- Mexico a go-go
Sounds like a film. But no. It’s time to hail the Mexicans. They won their second game in Group F – this time it was 2-1 against South Korea and follows their victory over Germany on day four. Mexico are almost into the last 16 for the seventh consecutive tournament. The goal of Juan Carlos Osorio’s crew is to emulate the class of 1986 by reaching the quarter-finals.
- Try and beat a team with 10 men
Oddly enough when Germany were reduced to 10 men in the 82nd minute of their second Group F match agaisnt Sweden, it didn’t really make much difference. Even without the defender Jerome Boateng – dismissed for two bookable offences - they still went hunting for the win they needed. And they got it in stoppage time thanks to a Toni Kroos missile. Missed opportunity. The Swedes didn’t really pile on the pressure to kill off their opponents and appeared content with a 1-1 draw which would have put them in a strong position in the group. But as things stand now, the mashed Swedes will have to beat Mexico by two goals to advance - assuming the Germans overcome the winless South Koreans.
- Tough Low for Mesut Ozilch
The Germany midfielder did not feature at all during the match against Sweden. It is the first time since 2010 that he hasn’t lined up in the starting Germany eleven in a major international competition. Germany boss Jorgi Low has been one of the most ardent defenders of the gifted but increasingly otherworldly Ozil. If the Messi role is operating in a space behind the World Cup, then the Ozil role means a player is operating in the space behind the space. The decision to ditch Ozil as well as Sami Khedira ultimately paid off. Germany got their three points and the defence of the title -won with such panache four years ago - is back on track. While the World Cup is predicated on the glorification of stars, there is often a narrative of the big names who fail to live up to their billing. Ozil could be one of them. His has been a malaise that has been rolling for most of this year. But then he is probably a star in the spectrum our tiny minds cannot comprehend.
- Romelu Lukaku 4 Cristiano Ronaldo 4
It’s a score draw at the moment between the Belgian and the Portuguese. Lukaku bagged his second brace of the tournament in Belgium’s 5-2 romp past Tunisia who are virtually out save for a load of freak results. One of those shocks would be England losing to World Cup debutants Panama on day 11. It is considered unlikely. But let’s be honest, who saw Mexico beating Germany on day four?
- Be prepared
Quite a lot has been said about Gareth Southgate’s sober demeanour. Indeed when he was a young player, his fellow pros used to rib him because he wore sensible shoes befitting a middle aged man. But his softly softly approach does have its benefits. But on day 10 in the prelude to England’s day 11 clash with Panama, he says he has done his homework on Panama. He has diligently watched all their games in their qualifying run to the World Cup as well as their friendless and of course, their 3-0 loss to Belgium. “It’s an incredible achievement to get through the group they did so they’ll be wounded by that game against Belgium and so they’ll want to respond in the right way. We know that will make it a tough game for us.” Gareth Smoothgate.