Sadio Mane exits World Cup but a proud night for Trent Alexander-Arnold

28 June 2018

Sadio Mane crashed out of the World Cup in cruel fashion but it was a special day for Trent Alexander-Arnold despite England’s defeat to Belgium.


Thursday provided us with the final batch of group games, in what has been the most exciting opening stage of a World Cup this century.

Colombia’s win over Senegal saw them progress at the Africans’ expense and Japan also qualified for the last-16 despite losing to Poland and resting six key players.

In the evening, Belgium topped Group G after defeating England 1-0, while a complete dead rubber saw Tunisia edge out beat Panama.

It means England face Colombia in the second round and Belgium take on Japan.

 

The Good

Trent Alexander-Arnold - England National Team (Photo: Nigel French/PA Wire.)

Alexander-Arnold has had an incredible 12 months, rising from relative unknown to starting a Champions League final and making England’s World Cup squad.

Thursday was the latest milestone for Liverpool’s brilliant 19-year-old to chalk off, as Gareth Southgate gave him the nod against Belgium.

The Reds youngster didn’t look remotely out of place on the big stage and Southgate even put him on set-piece duty.

Alexander-Arnold’s corners and free-kicks were a mixed bag, but he did himself proud on his competitive international debut.

A drab affair between England and Belgium was settled by a moment of class from Adnan Januzaj, with Jordan Pickford’s miniature arms failing to keep the ball out.

Whether England actually wanted to win the game is open to debate…

 

The Bad

Sadio Mane, Senegal National Team ( Gavin Barker/BackpagePix/Sports Inc/PA Images)

From a Liverpool perspective, we were both sad for Mane because he bowed out of the World Cup and also pleased because it means he returns to Merseyside quicker.

Senegal were knocked out in the cruellest possible fashion, becoming the first-ever country to be eliminated on fair play rules in a World Cup.

For Mane personally, it has been a disjointed tournament, with only glimpses of his Reds brilliance and not enough influential magic.

There’s now just five Liverpool players left in the World Cup – Roberto Firmino, Dejan Lovren, Simon Mignolet, Jordan Henderson and Alexander-Arnold.

 

Second Round

MOSCOW, RUSSIA - Tuesday, June 26, 2018: Denmark take on France during the FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 Group C match at the Luzhniki Stadium. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Many were sceptical about this World Cup being a washout, especially with domestic football being taking precedence these days, but the quality and entertainment has been fantastic – actually aided by the use of VAR.

We now know our eight second-round matches, with some mouthwatering contests on offer.

France vs. Argentina looks an obvious standout clash, but Brazil vs. Mexico should also be a cracker and the same applies to host Russia’s meeting with Spain.

Who’s your money on to make the quarter-finals?

For what it’s worth, here are my eight victors: France, Portugal, Brazil, Spain, Croatia, Sweden, Belgium and England.

Feel free to mock me when none of them are right!

 

Saturday’s Matches

LIVERPOOL, ENGLAND - Sunday, June 3, 2018: Croatia's Dejan Lovren lines-up before an international friendly between Brazil and Croatia at Anfield. (Pic by David Rawcliffe/Propaganda)

Friday is the first day without any World Cup football, which will be odd! Fear not, though, because the round of 16 starts on Saturday, with two crackers lined up.

France and Argentina face-off in their aforementioned heavyweight clash, before Luis Suarez’s Uruguay take on Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in the evening.

That second game could be so negative that it’s actually somehow entertaining. A goalless draw and a penalty shootout would not be a great shock.

France vs. Argentina – 3pm
Prediction: 2-1

Uruguay vs. Portugal – 7pm
Prediction: 0-1

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