World Cup ICYMI: GW2 – Denmark vs. Australia, France vs. Peru, Argentina vs. Croatia

As we approach the half-way point of the group matches, teams are now looking to secure their Round of 16 places one match early to avoid the stress of GW3 nerves. Denmark, France and Croatia all went into today’s matches knowing that a win would move them to six points and almost certain qualification.

In Short

  • Today’s early match saw Denmark, winners over Peru in GW1, meet Australia, who were unfortunate to fall to France. Denmark did what France could not, finding a way past the Socceroos very early on through an excellent goal from Christian Eriksen, powering home after a brilliant Nikolai Jorgensen break and flick.
  • Jorgensen should have doubled the lead midway through the half, but put an easy header wide.
  • The Danes soon paid for the miss, as Australia equalised, Mile Jedinak putting away his second penalty of the tournament after Yussuf Poulsen was adjudged to have handled an incoming cross.
  • In a low-key game of two halves, Australia — who had let Denmark make all the running in the first half — showed far more initiative and came closest to scoring in the second half with a blistering Aaron Mooy shot which flew just over.
  • A draw was probably a fair result though, leaving both teams with a chance of qualifying, but meaning that a France win would secure them a second round place.
  • A couple of Olivier Giroud knock-downs gave Antoine Griezmann a couple of snapshots and Paul Pogba went close, before Hugo Lloris was forced into a sharp save from Paolo Guerrero.
  • Three minutes later and France were ahead. Pogba won the ball in midfield and threaded it through to Giroud, whose shot was probably going in, but Mbappe made sure.
  • The second half saw Peru make all the running – and hit the bar with an excellent Pedro Aquino shot. But France absorbed the pressure and settled for the 1-0 win and progression to the next round.
  • After their lacklustre 1-1 draw against Iceland, Argentina desperately needed a win against Croatia. In a generally disappointing first half, both teams seemed more interested in kicking lumps out of each other than playing football.
  • Ante Rebic opened the scoring with what was a fantastic volleyed finish – but only after Willy Caballero had sliced his clearance straight up in the air and to him.
  • From then on, Argentina showed nothing. It’s all very well having the best player in the world but if you have no defence and no midfield, you’re going to struggle to get him the ball.
  • Modric doubled Croatia’s lead on 80 minutes with a superb curled shot from the edge of the area as too many of Argentina’s team dawdled back disinterestedly.
  • And Ivan Rakitic tapped in a third in injury time, as Mascherano chose to stand still and claim offside rather than attempt to intercept.
  • One point from two games leaves Argentina in deep trouble. They need to win and rely on other results going their way.

Takeaways

  • Much like Morocco yesterday, Peru leave the tournament with their heads held high. Their fans were fantastic, singing incessantly for their team and encouraging them to fight all the way against France. As against Denmark, their performance deserved a goal but they couldn’t find that breakthrough. They’ve won many friends and they and their iconic kit will be missed.
  • Talking of kits – all the early running has been made by Nigeria – but could Croatia’s second kit – and their tracksuit tops – actually be even better? Australia’s change kit isn’t too shabby either.
  • It’s become a running joke to say that sometimes there seems to be more than one N’Golo Kante on the pitch. But his superb performance against Peru, popping up in the final third one second and then winning the ball on the edge of his own area the next, was sometimes laugh-out-loud funny.
  • A quick word for Kylian Mbappe, whose goal makes him France’s youngest ever goalscorer in major tournaments, beating David Trezeguet to the record.
  • One of the main talking points of the World Cup has been VAR, which worked against Australia in their first match. This time it worked to their advantage as the referee used it to review Poulsen’s handball and decide that it was deliberate. Even having seen the replay, viewers were split as to whether or not it should have been given. Perhaps in those situations, the original decision should stand. Socceroo fans won’t be complaining this time around though.
  • Didier Deschamps has been receiving increasing levels of stick for not somehow managing to accommodate all his exciting young attackers in the team at any one time, while Jorge Sampaoli has long been one of the hipsters’ favourites with his exciting brand of football. The Mbappe-Griezmann-Dembele triumvirate failed to launch last week and was rightly binned, and Giroud again played a key part in France’s win. Meanwhile, Sampaoli’s hugely lopsided team is hanging on by its fingertips. One pundit described Deschamps as an analogue coach in a digital age. Well, as the France squad sleeps soundly tonight, Sampaoli will be lucky to still be in his job by the time the Nigeria match comes around.
  • In the Messi vs Ronaldo phoney war, Ronaldo is suddenly the man who makes his team win single-handedly while Messi is apparently a disappointment. Just a reminder that Messi dragged his team to three consecutive major finals and carried them to this World Cup. Ronaldo was for the most part disappointing in Euro 2016, and Portugal won the final without him.

Goal of the Day

Rebic’s finish was excellent but is tempered by Caballero’s assist and the fact that he shouldn’t have been on the field to score it. Modric’s finish, with curl and power, is one of the goals of the tournament so far. But it is just edged out by Christian Eriksen’s goal for Denmark, as this was a combination of a brilliant assist and finish. Amazing awareness and technique by Jorgensen to flick the ball to his oncoming team-mate. Like a knife through Lurpak!

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