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.

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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.

Wales 4-0 Moldova

Wales won their opening game in their World Cup qualifying campaign against Moldova. It was a game they were expected to win, with Moldova at home being seen as the easiest of their fixtures. However, it was still a tough test as while Moldova don’t win many games, it’s rare for them to get beaten by a large margin.

For the first half hour, Wales seemed to struggle to apply consistent pressure and complete passes successfully, especially in the final third. The game changed in the final seven minutes of the first half as a Gareth Bale cross from the right was met by Sam Vokes to open the scoring with a header. With a minute to go until half time, Joe Allen doubled the lead with a shot from the edge of the area. Wales were gifted a third five minutes into the second half when a Moldovan defender passed directly to Bale, who ran into the area and coolly finished past the goalkeeper. Wales were more fluent in the second half and had Moldova under pressure for much of the time. The fourth was added in stoppage time when Bale was fouled in the area and stepped up to score a penalty and take himself within 4 goals of the Welsh goalscoring record.

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