FMM18 World Cup Day 22

Read from the introduction.

Recap on the previous day of games.

Re-read how the teams won their Last 16 matches.

Quarter Final – South Korea V Ukraine

It would have been a brave person who bet on the opening Quarter Final match being between South Korea and Ukraine. Victory over Denmark secured Ukraine’s place, whilst South Korea pulled off one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history by beating Brazil. Hyun-Jun Kang goes off injured for the South Koreans in the 33rd minute. If it has an impact on them, it’s not a negative one – Sung-Yeung Ki puts them into the lead five minutes later, a lead they take into the break. They keep the lead throughout the second half, but are unable to add to it, so Ukraine are always in the game but unable to find a goal.

Quarter Final – Iceland V Portugal

Iceland were surprise Quarter Finalists at Euro 2016, whilst Portugal were surprise winners. The two meet in the Quarter Finals of the World Cup after Portugal beat Colombia and Iceland beat Russia in the Last 16. Birkir Bjarnason puts Iceland into the lead in the 18th minute. The score remains 1-0 at half time and Iceland are half way to claiming another prized scalp. Things don’t get any better for Portugal at the start of the second half as Fabio Coentrao leaves through injury in the 46th minute. Three minutes later, the scores are level; William Carvalho pulls Portugal level. Andre Silva leaves in the 52nd minute, joining Coentrao on the injury list. The third goal of the game comes in the 66th minute and it goes the way of… Portugal. Raphael Guerreiro is the man who puts Portugal into the lead. Atli Hrafn Andrason becomes the third player of the game to be forced off via injury in the 73rd minute as Iceland suffer this time. With time running out and Iceland throwing bodies forward in search of an equaliser, Adrien Silva puts the tie beyond doubt with Portugal’s third in the 86th minute.

Find out what happens on Day 23.

FMM18 World Cup Day 16

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the final round of matches in Groups A and B.

Last 16 – Iceland V Russia

Russia’s reward for topping Group A is to take on World Cup debutants Iceland in the Last 16. If Russia had any preconceptions about this being an easy route to the Quarter Finals, Iceland correct them through Jon Dadi Bodvarsson putting the Icelandic team in the lead in the 13th minute. It appears to act as a wake up call to Russia, who hit back almost immediately – Dmitry Poloz equalises in the 17th minute. The equalising goal doesn’t appear to discourage Iceland from their task and Hordur Magnusson puts Iceland back in the lead in the 26th minute. The score remains at 2-1 going into half time. As the second half progresses, Russia need to attack more to at least take the game into extra time. With sixteen minutes to go, Viktor Karl Heimisson is forced to go off injured. As with conceding an equalising goal earlier, Iceland remain focused on their task. Alexandr Kokorin goes off injured in the 86th minute as the hosts run out of ideas and exit the tournament and Iceland progress to the Quarter Finals like they did at Euro 2016.

Last 16 – South Korea V Brazil

After topping Group B as expected, Brazil find themselves against South Korea. Sung-Yeung Ki scores in the 9th minute to put the South Koreans into the lead, a situation that perhaps not many outside the South Korean camp would have thought likely. Their task is now very simple – prevent the Brazilians scoring for the next 81 minutes. The first step is to reach half time in the lead, which they manage to do. Three minutes into the second half, Brazil lose Bernard to injury. Brazil continue to look for the equaliser, but the South Korean defence is resolute and the five-time champions are surprisingly eliminated by the South Koreans in the biggest shock of the tournament so far.

Find out what happens on Day 17.

FMM18 World Cup Day 12

Start from the introduction.

Re-read yesterday’s action.

Recap on the previous games in Group A and Group B.

Group B – Iceland V Brazil & Tunisia V Costa Rica

Going into the final matches, the Group B table looks like:

Brazil are, as everyone expected, safely through to the knockout stages. They will finish as runners-up if they lose to Iceland, who only require a draw to ensure qualification to the knockout matches. They could still qualify even if they lose, but Tunisia would either need to record a big win or hope that Brazil record a big win over Iceland.

Tunisia start well and take the lead in the 10th minute through Saber Hraiech. Costa Rica lost Christian Duarte to injury in the 32nd minute. At half time, Tunisia are leading 1-0, whilst Brazil V Iceland are drawing 0-0. Tunisia have 45 minutes to rescue their campaign and set out accordingly. Saber Hraiech grabs his (and Tunisia’s) second in the 48th minute as bodies start to flood forwards in search of goals. Yohan Benalouane adds a third in the 62nd minute, before a quickfire double from Housem Maamria (77th and 81st minute) puts Tunisia into a commanding lead. Aymen Abdennour also scores in the 81st minute and Tunisia’s approach changes; they need to ensure they don’t concede, whilst hoping Brazil can find a way past the Icelandic defence. Even a 1-0 victory for Brazil will see Tunisia qualify at the expense of Iceland. All eyes turn to the other game, but it finishes goalless in a result that suited both Brazil and Iceland.

As expected, Brazil have qualified unbeaten and as group winners and are joined by debutants Iceland.

Group A – Spain V Russia & South Korea V Zambia

Going into the final matches, the table looks like:

Spain are topping the group, but depending on results could miss out on qualification on goal difference. However, the most likely outcome seems to be one of South Korea or Russia missing out. The hosts are currently in the stronger position, but they have to play the group leaders, whilst South Korea take on a Zambian side that has leaked eight goals in two games…

Dennis Glushakov puts the Russians ahead after 9 minutes of their game against Spain. The South Korean, who know they need goals, score in the eleventh minute. Dennis Glushakov doubles his tally and Russia’s lead in the fifteenth minute, strengthening their position and putting the second qualification spot in doubt. Fedor Smolov goes off injured after 18 minutes, but it has little impact on their performance with the crowd cheering them on. Goals remain important for South Korea and Heung-Min Son doubles their lead in the 21st minute. At half time, Russia lead Spain 2-0 and South Korea are beating Zambia by the same scoreline. Sixteen minutes into the second half, Jae-Hoon Na adds a third for South Korea. It’s becoming very clear that if Spain are to qualify, they need to find two goals. South Korea add a fourth through Heung-Min Son in the 80th minute; it boosts their goal difference, but has little impact on the group. Spain V Russia is the match to watch if things are going to change in the group, but Spain are unable to find a goal.

It’s a tight finish to the group with three teams finishing on six points. The hosts have qualified as group winners, whilst South Korea have snatched second. Spain have surprisingly failed to qualify from a group that they would have expected to at least qualify from and probably win. Even more surprising is that they were topping the group going into the final game.

Find out what happens on Day 13.

FMM18 World Cup Day 7

Read from the start of the tournament.

Recap on yesterday’s games.

Re-read the opening matches in Group A and Group B.

Group B – Iceland V Costa Rica

Costa Rica performed above expectations in the 2014 World Cup and Iceland did the same at Euro 2016. Oscar Duarte is injured in the 8th minute and replaced by Costa Rica. The scoring is opened by Iceland through Kristofer Ingi Andrason in the 25th minute; the lead is doubled by Jon Dadi Johannsson a minute later. Johan Berg Hreidarsson is sent off in the 56th minute, which appears to give Costa Rica a way back into the game. There are goals after the sending off. Three of them. Aron Gunnarsson in the 72nd minute, Atli Hrafn Andrason in the 79th minute and Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in the 82nd minute as a three-goal ten minute salvo from Iceland gives them a 5-0 victory.

Group A – Zambia V Spain

Zambia’s loss in the opening game make this a must-win game for them, whilst Spain can put themselves into an incredibly strong position in the group if they win. It starts well for Spain as Juan Mata puts them in the lead in the 6th minute. Stephen Kandi needs to be substituted for Zambia a minute later due to injury. Gerard Pique adds Spain’s second goal in the 25th minute and puts them in complete control. James Aborah scores for Zambia in the 49th minute to bring them back into the game, but Dani Carvajal’s goal in the 72nd minute restores Spain’s two-goal lead. Any thoughts Zambia had of completing an unlikely comeback are ended in the 82nd minute with the sending off of Sol Kone.

After two group games, Group A looks like:

Group B – Brazil V Tunisia

Iceland have certainly laid the gauntlet down to Brazil with their earlier demolition of Costa Rica. The floodgates are expected to open against Tunisia, but it never materialises. Aymen Belaid is injured for the Tunisians in the 73rd minute and Fernandinho scores the only goal of the game in the 77th minute. It’s another win, but not by the margin many would have expected.

The Group B table now looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 8.

FMM18 World Cup Day 2

Recap on the groups

Recap on yesterday’s games.

Group B – Costa Rica V Brazil

The heavily-fancied Brazilians open their campaign against Costa Rica, who performed above expectations at the 2014 World Cup. There’s no fairy tale opening match for Costa Rica; Dalbert opens the scoring 13 minutes in and Fernandinho guarantees the win one minute after half time. Joel Campbell limps off with 8 minutes to go, which could have an impact on Costa Rica’s remaining two group games.

Group B – Tunisia V Iceland

Brazil are the strong favourites in the group, with second place up for grabs. Tunisia open the scoring 5 minutes in through Barratli. Abdennour is replaced by the Tunisians in the 19th minute due to injury, but the change doesn’t seem to impact the Tunisians who double their lead in the 32nd minute as Harbaoui scores. With time running out and Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland staring defeat in the face, Bjarnason score twice in 4 minutes to secure a point. Tunisia, leading 2-0 with 12 minutes to go, will definitely see it as two points dropped. Iceland started their unexpected Euro 2016 run with a draw…

The opening round of fixtures for Group B are complete.

Group C – Ukraine V USA

The third and final game of the day sees the start of Group C. Besedin puts Ukraine in to the lead after 36 minutes. Pulisic draws the Americans level in the 68th minute, but the equaliser seems to wake the Ukrainians up and Ordets and Besedin both score to give Ukraine a valuable win.

Find out what happens on Day 3.

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.

Euro 2016 Quarter Finals

Match 1: Poland V Portugal

The first quarter final sees Poland take on Portugal. Poland have played well at times, but struggled at other times. Portugal have been quite subdued and qualified from their group with 3 draws and required a goal deep in stoppage time to win their Last 16 match against Croatia. This is a difficult match to call, as both attacks could cause problems for the other defence, but I think Poland have a more rounded attack, whilst Portugal appear to rely on Portugal

Winner: Poland

Match 2: Wales V Belgium

This appears to be a bit of a mis-match, but the two countries played in qualifying and Wales took 4 points from their games against Belgium. Wales have defended well and Gareth Bale has been a potent weapon for them in attack. Belgium struggled in their opening game against Italy, but have been improving since then and recorded a convincing 4-0 victory over Hungary in the last 16. The Belgium V Hungary game was open and it is difficult to imagine Wales playing an open game against such a strong Belgium attack.

Winner: Belgium

Match 3: Germany V Italy

Germany have looked excellent at times, but struggled in others, especially when pressure has been put on them (Ukraine attacked with purpose for the final 15 minutes of the first half in their group game and Germany seemed to struggle). In contrast, Italy have played well in all their matches (with the possible exception of their final group game against Republic of Ireland when they had already qualified and made plenty of changes) and qualified top from the ‘Group of Death’ (and with a game to spare) and were convincing winners against Spain in the Last 16 – quite an achievement for the worst Italian side ever! This is a difficult match to call and it could go all the way to penalties. The winners of this match will also arguably become favourites for the tournament.

Winner: Italy

Match 4: France V Iceland

Iceland surpassed all expectations in qualifying from their group, never mind beating a lacklustre England in the Last 16 to reach the quarter-finals at their first international tournament. France have impressed at times, particularly against Republic of Ireland in the Last 16 in the second half, where they looked dangerous every time they attacked. The strengths in the French midfield and attack will put a lot of pressure on Iceland’s defence, which has generally played well.

Winner: France

Predicted semi-finals:

Poland V Belgium
Italy V France

England 1-2 Iceland

England exited Euro 2016 at the Last 16 with a loss against Iceland. England got off to an excellent start with Rooney scoring from the penalty spot after Sterling had been brought down. The lead lasted two minutes before Sigurdsson poked home from close range after a long throw was flicked on. Iceland’s winner came in the 18th minute when a shot from Sigthorsson slipped under Hart’s arm and rolled gently in. England had shots as they looked to get back into the game, but most of them were from range and not good chances; the best chance fell to Kane, but he headed straight at the goalkeeper. Whilst Iceland had little of the ball and few further chances, Hart was required to make two good saves in the second half to keep England in the game. The best team on the night deservedly won and Iceland will now play France in the quarter final.

Following the result, Hodgson stepped down as England manager. The performance against Iceland was poor and there didn’t seem to be a gameplan for how to get back into or win the game. As time wore on, England made more mistakes, often without being under any pressure as passes were mis-placed and poor touches saw the ball running away. Sterling had another poor game; he is quick, but there rarely seems to be a final ball. Kane also struggled and his set-piece delivery remained poor, with it either being too short or too long and no direct free kick threatened the goal.

England’s best performance of the tournament came in their opening game against Russia, where they were cruelly denied a victory by a stoppage time goal. The performance in the game against Russia suggested that England could have a good tournament, but they never seemed to recover from Russia rescuing a point in stoppage time.

Euro 2016: Last 16

With the European Championships having expanded to 24 teams, there is a round of 16 teams.

Game 1: Switzerland V Poland

Switzerland take on Poland in the first knockout game of the tournament. I tipped Poland to be dark horses before the tournament and from what I’ve seen so far, I think Poland will have enough to beat Switzerland and take their place in the quarter finals.

Winner: Poland

Game 2: Wales V Northern Ireland

A local derby in Last 16 is the second knockout match of the tournament. This match is quite a surprise as Wales topped their group (whilst I thought they had a good chance of qualifying, I was surprised that they topped the group) and Northern Ireland qualified from a tough group that included world champions Germany. Both teams seem to have an abundance of team spirit, but I think that the class of Gareth Bale will be enough to separate two quite similar sides.

Winner: Wales

Game 3: Croatia V Portugal

Another surprising match as a result of Croatia beating Spain and topping Group D, whilst Portugal could only manage three draws and finish third in what looked like a reasonably easy group to win. Portugal have an outstanding talent in Cristiano Ronaldo, but he has largely been frustrated in the tournament so far. In contrast, Croatia have an outstanding midfield that can boast Modric and Rakitic and they also have a player who has been one of the best in the tournament so far in my opinion – Perisic. This has the potential to be a close game and I would not be surprised if it went to extra time and possibly even penalties.

Winner: Croatia

Game 4: France V Republic of Ireland

France topped their group as expected, although they required late goals to record their two wins of the tournament so far. Republic of Ireland qualified from ‘The Group of Death’ as one of the best third placed teams following a late goal against Italy. If France do have a weakness, it is their defending of set pieces and if Ireland are to have a chance of progressing, they will need excellent delivery from Brady. Even with excellent set piece delivery, I don’t think it will be enough.

Winner: France

Game 5: Germany V Slovakia

An easy Last 16 tie for Germany? In a Euro 2016 warm-up game, Slovakia beat Germany (in Germany) 3-1 and Germany have only looked good in patches. The German team that will play this match is likely to be stronger than the one fielded in the friendly (Neuer will surely start), but Slovakia have shown they are tough to break down and possess danger when breaking with Hamsik in the side. However, Germany nearly always find a way to progress and I would expect them to do so again.

Winner: Germany

Game 6: Hungary V Belgium

Hungary’s group appeared to be a relatively weak one, but Portugal were expected to top it with Austria in second place, leaving Hungary battling it out with Iceland for third place. However, Hungary were having none of it and not only qualified, but topped the group. This match looks as though it will be a united team in Hungary that is better than the sum of its parts against a team of excellent individual players in Belgium who don’t quite seem to gel as a group. I think a moment of individual brilliance from one of the Belgian forwards will be just enough to see them through.

Winner: Belgium

Game 7: Italy V Spain

The worst Italian team ever (as they were branded before the start of the tournament) qualified top of the ‘Group of Death’ after two games and their reward? Spain, who surprisingly came second in their group after losing their final group game against Croatia. This is a repeat of the Euro 2012 final, which Spain won convincingly (4-0). This Spanish team is not as good as that Spanish team, but they will still have plenty of the ball. However, if there is one team who will not be concerned by this, it is Italy and I think that the Italians will use all of their guile in a game when they will play a counter-attacking style. It will be a tight game, but the Spanish defence has looked weak at times and I think Italy will exploit this with incisive counter attacks.

Winner: Italy

Group 8: England V Iceland

Two surprising runners-up meet in the final knockout match as England surprisingly only came second of their group (despite being unbeaten), whilst Iceland surprisingly qualified automatically from their group (remaining unbeaten in the process). Iceland’s game plan has involved defending resolutely with plenty of men behind the ball, which England have found difficult to play against (as evidenced in the 0-0 draw with Slovakia). England’s pressure is likely to tell in the end, but they will have to ensure that they don’t get careless at the back.

Winner: England

Predicted quarter-finals:

Poland V Croatia
Wales V Belgium
Germany V Italy
France V England

Euro 2016: Group F

Group F comprises Austria, Hungary, Iceland and Portugal. This looks to be one of the weaker groups, but will still be interesting as all the teams will believe they can qualify from the group. Portugal will be the favourites to win the group and the talents of Ronaldo should be enough to see them top the table. Austria won their qualifying group, which included fellow qualifiers Russia and Sweden (they won 4-1 in Sweden), so are probably favourites to qualify along with Portugal from the group. This leaves Iceland and Hungary fighting it out for third place and qualifying suggests that Iceland (qualified in a group containing Turkey, Czech Republic and Netherlands, who they beat home and away) are likely to come out on top in that encounter.

Predicted final table:

1. Portugal
2. Austria
3. Iceland
4. Hungary