Sweden - South Korea 1-0 (Granqvist pen '65)
Belgium - Panama 3-0 (Mertens '47, Lukaku '69 '75)
Tunisia - England 1-2 (Sassi pen '35 - Kane '11 '90)
A day of clunky football in the World Cup, but for better or worse Europe came out triumphant against representatives from almost all the other continents.
Sweden opened the day's proceedings in a game that lived down to its non-glamorous billing. South Korea is a team that's more often than not present at the World Cup, but they were never capable of any notable performances bar the outrageous referee-propelled trajectory on home soil in 2002. Bar a miracle, they will hold a firm grip on the last place in the group. Sweden was by far the better team of the game, but didn't look good enough to scare either Mexico or Germany, so I think they'll struggle. They've got the defending champions next, and it would be kinda funny to send them home, but anything less than victory against the Germans spells a plane to Stockholm. They deserved to win today, though the manner in which they did it was far from spectacular. Deserved penalty, yes, and luckily VAR managed to turn the referee, but they should really have scored more by the look of the game. They seem to be missing a poacher, a genuine front-of-goal striker. No Zlatan no party.
Belgium played just one half against inferior opposition. Weirdly enough, the second. The Belgian team looks good, they connect well, their game flows fast and free and their front line - that includes Hazard, de Bruyne and Lukaku - spells danger for anyone. Panama held their own for half of the game but they don't have the quality to resist a serious football team. Happy for the two Lukaku goals, though on the other hand it's a bit of a shame the goal came so quickly, it would have been fun to watch the likes of Hazard and de Bruyne increasing the fury of their attacks in proportion with the time passed from the game. As it was, the Red Devils had an easy day at the office.
Which does not bear true for England, who had to sweat their victory out of Tunisia. Persistence paid off, what with Harry Kane scoring in injury time, and I'm glad Sterling and Walker brought their piss-poor performances on the world stage. How Sterling gets picked ahead of Rashford is unfathomable.
VAR got a moment in the sun again, with the twitter-sphere furious about Kane not being awarded a penalty. He should have been awarded two, actually, but the trouble with VAR is that it will always be imperfect as long as a human decision is still involved. For better or worse, the result was a fair one, even if England were made to sweat for it a bit more than they were expecting.
|It says Harry Kane deserved a penalty|
Allah intends for you ease and does not intend for you hardship. (Surah Al-Baqarah (2), verse 185)