Lovren immaculate, Argentina a shambles & France unconvincing – World Cup talking points

21 June 2018

Argentina were hideously bad in their latest World Cup setback on Thursday, but Dejan Lovren‘s impressive form continued.


Another three matches lay tantalisingly in front of us on Thursday, as the group stage slowly begins to reach its business end.

Australia and Denmark earned a share of the spoils first up, France edged out Peru and Argentina were humbled by a buoyant Croatia side.

As usual, there were talking points galore.

 

The Good

Imagine being told back in October that Lovren would be bossing it at a World Cup and keeping Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo quiet in the space of a month.

It has been quite a turnaround in fortunes for the likeable centre-back since his nightmare away to Tottenham and he was excellent as Croatia humiliated Argentina 3-0.

That’s back-to-back clean-sheets for Lovren and his teammates this summer, and they are a definite dark horse at this tournament.

SWANSEA, WALES - Tuesday, March 26, 2013: Croatia's Luka Modric during the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil Qualifying Group A match against Wales at the Liberty Stadium. (Pic by Kieran McManus/Propaganda)

There is a lovely balance to the team, especially in midfield, where Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic cut an imperious duo, not to mention the more unsung Marcelo Brozovic.

Speaking of the ever-majestic Modric, his 25-yard strike that made it 2-0 was another cracker at this World Cup.

If Modric is an ex-Spurs hero, one of their current superstars, Christian Eriksen, didn’t allow him to take all the limelight.

The Dane’s wonderful half-volleyed finish with his weaker left foot put Denmark 1-0 up against Australia, before VAR allowed Mile Jedinak to equalise from the penalty spot.

 

The Bad

Let’s dedicate this entire section to Argentina, shall we?

Lionel Messi and his hapless teammates kicked off at 7pm in the UK, at the exact same time I was starting an hour of 7-a-side.

My team suffered badly in the heat after a reasonable start, but as the minutes ticked by, we eventually conceded three goals in as many minutes, all of which were walked into the net in embarrassingly easy fashion.

As I raced back for the second-half of the Argentina game, I was not expecting to sit down and see them resemble my unfit, disinterested bunch.

In fact, they were even worse, and Rakitic’s clincher in the dying minutes was painfully easy.

One lad during my game had a shot that was so wayward the ball almost rolled into a sports hall 50 yards away – he would have been a star man for Argentina, such was their ineptitude.

You have to feel for Messi, who cut a disconsolate figure all evening, and his country are perilously close to a galling group stage exit.

 

The Feeble France

PARIS, FRANCE - Friday, November 10, 2017: France head coach Didier Deschamps before the international friendly match between France and Wales at the Stade de France. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

France were tipped by many to win the World Cup, due to their team being littered with world-class attacking talent.

After a limp 2-1 win over Australia in their opening match, Didier Deschamps’ men were hoping to produce a more flamboyant showing against Peru.

Barring the odd smattering of class involving Antoine Griezmann, Kylian Mbappe and Olivier Giroud, Les Bleus were not impressive in the slightest, though, and the media back home will still be deeply unimpressed.

Mbappe’s fortunate goal settled matters, but Peru had every right to feel a little hard by. Much like Egypt, they have exited the World Cup in sad fashion.

France won’t be lifting the Jules Rimet trophy for the first time in 20 years unless they improve drastically.

 

Pundit of the Day – Pablo Zabaleta

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, March 1, 2015: Manchester City's Pablo Zabaleta in action against Liverpool during the Premier League match at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

I’m giving this to Pablo Zabaleta for one reason – he looked so devastated in the BBC studio after Argentina lost that he could do with a pick-me-up.

This accolade will no doubt do him the world of good.

 

Friday’s matches

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 3, 2018: Brazil's Roberto Firmino during an international friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Roberto Firmino‘s Brazil are back in action on Friday, although manager Tite has confirmed that Gabriel Jesus will again start up front again against Costa Rica. No idea why.

Nigeria face Iceland in what is a huge game for Argentina – they will be praying Iceland don’t win – and the evening entertainment sees Marko Grujic‘s Serbia take on Liverpool target Xherdan Shaqiri‘s Switzerland.

Brazil vs. Costa Rica (Group E) – 1pm – ITV
Prediction: 3-0

Nigeria vs. Iceland (Group D) – 4pm – BBC
Prediction: 2-2

Serbia vs. Switzerland (Group E) – 7pm – BBC
Prediction: 1-0

 


Follow Henry’s World Cup blog each day in our dedicated World Cup section, here.

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