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06-19-2018, 12:28 AM

Belgium 3 Panama 0: Mertens magic sets up Group G win



Dries Mertens scored a stunning volley and Romelu Lukaku was twice on target as Belgium started their Group G campaign with a 3-0 defeat of World Cup debutants Panama in Sochi.

Belgium impressed in an unbeaten qualifying campaign, becoming the first European nation to book their place at Russia 2018.But Roberto Martinez's side struggled to break Panama down in a flat first half at the Fisht Stadium on Monday, requiring a moment of magic from Mertens to break the deadlock in the 47th minute.


Panama almost mustered a rapid leveller but Thibaut Courtois made a smart stop to keep out a low strike from Michael Murillo, before Lukaku struck twice in six minutes to settle the contest.Lukaku nodded in a sensational Kevin De Bruyne pass and the Manchester United striker then scored a cute chip, though Panama can take heart from a promising display ahead of games against England and Tunisia.

Martinez's golden generation have been tipped as potential champions, but Belgium - beaten by Wales in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals - will likely need to improve on an often-underwhelming performance when they face stronger opposition.

Panama made a nervy start to their World Cup bow with Yannick Carrasco and Mertens forcing early saves from goalkeeper Jaime Penedo.Eden Hazard hit the side-netting after pouncing on a loose backpass from Roman Torres, Panama's captain making amends with a terrific touch on a low De Bruyne right-wing cross that ensured Lukaku could not tap in at the back post.

Hazard fired wide in the 26th minute and the Chelsea forward, who hinted pre-match he could be interested in joining Real Madrid, was left hobbling by heavy challenges from Murillo and Torres.The Belgium captain, deputising for the injured Vincent Kompany, shook off the blows and forced Penedo into a save with his legs, as Panama remained relatively comfortable.

Belgium struggled to create clear openings in the first period but within two minutes of the restart they led thanks to an early contender for the goal of the tournament.Panama failed to clear their lines properly and when the ball fell to Mertens on the right side of the penalty area, the Napoli forward thumped a dipping volley that flew past Penedo.

De Bruyne almost swiftly doubled the lead but narrowly missed the target with a 25-yard free-kick that curled away from Penedo's right-hand post.When wing-back Carrasco switched off at the back, allowing Edgar Barcenas' pass to drift over his head, Courtois had to be alert to smother an effort from Murillo.

That proved to be Panama's best chance of claiming a draw and Belgium doubled their lead in the 69th minute after VAR ruled Lukaku was marginally onside.Hazard and De Bruyne combined brilliantly on the edge of the box, the latter's sublime floated cross to the back post providing Lukaku - who hit 11 goals in qualifying - a simple headed finish.

And when Panama lost possession in their own half, Belgium sprung a clinical counter-attack with Hazard's pass perfectly timed for Lukaku to run clear and lift a fine finish over the onrushing Penedo, showing Belgium will be a World Cup threat if they hit top gear.
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06-19-2018, 12:30 AM

Sweden 1 South Korea 0: Granqvist's VAR-assisted penalty settles tight game



Andreas Granqvist's VAR-assisted penalty handed Sweden a deserved 1-0 World Cup win over South Korea at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium on Monday.The win takes Janne Andersson's side joint top in Group F with Mexico after their shock win over reigning champions Germany.

The European side were dominant throughout and were twice denied by goalkeeper Cho Hyun-woo before another dramatic intervention by VAR shortly after the hour.Substitute Kim Min-woo appeared to have hacked down Viktor Claesson, and, after initially waving away furious appeals from Swedish players, referee Joel Aguilar consulted VAR and eventually pointed to the spot.

South Korea were disappointing throughout, with star man Son Heung-min unable to demonstrate any of the threat that has made him a firm favourite with Tottenham fans in recent seasons.Sweden now have the chance to all but knock Germany out of the tournament on Saturday, while South Korea face Mexico desperately needing a win to maintain their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages.


Sweden started without Victor Lindelof after the Manchester United defender fell ill overnight, with his replacement Pontus Jansson and the rest of the defence scarcely tested by a tepid South Korean attack in the early stages.

Granqvist was denied a shot at goal by a superb last-ditch interception by Kim Young-gwon in the game's first notable moment before Marcus Berg squandered a golden opportunity to hand his side the lead midway through the half.The Al Ain striker ghosted in at the back post to meet Ola Toivonen's low ball, but his effort was too close to Cho Hyun-woo, who kept it out with his leg and then punched away the loose ball.

The all-action Kim was in the thick of the action again soon after, throwing himself in front of Berg's scuffed effort from a corner, while Claesson saw a header deflected narrowly over on the stroke of half-time.

In a bright start to the second half, both sides exchanged chances within the first six minutes.First, Emil Forsberg flashed a shot over after a flowing counter-attack before Koo Ja-cheol sent a header into Robin Olsen's side netting as South Korea belatedly woke from their slumber.A teasing free-kick from Sebastian Larsson was met by the head of Toivonen soon after, but once again it was too close to Cho, who was able to parry away.

Sweden then got the breakthrough their positive approach deserved after Kim's clumsy challenge on Claesson. A surprising choice to take the spot-kick, Granqvist coolly slotted into the bottom corner for his seventh international goal.Hwang Hee-chan spurned a glorious opportunity late on, heading wide from 10 yards out, as Sweden ultimately held on for a precious three points.
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06-19-2018, 01:28 AM

Full Time

Tunisia 1 Vs 2 England

Tunisia Goal(s)

F.Sassi 35(PEN)'

&

England Goal(s)

H.Kane 11',90+1'
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06-19-2018, 01:32 AM

Sweden 1 Vs 0 Korea Republic

Group F Match in Pictures



















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06-19-2018, 01:37 AM

Belgium 3 Vs 0 Panama

Group G Match in Pictures
























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06-19-2018, 01:44 AM

Tunisia 1 Vs 2 England

Group G Match in Pictures





























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06-19-2018, 01:46 AM

Sweden v Korea Republic - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia


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06-19-2018, 01:50 AM

Belgium v Panama - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia


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06-19-2018, 09:33 AM

Tunisia v England - 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia

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06-19-2018, 09:35 AM

Penalty decisions will make for 'interesting' World Cup - Southgate


Gareth Southgate believes it will be an "interesting" World Cup if penalties akin to the one England conceded against Tunisia continue to be awarded.

England claimed a 2-1 win over Tunisia in their opening Group G encounter in Volgograd on Monday, but looked set to have to settle for a draw after Harry Kane's opener was cancelled out by a contentious spot-kick from Ferjani Sassi.

Sassi converted from 12 yards after Kyle Walker was penalised for catching Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with his arm, which the defender disagreed with after the match.

England then saw two penalty appeals waved away despite Kane appearing to be impeded in the box on each occasion and the presence of VAR, which could have allowed for review.The Three Lions seemed to be running out of ideas as they struggled to create chances in the second half, having wasted a plethora of opportunities in the first.

However, Kane headed home the winner at the far post in the 91st minute to spare England's blushes, though Southgate still expressed his bemusement at referee Wilmar Roldan's decisions. "We recovered from a really harsh decision and kept our composure," Southgate told a media conference. "Our set-plays were a threat all night, we worked on them and got just reward for that.

"I think if it's a penalty at one end it has to be a penalty at the other. Once the first one is given, it wasn't going to be overturned [by VAR] because it wasn't going to be a clear and obvious error. "If penalties are going to be given for that, it's going to be an interesting tournament, I think there were similar offences at the other end of the pitch."Meanwhile, Kane admitted the official's decisions were not easy to deal with on the field, but was pleased the team pushed on despite their frustrations.

"It's part of the game," Kane told reporters post-match. "We've seen in some of the other games that there have been a lot of penalties and a lot of what I would say are soft decisions.

"We have to be aware of that and obviously we've had one go against us and probably another couple that didn't go our way. But as players it's difficult - all we can do is get on with the game and it's down to the officials."Hopefully when they watch it back they can get it right for the next game. I'm more proud of us that we kept going and fighting and sent a lot of fans home happy."

England are next in action against Panama on June 24.
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