Brazil only needs one point from their final group game to secure their spot in the knockout stages, while a win is almost sure to put them in the last 16 as Group E winners, and all eyes are on Neymar to get Brazil their win.
Neymar only recently returned from a lengthy layoff due to a foot injury, and as it stands Neymar, the most expensive player is the centrepiece of a Brazil side desperate to win the Cup in Russia.
Neymar cried after scoring Brazil’s second goal in the 97th minute in Saint Petersburg, but Tite warned reporters to not read too much into the superstar’s tears.
“Neymar is only in the recovery stage,” warned Tite, who says the 26-year-old needs more time to rediscover his form after three months out. “He is a gifted player, but outside his normal standards, or he wouldn’t be playing like this.
“He is in the middle of the evolution after his injury. It’s normal, natural. “If you look at the statistics against Switzerland and compare with Costa Rica, the heat map on the flank and inside both increased. “One more match and he will be on full form physically and technically. “The trouble is, has an excessive responsibility on him. That is not right. I will not do that. We should not place all the responsibilities on his shoulders, even though he CAN handle it.”
Neymar’s tearful response to the Costa Rica win was labelled self-indulgent by many inside Brazil but Tite added: “I would like to say, to the whole nation, that I have done the same.
“When we beat Ecuador, Tite cried. “I will say it again. I cried when I called my wife. I cried because I was happy, satisfied.
Brazil’s inability to keep their emotions in check contributed to their spectacular implosion at the 2014 World Cup, when they were slaughtered 7-1 in the semi-finals by eventual winners Germany. The fear is the same thing could happen again during the high-pressure knock-out stages in Russia.
The Brazil boss has also admitted he has concerns about Serbia’s physical advantages, name-checking past and present Premier League stars Aleksandar Mitrovic, Nemanja Matic and Branislav Ivanovic as well as Southampton schemer Dusan Tadic.
Will Brazil be able to keep their emotions in check and secure their spot in the knockout stages?
Diego Maradona is known for his outbursts and high energy, and the reality is he has always been like this. The BBS referred to Maradona as a ‘parody of himself’, but elaborated saying underneath it all he is a ‘warm, caring guy.’
The 57-year-old could be seen being helped from his seat at the St Petersburg Stadium, before collapsing into a chair inside the stadium. Maradona reportedly said that his ‘neck hurt a lot’. However, allegations maintain that Maradona could have been high during the match.
He was immediately attended to by Russian paramedics and Argentine newspaper Cronica and ESPN in Latin America reported that he was transported to a local hospital shortly afterwards. However, it seems Maradona was stabilised at the stadium and seen in the early hours of Wednesday morning on a private jet destined for Moscow.
Maradona posted a picture on social media showing medical staff with him at half-time of the 2-1 victory, but denied he had been taken to hospital. “I want to tell everyone that I am fine,” his Instagram post read. “I was checked by a doctor and he recommended me to go home before the second half, but I wanted to stay because we were risking it all. How could I leave?”
Earlier, he was in tears when the score was 1-1, which would have resulted in Argentina’s elimination.Then, after Marcos Rojo scored the team’s late winner, he was seen giving a two-fingered salute.
As television cameras swung his way, seconds after the ball hit the back of Nigeria’s net, Maradona thrust middle-finger gestures with both hands – which has inevitably resulted in a massive backlash on social media.
“There’s Diego Maradona celebrating,” said Lineker. “I think he might make the papers for a different kind of celebration, there’s a danger he’s becoming a laughing stock I’m afraid. “[He’s] let himself down with that celebration. You understand how he’s euphoric, but this kind of reaction… Really, Diego?”
Maradona had earlier been filmed manically celebrating Marcos Rojo’s late winning goal and swearing at supporters and was branded a “laughing stock” by BBC presenter Gary Lineker.
It’s not the first time Maradona has been in the headlines for his antics. He was accused of making a racist gesture by ITV presenter Jacqui Oatley while watching the 1-1 draw between Argentina and Iceland last week. “Maradona not so cool now. Some South Korea fans just shouted “Diego” and he obliged with a smile, kiss and wave. Then pulled his eyes to the side in a clearly racist gesture. All of us who saw it are stunned,” Oatley posted on Twitter.
Kyle Edmund faces a test of character as he is set to play against his mentor Andy Murray. Edmund,23, has stepped up his game in anticipation of the match as he is keen to play against recovered-Murray, according to coach Jamie Delgado.
“In terms of Andy wanting to play, it’s 100%. Wimbledon is the biggest event of the year. The desire to play is huge,” Delgado told BBC Sport. “We have to take his body into consideration. Do we want it to happen? Of course, 100%. We are trying our best to get him fit for it. “
It will not be easy, psychologically, for him to face his own mentor. Especially now that he has inherited Murray’s long-held mantle of British No 1.
“He grew as a person,” said Edmund’s coach, Fidde Rosengren. “I can’t tell you how much he has changed in a week.”
The pair have played each other twice previously in ATP Tour events with Murray triumphing on both occasions. Their first meeting came at the quarter-final of Queen’s in June 2016 when Murray won 6-4 3-6 6-2 en route to winning the tournament before his Wimbledon success the same year. They met again in October later that year at the China Open when Murray triumphed 7-6 6-2 in Beijing.
Remarkably, Edmund v Murray is not the only British derby at the Nature Valley International on Wednesday. Cameron Norrie – who finished strongly here to knock out German qualifier Daniel Brands by a 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 scoreline – will play Jay Clarke for a place in the quarter-finals. Norrie has often said that he struggles against big servers.
Argentina kept the World Cup hopes alive on Tuesday when securing a win over Nigeria. Lionel Messi said ‘he could not remember suffering before’, while for the Argentina manager Jorge Sampaoli it was a huge relief that his team was able to avoid elimination.
Manchester United defender Marcos Rojo saved Argentina from catching an early flight home with a superb volley in the 86th minute. The 2-1 win over Nigeria sent them through to a last-16 tie against France. They were able to redeem themselves from a disastrous 3-0 defeat by Croatia, and redeem their reputation casting aside any connotations of being ‘the worst team ever’.
A change to a back four brought about a much-improved first-half display, and they led at the breakthrough Messi’s expertly taken goal. Messi showed up for his country, and so did Rojo, for it was his late striked that earned Argentina passage into the last 16. “It was a difficult situation,” said Messi, who was pictured giving a team talk in the tunnel before the players came back out for the second half.
“It was a huge release and relief for all of us. It is a huge joy for everyone for the difficult days we lived after the last defeat. Luckily we achieved our objective.” Sampaoli was embraced by Messi at full-time and said suggestions the Barcelona forward – who briefly retired from international football in 2016 – is not committed to the national side are not true. “Every time Lionel Messi plays he shows that he is a fantastic player, above everybody else, but he needs support from his team-mates,” said Sampaoli. “His human side is amazing. He cries and suffers, he is happy when Argentina win. It’s important he shares those feelings. Many people say Leo does not enjoy playing for Argentina, but I don’t agree. “My players play with their heart – they are true rebels.”
Argentina next face Group C winners France on Saturday with match-winner Rojo saying; “Now the World Cup begins for us.”
Britain’s former number one Andy Murray is making his return to the top, and he won his first match 6-1 6-3 on Monday during a warm-up event. It took him just an hour and 17 minutes to defeat Wawrinka.
He is insisting he is fit enough to start the defence of his Wimbledon title on Monday despite his recent hip injury. However, there is concern surrounding whether he is healthy enough since he cancelled two scheduled exhibition matches this week due to his sore hip. Murray was seen limping during practice at Wimbledon over the weekend, but he remains convinced he will be able to make it through two weeks of the grass court Grand Slam.
“I’ll be fine to play the event and play seven ma,ches.” Murray told reporters at Wimbledon on Sunday.
“I will make that decision when I’m ready. If I feel like I’m in good enough shape, I’ll do it. If I don’t, then obviously I won’t play. I’m coming back from a very serious injury which is not easy. I’m not putting any pressure on myself to make that decision after one match here or two matches, because I don’t need to. I can decide when I want.
“My health and my body are my priority right now,” insisted Murray, who spent 11 months on the sidelines with a hip injury that required surgery in January.
Murray added: “The match with Nick was two hours 45 minutes, and the slams, you have to be prepared for four hours. That (against Kyrgios) obviously could have gone another couple of sets potentially, and I didn’t feel great the following day.”
It was only Murray’s second match since last year’s Wimbledon after being sidelined for 11 months following surgery on his right hip. Murray, the 2012 US Open winner, will face British rising star Kyle Edmund in the second round at Eastbourne on Wednesday. In Murray’s absence, Edmund has become the British number one, not that Murray was especially worried about the loss of that particular designation.
The ongoing negotiation saga between Anthony Joshua and Wilder now looks set to be shelved, for a few months at least, as Joshua has been ordered to sign for a mandatory WBA title defence against Povetkin within 24 hours. The WBA have grown impatient and ordered the British star to sign and fulfil his title obligations to Povetkin.
WBA president Gilberto Mendoza had granted Joshua an extra month to discuss the prospect of a fight with Wilder, however, due to the fact that he still has not agreed on a deal, he has called on Joshua to finalise a bout with mandatory challenger Povetkin for the WBA belt.
Gilberto Mendoza said: “Today the WBA requested an answer from Anthony Joshua’s team regarding his fight with the mandatory challenger Alexander Povetkin. “The WBA have allowed over a month extension to negotiations with Povetkin and also ongoing discussions with Deontay Wilder. “It appears the Wilder team have not returned the contract for the fight and therefore we are requesting a date for the Joshua versus Povetkin fight with immediate effect.”
‘AJ’ must now make a massive decision on whether to continue pursuing the Wilder fight as his next outing, which would mean he would have to part ways with his WBA (Super) title, or keep hold of his belt by agreeing to fight Povetkin.
Meanwhile, Hearn has rejected claims that he refused to clarify two details in the contract sent to Wilder’s manager, Shelly Finkel.
“Let’s just stick to facts. We made them an offer firstly, they didn’t even reply,” Hearn said of the Wilder discussions.
“They made us an offer, we asked to see a contract, they refused to send one.
“We made them another offer, after nearly four weeks they accepted and asked for a contract and we sent them one. If they want the fight they will sign it.”
Belgium are set to rest their key players for their World Cup Group G crunch on Thursday. But news has surfaced that Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, and England manager Gareth Southgate intend to rest their major players, as they are in it for the long haul. Both teams have qualified for the last 16, so it is only the group winner that needs to be decided. So, it is an opportune time for players to rest their legs, recover from injuries and avoid the risk of suspensions. So, the reality is – a match that may have brought many to the edge of their seats, might actually prove to be a bit of a snooze.
“It will be major (team) changes against England,” Belgium coach Roberto Martinez said. “The reality is that we are qualified and in a tournament like the World Cup, you’re only as good as the 23 players (in the squad). There will be opportunities for other players.”
“If we could have seven days to prepare (for) the game and then have another seven days until the next game, I would say let’s carry on with the same starting 11,” Martinez said.
Moreover, Belgium have other reasons on top of fatigue to rotate players, and that is that main striker Lukaku and playmaker Hazard both picked up injuries in the 5-2 win against Tunisia, Martinez said, as did forward Dries Mertens. Although none of those injuries appear serious, they are obvious candidates to miss the England match to ensure they are 100 percent fit for the knockouts. Also, influential midfielder De Bruyne and defenders Vertonghen and Thomas Meunier have one yellow card at the World Cup. Another against England would see them suspended for the first of the knockout games.
But, how will the teams fare once they detour from their winning momentum? Martinez and Southgate will need to strike a balance if they want to make it till the very end.
“We don’t want to take our foot off the gas with the performances we are putting in right now,” England midfielder Ruben Loftus-Cheek said after the 6-1 pummeling of Panama. But Southgate said England also had to “decide what is our priority.” “It is his (Southgate’s) decision, I guess,” said Kane, who leads the running for the Golden Boot award with five goals in two games. “Obviously I want to play, I want to perform. Whatever decision he makes, it is his decision.” All in all, it’s hard not to think that the decision might also circulate around the fact that whoever wins the group could possibly face defending champion Germany or Neymar and Brazil in the quarterfinals. Second in the group presents, at least on paper an easier path. So, the reality is that Southgate and Martinez may very well be setting their teams up to fail to secure an easier spot in future matches.
France and Denmark will clash at Luzhniki Stadium on Tuesday, and the winner will top Group C, though should results go against the Scandinavians, they could face an early exit.
There is certainly much on the line when the two nations meet in Moscow, but the tension was already rife between both managers after Hareide offered a scathing assessment of Les Bleus prior to the tournament. Denmark manager Age Hareide made snarky remarks about France, deeming them incapable of making it far in Russia.
“I don’t believe in this team,’ Hareide said (via Daily Mail). “They don’t have a leader such as Zinedine Zidane to lead them, someone who knew how to galvanise them.”
The veteran coach was particularly critical of Paul Pogba, as he further lambasted the midfielder’s provocative choice of haircuts. He added: “Good grief, does he only think about his haircuts? He played against Manchester City with his hair dyed blue and white, maybe he’ll have it red and white to play us.”
With no relation to the comments, France manager Didier Deschamps may opt to rest Paul Pogba and Blaise Matuidi, who were booked in the opening games. In response to the comments, Deschamps has since revealed that his players will use any negativity to fuel their own ambitions. Didier Deschamps is determined to exact revenge on Denmark manager Age Hareide, by claiming a win.
Denmark vs France on Tuesday – Will Deschamp get his revenge?
Astros’ pitcher Dallas Keuchel has admitted that he was a little hesitant when first approached to pose nude for ESPN’s 2018 Body Issue. The issue was released on Monday and reveals 15 players bare bodies, with Keuchel, 30, the 2015 American League Cy Young Award winner and three-time AL Gold Glove Award winner wearing nothing but a baseball glove. Among the images in the issue are Keuchel pitching on a dirt field, standing in a small tunnel and posing in front of a large pile of metal debris at night. The photos were shot by celebrity photographer Kurt Iswarienko.
“It was a little nerve-wracking,” Keuchel said on Monday. “Just overall when I thought about it, I thought about pushing myself and getting out of the comfort level of what I usually do, who I am as a person, and I thought [no] better way to represent myself in an imperfect situation than the Body Issue. Nobody’s perfect in this world, and I think that was a good message as well. At the end of the day, it was fun. I got to meet some really cool people and it’s something I’ll never forget.”
Keuchel said he hadn’t yet had much reaction from his teammates concerning his photo shoot, though it was a hot topic among his family members for a while. He said some of the more outgoing members of the team have given him some grief, which he totally understands. “Kurt, the photographer was great, and I got to meet him beforehand and a few of the people,” he said. “I played catch on set. That was interesting. I never played catch without clothes on. Just the whole day was a really cool experience. I tried to get the whole pitching staff in the shoot, but none of our off-days lined up together.”
“When I’m on the mound, I don’t really see anybody, I don’t hear anything, but when you’re standing by yourself with no clothes on and getting photographed, it’s a little bit different because you hear everything,” he said. “You hear the cricket noises, the hear the lenses going. Everything.” Keuchel said he had only seen a preview of a couple of the photos before they were released in full on Monday. “I was really pleased with the product,” he said. “That’s something I’ll always remember and I’ll hopefully have a magazine on a mantle at some point and look back in 30, 40 years and say I was decent shape at one point.”
Spain coach Fernando Hierro stepped in under emergency circumstances just two days before Spain’s first game at the World Cup to replace Lopetegui. And on Monday, Hierro was put to the test, but he has admitted that it was luck which got his side to finish on top of Group B, and that it was all down to the final call made using VAR. Iago Aspas’ backheel injury was initially ruled out for offside before VAR correctly reversed the decision and gave Spain an equaliser propelling them to the top of their group and into the final 16.
“I like the group, it was a level playing field, we weren’t sure who was going to be first or second until the last minute and I have to admit we were lucky to finish first,” he said.
His admission also came with the recognition that Spain need to improve defensively in the knockout rounds, as he added;
“We have to be very demanding with ourselves. This is not the way. We can’t allow the opposition so many chances. If we want to get to where we dream, we have to adjust these details and be self-critical, knowing there is room for improvement.”
VAR has been a big talking point in the World Cup so far, but Hierro was satisfied with how the technology has been implemented so far.
“All coaches and all players have been instructed about what VAR means and how it works,” he said.
“It has to be included and they’re going to try and use it as fairly as possible. We understood the referee was waiting for VAR and we did our job, the players didn’t pressure him.”
However, one of Hierro’s players, Thiago Alcantara was not convinced by the use of VAR.“There are people who are in favour [of VAR], but for me it loses a little essence of football,” he said.