By Tim Stannard
Neymar looks to avoid nightmare for Brazil
It has been a peculiar World Cup so far for our avenging soccer superstars.
Leo Messi came back from the brink of a complete Albiceleste meltdown with an opening goal to set Argentina on the path to a 2-1 win over Nigeria and a place in the Last 16 against France. All while giving the middle-finger saluting Diego Maradona an attack of the vapors, too.
Cristiano Ronaldo started strongly but was last seen missing a penalty and throwing elbows in Monday’s tempestuous draw against Iran.
Neymar? Well, the Brazilian is very much on the edge with the footballer hitting the deck more times than a drunken cruise passenger on roller-skates, bickering with the ref and then collapsing in an emotional, blubbing heap after the late, late 2-1 win over Costa Rica. To this end, there has been much debate in Brazil on whether Neymar is a showboating, self-promoting sop and has the sufficient marbles to last an entire World Cup or is…well…just being Neymar.
“Each one of us has our own responsibility. We should not place it all on his shoulders, the whole group will solve it,” said an understanding Tite on the pressure Neymar is under.
The Russia 2018 journey continues on Wednesday with the final round of group matches and a testing tie against an unforgiving Serbia side with Neymar one yellow card away from a suspension. A draw will be enough to see Brazil through. A defeat and Switzerland getting a point from Costa Rica and it will be bye-bye to Brazil. And then the floodgates really are going to open.
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Mexico battles freakish exit in Swedish showdown
France and Denmark still haven’t been forgiven for boring the pants off the world with a goalless draw on Tuesday. A repeat tide of tedium is unlikely with the Group F finale which is a strange, multi-dimensional strand of confusion at the moment.
Group F suddenly looks a bit different after that late winner...— FIFA World Cup 🏆 (@FIFAWorldCup) June 23, 2018
4) #KOR #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/wKprPjF2on
Mexico are in the most unfortunate position of still needing a point to guarantee a spot in the Last 16 despite possessing six already after wins over Germany and South Korea.
A defeat to Sweden and a win for Germany against South Korea could well send El Tri home – depending on the goal swing - while hopeless units like Argentina progress with just four points.
Such is the weirdness of this group, a defeat for Mexico and South Korea beating Germany with big enough margins could see the Asians through despite having no points so far. However,
South Korea coach Shin Tae-yong muses that there is a "one per cent chance" of this happening.
Remember that the XTRA is your one-stop shop for everything World Cup – every night at 7PM ET / 4PM PT.
Egypt sphinx better of keeper Cuper
Time to clear up some other World Cup news, and the Pharaohs big-wigs have made the unsurprising decision to ditch Hector Cuper, the head of an Egyptian outfit which remains the only team without a single point at Russia 2018.
The way Egypt have treated Hector Cuper is so disrespectful.— DZ Football 🏴🇩🇿 (@DZFootball_en) June 26, 2018
He took them to the final of AFCON 2017. Then he qualified them for the 2018 World Cup.
And all they do is abuse him. He deserves credit & would do a great job for Algeria. pic.twitter.com/iBuLYdLlBD
Paul Pogba is promising that France will buck up its collective ideas ahead of Saturday’s clash against Argentina saying that Russia 2018 could well be his last World Cup, despite being just 25. “Maybe I'll be injured or there will be players who will outperform me,” mused the cheery Manchester United man.
The coaches of the eight teams in action on Thursday have started to opine about the future. Not too much worth hearing from Group G where England and Belgium are already through, but Group H is wide open with Colombia, Senegal and Japan all with a chance of progressing. Colombia are taking on Senegal with Jose Pekerman confidently claiming that “it is not in our heads” not to qualify.
Marco Asensio’s completely non-existent move from Real Madrid to Liverpool for $200 million which is neither true nor going to happen is the most fun rumor pinging around the globe on Wednesday.
Marco Asensio avoids speculation on future after links to Liverpool: "I will talk after the #WorldCup" #LFC #RealMadrid https://t.co/gXuIhhj0Qe pic.twitter.com/5sIGB5JNCR— footballespana (@footballespana_) June 27, 2018
Jorginho and is his agent are clutching their cellphones and waiting for a phone call from Manchester City to start a move from Napoli for the Italian midfielder. So far, the pair have been waiting a long time. “City are working to satisfy Napoli’s demands,” explained Joao Santos.
AC Milan might see a flood of transfer requests with UEFA expected on Wednesday to announce a ban for the Serie A club from the Europa League next season after failing to meet Financial Fair Play rules. The Milan side is also expected to be hit with a $35 million fine.
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