FMM18 World Cup Day 31

Read from the introduction.

Re-read the third place playoff between Belgium and South Korea.

It’s the final day of the tournament and there’s one game; the biggest game in world football. Re-read how Portugal and Italy reached the World Cup Final.

World Cup Final: Portugal V Italy

The current European champions take on the four-time winners on a warm, windy day in Moscow. The last three World Cup Finals have required extra time to settle the argument, with the previous two seeing no goals scored in normal time. The Final follows the pattern of the last two, with neither side able to find a goal. Ten minutes into extra time, there’s a goal; Portugal’s talisman Cristiano Ronaldo puts the European champions twenty minutes away from their first ever World Cup and the completion of a European/World Cup double. Italy go in desperate search of an equaliser and get one with eight minutes to go as Andrea Belotti pulls the Italians level. The seconds and minutes tick away and it’s going to penalties, something that the Italians have fond memories of from the 2006 World Cup Final. 120 minutes are on the clock and the referee is checking his watch. Italy have one final chance to win the game without requiring penalties and it falls to Belotti. He scores! In the final minute of extra time! Portuguese players slump to the floor, whilst the Italian team pile on to Belotti as the bench erupts. The game kicks off after fairly lengthy Italian celebrations, but Portugal have no chance to equalise and force penalties. Italy are champions of the world for the fifth time.

FMM18 World Cup Day 28

Read from the introduction.

There are no games today, so lets take a look at how Portugal have reached the final:

Group C: V Ghana, 5-0 (Andre Silva (3), Joao Mario, Andre Gomes)
Group C: V USA, 1-0 (Andre Silva)
Group C: V Ukraine, 0-5
Last 16: V Colombia, 1-0 AET (Andre Silva)
Quarter Final: V Iceland, 3-1 (William Carvalho, Raphael Guerreiro, Adrien Silva)
Semi Final: V Belgium, 2-0 (Joao Mario, Cristiano Ronaldo)

Find out what happens on Day 29.

FMM18 World Cup Day 26

Read from the introduction.

Re-read the Quarter Final matches for Portugal and Belgium.

Semi Final – Portugal V Belgium

The opening Semi Final pits a team full of attacking players in Belgium against a team in Portugal with arguably Europe’s best ever player in Cristiano Ronaldo. It’s a big game for both nations, with neither having ever reached the final before. Nerves at this stage of the tournament are to be expected and it’s a relatively slow start. Danilo Pereira limps off injured for Portugal in the 39th minute, forcing them to make a change. The change instantly results in a goal – Joao Mario breaks the deadlock in the 40th minute to put Portugal into the lead. As the game progresses, Belgium’s urgency becomes greater. With ten minutes to go, Ronaldo ensures that the game is wrapped up for Portugal and that they will get the chance to play for the biggest prize in football.

Find out what happens on Day 27.

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 17

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the final matches in Group C and D.

Last 16 – Portugal V Colombia

After topping Group D, Colombia find themselves taking on Portugal in the Last 16. The first half is relatively quiet, although Portugal lose Joao Moutinho to injury in the 39th minute. The second half also produces no goals, so it’s the first game of the tournament to go to extra time. Andre Silva provides the breakthrough in the 100th minute and it’s enough for Portugal to progress through to the Quarter Finals.

Last 16 – Denmark V Ukraine

Topping Group C has resulted in Ukraine finding themselves against Denmark for a place in the Quarter Finals. Denys Garmash puts the Ukrainians into the lead into the 40th minute. It’s enough to not only give them the lead at half time, but also enough to see them through to the Quarter Finals as Denmark are unable to find a way past the Ukrainian defence.

Find out what happens on Day 18.

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 13

Read from the introduction.

Re-read yesterday’s action.

Recap on the previous games in Group C and Group D.

Group C – USA V Ghana & Ukraine V Portugal

Going into the final matches, the table looks like:

It’s a similar situation to Group A; Portugal are topping the group, but wins for Ghana and Ukraine could see them qualify at Portugal’s expense. Ukraine are in the stronger position out of Ukraine and Ghana, but Ukraine have to play the table-topping Portugal whilst Ghana play bottom side USA. However, Portugal’s big goal difference means they are unlikely to miss out on qualification without at least one (but more likely both) of Ghana and Ukraine recording a big win. A win for Portugal and USA could still see the Americans qualify though…

USA lose Erik Palmer-Brown to injury in the sixteenth minute. One minute later, Ukraine take the lead against Portugal to make Ghana’s task (or USA’s unlikely task) more difficult – Ivan Ordets is the scorer. Ghana’s task becomes more difficult in the 38th minute when USA take the lead through Danny Williams. On the stroke of half time, Andriy Yarmolenko doubles Ukraine’s lead. At half time, USA lead Ghana 1-0 and Ukraine lead Portugal 2-0 – it looks as though qualification from the group is all but settled. America lose Geoff Cameron to injury in the 51st minute, with Michael Bradley being forced to follow him off one minute later as USA complete their permitted substitutions with all substitutes replacing injured players. Ukraine hit a purple patch with three goals (Volodmyr Shepelev in the 61st and 69th minute and Andriy Yarmolenko in the 69th minute) in eight minutes, propelling them to the top of the table and putting Portugal’s qualification in some doubt if a sizeable win can be recorded by Ghana. USA double their lead in the 70th minute and are given a boost two minutes later when Bernand Mensah receives his marching orders. Ghana are able to pull a goal back in the 77th minute through Maxwell Acosty, but it’s too little too late.

Portugal have qualified from the group as runners-up after their sizeable loss against eventual winners Ukraine, whilst Ghana and USA were three points away from the two qualifiers.

Group D – Denmark V Colombia & South Africa V Saudi Arabia

Going into the final matches, the table looks like:

Denmark have qualified with a game to spare and only need a point against Colombia to finish as group winners. A point for Colombia will see them qualify, whilst a win will see them top the group. If Denmark can beat Colombia and Saudi Arabia can beat South Africa, Saudi Arabia could sneak into second spot if there’s a big result in either game.

Saudi Arabia’s job becomes more difficult in the 31st minute when Keletso Shipalane puts South Africa into the lead in 31st minute. Saudi Arabia’s job looks to become impossible in the 34th minute when Siphiwe Tshabalala doubles South Africa’s lead. In the other game, James Rodriguez limps off for Colombia in the 36th minute. The referee’s blow their whistles for half time with Denmark and Colombia drawing 0-0 and South Africa beating Saudi Arabia 2-0. Although Saudi Arabia need Denmark to beat Colombia if they are to have a chance of qualifying, they also need goals and to record a win. They start the second half well as Mohammed Al-Shalhoob pulls a goal back in the 48th minute. Colombia take the lead over Denmark on the hour through Juan Fernando Qunitero. News evidently filters through to the other game and South Africa add their third after 65 minutes through Thabo Dykman. With the question of who will qualify from the group surely beyond doubt, all focus is on the Danish game to see if they can find a way to top the group. Denmark’s quest receives a boost in the 77th minute when Fredy Guarin’s red card sees Colombia reduced to ten men. Luis Muriel is forced off injured in the 80th minute, but Denmark are unable to find an equalising goal.

Colombia and Denmark have secured qualification quite comfortably, which most neutrals would have expected. Saudi Arabia’s surprise draw in their opening match against Colombia gave them an outside chance of qualifying going into the final group games, but a loss to an already eliminated South Africa resulted in them finishing bottom of the group.

Find out what happens on Day 14.

FMM18 World Cup Day 8

Read from the introduction.

Recap on yesterday’s action.

Re-read the opening games in Group C and Group D.

Group C – USA V Portugal

Things don’t get off to a great start for America as they lose DeAndre Yedlin to injury in the fourth minute. Fourteen minutes later, Andre Silva fires Portugal into the lead. Thankfully, from an American perspective, it’s as bad as it gets; unfortunately, from an American perspective, it’s as good as it gets and Portugal run out victors.

Group C – Ghana V Ukraine

It’s not a great start for Ghana as Jordan Ayew has to be replaced in the seventh minute due to injury. It has a minimal impact on Ghana, who take the lead a minute later through Godfred Donsah. One minute before half time, Andre Ayew doubles the lead for Ghana. With nine minutes remaining, Kwadwo Asamoah scores Ghana’s third. Four minutes later, Andriy Yarmolenko pulls one back for Ukraine, but it’s too little too late.

The Group C table now looks like:

Group D – Colombia V South Africa

The game takes some time to get going, but Sebastian Perez’s injury in the 33rd minute seems to act as the catalyst for the game springing into life. One minute after Perez’s injury, Colombia take the lead through Jeison Murillo and James Rodriguez doubles the lead five minutes later. A two goal lead is comfortable at half time and Colombia waste little time in extending their lead at the start of the second half with Jackson Martinez and Luis Muriel scoring in the 50th and 60th minute respectively to give Colombia a resounding victory.

FMM18 World Cup Day 3

Recap on the groups

Recap on yesterday’s games

Group D – Saudi Arabia V Colombia

Group D opens with Saudi Arabia and Colombia battling it out. Colombia will be expected to qualify from the group and get off to the dream start through Luis Muriel in the third minute. The lead is short-lived and Mohammed Hawsawi equalises for Saudi Arabia eight minutes later. That concludes the scoring and Saudi Arabia emerge with a credible point.

Group C – Portugal V Ghana

The European champions will be expected to qualify from Group C and get off to an emphatic start against Ghana. Andre Silva hits a 13 minute hat-trick (12, 17, 25), whilst goals from Joao Mario (25th minute) and Andre Gomes on the final whistle ensure that victory is never in doubt. It’s a clear statement that Portugal want to add the world title to their European one.

After the first round of matches, Group C looks like:

Group D – South Africa V Denmark

The third day of the tournament concludes with another goal-fest. As seems to be the case, the goals all go for one side as Denmark brush aside South Africa with minimal fuss. A 28 minute hat-trick from Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (2, 26, 30) and a brace from Thomas Delaney (17, 79) power Denmark to the top of the group. 5-0 definitely seems to be the scoreline of the tournament so far.

With Group D’s first matches concluding, the table looks like:

Find out what happens on Day 4.

Russia 2018 – Group B

Group B consists of Spain, Portugal, Morocco and Iran. This would appear to be one of the more straight forward groups to predict as Spain and Portugal will be expected to progress with ease. However, Morocco and Iran are capable of pulling off a shock and will relish the chance to do so. Although capable, I expect that Spain and Portugal will qualify, with Spain topping the group.

Leave a comment with your prediction for Group B.

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

Euro 2016 Semi-Finals

Match 1: Portugal V Wales

The battle of the Galacticos as Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal take on Gareth Bale’s Wales. At least, that’s how the game is being billed in the media. However, there is more to both teams than their star players as has been shown. Ronaldo has had an average tournament, missing a penalty in one match and only scoring a couple of goals, both in the same game. Portugal have drawn all their matches over 90 minutes. Bale has had quite a good tournament, but was not involved in any of the three goals when Wales beat Belgium 3-1 in the quarter-final. They kept Belgium’s chances to a minimum and were incisive when attacking. The loss of Aaron Ramsey to suspension is a big one for Wales and I don’t think they will be able to replace his quality in midfield.

Predicted winner: Portugal

Match 2: Germany V France

The world champions take on the hosts in the second semi-final. Both teams have played well at times and looked very dangerous; they have also struggled at times and looked vulnerable when attacked. Germany had a quarter-final victory like this over Italy, looking excellent around the time they got their goal and then struggling when Italy started to control the game towards the end of the 90 minutes. France dominated the first half of their quarter-final against Iceland, but in the second half showed that they remain vulnerable when the ball is crossed into the area. If France get their quick, incisive passing working, they will create plenty of problems, but Germany’s ability to cross well into the box could go a long way to deciding this match.

Predicted winner: France

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

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

Portugal U21s 5-0 Germany U21s

A sub-standard performance from Germany saw a dominant Portugal side cruise to a 5-0 victory as they booked their place in the final of the U21 European Championship Final. Portugal started well and put pressure of the German defenders, who were looking to build from the back and frequently won the ball back before Germany could build an attack. The danger from Portugal looked to be down the right, with a good move leading to a shot hitting the post. Portugal got the breakthrough in the 25th minute through Bernardo Silva, who picked up a return pass and rifled the ball past Ter Stegen from 10 yards. Within 10 minutes, the lead had double as non-existent marking from an inswinging corner allowed Ricardo to tap home from 3 yards. Portugal scored their 3rd on the stroke of half time through Cavaleiro, who fired into the top right corner after being found by Joao Mario who had been unmarked at the far post.

The second half continued where the first had left off, with Portugal only needing 45 seconds to extend their lead further; a shot from Joao Mario from outside the area took a big deflection and left Ter Stegen stranded. The fifth and final goal was scored by Horta in the 71st minute, who got in front of Ter Stegen at the near post from a cross from the left and flicked it into the net. Germany finished the game with 10 men after Bittencourt, a substitute, picked up a second yellow card in the 75th minute as the game petered out.

Portugal’s midfield looked very strong and completely outplayed the German one, with Bernardo Silva looking an excellent player. Portugal will be going into the final as favourites.