World Cup Diary: Pogba takes aim at boo-boys after draw of convenience

Paul Pogba has hit back at spectators who booed France and Denmark players before, during and after the first goalless draw of the World Cup on Tuesday.

France's Paul Pogba

The Manchester United midfielder was rested by French coach Didier Deschamps to ensure he did not receive another booking and be suspended for their last-16 tie with Argentina.

However, Pogba was not impressed with the reaction of the 78,000 crowd to the draw of convenience, which ensured both sides went through at Moscow’s Luzhniki Stadium in which neutrals vastly outnumbered fans of the two teams.

He said: “We need fans, not spectators. I don’t know if the boos only came from the French fans. People wanted more spectacle. We need everyone with us. Our fans are the 12th man.

“Our objective was to finish top of the group. It should be the objective of everyone. I don’t know what people expect, that we win 10-0 or 5-0. The most important was the qualification and we did it.”

Expect more convenience bores

If fans hated the battle of backpasses in the Luzhniki, a throwback to the 1982 “Disgrace of Gijon”, which pushed Fifa to run group finales at the same time, they may endure more of the same if the competition expands, as planned, to 48 teams. Adding a dozen weaker teams will likely produce more group-stage blowouts. And the expansion forces a format switch making collusion more likely.

In 2026, two teams would advance from each of 16 three-nation groups. One country will be done with group play before the other two meet in the finale. If neither needs a win, you know what to expect.

World Cup group-stage finales have been played simultaneously since 1986, a change instituted after the infamous West Germany 2 Austria 1 carve-up four years earlier, which eliminated Algeria.

Kane strike-rate better than Lineker’s

Harry Kane has come a long way since spending loan spells with Leyton Orient, Millwall, Norwich and Leicester between 2011 and 2013. He enters England’s Group H shootout against Belgium tonight having scored eight times in his last five international matches and, with 18 goals in 26 caps, the captain boasts a strike rate of 0.692, an average bettered only by Jimmy Greaves (0.772) among England scorers with 20 or more selections.

Kane’s regularity is greater than Gary Lineker’s. The BBC presenter scored 48 goals in 80 internationals (average 0.600), including 10 in 12 World Cup finals matches (1986 and 1990). Wayne Rooney, England’s all-time leading marksman (53 goals in 119 caps; average 0.445) scored once in 11 outings at the finals.

Injured Lanzini aims for January return

Argentina and West Ham midfielder Manuel Lanzini hopes to return to action early next year after suffering knee ligament damage on international duty.

The 25-year-old, who was ruled out of the World Cup and reportedly set to be sidelined for the whole of next season, said surgery on the injury had been successful.

He tweeted: “The surgery went really well. Although I don’t want to set a date, I expect to be ready to play at the beginning of 2019. Thank you.

Cahill coming back for more?

Is Australia’s Tim Cahill having a change of heart about retirement? Cahill was widely expected to quit international football after this World Cup at the age of 38.

However, having come on as a substitute in his side’s 2-0 defeat against Peru, which means the Millwall and former Everton man has played in four World Cups, he has suddenly gone quiet.

The result means Australia are going home early but significantly it also means the end of current coach Bert van Marwijk who controversially left the popular Cahill on the bench all tournament.

The new man, Graham Arnold, may prove to be more of a fan, so will Cahill be tempted to stay on and lead holders Australia at the Asian Cup in the UAE next January? 

Well, he did give one short TV interview after his team’s defeat in Sochi, but made no mention of retirement and instead spoke about how much playing for Australia means to him.

“This is all about playing for your badge, for your country, it’s more than football … it means everything,” Cahill said. 

VAR is Un-Christian

Denmark talisman Christian Eriksen is not a fan of VAR, fearing it will eventually trip up Denmark’s chances.

The Tottenham midfielder has inspired his country to a 17-match run without defeat, including three group games here to see them through to a last 16 clash with Croatia on Sunday. But having conceded two penalties to VAR decisions, he is concerned they could fall foul of the controversial system again.

It’s trying to make the game perfect but I think football loses a bit of its charm because as a player you expect something to happen every time you’re in the box. If someone falls down, you get nervous because they have to watch it back...and anything can happen.

Serbia star Tadic leaves Saints for Ajax

Southampton have confirmed midfielder Dusan Tadic had joined Dutch side Ajax for an undisclosed fee.

Serbia international Tadic, 29, scored 23 goals in over 160 appearances during a four-year spell with Southampton. The transfer will be officially completed on July 1, and sees Tadic move back to the Dutch top flight, four years after joining the Saints from FC Twente.


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