By sportswriter Paul Giblin
MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua) -- The
second round of World Cup 2018 group matches is now in
full swing, with some sides keen to book an early place
in the second round, and others staring down the barrel
of an early exit. Here are four things to look out for
in Thursday’s group matches.
Will France start to click?
French won their opening game 2-1 against Australia, it
was a far from convincing display as their attacking
trio of Ousmane Dembele, Antoine Griezmann and Kylian
Mbappe too often looked isolated from their midfield.
Head coach Didier Deschamps has to resolve this issue
against a Peru side that was unlucky to lose against
Denmark and who could go into the game knowing they need
a win to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
would be for Griezmann to drop deeper to link with the
midfield, while the introduction of Olivier Giroud for
Dembele would provide a focal point for the attack and
allow Griezmann and Mbappe to use the full width of the
pitch to allow France more fluidity.
Do or die for the Aussies
really gave Australia much of a chance of qualifying
from a Group C that contains France, Peru and their next
opponents Denmark, and although Bert Van Marwijk’s side
gave a good account of themselves against the French,
they ultimately ended up with nothing.
unconvincing in their 1-0 win against Peru, but a win
for the Danes in Samara would almost certainly mean the
Aussies will be on the first plane home. The Socceroos’
midfield of Mile Jedinak and Aaron Mooy is solid, but
they need to make something happen up front. Could it be
the moment for 38-year-old Tim Cahill, playing in his
fourth World Cup, to once again make his mark?
Messi or a mess?
was the focus of much criticism after Argentina’s 1-1
draw against Iceland in their opening group game, after
he struggled to impose himself on the game and missed a
penalty which would have given his side the lead.
now face Croatia, who cruised past Nigeria in their
first game with their midfield of Luka Modric, Ivan
Rakitic and Ivan Perisic bossing the affair from start
played veteran duo Javier Mascherano and Lucas Biglia
against Iceland and that pairing doesn’t look equipped
to deal with Modric and company. Unless Jorge Sampaoli
makes changes, with Ever Banega and Marcos Acuna perhaps
coming into the team, Messi could face another
frustrating 90 minutes.
Kalinic issue to hurt Croatia?
disappointment for Croatia following their easy win
against Nigeria was the news that striker Nikola Kalinic
had been expelled from the squad after refusing to enter
the game as an 86th minute substitute.
coach Zlatko Dalic made it clear that team morale was
more important than any individual player with this
move, which weakens his squad inasmuch as they have a
player less, but which also perhaps strengthens it
because now everyone knows nothing short of total
commitment will be accepted.