World Cup Daily Digest – Day 2
After yesterday’s opening ceremony and curtain-raiser, today the action comes thick and fast with Portugal v Spain helping to get a weekend of wall-to-wall football off to a flyer.
Here are some of the stories dominating the headlines as the tournament kicks into gear…
Finally, some action on the pitch…
After weeks of build up, and a spot of Robbie Williams, it’s now the football doing the talking.
The opening game at the Luzhniki Stadium between the two lowest ranked sides in the competition didn’t exactly serve up a classic, but any World Cup benefits from sustained home interest, and Russia now have a real opportunity to go further in the competition than many pundits predicted.
Can they summon the spirit of South Korea in 2002 with an unlikely extended stay, or will it be a false dawn for Stanislav Cherchesov’s side?
England viewing habits revealed
The England players are just starting to settle in their new home for at least the next few weeks, the 107-room ForRestMix club on the scenic Gulf of Finland.
With previous tournaments marred by players complaining of boredom, Gareth Southgate has gone out of his way to ensure his 23-man squad have access to plenty of home comforts, but there has been one particular indulgence that has caused a stir.
The players have reportedly been given access to ITV2 so they don’t miss out on their regular fix of Love Island.
They say distraction techniques can sometimes help re-focus the mind. Let’s hope this summer’s counter-programming to the football does the trick for England…
Can Salah spring a surprise?
The Egyptian camp remain optimistic about Mo Salah’s recovery as the Liverpool ace continues his recovery from the shoulder injury that destroyed his Champions League dream.
It remains to be seen whether the Premier League’s PFA Player of the Year will play any significant part in Egypt’s tricky-looking opener against Uruguay, but the fixtures have arguably fallen kindly for Pharaohs boss Hector Cuper. Salah has given his nation huge grounds for optimism after successfully coming through training in recent days, but will Cuper take a gamble so early in the competition?
If his star man can recover in time for kinder looking fixtures against Russia and Saudi Arabia, where the Egyptians will be far more confident of victory, Cuper’s team could stand a chance of making the knockout stages for the first time in their history.
Hierro in good company
You might think Spain are the only country at this year’s World Cup embroiled in a managerial crisis – but another team at this year’s World Cup have also quietly experienced their own fair share of turmoil in recent weeks.
Japan manager Akira Nishino is facing plenty of scrutiny as his side take on Colombia after only taking the job on in April. The 63-year-old, a former Technical Director of the Japan Football Association (JFA), is seen by many fans as having been parachuted into the role by his former bosses after the dismissal of the equally unpopular Vahid Halilhodžić in April.
Nishino has vast experience of managing in his home country but the world stage will be a whole new challenge for the veteran manager. A midweek 4-2 win over Paraguay in their final warm-up game gave him some brief respite after consecutive friendly losses to Ghana and Switzerland.
World Cup songs fail to make some noise
With no official England song ringing out across the land this year, it’s been a surprisingly low key build up to the tournament in terms of summer sporting anthems.
Will Smith’s official anthem hasn’t managed to make much of an impact on the streaming charts, with Jason De Rulo’s counter effort only faring marginally better.
Indie band Scouting for Girls are now making a late foray for chart domination with their effort ‘England I Still Believe’, which will be released ahead of England’s first group game on Monday. Recorded in just three days last month, the jury’s out on whether it will be this summer’s earworm.
If not, it looks as if ‘Three Lions’ will be ringing out yet again at World Cup barbecues this weekend.
No bad thing.