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Germany Hang In At World Cup

Germany beat Sweden with the help of a Toni Kroos Wonder Goal at World Cup 2018 while Belgium thrashed Tunisia in Group G

dave bowler logo for germany world cup articleWorld Cup 2018 Diary: Not Quite Auf Wiedersehen Yet For Germany

By Dave Bowler

At the end of last season in England, we watched the fairly understandable coronation of Mo Salah as the player of the year. Given his goals haul, it was inevitable that he would carry off the most votes but, as we have seen in many countries across the world these last couple of years, democracy may well be the best system of deciding things that we have, but it sure as hell ain’t infallible. 

A more objective reading of the last Premier League season would have seen Kevin de Bruyne carrying off the gongs, for the way he played for Manchester City and is now continuing with Belgium, he’s starting to look like a realistic Ballon d’Or candidate too.

Belgium 5 Tunisia 2

Tunisia had shown themselves as pretty ordinary fare against England, even though they took Gareth Southgate’s to the final seconds, but Belgium, de Bruyne in particular, exposed them as the kind of lesser lights they are. Even playing at little more than half pace for much of the game, Belgium had the game on a string throughout, from the moment that Eden Hazard stroked in the opening penalty.

Romelu Lukaku helped himself to another brace before the break. Hazard got his second and then Michy Batshuayi contrived to score just one out of enough chances to go past Lukaku and Ronaldo in the Golden Boot race.

A couple of defensive lapses helped Tunisia to gain some slight respectability, losing 5-2 when it could have been double figures, but that doesn’t disguise the fact that they look ominously good.

They and England of the bigger nations have really lucked in, not just with the draw for the group that set them up with two no hopers, but even in the order of the games, both sides able to ease their way to maximum points – surely England won’t screw that prediction up?  Both should go into the knockout phase in great heart, whatever the outcome of their meeting in the final game, a fixture where both are going to be able to rest players should they choose.

Coming second might enable you to miss both Germany and Brazil in the last eight as they could well be in a collision course for a last 16 meeting and instead face what looks set to be the winners of Switzerland and Mexico. You’d sign up for that for a place in a World Cup semi-final wouldn’t you?

Toni Kroos Wonder Goal

Actually, scrap that earlier bit about Kevin de Bruyne getting the Ballon d’Or. Give it to Toni Kroos now. To score that goal at that moment, with one chance to send the ball on an inch perfect trajectory into the far corner when anything less than perfection would have sent Germany out of the World Cup? That is brilliance that is simply off the scale, grace under pressure, given the circumstances, it’s one of the greatest goals ever scored in any World Cup.

Not only does it all but put Germany through – they can’t foul it up by failing to beat South Korea by enough goals to seal qualification – it might just ignite what, until half-time of their game against Sweden, had been a pathetic campaign.

Trailing to another dreadful goal, the German defence disregarding their duties to allow Toivanen to finish neatly, at the interval they were on their way home. Finally though, they find a bit of aggression, a bit of desire and commitment that had hitherto been missing. Reus got them level almost immediately, Brandt smashed a shot against the post, they had good possession, the odd chance, but time was running rapidly away from them.

They got a break, oddly enough when Jerome Boateng, having another car crash evening in central defence, was dismissed for a second yellow card with about ten minutes to go. The Germans dug in again, and they earned their winner, harsh though it was on a Swedish side who now most likely have to beat Mexico to progress. Germany, on the other hand, might just be fancying their chances of winning the group against all the odds.

South Korea 1 Mexico 2

Mexico are still in pole position to do that though after they made it six points from six with a routine win over South Korea who were desperately disappointing again. The exuberance and energy with which the Mexicans play was all too much for them, Carlos Vela’s early penalty setting them on their way, from where, there was never any real doubt that Mexico would seal the win

Javier Hernandez did just that with another lightning breakaway and though Son Heung-Min gained a late consolation for the South Koreans, theirs is a World Cup they’ll be happy to forget. Mexico, on the other hand, are coming nicely to the boil. Hitting sides on the break is their forte and as the competition gets to its sharp end, that might play into their hands.

Defensively, they look a little frail yet they’ve conceded just once, and that at the end of a game that was already won. If they can see their way past a crestfallen Sweden in the final game, they could do plenty more damage before they’re through.

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