World Cup Recap: Day 10

Kroos scores last-gasp winner for Germany; Mexico and Belgium also triumphant

Germany pulled off a late win. Alexander Hassenstein/Getty Images

Excitement at the 2018 FIFA World Cup only amplified as Belgium, Mexico and Germany all picked up thrilling wins. Germany’s win left the qualifying possibilities open in Group F while Belgium and Tunisia await the result of Sunday’s match between England and Panama.

Belgium 5-2 Tunisia

Spartak Stadium, Moscow

Attendance: 44,190

After a 3-0 win in their opener against Panama, Belgium gave another dominating display that showed why they are among the countries with possibilities to win the tournament. Tunisia hardly gave itself a chance, conceding a penalty during the first five minutes of the match. Chelsea standout Eden Hazard would convert for the spot to put the Belgians up in the sixth minute. Manchester United striker Romelo Lukaku scored in the 18th minute to increase the lead to 2-nil. A set piece would give Tunisia hope as 23-year-old Dylan Bronn - a defender in the Belgian League - headed in a goal to cut the score to 2-1. Lukaku would score again, just before halftime, as he chipped the keeper to increase Belgium’s lead back to two goals. 3-1 Belgium at halftime.

The Belgians would return in the second half with determination to see out the result. Six minutes after halftime, Hazard received a long ball ball between two defenders and scored his second of the day. Hazard and Lukaku would be rested as the half went on and others like Yannick Carrasco and Michy Batshuayi would pick up the attacking responsibilities the Red Devils. Batshuayi would cap off a great season in Europe by showing the continuation of his good form in this match and scoring Belgium’s fifth in the 90th minute. The Carthage Eagles would pick up a consolation goal in stoppage time thanks to Wahbi Khazri.

Analysis: Belgium were the far better team on paper but especially given the unpredictability of this World Cup, they still had to come out and show it. They executed to perfection and picked up the six points they needed. Tunisia had to play a perfect match and failed by giving away a penalty so early. Regardless, neither team qualified or was eliminated from advancing to the next round as we await the result of Sunday’s England vs. Panama match. An England victory or draw would clinch a berth for the Belgians while Tunisia will need a long-shot win from Panama to say alive.

Notable stat: Lukaku and Hazard are the first duo to score twice in the same World Cup match since Toni Kroos and Andre Schurrle did so in Germany’s 7-1 win over Brazil in 2014.

South Korea 1-2 Mexico

Rostov Arena, Rostov-On-Don

Attendance: 43,472

Mexico and South Korea traded opportunities early but discipline would determine the result of this match. Both goalkeepers would come up with two important saves in the first half but the defining moment came in the 24th minute when a Korean defender Jang Hyunsoo had his hand raised during a defensive slide, prompting the referee to call handball and award a penalty in favor of El Tri. Los Angeles FC striker Carlos Vela would convert from the spot and put Mexico up 1-nil.

The lead gave Mexico confidence and freedom to make more quality attempts and the national team’s all-time leading scorer, Javier Hernandez, would pick up his 50th international goal in the 66th minute. Son Heung-min, the top Korean scorer in Premier League history, would take a shot from range in second half stoppage time to put South Korea on the board. The match would end 2-1, with all eyes on the following match between Germany and Sweden to see what the score would amount to.

Analysis: Mexico were confident they could walk away with the win and completed the task. They inched closer to advancing to the round of 16 and are in pole position to finish top of the group. Still, nothing is guaranteed give the result of Germany vs. Sweden. The most important detail is that the Mexicans hold their destiny in their hands as they approach the last matchday. Thanks to Germany’s win over Sweden, Korea are still alive but will need a win versus the Germans to have any hope of advancing.

Notable stat: Javier Hernandez became the first Mexican scorer to reach the half-century mark in goals with the national team. He also joined Luis Hernandez as the only Mexicans to score four goals in FIFA World Cups and joined Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Rafa Marquez as the third Mexican to score in three World Cups.

Germany 2-1 Sweden

Fisht Stadium, Sochi

Attendance: 44,287

Germany were looking to reverse their fortunes after dropping their opening match to Mexico while Sweden were aiming for three points to secure their passage into the next phase. The Germans had some chances but were lucky not to have had a penalty called against them in the 13th minute. The Sweden team would remain true to their cause and would be rewarded by punishing Germany. Ola Toivonen chipped a ball over Manuel Neuer to put Sweden up 1-0, sending the Germans to the locker room with a feeling of embarrassment.

Manager Joachim Löw must have given a good speech at halftime because Germany would return with fury in the second half. Marco Reus would get the equalizer in the 48th minute but Germany would struggle to find the back of the net after that, despite multiple attempts. As desperation built, Germany would be left with 10-men to finish the job as defender Jerome Boateng received his second yellow - and ejection - in the 82nd minute. A set piece opportunity in stoppage time would give Germany one last hope, with Real Madrid midfielder Toni Kroos converting to become a national hero.

Analysis: This result keeps everything in the group wide open, with all to be determined on the last matchday. The defending champions were fortunate to get out of this match with a win, staving off elimination and keeping their back-to-back title hopes alive. Germany also earned the opportunity to control their destiny in their final match against Korea. For Sweden, this was a missed opportunity but cool heads must prevails as a win against Mexico will still send the Swedes to the knockout phase.

Notable stat: Toni Kroos’ goal is the latest winner scored at a FIFA World Cup (94:39), passing up Francesco Totti’s goal for Italy (94:26) against Australia in 2006.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Sunday, June 24

7 a.m. - [Group G] England vs. Panama (FS1, Telemundo)

10 a.m. - [Group H] Japan vs. Senegal (FOX, Telemundo)

1 p.m. - [Group H] Poland vs. Colombia (FOX, Telemundo)

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The media has mixed feelings about the James Harden trade. Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

James Harden was 100-percent exactly right earlier this week when he said the Houston Rockets were "just not good enough."

How could they be? Not when their moody superstar scorer, who makes about half a million dollars per game, shows up chubby, looking like a kielbasa about to explode in the microwave. Hey, some people eat when they're unhappy, it's a defense mechanism. In Harden's case, the only defense he's exhibited this season. At least he had a good excuse for missing pre-season training camp and alienating his teammates - he was busy partying with Cinnamon and Cherish in Atlanta and Vegas without a mask. Worst of all, he went into the tank his last four games in a Rockets uniform, standing around, arms folded, scoring fewer than 20 points each time, all Rockets losses. Fans in the front row were asking him to move, he was blocking their view of players who cared about winning. James Harden sabotaged his own team, a team that offered him $50 million a year to stay. Something that crazy could only happen in professional sports these days.

There's a saying that drives the American labor movement: "a fair day's wage for a fair day's work." It's the motto of the American Federation of Labor. The National Basketball Players Association is not a member. Harden's sulking on the court, cheating the Rockets and their fans, was unforgivable.

Harden, sitting out games while somehow being on the court, forced the Rockets to trade him - and quick - to Brooklyn. The trade, when you ignore the fine print and unindicted co-conspirators Cleveland and Indiana, sent Harden to Brooklyn in exchange for Caris LeVert (immediately flipped for Victor Oladipo), Jarrett Allen, three first-round draft picks and four swapped first-rounders. It's true, when you trade a superstar, you never get back equal value. The other team wins.

If it makes Rockets fans feel any better, the media in New York already has problems with their new problem child. I should say newest problem child. Kyrie Irving plays for the Nets.

"They (the Nets) gave up everybody! There's nothing left now. I just want to cry, It's awful," weeped WFAN Radio talk host Evan Roberts. For those who don't subscribe to weekly Arbitron ratings reports, WFAN is the most powerful, top-rated sports talk station in the Apple.

"You're leading down the road of doom. Harden and Durant could be gone in a year and a half. I'm not convinced this gives them a better chance to win a title. I'm living a nightmare again. They better freaking win."

Circle March 3 on your Rockets schedule. That's when the Brooklyn Nets, with their Big 3 of Kevin Durant, James Harden and possibly Kyrie Irving visit Toyota Center. I hear talk radio salivating over the record jeers that will cascade over Harden's name, although I'm not buying it. Fans don't think like the media does. I'm thinking that Rockets fans will welcome Harden back - one night only - with cheers.

Toyota Center public address announcer Matt Thomas: "Usually when former Rockets come to town for the first time since leaving, I give them a positive introduction. It's up to the fans how to react."

James Harden spent eight seasons with the Rockets. He is a spectacular player who watched other NBA players engineer trades so they could compete for a title. Harden didn't think the Rockets were good enough, and he's right. So he wanted out. We've all been there, a job we didn't like for a company we didn't like, for a boss we didn't respect. Harden wanting to be traded is understandable. How he went about it was deplorable. He hurt his co-workers.

Houston will make Harden pay for his disrespectful departure. He has an upscale restaurant set to open here. The name of the steakhouse will be "13." Harden's business partners may want to change that number ... before the restaurant's telephone number is disconnected. There are plenty of other restaurants in Houston. Rich people who can afford steakhouse prices hold grudges.

Rockets fans searching for a silver lining say, "We got two decent players and a whole bunch of precious first-round picks" for a malcontent who would rather be anywhere (except maybe Sacramento) than Houston." Yes, a bunch of first-round picks does bode well for the future. Anywhere, except maybe Houston.

Houston's draft war room isn't the most successful operation in the NBA. Over the past decade prior to 2000, under the direction of general manager Daryl Morey, the Rockets made 16 draft picks. Not one of them is still in a Rockets uniform, many of them have sought employment outside of America, some outside of basketball. Among their first-round whiffs: Nikola Mirotic, Terrence Jones, Sam Dekker - all out of the league. Best of all, Royce White, who played three whole games in his NBA career and finished with a scoring average of 0.00 points per game.

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