By Michael Place MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua)
-- Xinhua identifies four things to
look out for on matchday six of the FIFA World Cup in Russia on
James Rodriguez play?
whether Colombia’s influential playmaker will be available for
his side’s tournament opener against Japan in Saransk.
The Bayern Munich
star has barely trained since the team arrived in Russia last
week as he struggles to recover from a calf injury. At a press
conference on Monday, Cafeteros coach Jose Pekerman said medical
staff would wait until the last minute to evaluate the
Rodriguez will be
key to Colombia’s chances of advancing beyond the group phase
here. He won the golden boot in Brazil four years ago by scoring
six times, including the goal of the tournament in their
round-of-16 victory over Uruguay.
Pekerman’s team are
unbeaten this year amid a run that has included a 3-2 victory
over France in Paris.
Japan are ranked 61st
in the world compared to Colombia’s 16th and the Blue
Samurai’s manager Akira Nishino said it would be a “small
miracle” if his team overcome the South Americans.
The Japanese squad
includes three players with more than 100 caps: Yuto Nagatomo,
Shinji Okazaki and captain Makoto Hasebe.
In April, the
Japanese Football Assocation sacked coach Vahid Halilhodzic and
replaced him with 63-year-old Akira Nishino.
The former national
team midfielder has since recalled Keisuke Honda, Shinji Kagawa
and Okazaki, who were controversially sidelined by Halilhodzic.
Senegal surprise again?
Senegal are making
their second appearance in football’s flagship tournament, 16
years after their first in Japan and South Korea.
On that occasion,
the African side beat defending champions France in the opening
match and went on to reach the quarterfinals.
A repeat of those
heroics seem unlikely however the team is not short of quality,
led by Liverpool forward Sadio Mane and midfielders Idrissa
Gueye and Badou Ndiaye.
Their coach is
42-year-old former Paris Saint-Germain midfielder Aliou Cisse,
who captained the team in 2002.
set for return
forward has not played since suffering a shoulder injury in the
Reds’ Champions League final loss to Real Madrid in May.
Egypt coach Hector
Cuper opted not to risk the 26-year-old in the team’s World Cup
opener against Uruguay, which they lost 1-0 after a late Jose
However Salah looks
set to start against hosts Russia in Saint Petersburg, with
Egypt’s team doctor and his agent declaring declaring him 100%
kickstarted their campaign with a 5-0 victory over Saudi Arabia,
will be without key midfielder Alan Dzagoev because of a
Winners and losers from
first four days in Russia World Cup
By Sportswriter Paul Giblin MOSCOW
Russia (Xinhua) -- The end of the
first round of group games has almost arrived and it gives us a
chance to look back on what we have seen in the opening days of
the World Cup finals which have already given us some big
surprises: here are some things we have learned since the
tournament kicked off on June 14.
not perfect, but it is a help
The use of a video
refereeing system (VAR) for the first time in a major tournament
was always going to cause some controversy and there have been
some controversial decisions, with disagreements over
Switzerland’s equalizing goal against Brazil where the video
officials didn’t feel the need to intervene despite an apparent
push VAR and in France’s penalty against Australia, where they
It’s clear that any
new system will need time to run smoothly and fans need to
remember that is only meant to be used in the case of an obvious
error, meaning it still won’t really affect borderline decisions
which are open to interpretation, such as the Swiss goal and the
penalty Cristiano Ronaldo won against Spain.
Some will argue it
may take some of the momentum from matches; but bear one thing
in mind: without VAR and goal-line technology (also in use
here), Australia could have beaten France 1-0, with technology
it ended 2-1 in favor of France. Surely it’s better to have the
right result with technology than the wrong one without it.
looking good for...
Russia: as the hosts
got off to a morale boosting 5-0 win to Saudi Arabia, while the
Saudi’s were very poor, the hosts were inspired by the home
support to put in a high-tempo display, which means they should
at least get out of the group and have hopes for the last 16.
midfield of Modric, Peresic, Kovacic and Rakitic is arguably as
good as any in Russia as they showed with an easy win against
Spain: the Spanish
only drew with Portugal in their opening match, but that 3-3
draw was the game of the tournament so far and showed the
sacking of Julen Lopetegui two days before kickoff has not had
the destabilizing effect many expected.
Iceland: less than
300,000 inhabitants in the country - a good proportion of whom
appear to be in Russia and they held Argentina in their first
ever World Cup game, showing their 2016 European Championship
heroics were not a flash in the pan.
Mexico: they beat
the reigning World Champions in their opening game, arguably the
biggest win in the country’s footballing history.
expected them to lose to Brazil, but the Swiss continued the
good form they showed in warm-up with a solid draw against the
favorites and maybe we would do well to remember they are sixth
in the FIFA rankings and deserve a bit more respect.
Brazil: ‘the Jogo
Bonito’ lasted the 20 minutes it took for Philippe Coutinho to
open the scoring against Switzerland and then it all went wrong.
Coach Tite said after their 1-1 draw in Roston-On-Don that the
pressure got to his players: well if you want to win a World
Cup, pressure is something you have to deal with.
Germany: not only
did they carry their poor form from their warm-up games to
Russia, but defeat to Mexico sets up the very real chance they
could meet Brazil in the last 16.
they beat Australia 2-1, Didier Deschamps’ side were far from
convincing in their opening World Cup game, lacking coordination
and playing in fits and starts in their victory.
Argentina: they were
held 1-1 by Iceland and although many will focus on Leo Messi’s
missed penalty, it would also be a good idea to take a look at
the Argentina starting 11 which had veteran Javier Mascherano
and Luis Biglia in a very uncreative midfield, meaning Messi had
to drop deep to try and make things happen.
Saudi Arabia: a 5-0
thrashing by Russia, voices questioning the commitment of their
players and next up to face Uruguay...
Ronaldo, player of the first round
It’s hard to argue
with a hat-trick in your opening World Cup game and that is what
Ronaldo scored against Spain: a penalty, a goalkeeping error and
a stunning free kick meant he stole all of the headlines (even
in Spain) after that 3-3 draw in Sochi. Add to that the fact his
rival Leo Messi had a penalty saved as Argentina were held by
Iceland and it has been a good few days for the striker, in
football terms at least.