Croatia brushed aside by fierce French

Croatia

A strong Croatian challenge was undone by a clinical France side as Les Bleus won their second World Cup.

Croatia started the game extremely strongly dominating possession with Luka Modric orchestrating the midfield excellently, by pinning France deep into their half and getting the ball into dangerous areas. The French, fair play to them, dealt with the pressure well, and this style of play suited them, as they were happy to sit back and counter on the break dangerously.

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Red Devils bow out after 1-0 defeat to France

France managed to secure a 1-0 defeat over friendly rivals Belgium to progress to the World Cup Final.

Following the suspension of Thomas Meunier, Roberto Martinez was left in a difficult situation in replacing the only right back in the squad. Martinez decided to play a 3-5-2 with Nacer Chadli at RWB and a rotation of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne at LWB. Hazard completed 10 dribbles in the match, but only three were in important areas.

France started the first five minutes of the game very brightly passing the ball around and not allowing the Belgians to get a touch of it. However, after that initial spell from the French was over Belgium completely controlled the game. They pinned France into their half and dominated possession but found it difficult to break the tough French midfield.

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Belgium beat off Brazilian fightback

Belgium managed to fight off a late Brazilian resistance to beat the Seleção 2-1 in the Kazan Arena.

Roberto Martinez decided to reward his super substitutes from the previous match against Japan by starting Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini instead of Mertens and Carrasco, in a move that was highly praised after their excellent performances last Monday.

Brazil started the game brightly dominating possession and Belgium got lucky when Brazil nearly took the lead in the 8th minute when Thiago Silva latched onto a corner but could not get the correct contact and the ball instead hit the post from 4 yards out.

The Red Devils took the lead in the 13th minute after Fernandinho scored an own goal from a corner. The goal came against the run of play which helped the Belgian side’s morale a lot.

In the 31st minute, Romelu Lukaku drove forward from his own half brilliantly beating a number of Brazilian midfielders. Once he reached midway through the Brazilian half he played the ball off to Kevin De Bruyne who let fire from outside the box giving Belgium a 2-0 lead. KDB hit the ball so sweetly that it didn’t rotate in the air as it was fired into the bottom left corner.

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Belgium 3-2 Japan: Martinez saved by stunning subs

Belgium managed to become the first side since West Germany in 1970 to recover from a 2-0 deficit in the knockout stages as they beat Japan 3-2.

From the get-go, Japan started the game extremely brightly which took the Belgians by surprise. They held onto the ball well and created a number of chances with their high energy passing and dribbling.

Belgium looked very depleted and slow on the ball, struggling to find the right ball in the final third. When they did get their chance Romelu Lukaku scuffed his lines yet again, missing a tap-in from five yards out when the ball got tangled in-between his legs. The first half finished 0-0 in a rather disappointing fashion.

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Saudi Arabia 2-1 Egypt: Pharaohs empty handed and humiliated

Things got even worse for Egypt as they were beaten by Arab rivals Saudi Arabia in their final group game picking up no points in the process.

Prior to the game, Egypt were boosted by the return to the starting XI of captain and 45-year-old goalkeeper Essam El Hadary, who became the oldest player to play in a World Cup game.

The pharaohs took the lead against the run of play in the 22nd minute when Abdallah Said played a long ball down the middle over the two Saudi Arabian defenders, which Salah managed to latch on to and lob over the goalkeeper, Yasser Almosailem.

Just three minutes later Salah had the opportunity to double Egypt’s lead after beating the high lined offside trap. He was one-on-one with the keeper but managed to unbelievably chip wide.

Two minutes before halftime Saudi Arabia won a penalty after a low cross hit the trailing arm of Ahmed Fathi. The penalty seemed harsh as his arm was behind him and he had no awareness of the ball. Essam El Hadary, who has been a penalty-saving specialist over his long career, made the headlines yet again with an excellent save to parry the ball onto the bar and save the penalty.

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Russia 3-1 Egypt: Salah shackled, Elneny poor and Cuper out?

Egypt’s hopes of progressing through to the round of 16 have been all but ended after their 3-1 defeat to Russia in St. Petersburg

Prior to kick off, Egypt were boosted by the announcement that Mohamed Salah would return to the starting XI after sustaining an injury in the Champions League final. Egypt were hoping with the return of Salah to pick up a vital three points after a relatively impressive performance against Uruguay, but this was not to be the case.

From the start of the first half, Russia put a lot of pressure on Egypt and created a number of chances, rattling the Egyptian defence. Mohamed Salah was contained extremely well by the Russia defenders who remained very tight to him, not allowing him to get much of the ball.

Salah was instructed by Cúper to play very high up the pitch to try and counter-attack, however, this was useless as Egypt were never able to counter and get the ball to him quickly enough. It was extremely disappointing to not see him get involved in the game by coming in deeper to get the ball.

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Cruel ending to Egypt’s fairytale start

Egypt’s return to the World Cup after a 28-year absence was marred with disappointment, not living up to the fairy tale it could so easily have been.

All the talk prior to kick off was about whether or not Mohamed Salah was going to be fit enough to start after his shoulder injury in the Champions League final. A day before the match Egypt manager Hector Cuper said that Salah would “100% play” in the game, however, this was not the case.

Another surprise shock was the inclusion of Mohamed El-Shenawy into the starting line up, having only previously featured 4 times for Egypt. The veteran 45-year-old keeper Essam El-Hadary was tipped to start and become the oldest player in World Cup history, but this was not the case.

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