From Russia With

I take 24 hours off and look what happens. Teams qualify and teams get knocked out. Well, I guess that is the nature of World Cup football, eh?

But before we go there, what the hell happened to Gareth Southgate? England’s boss who has been coming across brilliantly all through the tournament “tripped over when running” and dislocated his shoulder. Folks, do we actually believe this? With Anglo-Russian tensions running higher by the minute, mainly because England appear to be the only country that can stop Russia from winning the World Cup, I reckon Gareth was taken out. It was an attempted hit. And I reckon the man Putin called in to do the dirty work was Big Sham Allarfarce who, as you may have noticed in the last few weeks, still has not got over the fact that he isn’t England manager any more.

Southgate took it in good humour, however, saying “at least it was me and not one of the players!” Well, that probably runs true for 22 of the 23 man squad Gaz, but let’s not include Phil Jones in that statement, right?

Spies didn’t have to work too hard to learn the starting XI for England’s next clash with Panama. Oh no. All they had to do was read Steve Holland’s training notes that were left laying around. The notes tell us that Marcus Rashford will start ahead of Raheem Sterling and that Ruben Loftus-Cheek will come in for the calf-injury-struck Dele Alli. That’s hardly revolutionary knowledge gained.

Ruben Loftus-Cheek is starting to understand his worth though, warning Chelsea’s manager that if he doesn’t play a bigger part next season he wants to leave. RLC then realised he was talking to himself as Chelsea don’t appear to have a manager still.

Morocco came under fire for picking Nordin Amrabat for their game against Portugal after Amrabat had been diagnosed with concussion after the opening defeat to Iran. Fortunately, Nordin showed no signs of any issues at all, launching into a post-match rant about how the match was fixed because the referee allegedly asked for Ronaldo’s shirt at half-time – a claim wholeheartedly denied by the referee, FIFA and Ronaldo. Morocco are now out of the tournament having probably played better than their opposition in both matches but failing to score a goal.

Luis Suarez might look like he is trying to compete with Gonzalo Higuain for ‘the most rotund striker in Russia’ award but he scored the goal that sees Uruguay progess to the next stage at the expense of Saudi Arabia. This means Russia and Uruguay are safely through to the next round whereas Saudi Arabia and Egypt depart from Group A – the game between those two will be a very dead rubber.

Another team that has played far better than their opponents in both matches but will be departing after the next match is Peru. They lost 1-0 to France where Kylian Mbappe stole a goal from Oliver Giroud to make himself Les Bleus youngest World Cup goalscorer and it was a spawny tap-in after the ball deflected off the defender’s leg. You have to feel for Peru. Great fans. Great kit. Great style of football. If only Cueva had struck that penalty more crisply. France are through.

I am starting to form a theory on VAR as well. All these VAR decisions will balance out over the course of the tournament. Hang on, isn’t that what they used to say about bad refereeing decisions?

Australia got the lack that Iran were lacking against Spain and had a dubious VAR go in their favour against Denmark. Mind you, considering how VAR screwed the Aussies over against France, it was probably fair. Australia must beat Peru in their final game to stand any chance of going through.

Of course, the real comedy last night came in the Argentina Croatia match. And the comedy was in the Argentine performance. Big Willy made a total dick of himself, gifting Croatia their opener and then the Argentina coach Sampaoli looked like he was going to explode/strip/shoot someone/find more strikers to bring on throughout the game. Argentina finished the game with Higuain, Pavon and Dybala on the pitch. Maybe they should have picked Messi too? Oh, they did? I tell you what, if you want to be known as the greatest player of your generation then it is probably best you don’t let Dejan Lovren mark you out of a game. The facts are simple for me now. Messi is great in a great team. Ronaldo is great in any team. And that is all I have to say on the matter. Until next time.