Chris Hatherall looks ahead to today’s World Cup action as eight teams go into Day 13 looking to finish the group stage on a high.
Australia v Peru, Sochi, 3pm
Keep your eyes peeled for or a pre-match man hug between the two captains. Peru’s Paolo Guerrero has promised his counterpart Mile Jedinak a special thank you after he wrote a personal letter to FIFA in support of the Peruvian’s bid to play at the World Cup while he appeals a drugs ban.
Guerrero is adamant his positive test for cocaine is down to drinking ‘coca tea’ and succeeded in getting his 14-month ban suspended to play in Russia. Sadly Peru are already out, but the Australians need a win to stand a chance of reaching the last 16.
Highly rated Daniel Arzani — at 19 he’s the youngest player in the tournament — is one to watch.
Denmark v France, Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, 3pm
Rumours are that France will rest players for this game and give squad players an opportunity; so waiting for the team sheet is the first excitement. A draw is good for both sides and Australians will be keeping an eye out for any underhand shenanigans.
Given their recent cricket history they surely know what to look for.
On a serious note, the match could be a good opportunity for Chelsea’s Olivier Giroud who hasn’t scored in Russia yet; it’s about time he did.
Iceland v Croatia, Rostov-on-Don, 7pm
For anyone thinking of placing a bet on the knockout stages, this is a match worth studying because Croatia’s performances so far suggest they could be dark horses for the tournament. With Luka Modric running the show and Ivan Rakitic in top form, Iceland may well find them too hot to handle.
They were everybody’s favourite underdog at Euro 2016 but there’s a feeling in Russia that their style of play has now been rumbled by the bigger fish.
Still, the Iceland thunderclap is worth tuning in for.
Nigeria v Argentina, Saint Petersburg, 7pm
The Ahmed Messi v Lionel Messi showdown is a fascinating one and has potential to be one of the biggest games of the World Cup so far. Nigeria’s Ahmed Musa got his new nickname after a stunning two-goal show helped the Super Eagles beat Iceland and although it’s hard to believe for Leicester City fans he looks in better nick than his legendary opponent.
If this is the real Messi’s last chance at World Cup glory, and at 31 it could be, then everything is at stake in St Petersburg. It’s complicated, too. If Nigeria win then the Africans go through whatever happens. If Argentina win and Iceland fail to win, it’s relief for Messi.
But if Iceland win too then it will go down to goal difference (and Argentina are one behind at the moment).
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