World Cup Hot and Cold: Gareth Southgate, national treasure
Who’s hot, who’s cold as World Cup 2018 heads to the semi-final stage?
Southgate is becoming an unlikely national treasure as his calm authority over an exciting young England side continues to work wonders.
Not even the most patriotic of England fans could have written this script when the 47-year-old found himself unexpectedly taking the reins in September 2016.
Whatever happens over the next week, it seems the FA lucked out in unwittingly stumbling on the ideal formula to take England forward over the next few years.
It’s Coming Home – for Baddiel, Skinner and the Lightning Seeds at the very least. The undisputed anthem of the summer has returned to top the charts after a gap of 22 years. The big question now is… will it be bellowing out in pubs and living rooms across the land on Sunday afternoon?
— Marathonbet (@marathonbet) July 8, 2018
Fast becoming the breakout star of 2018 after brushing off a shaky start to the tournament and winning rave reviews for his performances against Colombia and Sweden. His alertness in key moments will be key to England’s chances of edging out a tough semi-final opponent in Croatia.
The ultimate Marmite footballer, Fellaini is never going to be universally loved in all quarters. However, when he’s at the top of his game his mere presence on the pitch helps drive his sides to victory.
The Man Utd star was a midfield rock for Belgium as they knocked out a hotly-fancied Brazil side relatively comfortably, with Fellaini ensuring his side kept a cool head as Brazil threatened to rally late on.
Much maligned before the tournament began, the French side are now quietly going about their business, or ‘growing into the competition’ as the old cliché goes. Deschamps slowly seems to be winning fans over after his side mounted a smart tactical display in what looked a very tricky quarter-final test against Uruguay.
Whoever wins the first semi-final will take some stopping if England are going to go all the way for the first time since 1966.
Football’s most outrageous star looks as if he will be booking a trip to London soon after losing out in his war of words with old PSG teammate David Beckham.
Zlatan agreed with Becks that he would don an England shirt and eat fish and chips at Wembley if England beat Sweden and now has to fulfil his promise following Saturday’s game. Ibra has proven time and again he can talk the talk – will he walk the walk?
The Uruguayan defender not only had to face the agony of his nation making their exit at the quarter-final stage but also the full wrath of Gary Neville as the ITV pundit labelled him ‘embarassing’ for shedding a tear a whole five minutes before the end of his side’s 2-0 defeat to France.
South American football
The expected charge from the likes of Brazil, Argentina and Uruguay failed to materialise in Russia, with European nations yet again dominating the latter stages of World Cup 2018 – a worrying trend that suggests South American nations need a radical rethink in terms of their approach to grass-roots football and tournament preparation.
The big question remains whether the last few tournaments have been a blip for the continent, or whether the goalposts have permanently shifted in favour of European nations.
The Russia defender turned from hero to zero in the space of one farcical spot kick to put Russia on the back foot as they bowed out against Croatia.
Minutes after scoring the goal that gave the hosts a fighting chance of reaching a shock semi-final in Moscow, Fernandes opted for a bizarre run-up and toe punt in the penalty shoot-out as his awful miss handed the initiative to Croatia. Reports are reaching us that Fernandes’ ball has now crossed its third time zone…
England’s unexpected World Cup success has overshadowed this year’s Wimbledon with all eyes unsurprisingly on Russia instead of events at SW19.
A lack of genuine homegrown contenders hasn’t particularly helped this year’s tournament, but with the football always likely to dominate the headlines this summer, smart organisers should perhaps have looked at scheduling Saturday’s play to Sunday for one year only to put tennis centre stage on a World Cup rest day.
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