The first game of matchday 10 started out pretty unsurprisingly; Belgium jumped out to a quick 2-0 lead, off of a PK by Eden Hazard in the 6th minute, and then a goal for Romelu Lukaku in the 16th. But Tunisia didn’t give up that easily as 2 minutes later, Dylan Bronn headed in a goal off of a set piece to make it 2-1. For the rest of half, Tunisia put the pressure on, and it looked like they could even equalize. But that was as good as it would get for the underdogs. Forced to make two substitutions in the first half because of injuries, Belgium proved to be too much for them. Right before half, Lukaku snuck behind the back line and scored in the 43rd minute to make it 3-1. With that goal, he is now tied for the most goals in the World Cup with 4, and became the first player since Maradona to have back to back World Cup games with multiple goals.
In the second half, Hazard scored again in the 51st, and soon after Michy Batshuayi came on and kept the pressure on high. Taking a game high 6 shots, he could have easily had a hat trick, but he finally broke though in the 90th minute to bring the score to 5. Tunisia’s captain, Wahbi Khazri, got a consolation goal in the 93rd minute, and gave a combined goal total of 7 for the game, the highest scoring World Cup game of 2018 so far. The brace by Lukaku* and Hazard as well as the chances created off the bench by Batshuayi really showed the attack power of Belgium, and sent a message that they could be a force to be reckoned with. Their goal difference is now 6, the 2nd most of this World Cup. Any points from England tomorrow guarantee Belgium advances before their last game.
*Lukaku did hurt is ankle early in the game, and came off 30 minutes later, in the 59th minute. Their manager said that he will be evaluated in 48 hours, and may not play against England.
Group G Standings
Mexico 2-1 South Korea
The first match of the Group F double header started with a Mexico team looking to establish themselves at the top of the group while South Korea was determined to get some points after falling 0-1 to Sweden in Matchday 5. It started with equal opportunities from both sides; South Korea came out super aggressive, fouling Mexico many times to establish themselves in the opening minutes (7 fouls in the first 13 minutes, South Korea out fouled Mexico 24-7) but it was Mexico that struck first. Off of a handball in the box, LAFC’s own Carlos Vela scored a PK in the 26th minute. Although this call was not aided by VAR, nor was a VAR review used even once today, with Vela’s PK there are already more PKs in this World Cup than in Brazil in 2014.
In the second half, it was all Mexico. Andres Guardado almost pushed the lead to two, but Jo Hyeon-Woo, the South Korean goal keeper, gave a phenomenal save to preserve the game 1-0. But South Korea couldn’t hang on forever, as Chicharito AKA Javier Hernández scored on another fatal Mexico counter attack in the 66th minute.
Mexico had full control of the game at this point, and just wore South Korea out. South Korea did get a goal in the 93rd minute with an absolute beauty from Tottenham’s Son Heung-Min, but it wasn’t enough time left as Mexico held on to win and claim 6 points. They had not won back to back world cup games since 2002.
Even before the game started, there was already a fair share of lineup controversy. Germany elected to start Mesut Ozil on the bench after a poor showing in their first game. The game started intensely, as Germany seemed to have more control and chemistry than when they played Mexico. They had 2 shots within the first three minutes, and it looked like it was only going to be a matter of time before Germany scored. However, Sweden had the first super close chance, and it really was the first time VAR had been discussed today. In the 13th minute, Marcus Berg appeared to be taken down in the box. However, it did not go to VAR, even though the consensus, even ‘Fox’s FIFA Rules Expert’ says it was a penalty, and it should have been reviewed.
Sigh of relief for German fans as Berg can't finish on the breakaway! pic.twitter.com/Uj1IMphlLG— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 23, 2018
However, it didn’t take long for Sweden to actually score as they dealt Germany a worrying blow in the 32nd minute.
Uh oh, Germany...— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 23, 2018
Sweden take the 1-0 lead! pic.twitter.com/9QgclmDa8Y
Germany had one close chance that they couldn’t connect on, and Neuer had to make a fantastic save on a freekick just to keep things level at the half.
Germany was not about to exit the group stage for the first time ever that easily, however. Marco Reus was able to get the ball back into the net in the 48th minute to make it 1-1, and Germany put their foot back on the pedal. It went back and forth, until the 82nd minute where Jérôme Boateng was awarded a red card, and Germany had to play the rest of the match with 10 men. This didn’t deter Germany as they continued to push, and in the 95th minute, Toni Kroos nailed a free kick to win the game.
So as the group F table stands, both Germany and Sweden have 3 points going in to the next game. It’s going to come down to the final day for this one. Germany came back from the brink of elimination. Do you consider them still the favorites? Did Sweden impress enough today to think they can make it out of the Group Stage? Did Belgium impress you enough to think they might be able to win it all? In a match day full of history and comebacks, let’s here your thoughts in the comments below.
Group F Standings