Coverage of Group G matches during the 2018 World Cup Finals in Russia between Belgium, England, Panama, Tunisia.
2018 World Cup Finals - Group G - Fixtures and Results
Belgium vs Panama in Sochi (3:0)
The so-called 'Golden Generation' of Belgium made hard work of it during the first forty five minutes of their game in Sochi, against Panama.
Missed chances galore and much of the game played at walking pace.
Of course Panama set out to stifle Belgium, but a group of 'talented' individuals means nothing unless they play as a team; much like a diamond without a ring and a beautiful woman to wear it.
Half-time: Belgium 0 - Panama 0
Two minutes into the second-half and Belgium got the break they needed. A headed clearance out of the Panama area and Dries Mertens was in the right spot to wallop it back in; a dipping volley over Jaime Penedo.
Panama almost caught Belgium sleep-walking, as Michael Murillo slipped around the back of the defence to get on the end of a chip forward.
Tunisia vs England in Volgograd (1:2)
England started positively and unnerved the Tunisian goalkeeper from the first minute; Delli Alli's cutback to Jesse Lingard then forcing the Tunisien to save with his foot.
Preventing another England attack, the goalkeeper seemed to injure his shoulder.
A few minutes later and England were queing up to attack Ashley Young's corner. Stones powered a header at Mouez Hassen in the eleventh minute; and Captain Kane was in the perfect poacher's position, to tap the loose ball across the white line.
That was the last straw for the Tunisien goalkeeper. Ben Mustapha replaced him.
Trying to control the one goal lead, England were almost caught out just before the half-hour.
Tunisia seemed to grow in confidence after holding off England's attacks and catching England in a stagnant moment.
Then on another Tunisia forray, Kyle Walker's outstretched arm caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef in the face; earning the England defender a yellow card.
At the other end, Harry Kane was rugby tackled in the Tunisian penalty area but not even a bleep from VAR.
Just before half-time, Jesse Lingard rounded the goalkeeper only to see his toe poke come back off the outside of the post.
England had way too many chance too be going in at the break level; but that's football.
Half-time: Tunisia 1 - England 1
The second-half started a little slower; the momentum off somewhere west of south.
Harry Kane again wrestled to the ground, with nothing given; Yassine Meriah the scrum-half.
Then around the 68th minute, England started to liven up. Sterling off; Rashford on.
Just when it seemed England might have to settle for a draw, Trippier's corner into the Tunisian area was headed to the left by Harry Maguire towards Captain Kane; who swivelled his header into the back of the net.
Close call; but it's three points.
Belgium vs Tunisia in Moscow Spartak (5:2)
Belgium playing in yellow.
A foul along the edge of the Tunisian penalty area - on the quick, slick Eden Hazard - had to be checked on VAR. It really was a close call; on the line.
The thiteenth penalty in twenty-seven games equals the twenty-seven scored in Brazil 2014; during the whole tournament.
No messing. Romelu Lukaku's third goal of the tournament was scored in the sixteenth minute, after a great run down the middle to pick up a beautiful through ball from Dries Mertens. The donkey is starting to like a thoroughbred.
Half-time: Belgium 3 - Tunisia 1
That's twice the Belgium captain has outwitted the Tunisian goalkeeper.
A Carasco curler in the 62nd minute wasn't far wide.
If England thought they played well against Tunisia, Belgium have given them a masterclass in how it should be done. The chances created are nothing, if they aren't slotted home.
Having said that, Belgium should have had six or seven.
Belgium must be fancying a draw a goal against England to top the group; if topping the group really means anything.
Seven goals in this game edges out the six Spain and Portugal scored.
England vs Panama in Nizhny Novgorod (6:1)
A hot day in Nizhny Novgorod for the first ever meeting between England and Panama.
Jesse Lingard took an elbow in the face during the opening minutes of the game. Then Panama skied a couple of shots on goal, before England could settle.
Kieran Trippier took England's first corner out on the right, after waiting for the penalty area wrestling to settle down, and John Stone broke free in the middle to guide his header down towards the bottom left corner.
Twenty minutes into the game, Jesse Lingard hit the floor in the Panama area.
England played some slow-it-down football across the back, just after the half-hour mark, before stepping up the pace down the left.
Five minutes before the break, Kieran Trippier rolled a short free-kick to Joran Henderson. A few creative moves later, Stones pounced on a block and headed the ball in the back of the net. A VAR delay was required before the goal could be officially chalked up.
The wrestling on John Stones and Harry Kane was finally penalised.
Spot on, England. The case could be made for whether teams like Panama should even be at a World Cup Finals, yet FIFA want to increase the number even further in 2020.
Half-time: England 5 - Panama 0
The football was reduced to a walking pace at the start of the second-half; even going backwards.
That was Kane's last touch of the game as he joined Jesse Lingard; while Fabian Delph and Jaimie Vardy replaced them.
Panama came close to scoring their first ever World Cup Finals goal but Jordan Pickford threw himself at the ball to protect the clean sheet.
Danny Rose on for Kieran Trippier.
Panama even looked for a second.
Harry Kane came off the bench to collect his ball, after shaking everyone's hand and applauding the fans. The Panama team huddled. They will be looking to get their first World Cup Finals point against Tunisia.
Harry Kane joins Gary Lineker and Geoff Hurst to claim a World Cup Final hat-trick for England.
England vs Belgium in Kaliningrad (0:1)
Big changes for both sides to allow fringe players to make an impression. England start on two yellow cards and Belgium three. Some people may try to kid themselves that the result is not the priority; of course it is.
Courtois made an early save with his feet, to cut out Jaimie Vardy's low ball across the goal.
Jordan Pickford had to be alert to finger palm away a stinger from Youri Tielemans in the seventh minute.
Three minutes later and Gary Cahill had to scramble the ball off the line for England; after a poke on the loose ball by Michy Batshuayi off Pickford.
Youri Tielemans gets the first yellow card for a foul on Danny Rose, in the 19th minute (England 2 - Belgium 4).
Belgium were the first to settle themselves and get whistles from the crowd for passing the ball around the back.
Then they stepped it up, Batshuayi forcing a corner and Fellaini a cause for concern as Trent Alexander-Arnold reacted to clear in front of his keeper.
Another yellow for Belgium (Leander Dendoncker makes it 2:5) just after the half-hour.
Half-time: England 0 - Belgium 0
Six minutes into the second-half, Adnan Januzaj dummied and shimmied on the right of the England penalty area to fire a terrific left-foot shot past an oustretched Jordan Pickford.
Markus Rashford was through in the 67th minute and should have done better than let Thibaut Courtois close him down and edge the ball out for a corner.
Pickford punched away a Dries Mertens strike in the 90th minute.
Whatever England really wanted out of this, Belgium wanted it more and got the better out of them. Not as bad as Denmark vs France but still a disappointment for fans of first team football.
Panama vs Tunisia in Saransk (1:2)
Tunisia may be going home but Fakhreddine Ben Youssef scored the 2,500th World Cup goal in Saransk.
Second Round - Round of 16
Belgium had to defend deep as Japan asked the questions early on; moving the ball well and showing some good, direct running.
It took the Europeans over twenty minutes before they started to apply some pressure in and around the Japan goal area.
But it was still Japan who showed the most attacking intent.
Then just before half-time, Thibaut Courtois let the ball slip through his legs and had to dive on it to prevent an embarrassing moment; as the ball rolled towards his goal line.
Half-time: Belgium 0 - Japan 0
Eden Hazard hit the post in reply but then Japan were on the break again.
Japan continued with their game plan by pushing on for a third goal.
Nacer Chadli and Marouane Fellaini were brought on for Belgium to steady the ship and, more importantly, get it buoyant again.
Eiji Kawashima was starting to look a little suspect as Belgium played the ball high; unconvincing with a punched clearance.
Again Japan pushed forward, looking for their third goal; Vincent Kompany on hand to save Belgium's blushes.
Continuing in the end-to-end entertainment, Kawashima kept out Chadli and then Romelu Lukaku; for a Belgium corner.
Then Kawashima had to get down to keep out a long-range drive from Jan Vertonghen.
Nacer Chadli tried to run into the area in the last minute of the ninety.
Then Courtois had to get down at the post to keep out an own goal.
One last chance for Keisuke Honda, but it was Belgium who mastered the counter attack in the fourth minute of stoppage time, for second substitute Nacer Chadli to finish off the most desperate of moves forward; after a franctic run and final dummy by Lukaku.
The winner of this game knew they would face Sweden in the quarter-final, but first they had to win.
Plenty of passing football from both sides early on; forward moving, rather than side to side.
Ashley Young's sixth minute free-kick, from the left edge of the penalty area, was fisted away by David Ospina.
Ten minutes later, Kieran Trippier and Jesse Lingard combined on the right; but Harry Kane struggled to head Trippier's cross back towards goal.
Then in the twenty-third minute Colombia made a probing run through Juans Cuadrado and Quintero; after Harry Kane lost the ball on the left.
England may have looked the better side for most of the first half-hour, but still had nothing to show for it; no real chances, except for the sixth minute free-kick.
Then Harry Kane earned a free-kick on the edge of the area, seven minutes before the break.
As Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young stood over the ball, theatrics in the penalty area delayed the kick; while the American referee listened to commentary in his earpiece and produced a yellow card for Colombia's Wilmar Barrios head into Jordan Henderson's chest.
Unfortunately, the referee didn't review the event on the monitor or it might have been a red for violent conduct; as the head to the chest actually followed up to Henderson's head.
Then Raheem Sterling and Yeri Mina tussled for ownership of a pair of shorts, as frustration started to creep in.
Half-time: Colombia 0 - England 0
England needed to wisen up.
Then, in the 54th minute, it happened. Four England players lined up together for a corner into the area. Carlos Sanchez tried to stick close to Harry Kane, but it was too close.
As Harry swung off the back of the line around to the rear post, Sanchez was trying to get a piggy back ride and eventually they were both on the floor.
A penalty was awarded and Colombia continued the theatrics with a time-wasting protest to try and put Harry Kane off. Captain Kane held on to the ball and walked away from it all.
Then the Arsenal goalkeeper came up to the Tottenham striker with a final word. Whatever it was, Kane took a deep breath and waited. Then stepped back.... and waited. Another breath and a short run; to bang the ball straight down the middle. The last word was Harry's.
The game was spiralling out of control and verged on a farce for a while.
Yellow Cards: Colombia 5 - England 2 (70 minutes played).
With fifteen minutes to go, the game livened up again. Colombia needed an equaliser and England could do with a second goal cushion.
Both teams wanted it and the fans loved it.
With ten minutes to go, Eric Dier came on for Dele Alli. Alli took his time to leave; applauding and shaking hands like everyone else tends to, as the clock runs down. The young lions are learning.
Then Cuadrado fired over with Colombia's best chance of the game, after Kylie Walker's mistake let the South Americans through.
Jordan Pickford earned his colours in the 93rd minute with a brilliant save.
Thirty Minutes of Extra-Time.
Now the real test.
Colombia started better in the first periof of extra-time; England still stunned.
Then England tried to gain a little control; although it looked a little half-hearted.
Danny Rose and Eric Dier came close to giving England what they needed in the second period of extra-time.
Nerves? You bet. After Jordan Henderson's penalty was saved by Ospina, it seemed like England were going down the same road.
Then Mateus Uribe hit the crossbar and England were back in it.
Jordan Pickford knew it was down to him and didn't bottle it; diving off his line and lifting his left arm up to save from Carlos Bacca.
Eric Dier stepped up to take the last of the regular five penalties; Spurs vs Arsenal; bottom left; sorted.
England won a penalty shoot out at the World Cup Finals for the first time ever. One back for Gareth Southgate's saved penalty horror at Wembley back in Euro 96.
Three corners in twelve minutes, but it was Belgium who made theirs count; albeit fortune shined brightly, as the luckless Fernandinho nudged the ball into his own net. Thiago Silva hitting the post from Neymar's corner, now long forgotten.
If the first goal was lucky, Belgium's second was far from it. Romelu Lukaku made a powerful run through the middle and had the vision to see Kevin de Bruyne free on the right; who finished with a bullet of a shot. Phillippe Coutinho tried to get back but was never really close.
Thibaut Courtois then made a couple of great saves to keep Brazil at arm's length.
Half-time: Brazil 0 - Belgium 2
Neymar theatrics continued but the referee wasn't impressed. Neymar wasn't impressed with the referee either.
Courtois saved Belgium again, with fifteen minutes to go.
Belgium started to show signs of tiredness, which is not surprising considering the amount of effort they put it today; and against Japan.
Coutinho missed a great chance to level for Brazil, with six minutes to go, after the ball was rolled to him by Neymar.
Then Courtois tipped a Neymar curler over the bar, in the 94th minute, to send the last non-European team home.
After a slow (quietly confident or nervously cautious) start for a place in the semi-finals Viktor Claesson finally had sight of goal, in the thirteenth minute, and fired a shot high; above Jordan Pickford and the England goal.
One of the least exciting starts to a match at the 2018 World Cup Finals; except perhaps for the Denmark vs France Group Game.
In the nineteenth minute, England showed a little more initiative; Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane combining swiftly, but the captain dragged the ball wide.
A goal from open play didn't look on the cards, so it was handy when a ball that seemed to be going nowhere was edged out for a corner.
Just before half-time Kieran Trippier presented Raheem Sterling with a golden opportunity to extend England's lead.
Sterling had another chance, delivered from Jordan Henderson, but took too long on the ball and the flickering flame was snuffed out again.
Half-time: Sweden 0 - England 1
Sweden started more positively in the second half; Jordan Pickford palming away Marcus Berg's header to keep it Advantage England.
Pickford and Henderson then doubled up for a save and block in the 62nd minute, as Sweden prepared their substitutes.
Another top drawer save by Jordan Pickford, in the 72nd minute, with a flick over the bar. It was about this time in the game that Belgium came back from two goals down to beat Japan by three goals to two; but Sweden are not Belgium.
England made it to their first World Cup semi-final since Italia 90; when Jordan Pickford wasn't even born.
Belgium are still in the 2018 World Cup and will play again in St Petersburg; for third place.
England can't complain; they had plenty of time to make a place in the Final theirs.
2018 World Cup Final in Russia
Belgium vs England in St Petersburg (2:0)
1:0 (Thomas Meunier 4)
2:0 (Eden Hazard 82)
World Cup Finals
Uruguay trailed Argentina at half-time (1:2) but replied with three goals in the second half; to win the first ever World Cup Final (4-2) on July 30th, 1930.
Italy were one of the countries who missed out on the vote to host the first World Cup but managed to win the prestigious golden trophy for the home fans.
The third World Cup was held in Europe for a second time, although Germany had annexed Austria, and Spain was in civil turmoil.
Although no cup-final as such, Uruguay and Brazil went into their final game with the winner guaranteed to be champions; a draw would be enough for Brazil.
The fifth World Cup tournament produced a record number of goals, including a 7:5 encounter between Austria and Switzerland in Lausanne.
Brazil presented a 17 year-old Pele to the world; who went on to claim a hat-trick in Brazil's 5:2 semi-final win over France and bag another two in the final.
Czechoslovakia overcame Hungary in the quarter-finals and Yugoslavia in the semis, while Brazil took care of England and the host nation, Chile.
Geoff Hurst scored a hat-trick, in the final against West Germany, as England triumphed in a thrilling game watched by Her Majesty, Queen Elizabeth II.
1970 belonged to Pelé, who earned his third World Cup winners' medal when Brazil got their hands on the Jules Rimet Cup.... for keeps.
W. Germany 1974:
Johan Cruyff was the player of the tournament as total football became the buzzword of the day, even though Holland lost to West Germany in the 1974 final.
Holland contested the 1978 World Cup Final, in Argentina, for the second time in a row. As in West Germany, they again finished runners-up; to the hosts.
The Spain 82 World Cup finals increased to 24 teams and the format was changed to have two group stages, with four second-round groups of three.
In 1986, Mexico became the first nation to stage the World Cup Finals for a second time; having only staged the competition sixteen years previously.
In 1990, Italy became the World Cup of stalemates. Both semi-finals were drawn out through penalty kicks. In the final itself, the only goal came from the spot.
Once Team US had played a few games most of the nation began to understand they were hosting the greatest show on earth and how the game was played.
France became the sixth nation to win the World Cup on home soil. Thirty-two teams competed in the 16th World Cup; better known as France 98.
The 17th World Cup, held in Korea and Japan, was the first World Cup finals to be shared by two hosts and the first to be held in Asia.
The 2006 World Cup Finals ran from 9th June to 9th July; the opening match in Munich and the final in Berlin. Munich and Dortmund hosted the semi-finals.
South Africa 2010:
Eighty years after the First World Cup Finals in Uruguay, the world's most prestigious football competition was finally hosted on the African continent.
Five times World Cup Champions, Brazil, get a second chance to hold the prestigious World Cup Finals; 64 years after they last hosted the tournament.
VAR made its World Cup debut and set out to change the course of a game with some crucial rule infringement watching and vital on the spot decisions.
When FIFA executives met in Zurich to decide on who would host the 2018 and 2022 World Cup Finals, Qatar was probably the biggest surprise to many.
The 2026 FIFA World Cup Finals will be jointly hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States. The United Bid won the hosting rights ahead of Morocco.
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