minutes later, Nahitan Nandez’s red card offers Romania a potential way back against Uruguay. A draw is all that’s required by Mexico and Javier Hernandez is arguably the man most likely to draw them level, which makes his loss due to injury in the 36th minute a significant loss. Romania pull a goal back through Vasile Mogos in the 38th minute to keep their chances of progress alive. As the half time whistles are blown, Germany lead Mexico 1-0 and Uruguay are beating Romania 2-1, but Romania have a man advantage. Romania equalise in the 62nd minute through Florin Andone. It’s not enough to put them through as things stand, but they have 28 minutes to find another goal and also have an extra man. As time is running out, Romania throw more men forwards and they fall victim to the counter attack in the 87th minute when Edinson Cavani puts Uruguay back into the lead.

It was a tough group, but one that Germany would have expected to win; in the end, they narrowly qualified from it. They are joined by Uruguay, who recovered well from an opening loss to Germany. Despite having the best goal difference in the group (thanks to a big win over Romania), Mexico miss out on the Last 16 and a chance to qualify for their first Quarter-Final since 1986. Romania finished bottom of the group, but have provided the shock of the World Cup with their win over Germany.

Find out what happens on Day 16.

FMM18 World Cup Day 11

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s games.

Re-read the opening matches for Group G and Group H.

Group H – Argentina V Japan

After a heavy defeat in their opening game, Argentina come out with a point to prove in a game that’s vital for them to have a chance of getting out of what appeared to be a relatively straight forward group. They’re determined to give themselves every chance and Japan suffer the backlash as Lucas Biglia (7th minute) and Sergio Aguero (9th minute) put Argentina into a two-goal lead inside 10 minutes. Argentina lose Nicolas Gaitan to injury in the 63rd minute before completing the victory through a Paulo Dybala goal in the 81st minute.

Group G – Mexico V Uruguay

Germany’s shock defeat to Romania yesterday has resulted in the group becoming wide open. Mexico look to take advantage and open the scoring through Hector Herrera in the 37th minute. Uruguay lose Lucas Torreira to injury in the 44th minute, but it only seems to serve as inspiration for them as Jose Gimenez draws them level two minutes after the break. With eleven minutes to go, Mexico are reduced to ten men as Jonathan dos Santos receives his marching orders. It’s only a short period to hold out with 10 men to gain a point, but Mexico are unable to manage it as Edinson Cavani scores with five minutes remaining to give Uruguay their first win of the tournament and ensure the Group G couldn’t be closer.

After the second round of matches, the Group G table looks like:

Group H – Wales V Belgium

After Belgium’s convincing opening win against Argentina, they’re in an excellent position to qualify from the group. Something they can confirm with victory against Wales. The first goal of the game arrives in the 8th minute, when Gareth Bale puts Wales into the lead. When Aaron Ramsey doubles the Welsh lead in the 37th minute, Belgian qualification after two matches starts to look less likely. Ten minutes into the second half, Belgium concede again as Ben Woodburn finds the net. Bale completes the scoring and unexpected rout in the 64th minute.

After two rounds of games, Group H looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 12.

FMM18 World Cup Day 6

Begin reading from the introduction

Recap on yesterday’s matches.

Re-read the last Group A matches.

Group H – Japan V Wales

Wales open their first World Cup finals game since 1958 against the team they will be expected to battling for third place in the group. Japan lose Daisuke Nagatomo to injury in the 8th minute, but it doesn’t have an impact on their defence, which holds firm. Whether it has an impact on their attack is open to debate, but Wales’ run at Euro 2016 was based on a miserly defence. It’s a point apiece, but both have the two favourites to qualify from the group to play.

Group A – South Korea V Russia

Another game with five goals. However, this one is the first that can accurately be described as a five-goal thriller. Jae-Sung Choe silences the crowd in the 14th minute by putting South Korea in the lead. Shock replaces silence in the 28th minute when Heung-Min Son doubles South Korea’s lead. Suk Hyun-Jun is replaced six minutes later after getting injured, but it doesn’t have an impact on South Korea; in fact, they extend their lead in the 58th minute through In-Jae Myung. With Russia sinking without trace, Alexandr Kokorin scores a consolation goal in the 69th minute. One minute later, it appears as though it could be more than a consolation goal as Vasily Berezutskiy pulls Russia to within one goal. However, they are unable to build on this in the last 20 minutes and although suffering a scare, South Korea hold on to record the victory.

Group H – Belgium V Argentina

The opening round of matches are completed with Belgium and Argentina playing their opening fixture in Group H. They have watched the other 30 teams play their opening game (Russia and South Korea have played two), but finally their campaigns are underway. Belgium make the better start, with Yannick Carrasco opening the scoring in the 8th minute. He adds his second in the 22nd minute and completes his hat-trick in the 30th minute. A Belgium win would not necessarily be a surprise, but few would have predicted them leading by three goals inside half an hour. Things get worse for Argentina in the 38th minute with the dismissal of Nicolas Otamendi. Belgium add a fourth in the 52nd minute, with Carrasco getting the final touch again. Argentina are reduced to nine men on the hour, with Facundo Roncaglia seeing red. Sergio Aguero pulls one back in the 66th minute, but Carrasco adds his (and Belgium’s) fifth in the 75th minute to complete the rout. If Carrasco can keep up that level of goal scoring, he’ll beat Just Fontaine’s record number of goals in a World Cup (13 goals in the 1958 World Cup) in the group stages and finish the tournament with 35 goals (assuming Belgium reach the final or third-placed playoff, which would surely be a formality when scoring at least five a game).

After the opening games in Group H, the table looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 7.

Russia 2018 – Group D

Group D comprises of Argentina, Iceland, Croatia and Nigeria. Argentina have an incredible range of attacking talents and will be expected to qualify as group winners. The group does have the look of a ‘Group of Death’ to it as Croatia have excellent technicians, Iceland are capable of springing a shock and Nigeria have demonstrated in past World Cups that they can compete with Argentina, only ever losing by the odd goal; it may not be as easy as some expect. Whilst it may not be as easy as some expect, I think Argentina will top the group and will be joined in the Last 16 by Croatia.

Leave a comment with your prediction for Group D.

Read my predictions for Groups A, B, C, E, F, G, H and the knockout matches.

South Africa 24-13 Argentina

South Africa secured third place at the World Cup with victory over Argentina at the Olympic Stadium. South Africa started the game well with 10 points in the opening 15 minutes, aided greatly by a yellow card for Cubelli. Whilst Argentina did come back into the game (they finished with 65% possession and 63% territory), they rarely looked like unlocking the South African defence and running in points as they had against Ireland. South Africa looked comfortable with making tackles and waiting for Argentine errors. Argentina did secure a late consolation try in stoppage time, but the game had been over for quite a time and South Africa fully deserved their victory following an impressive opening quarter.

Argentina 54-9 Georgia

Argentina claimed a bonus point victory over Georgia in Pool C of the Rugby World Cup. The first half was a tight affair, with the score being 14-9 at half time. Argentina had had the better of the game, but made relatively few line breaks and appeared to lack a clinical edge, although they did score one try. The change in the game happened with the yellow carding of Gorgodze; Georgia had been warned that a yellow card had been coming and when it did, Argentina took full advantage by scoring three tries in the ten minutes of having a one-man advantage. With Georgia tiring, Argentina ran in further tries and recorded a convincing victory.

Argentina showed what a good side they are and were able to up their game to take full advantage of an opportunity presented to them. They will surely qualify behind New Zealand in the Pool and provide a tough test to the winners of Pool D. Georgia showed that they are very willing, but currently have a limited, forward-based game plan and no backup plan.

Rugby World Cup: Pool C Preview

Countries competing in Pool (IRB ranking in brackets)

Argentina (8)
Georgia (16)
Namibia (20)
New Zealand (1)
Tonga (11)

Pool C looks to be fairly cut, with New Zealand and Argentina being the clear favourites to progress. However, Tonga will certainly have hopes of ruining that and qualifying for the knockout phases, almost certainly at the expense of Argentina if they manage to do so. As a result, this is probably the biggest game of the group, although I am sure Georgia will be looking to spring a surprise against Argentina and/or Tonga through their strong forwards, but I don’t think that they will. For Namibia, it looks difficult to see how they will manage a win in a tough-looking group for them.

Predicted final table:

1. New Zealand
2. Argentina
3. Tonga
4. Georgia
5. Namibia