AGONAsport World Cup Daily Recap, Day 5: Favorites Follow The Script
The favorites finally prevailed on Day 5 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. After several days of minor upsets and a couple big shocks by unfancied sides, Monday’s matches went as predicted. Sweden were able to slip past South Korea 1-0 in Group F play. In Group G, Belgium and England, the two heavyweights in the section, both picked up wins. Belgium dispatching Panama by a 3-0 scoreline, while England left it very late before coming out on top over Tunisia 2-1.
Sweden v South Korea 1-0
Sweden made the most of a VAR decision penalty kick to defeat South Korea 1-0. Andreas Grankqvist’s coolly slotted home penalty in the 65th minute gave Sweden the precious victory. Referee Joel Aguilar initially did not point to the spot until the decision was made to see the play on video review. South Korea battled admirably, but they were too toothless in attack, unable to register a shot on target.
Match Rating - 5: This was a match that promised to be decent, but it fell short. With 44 fouls in total, the game was too stop-start to have any real flow.
Belgium v Panama 3-0
A Romelu Lukaku brace followed an opener by Dries Mertens as Belgium produced a solid second-half performance to ease past Panama 3-0. The Central American side acquitted themselves well in their first-ever World Cup match. And for a while they ket Belgium at bay, frustrating their opponents by going into the break at 0-0.
The second half was a different story altogether though as Belgium finally found their scoring touch. Dries Mertens scored a fantastic volley just two minutes after the interval. Then Lukaku scored twice in the span of six minutes (69’-75’) to finish off the match.
Match Rating - 6: This was one that went as expected. Panama defended bravely in the first half, but Mertens’ goal came at the worst possible time for them. Belgium showed their quality for the rest of the match and came away with the comfortable win.
England v Tunisia 2-1
England picked up the victory against Tunisia, but the Three Lions had to wait until the death when Harry Kane headed home an injury-time winner. It was the second of Kane’s two goals on the night and the Tottenham striker saved England’s blushes against a battling Tunisian side.
Kane scored his first after just 11 minutes by putting away a rebound after Tunisia starting goalkeeper Mouez Hassen saved well from a John Stones header. Gareth Southgate’s men were rampant in the early stages and should have been up by two or three. Nabil Maaloul’s men however slowly grew into the match as they began to keep possession better. In the 35th minute Ferjani Sassi’s penalty kick levelled proceedings at 1-1, the spot-kick awarded after an elbow by Kyle Walker in the box. England had some opportunities and did not abandon hope for a winner. That didn’t seem like it would come until Kane’s late strike gave England fans a giant sigh of relief.
Match Rating - 6: This looked like a potential blowout to begin with, but full credit to Tunisia for their recovery. England were not poor, but they made matters difficult for themselves by not capitalizing on their chances and their own defensive mistakes.
Monday’s Greek connection came exclusively from Sweden. Four players in the squad have played in Greece and three were in action on Monday against South Korea. Former Panathinaikos striker Marcus Berg started for the Swedes and played the entire match as did former PAOK goalkeeper Robin Olsen.
Genoa’s Oscar Hiljemark, on-loan at Panathinaikos this past season, came on as a substitute to play the final 19 minutes. Former Olympiacos player Jimmy Durmaz remained on the bench as an unused substitute.
GOAL OF THE DAY
Dries Mertens’ full volley not only broke the deadlock against Panama, it also became one of the tournament’s best strikes thus far.
- Berg misses glorious 1v1
- VAR leads to penalty for Sweden
- Over 40 fouls in Sweden versus South Korea
- Panama go down to defeat in first World Cup game
- Belgium find their groove in second half against Panama
- Mertens scored tremendous volley
- Tunisia nearly claim point against England
- Kane’s late goal gives England dramatic victory
LOOKING AHEAD TO TOMORROW
After tomorrow’s match all 32 teams will have played their first match of the tournament. Colombia and Japan square off in a rematch of the 2014 World Cup Group Stage, where the South Americans prevailed 4-1. Then it’s Poland and Senegal in an intriguing match before hosts Russia and Egypt clash in a crucial encounter to start off the second matchday in Group A.