World Cup 2018: Day 8 as it happened - Messi and Argentina on brink of early exit

Watch this space for updates throughout the day as Argentina prepare for must-win game against Croatia, Denmark meet Australia and France face Peru

Croatia's Luka Modric shoots the ball to score his side's second goal during the group D match between Argentina and Croatia at the 2018 soccer World Cup in Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod, Russia, Thursday, June 21, 2018. Modric scored once in Croatia's 3-0 victory. (AP Photo/Ricardo Mazalan)
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12.25am: Day 8 done and dusted

Right, that's another World Cup day in the books. France and Croatia both secured their places in the last-16 with wins over Peru and Argentina respectively, while Denmark and Australia shared the spoils in the day's first game.

Friday kicks off with Brazil and Costa Rica (kick-off 4pm UAE time), followed by Nigeria v Iceland at 7pm and Serbia v Switzerland and 10pm.

See you all tomorrow!


12.15am: Croatia sail through, Argentina on the brink

Undoubtedly the most remarkable result of the 2018 World Cup so far as a Luka Modric-inspired Croatia destroy Lionel Messi's Argentina.

The 3-0 win, with goals from Ante Rebic, Modric, and Ivan Rakitic send Croatia through to the last-16. For Argentina, though, their World Cup fate is no longer in their hands. Should Iceland beat Nigeria on Friday, a draw between Croatia and Iceland will send Argentina home.

The National's John McAuley, over in Russia throughout the tournament, was inside the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium to witness Croatia's masterclass. Enjoy his match report below:

Modric magic sends Croatia through to last-16 as Argentina face early World Cup exit


9.45pm: Mbappe makes history for France

Before the final game of the day, be sure to read Richard Jolly's report from France's win over Peru that saw Kylian Mbappe create history. Enjoy below:

Mbappe the history-maker for France as Peru exit World Cup with plenty of admirers


6.45pm: France and Peru teams 

The second game of Day 7 is fast approaching, so before kick-off, familiarise yourself with the starting XIs for France v Peru:


6.25pm: Group C down to the wire

Before we move on to the next World Cup match of the day, the other Group C match between France and Peru (kick-off 7pm UAE), have a read of the Denmark v Australia match report:

Denmark held by Australia in Group C as Jedinak cancels out Eriksen's stunner


4.47pm: Full time, Denmark 1-1 Australia

A share of the spoils then in Group C as Denmark play out a 1-1 draw at the Samara Stadium.

VAR was used to award the 11th penalty so far in group play at the 2018 World Cup in Russia, with Yussuf Poulsen judged to have handled the ball following a header from an Australia corner seven minutes before the break.

Mile Jedinak kept up his fine goalscoring form to send Kasper Schmeichel the wrong way in the Denmark goal, the Australia captain having successfully converted in the 2-1 opening defeat to France as well.

But the real highlight of this match was undoubtedly Christian Eriksen's opener. The Danish playmaker lit up proceedings with only seven minutes on the clock with a volley that belongs firmly in the bracket of "World Cup worldy".


4.47pm: Half time, Denmark 1-1 Australia

What a first 45 minutes; Christian Eriksen's stunning volley cancelled out by a controversial VAR-awarded penalty for Australia, expertly dispatched by captain Mile Jedinak.


4.38pm: Jedinak equalises from the spot

Australia awarded a penalty after half-hearted appeals from the players initially. Youssef Poulsen, who was guilty of giving away a penalty in Denmark's first match, is judged to have deliberately handled the ball following a corner for Australia. Looks very harsh.

After reviewing on the pitch-side monitor, the referee awards a penalty and books Poulsen, meaning the winger will miss Denmark's final group match against Iceland, and the responsibility falls on Socceroos captain Mile Jedinak. Just like he did against France on Saturday, the Aston Villa midfielder cooly slots home from 12 yards.

Game on!


4.07pm: Eriksen is Danish dynamite

Christian Eriksen, the man who did more than any other player in qualifying to get Denmark to Russia, opens the scoring with seven minutes on the clock with a sensational left-foot volley.

The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder ghosted into space on the edge of the Australia area where he was picked out by Nicolai Jorgensen and slammed home a shot that mere mortals normally balloon well over the bar.

Eriksen now has 13 goals and five assists in his last 15 caps for Denmark.

Take a bow, son.

1-0 Denmark.


3.54pm: Boussoufa lauds Morocco teammates after 'painful' World Cup exit

Mbark Boussoufa praised Morocco for their application and attitude in Wednesday's "painful" defeat to Portugal, despite the result confirming his side would be eliminated from the World Cup at the group stage.

Speaking to The National's John McAuley, the 33-year-old former Al Jazira could not hide his disappointment at the early exit, but paid tribute to his teammate's efforts against the reigning European champions.

Read the interview here.

Mbark Boussoufa paid tribute to his Moroccan teammates after their exit from the World Cup. Dean Mouhtaropoulos / Getty Images


3.20pm: Team sheets are in

Starting line-ups for the World Cup Group C game between Denmark and Australia at the Samara Arena on Thursday (4pm UAE kick off):

Denmark (4-3-3)

Kasper Schmeichel; Henrik Dalsgaard, Simon Kjaer (capt), Andreas Christensen, Jens Stryger Larsen; Thomas Delaney, Lasse Schoene, Christian Eriksen; Yussuf Poulsen, Nicolai Joergensen, Pione Sisto

Coach: Age Hareide (NOR)

Australia (4-2-3-1)

Mathew Ryan; Josh Risdon, Trent Sainsbury, Mark Milligan, Aziz Behich; Mile Jedinak (capt), Aaron Mooy; Mathew Leckie, Tom Rogic, Robbie Kruse; Andrew Nabbout

Coach: Bert van Marwijk (NED)

Referee: Antonio Mateu (ESP)


3pm - McAuley has arrived, ready to see Messi and Modric go head-to-head

Our World Cup reporter has arrived in Nizhny Novgorod ahead of tonight's late match between Argentina and Croatia in Group D.

Lionel Messi and his Argentina teammates, who were held to a 1-1 draw in their opening match by Iceland, with their talisman and captain seeing his second-half penalty kick saved, know they face a slick outfit in Croatia, who will be in confident mood with three points already on the board following their 2-0 win over Nigeria.

On paper, this would appear to be Croatia's toughest match in the group. However, manager Zaltko Dalic actually thinks it will be there easiest.

Over confident? No, not really. Read here to find out why.


2.50pm: Famous footballers and their superstitions

Some players believe World Cup success is earned through exercise, diet and endless practice drills - others are convinced it is a matter of wearing lucky underwear.

Players and coaches can be a superstitious bunch and often have a ritual or item of clothing they believe is a charm that has contributed to a winning run.

They range from former Colombian keeper Rene Higuita's insistence on wearing blue underpants to current German striker Mario Gomez's habit of only using the far-left urinal to relieve himself before a match.

Gomez's Germany teammate Julian Draxler gives himself a spritz of scent before a big match.

"Sometimes my teammates ask me if I'm not right in the head," the Paris Saint-Germain midfielder said.

You can read the full story here.

epa06816260 Julian Draxler of Germany reacts during the FIFA World Cup 2018 group F preliminary round soccer match between Germany and Mexico in Moscow, Russia, 17 June 2018.

(RESTRICTIONS APPLY: Editorial Use Only, not used in association with any commercial entity - Images must not be used in any form of alert service or push service of any kind including via mobile alert services, downloads to mobile devices or MMS messaging - Images must appear as still images and must not emulate match action video footage - No alteration is made to, and no text or image is superimposed over, any published image which: (a) intentionally obscures or removes a sponsor identification image; or (b) adds or overlays the commercial identification of any third party which is not officially associated with the FIFA World Cup)  EPA/PETER POWELL   EDITORIAL USE ONLY  EDITORIAL USE ONLY


2.25pm: Rashford and Loftus-Cheek could start for England

England manager Gareth Southgate is considering starting both Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek against Panama on Sunday instead of Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli.

AFP Sport understands England want to look at Rashford up front alongside Harry Kane, and Loftus-Cheek in midfield with Jesse Lingard and Jordan Henderson.

Alli's omission would not be a surprise given the 22-year-old picked up a thigh strain in the opening win over Tunisia.

But Sterling has been a regular starter under Southgate and his absence in Nizhny Novgorod would be a surprise, even if the Manchester City forward was guilty of missing chances in the first game.

Panama appear to be the weakest team in Group G and it is possible England are prepared to rotate, giving players such as Loftus-Cheek and Rashford a chance to impress.


1.10pm: Injured Alli misses England training

England attacking midfielder Dele Alli missed team training on Thursday as he bids to recover from a thigh injury in time for the side's second World Cup Group G encounter against Panama.

The Tottenham Hotspur player picked up the knock during the 2-1 win over Tunisia on Monday with Alli tweeting that he was working to get back to full fitness.

"Frustrating to have picked up a slight injury on Monday. Will do everything in my power to get back to full fitness asap," he wrote.

England take on Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday before completing the pool phase against Belgium in Kaliningrad next Thursday.


12.20pm: Catch up with all the World Cup action

We realise there's a lot to take in - the action, the anaylsis, the ranking of worst throw-ins and best free kicks - so thank your lucky stars we have a World Cup 2018 landing page for your one-stop shop of all the action in Russia.

Re-live all the action on our daily blogs, check out features from the likes of Richard Jolly, Ian Hawkey and our very own man in Moscow John McAuley.

There's podcasts, picture galleries, videos and favourite World Cup memories written by staff at The National.

There's also a comprehensive list of venues in Abu Dhabi and Dubai showing all the World Cup games live.

And don't forget to download your World Cup wall chart so you can track the results.

So for your one-stop shop of all things World Cup, erm, stop here.

The Spartak Stadium in Moscow. Etisalat has offered customers a Dh550 package to watch all 64 World Cup games in Russia. Mladen Antonov / AFP


11.30am: Worst throw in at a World Cup?

The throw-in is a simple technique as far as football goes - you don't have to be a professional to be able to take one, writes our online editor Ian Oxborrow.

A handful of players struggle with their hand-eye coordination, though, while others, such as Iran's Milad Mohammadi, are prepared to take the concept further by adding some gymnastics to the routine.

It would have been an impressive moment during Wednesday night's Group B match against Spain had Iran not been losing 1-0 and it being deep into injury time when Mohammadi decided it was time to show off his moves.

Except he didn't pull it off. As to why, read Oxborrow's take here.


11.20am: Pizzi's pledge to Saudi fans

Juan Antonio Pizzi says his Saudi Arabia side will do everything to make the country proud in their final 2018 World Cup match against Egypt next week, after confirming their exit with the narrow defeat to Uruguay on Wednesday.

Beaten 5-0 in the tournament opener by hosts Russia, the Saudis rebounded with a much-improved performance in Rostov-on-Don. Despite losing 1-0 to Luis Suarez's first-half goal, they enjoyed the greater share of the possession against the much-fancied South Americans. Rated 14th in the world, Uruguay sit 53 places higher than Saudi Arabia, who are the tournament's second-lowest ranked side.

You can read John McAuley's story here, view a photo gallery from the game below.


11am: Teammates pay for Danish defender's flight home to see newborn

What an incredible gesture!

Denmark's internationals paid for a private jet to fly left-back Jonas Knudsen home to see his newborn daughter following Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Peru.

Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said he and his teammates were looking “beyond football and to the human being” when they decided to pool in to send the new dad home to his family.

Knudsen's wife Trine gave birth to their first baby many weeks early last Tuesday. The defender was surprised to learn that he had become a father from squad staff.

Meanwhile, a goat got into the predictions game.


10.45am: A fan who can't let go of Messi

With their next World Cup match against Croatia just one day way, Argentina fans were starting to gather in Nizhny Novgorod on Wednesday and some brought their stars with them.

Die-hard supporter Gonzalo Caruso has his hero Lionel Messi tattooed on his calf.

Full story here, video is below.


10am: Day 8 is here

'Morning all!

It may not yet be easy to predict who the early favourites are to win the World Cup since the tournament kicked off exactly a week ago. But following action on Day 7, there are early indications as to which two players are most likely to lead the goalscorers chart during Russia 2018.

Cristiano Ronaldo along with Lionel Messi is among the two best players in the world. But the Portuguese Ronaldo has got a headstart on his Argentine rival by scoring four goals in two games, including a hat-trick against Spain. Wednesday's action saw Ronaldo score just the one goal against Morocco. But what a goal it was.

You can read a report on the game by our main main in Russia, John McAuley, by clicking here.

Meanwhile, Spain's Diego Costa is not far behind Ronaldo. He is on three goals after scoring twice against Portugal followed by one against Iran on Wednesday night.

Another player to watch out for is Luis Suarez, who scored the winner for Uruguay against Saudi Arabia in Wednesday's other game. It was a result that knocked both the Saudis and Egypt out of the competition, with both sides on zero points after two games apiece. You can read our English football correspondent Richard Jolly's report on the game by clicking here.

Soccer Football - World Cup - Argentina Training - Argentina Team Training Site, Moscow, Russia - June 20, 2018 Argentina's Lionel Messi with the team mates during training REUTERS/Albert Gea

Today's action

Denmark meet a robust Australian side in Group C at 4pm at the Samara Arena in Samara to kick off the day's proceedings. Australia might consider themselves unfortunate to lose to France after putting in a good day's work. But they will know that with a little luck they are capable of beating a less star-studded side in Denmark.

Next up is another Group C game, this one between tournament favourites France and Peru, with the latter under pressure to win. It could be curtains for them if the South Americans lose. They play at the Ekaterinburg Arena in Ekaterinburg.

The late game is once again the big game of the day, with Argentina facing Croatia in Group D. It is a game that Argentina need to win if they stand a chance of making the knockout stages. But Croatia are formidable opponents so it should be a close game, to be staged at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Nizhny Novgorod.

Denmark's midfielder Christian Eriksen (R) and midfielder Lasse Schone (L) attend a training session in Vityazevo on June 18, 2018, during the Russia 2018 World Cup football tournament.  / AFP / Jonathan NACKSTRAND



While you stay tuned to what's coming up, why don't you download our wall chart to keep track of the games? You can get it here.


Oh, and do you need a one-stop shop for everything from predictions, group guides, picture galleries and where to watch all 64 games in the UAE?

You're in luck then.

Visit our World Cup landing page to read expert opinion and features throughout the June 14-July 15 tournament.