Saturday had plenty of interesting storylines to follow, with three teams having the chance to wrap up qualification in their groups. Belgium were expected to ease past Tunisia, while an exciting Mexico faced a South Korean side devoid of much quality. Sweden’s sturdiness matched up against the smarting Germans desperate to avoid a shock elimination. It set up for an exciting day of football.

In Short

  • Belgium found it much easier than England in the early game versus Tunisia. Eden Hazard drew a foul and converted a penalty early on, before Romelu Lukaku made it two after deftly slamming a low shot in the bottom right corner.
  • Dylan Bronn brought one back almost immediately, heading in from a Khazri free-kick. But Tunisia’s misfortune with injuries continued. Both Bronn and Ben Youssef were forced off by half-time with injuries.
  • Lukaku made it three just before the whistle with a beautiful dink, notching his fourth goal in two games. Hazard then hit the fourth early in the second-half via an excellent assist.
  • Khazri scored a consolation goal, concluding a thoroughly enjoyable game.
  • An entertaining Mexico converted an early penalty via a handball against a turgid South Korean outfit, courtesy of Carlos Vela. They controlled what was a scrappy game, finishing the game with a second goal in the 67th minute. Hirving Lozano countered and provided Javier Hernandez with a straightforward finish.
  • Korea managed a consolation goal from their star player though. A lovely dipping shot from Son was a fleeting example of his talent. Too little, too late.
  • Germany-Sweden rounded up the day’s action. The defending champions needed nothing less than three points, while Sweden were looking to secure qualification.
  • Germany started off on a strong note, although there was a Jerome Boateng foul on Berg that saw no punishment and no VAR. Nevertheless, Sweden were rewarded with a dink from Ola Toivonen in the first half.
  • Reus equalized early on into the second half, as Germany poured into the Swedish half with abandon. Boateng was sent off after a couple of unnecessary fouls, and it looked like it would remain 1-1. Germany missed a number of clear-cut chances, and it didn’t seem like their day.
  • But at the end, Germany always win. Toni Kroos took advantage of a free-kick in a great position to score a stunner in the 95th. Advantage Germany, heartbreak for Sweden, and the group’s thrown wide open.

Takeaways

  • Tunisia were far too casual in possession, easily giving the ball away on numerous occasions. They tried to take the game to Belgium, but failed. On the bright side, they’ve scored two more goals than Argentina.
  • Belgium are really good. Tunisia made it easier for them, but they were smooth, creative, and fluid in their attacking moves. Lukaku continues to make his mark, while Hazard was at his best. They aren’t underdogs anymore.
  • One concern is their defensive frailties, especially at left wing-back, where Yannick Carrasco is fielded. He’s an attacking winger, and hasn’t been tested on the defensive side of his game. Better teams will look to target the left flank, and he’ll have to be ready for it.
  • Belgium aren’t perfect, but they can be contenders. Martinez will rest stars for the England game, so we’ll have to wait for the knockouts to know just how good they are.
  • Mexico remain a neutral’s joy to watch: the anthems, the fans, their football – everything. They will test bigger sides, and with qualification sealed, they could have an easier run in the knockouts.
  • Lozano continues to impress. He’s brought his impressive PSV form with him to Russia, creating chances down the left flank while contributing defensively. A potential benefactor from the World Cup hype.
  • South Korea may be the worst side in this World Cup, sadly. No clear plan, some aimless crosses and long shots, devoid of any clear style, poor finishing: essentially, disjointed football. Son is overburdened.
  • Germany were all over the place. They dominated possession, yet they wasted some gilt-edged chances. They’ve mostly been out of sorts so far. But then again, this is Germany. And also, it was nice to see Marco Reus score after missing the 2014 tournament.
  • Boateng should have conceded an early penalty and been sent to the showers. VAR should have called that a foul, but it didn’t. Regardless, he was erratic throughout, receiving a yellow later on, and then made a laughable challenge to earn a red. He will miss the next game, but that may be good news for Germany.
  • Sweden were resolute and lucky for 94 minutes. Robin Olsen kept his side in the game with an array of excellent saves. They were solid if unspectacular, battling and grafting, defending steadfastly. Seb Larsson was excellent in his shift. They deserved a point.
  • Toni Kroos was a culprit for the first goal, doing nothing much to hold off Toivonen, while generally being ineffective through the game. But he turned up when needed, with an exquisite free-kick (of sorts) worthy of being the winner. This was a game of chaos settled by a moment of beauty and brilliance. Kroos certainly redeemed himself.
  • All teams in this group can now qualify on the last gameday now.

Goal of the Day

It was going to be Son’s, but then Toivonen’s delightful dink outdid that. And then, miraculously, out of nowhere, appeared Toni Kroos, with a goal whose significance might be the greatest yet. This, potentially, is Germany’s game-changing moment. In terms of narrative, it doesn’t get better.