World Cup Recap: Day 8
Argentina on the ropes as Croatia and France book spots into the knockout phase
World Cup Recap: Day 8
Two big matches highlighted Thursday at the FIFA World Cup: France vs. Peru and Argentina vs. Croacia. Both would end in European victories and send heartbreak to two sets South American fans.
Denmark 1-1 Australia
Samara Arena, Samara
Denmark looked primed to build on their three points against Peru by following that up with a result against Australia. The Aussies would look to avoid elimination with at least a point, if not the win. Both sides came out with promising chances early before Denmark’s two best men would partner up to attain the lead in the 7th minute. Nicolai Jorgensen worked some magic inside the box, between two Australian defenders, and popped the ball over for Christian Eriksen to hit it first-time into the back of the net. The Danes would look the more dangerous side until the Video Assistant Referee would come into play. After consulting the video, the referee would recognize a handball on Denmark and award a penalty to Australia. It would be the Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak who would convert to level the score in the 38th minute. The score would remain tied at halftime.
Both sides would trade opportunities in the second half with Australia generating the more promising chances. Australia looked the part of a side not wanting to leave their qualification up to chance and forced Danish goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel to make four saves in the second half. The result would remain 1-1 with Denmark moving up to four points while Australia picks up its first and avoids elimination.
Analysis: Denmark had a great opportunity to move top of the group with a win. The Danes had a great first half and were the side with more quality overall. The decision from the VAR indeed complicated their result but Denmark still could’ve seen out a win. Australia does have to be commended for their fight because they avoided elimination despite not scoring a goal in open play. A victory over Peru could be enough to send them through, though that will be easier said than done.
Notable stat: Australia’s two goals so far have come from the penalty spot.
France 1-0 Peru
Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg
France had a bit of a chip on their shoulder, garnering some criticism for winning their first match thanks to the Video Assistant Referee. Peru were staring at elimination after the Denmark-Australia tie and a win would really take the pressure off their back. Les Blues showed their talent early with Pogba getting a good look from range in the 12th minute while Raphael Varane had an excellent opportunity of a corner two minutes later. Antoine Griezmann and Paolo Guerrero would trade shots for their respective sides before Kylian Mbappe would decide this one in the 34th minute.
Peru would go down swinging. The South Americans outshot their European counterparts six to three in the second half, desperately looking to tie the encounter. Even a draw would benefit La Blanquirroja but they couldn’t find a quality shot past France goalie Hugo Lloris - who was only forced into one save in each half. Peru - with one game left to play - are eliminated from advancing to the knockout round while France begins to morph into the pre-tournament favorite they were touted to be.
Analysis: France picked up a great result against quality opposition. They face Denmark next, needing only a draw to assure themselves the top of the group. Peru will feel disappointed to come away with only a group stage appearance after a 36-year World Cup drought. Peru’s final match, against Australia, will be one dedicated to their supporters as they hope to leave Russia with a win.
Notable stat: At 19 years of age, Kylian Mbappe became France's youngest ever scorer at a FIFA World Cup.
Argentina 0-3 Croatia
Nizhny Novgorod Stadium, Nizhny Novgorod
Two talented sides, with European superstars, would face off in the likely decider of the top group spot. Argentina came in with pressure to better their form after a 1-1 draw against Iceland while Croatia looked to build on their 2-0 win over Nigeria. The first half would end in a scoreless draw as both sides had wasted opportunities in an otherwise tight encounter. Argentina’s clearest opportunity was one were a combination play saw midfielder Enzo Perez miss the open net. For Croatia, Mandzukic missed a heading opportunity - not the easiest opportunity but one that was makeable for a player of his caliber.
The second half is where Argentina came undone. Argentina’s goalkeeper Wilfredo Caballero already had some risky plays, both in the Iceland game and in the first half against Croatia, but the costliest one would come in the 53rd minute. A horrible giveaway turns into an easy score - but still beauty of a finish - from Ante Rebic. Argentina would keep pushing forward, with Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain entering the match as substitutions, to no avail. Luka Modric would then score a wonder goal from distance - equal to the caliber he’s scored for Real Madrid in the UEFA Champions League - to put Croatia up 2-0 in the 80th minute. Ivan Rakitic would score Croatia’s third in stoppage time.
Analysis: Croatia left with the result they wanted, a spot into the round of 16, in what has been their best showing. In doing so, they scored three goals against Argentina. This matters because Argentina is already on the brink of elimination and in need of other results to advance. Argentina will be rooting for Nigeria on Friday to make life easier because an Iceland win would force Argentina to have work against their deficit in the goal differential. Even so, Argentina looks to have much bigger problems and it’s not a stretch to think they would lose in their match against Nigeria. So much intrigue left for the final matchday.
Notable stat: Croatian defender Vedran Corluka, who entered the match in second-half stoppage time, picked up his 100th appearance with the national team in the win against Argentina.
Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):
Friday, June 22
7 a.m. - [Group E] Brazil vs. Costa Rica (FS1, Telemundo)
10 a.m. - [Group D] Nigeria vs. Iceland (FOX, Telemundo)
1 p.m. - [Group E] Serbia vs. Switzerland (FOX, Telemundo)