Pickford’s Euro 2012-era tweets are also quality. He was 18 then, with an 18-year-old’s preoccupations:
A key question answered: what was Jordan Pickford preoccupied by during the last World Cup?
“I wonder if now we could have some sort agreement amongst pundits and journalists that in the next major tournaments they don’t lazily and automatically put Brazil and Spain down as possible winners?” pleads David Penney. “Spain are no where near the team they were 8 years ago and Brazil have not been world class for 12 years. “Can we all just stop this now? Won’t someone think of the children?”
I don’t think any team came into the tournament in overwhelmingly positive fashion, but of them all Brazil’s build-up was probably the most positive. Their history might make them an obvious pick before any World Cup, but I don’t think they were a bad one on this occasion, and if yesterday’s match had gone only a little bit differently they would still be in the running.
“I’m in Sweden, surrounded by 1000 Swedes,” writes Steve Powell. “But I will be sporting traditional England Supporter attire this afternoon … a bright pink sunburnt back.”
This is going a bit too far.
This tweet was apparently actually sent by the @visitstockholm Twitter account. It’s since been deleted:
Here’s another picture of the World Cup reaching distant corners of the world, in this case the village of Alua in Mozambique:
There is talk of there being 10,000 empty seats at the Samara Arena for the England game today. Looking at the ticketing website now, there is availability in Category 1 ($365 each) and Category 2 ($255 each). It’s the only match with tickets available at the moment.
News just in: England’s players have gone for a walk!
Here are some Brazil fans before and during yesterday’s World Cup quarter-final against Belgium. But where are they?
Answer: they’re in Arsal, a town 124km north-east of Beirut, Lebanon. They seem to have a thing about Brazil there.
Here’s Andrew Roth on Stanislav Cherchesov, the Russia manager:
Resembling a mustachioed police captain sent down to clean up a crooked precinct, the Osettian-born former goalkeeper has instituted his physical, inexhaustible style of football while rarely cracking a smile at pitchside. “I believe this is only the beginning so I have to save my emotions for the future,” he told reporters after Russia’s shock defeat of Spain, a match that looked thrilling in retrospect but largely came down to 120 minutes of football comparable to a war of attrition.
He is still on Instagram, though:
Important World Cup wager dept update. Weirdly, Beckham seems to have fled Twitter since this agreement was reached last night:
Barney Ronay has written about the wait list for World Cup press tickets:
Here are some things you may not know about Harry Kane, written by yours truly:
Hello world! I’ll start with a few front and back pages from today’s newspapers:
Alas, that’s all the time in the chair for me, Richard Parkin, today – to take you ever closer to Harry Kane’s next heroic chapter (and of course that other little matter taking place in Sochi later on) is the irrepressible Simon Burnton. Keep your emails, tweets and comments flying through on another day where we ask: is it coming home or going home?
Thanks for your company!
And so the slow build to England’s clash with Sweden begins, as the Three Lions attempt to reach the final four of a World Cup for just the third time in fifteen attempts.
And for supporters all around the world that heady cocktail of nerves and excitement begins to take grip in the very pit of your stomach.
Matt Honeycombe writes from the bottom of the earth with a novel approach ahead of today’s match:
Sun is going down here in New Zealand, slow cooking chicken wings in a Jamaican Jerk sauce with Carolina Reaper chillies – the hottest peppers in the world. We figure – get the pain out of the way and any of the potential England roller-coaster of hurt that may come will feel like nothing. Come on England!
I love it. Keep a little something up your sleeve, Matt, maybe a seed to rub into an eye to ensure the tears, either of rapture, pure agony, or a heady fusion of both, continue well after the full-time celebrations/commiserations begin.
But, of course we couldn’t move on from last night without a passing farewell to Neymar, who joins Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as spectators for the business end of Russia 2018.
This prodigious talent of Brazilian football – third on their all-time topscorer list behind Pele and Ronaldo – and yet for so many at this tournament the very embodiment of the worst of football with his playacting and histrionics.
In fairness, after becoming an internet sensation for his basic idiocy during the match against Mexico, it did appear the superstar was a slightly more reformed character last night; gone was the precocious pot-noodle hair, and on occasions when caught, the striker did appear to keep the full-body revolutions to three or under.
What do you think – has the VAR-era “found out” play-actors? Will we see less of this kind of behaviour in the game going forward; or conversely will we see more, given the hounding of referees to “go upstairs” that we’ve seen from players thus far?
But let’s see what you’ve made of the overnight action – here’s “Lardons” with some praise for Belgium’s coach:
I’ve always liked Martinez. He is the personification of the joy, positivity and dare to dream elements of the game which first attracted to me to it and led to my decades long servitude to the cruel mistress of football.
The fact people still try to malign him or dismiss his abilities – motivational and tactical – is astonishing and something probably rather British. Evidently somebody in the Belgium FA could see what he’d bring to a group of frustrated, blunted but potentially thrilling attackers.
Evidently not an Everton fan, there.
“Deepcoverpoint” thinks however all that tactical brilliance may not be enough:
Well done France & Belgium. These were excellent victories.
Hard to see anyone knocking over France based on their potential and last two performances. When they break our into open space, as Belgium also showed today, France has the fluency, speed and finishing to quickly turn a match.
This has been a compelling tournament.
While “Cesc_12” touches on another secret weapon the Belgians have among their ranks:
Thierry Henry is the real brains behind Belgium. It’s no coincidence that Belgium are the tournament’s top scorers, with 14 goals, and the GOAT is their assistant manager.
I’ll admit; I did have the thought that this puts one of the all-time greats of French football in a very tricky position.
Knowing the French squad intimately (as he no doubt does), what inside intel might Henry be able to share with the Belgian backroom staff? And would he? It’s a hell of a pickle to be in – to choose between professionalism and one’s own country. Maybe a phonecall to Iran’s Carlos Queiroz might help?
Some fresh news with a bearing on our first quarter-final clash today, and it’s not been the ideal matchday preparation for England’s opponents Sweden, who have had a fire alarm go off at their hotel, prompting an evacuation.
You don’t imagine consummate professionals like the Swedes would be too put out by that, but then you never know the micro-superstitions that many professional athletes cling to. I know an Opera singer who will only eat tuna on crackers exactly two hours before EVERY performance. Let’s hope the Swedes all got their herrings in, exactly how they like it.
That said, it’s not exactly the distraction New Zealand’s All Whites experienced ahead of their crucial continental playoff against Peru in Lima where jet planes low-swooped the team hotel at 3am in an attempt to unsettle their opponents pre-match. Now, that’s dedication.
I’m sure coach Janne Andersson and his chargers took it all in their stride, with the well-mannered Swedes almost certainly dealing with the commotion with trademarked “respect”:
And speaking of the Golden Boot race, if you need a refresher, here’s how the table currently stands:
Phwoar. And to think “Our ‘Arry” is in action tonight! You’d imagine only Lukaku or Griezmann could catch the Tottenham striker from here. No?
And so for seemingly the empteenth time the tricolour of black, red, gold will be flying proudly at a World Cup semi-final; except this time, not the horizontal version of Germany, but the vertical version of Belgium.
One of the coolest wee graphics I’ve seen lately was this humble offering to Romelo Lukaku and his involvement in Belgium’s dramatic late winner against Japan:
And wasn’t he immense, Lukaku. As Nick Ames reminds us with this thoughful offering:
Many people might take a casual glance at the Golden Boot standings and think a Kane and Lukaku pairing at the top has all to do with the relative weakness of their group opponents; but when both are in the form they’ve displayed at this tournament you can see that they’re a genuine handful for even the world’s best defences.
In the Football Manager era where all of us are suddenly instant André Villas-Boas’ it was also a remarkable match for those that are obsessed with tactics and formations.
Often in football you’ll see that the side that blinks first and adjusts their tactics to adapt to their opponents might cede a psychological edge. But there’s no doubting Roberto Martínez’s shrewd tweaks pre-game had a massive influence in this one.
I enjoyed the Spaniard’s post-game comments, where interviewed immediately after the whistle the former Swansea, Wigan and Everton supremo was congratulated for his tactics. To which he replied quick as a flash that tactics are nothing without the execution, or buy-in to said plans from the players; and in that sense the much-maligned Marouane Fellaini (and his mini-Marouane be-wigged mate, Axel Witsel) were utterly superb in the middle of the park; shutting down passing lines to Neymar and Coutinho, and stifling the space for Brazil’s creative playmakers.
And yet! For all that, had Renato Augusto finished a golden-opportunity to grab an unlucky brace shortly after his lifeline header, had Thiago Silva’s early kneed effort not bobbled agonisingly onto the post, had Fernandinho not inadvertently found his own net; what a very different game of football this could have been!
Heartbreak for Brazil and their fans, after a second half in which they created more than ample opportunities to force at least another 30 minutes – and who out there (Belgium not included) wouldn’t have wanted to see that.
And so we know the first of our semi-finalists: France v Belgium. And what a mouthwatering clash that threatens to be.
But before we get too far ahead ourselves, let’s take a moment to relive that game; an encounter that even the grieving Brazilian coach had to admit was a classic:
“Even with all the pain I feel now and the bitterness, I say that if you like football, you have to watch this game and you will have pleasure if you are not emotionally involved. Triangulations, transitions, saves, what a beautiful game!”
Jonathan Wilson again with the match report; worth a re-read even if you have already.
They showed the trademark hunger that has defined this over-achieving football nation for generations, but sans-Cavani, and aided by a gift from the unfortunate Fernando Muslera, it was always going to be an uphill battle for the South Americans.
It never fails to raise a lump in your throat to see the heartbreak when a team goes out, irrespective of the manner in which they go.
José Giménez becoming another poster boy for the fickle fates of football. One moment you’re up; and the next you’re very, very down.
French coach Didier Deschamps was the very loped-smile picture of contentedness post-game, claiming his side displayed “more mastery” and were “deserved” winners, hinting ominously for Belgian fans that the best was yet to come.
And while many might have taken umbrage to the occasional lurking moments of “gamesmanship” (or “shithousery” if you prefer the Guardian’s re-terming of that) of which some among his number showed great adeptness (*cough* Lucas Hernández), few perhaps could argue that his side weren’t the better side.
But before all that, to our earlier fixture, where another hugely respected veteran of the South American game, Óscar Tabárez, and his fighting Los Charrúas have run their race.
Given the manner of his involvements at the previous two World Cups, it’s almost a subdued exit for the enigmatic Luis Suárez; the nation’s all-time leading scorer and the original enfant terrible of a pre-Neymar world (and post Nicholas Anelka?).
There were no outrageous contributions in Russia from the man from Salto, who in truth, had half of the beating heart within his chest ripped out when partner-in-crime Edison Cavani was ruled out of this most crucial of encounters.
If you missed any of the earlier action, Stuart James was the man on the ground, and here’s his match report:
And for seemingly the fifteenth time this remarkable World Cup, we begin the morning after the night before; bleary-eyed, shell-shocked, stumbling uncertainly around.
After Germany’s stunning exit Jonathan Wilson captured the post-dystopian mood brilliantly in the opening to his match report, and if you’ll allow the indulge it bears repeating once more, with totemic rivals Brazil now leaving Russia as well:
This, then, is how the world ends, not with a bang but with a whimper. There are certain events so apocalyptic that it feels they cannot just happen. They should be signalled beneath thunderous skies as owls catch falcons and horses turn and eat themselves.
Yes, the Seleção, are going home.
And perhaps even more startling is the fact that, on balance, it’s not even an undeserved result. 210 million people might see it otherwise (please don’t @ me) but in a stunning demonstration of clinical transitional football Roberto Martinez’s Belgium rocked world football with a first-half performance for the ages. They rode their luck in the second, and Brazil were uncharacteristically wasteful in front of goal, but for the neutral observer, it certainly was the kind of football you’d love to see at a World Cup.
Breathless, end-to-end, open, dynamic football. And the wise old owl, Tite, and his much-fancied men have made six (soon to become four) nations very, very, excited about the prospect of what, only weeks ago, would have been considered an unlikely World Cup triumph.
And like that, South America left the building, as Russia 2018 reverts to an all-european Euros-style knockout competition.
The loss of Cavani pre-whistle perhaps the biggest impediment to Uruguay’s potential progress, but in fairness it perhaps would have taken something special to beat a French side brimming with the talent they have at their disposal.
But the big news, in a tournament that’s not been light on high drama, is the departure of five-time champions and one of the pre-tournament strong favourites, Brazil, after they fell to Belgium’s “Golden Generation” after one of the most dynamic and thrilling opening halves of the tournament.
And so, now, to find out who will book their spot in the second semi-final, the plucky Swedes, “it’s coming home”-mentum England, Modric and mates Croatia, or a host nation that refuses to lie down.
Yes, we’ve two more cracking fixtures tonight; so prep your meals, line up your slippers and pre-warm your kettle, because this is big-tournament football at the pointy end, and who could honestly even begin to pretend to know what’s in store today.
3pm BST/5pm MSK/midnight AEST: Sweden v England, Samara
7pm BST/9pm MSK/4am Monday AEST: Russia v Croatia, Sochi
As always, this is a train that picks up all passengers, irrespective of tendency-to-pun, quip or muse. Fire us your best contributions via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), twitter (@rrjparkin) or below the line to join the conversation.