World Cup Hot and Cold: Resolute Russia spring another surprise
Who’s hot, who’s cold after another mad weekend of World Cup football…
A sloppy own goal aside, the 38-year-old put a Herculean display at the back for Russia as they scrapped for their lives against Spain and were rewarded with a famous penalty shootout win. The Russian gameplan to frustrate their opponents from beginning to end worked a treat with the leadership of the CSKA Moscow defender crucial to their efforts. His display wasn’t pretty, but extremely effective.
Ignashevich even had enough left in the tank to convert Russia’s crucial second spot-kick – piling all the pressure on the Spaniards as they suffered penalty heartbreak.
Showed absolute nerves of steel to put an extra-time penalty miss behind him and help send Croatia in to the Quarter-Finals. The Real Madrid ace was nowhere near his best against Denmark but will be Croatia’s best hope if they want to exceed their third-place finish at France ’98.
A whole nation will be hoping the midfield maestro can rediscover his group stage form and drag his side all the way to the final. The fact he held his nerve last night will be a source of frustration to England fans already dangerously dreaming of a date with destiny at the Luzhniki Stadium on 15th July.
It’s been a good weekend for goalkeepers with Russian stopper Igor Akinfeev re-affirming his status as one of his country’s biggest sporting icons, and Kasper Schmeichel and Danijel Subašić putting in superhuman displays under the ultimate pressure-cooker situation of knockout penalties.
It was a more bittersweet weekend for one goalkeeping icon. Peter Schmeichel watched his son bow out despite Kaspar’s heroic one-man effort to keep his side’s hopes alive.
With many all-time greats bowing out for perhaps the final time at a World Cup this weekend, a new international star was born on Saturday, and at 19 years of age, he should be around for some time.
Mbappé’s blistering performance against Argentina also shakes up the race for the Golden Boot as the teenager looks to hunt down Harry Kane and Romelu Lukaku.
Gareth Southgate’s waistcoat
The rookie England boss has deservedly won praise for many things at this tournament – his calmness under pressure, relaxed approach to media duties, faith in young players – but as a new fashion icon? Few saw that coming.
Southgate’s suave attire on the sidelines has seen waistcoat sales rocket by as much as 35% at Marks and Spencer in what the company are hailing as the ‘Southgate effect’.
If England reach the final, expect a widespread national shortage.
The accidental manager always looked on a hiding to nothing after being parachuted into the role of Spanish first team manager just hours before their first game.
Ultimately, the former Real Madrid and Bolton man couldn’t cut it at the top table – perhaps unsurprising given his managerial record up until now consists of one forgettable spell at Segunda División outfit Real Oviedo.
In an era of incisive attacking football, Spain’s golden era of tactical dominance, tiki-taka looks to have been read the last rites after they failed to find any way to breach the stubborn Russian rear-guard. With even original architect Pep Guardiola now burying his pet project, Spain will need some radical reinvention ahead of 2022.
Danish penalty takers
Pity poor old Kasper Schmeichel. The Danish shot-stopper put in the performance of a lifetime in the penalty shootout only to watch some of his Danish teammates crumble under the pressure with some of the limpest penalties ever witnessed on the world stage.
After a wretched couple of years in English football, Januzaj had every right to enjoy his stylish goal against Gareth Southgate’s side last week, but the hangover may now be kicking in.
That goal looks as if it could prove costly for the Belgians as they face a tricky route to reach the final whilst England’s side of the draw looks up for grabs for any number of teams. If this Belgian golden generation is the real deal, they will need to step up now with likely ties against Brazil, Uruguay or France in their wake.
The old guard
Messi, Ronaldo, Iniesta – all sent packing in the space of 24 hours on another cut-throat weekend of World Cup action.
Qatar 2022 will surely mark a changing of the guard as a new generation of stars will be asked to step up to the plate. Ronaldo may have other ideas however – recently vowing he would play on until 41…
All image sources from PA Images
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