SALAH FACES FITNESS TEST
Mohamed Salah will undergo a fitness test on Monday evening ahead of Egypt’s World Cup showdown with Russia.
The Liverpool forward missed his country’s opening defeat to Uruguay as a result of the shoulder injury he suffered in the Champions League final on May 26, but coach Hector Cuper is confident he will be fit for Tuesday’s Group A game.
Cuper said: “Salah is fit. For the previous match against Uruguay, we thought he was fit also, but we always carry out a last physical test before we draw up the line-up. Today, we’ll have an important test for him to see how he does.
“I hope that he’ll be fully fit to play. I’m sure that he will be able to play. He’s an essential piece in our team.”
BIG MATCH BUILD-UP
Many Tunisia fans have arrived early at the Volgograd Arena ahead of this evening’s game…
The Tunisia fans are making plenty of noise ahead of their opening clash with England in Volgograd.
WHAT THE RUSSIAN NEWSPAPERS SAY…
Sky Sports News’ Alex Marrow looks at the Russian newspaper reaction to the World Cup’s first week – and finds it’s harder than you think to even find one.
ALI WHO? WHO REMEMBERS ALIOU CISSE?
Aliou Cisse spent four seasons playing in the Premier league for Birmingham and Portsmouth from 2002 until 2006, but you may recognise that he shares the same name as the Senegal boss.
Turns out he’s gone into coaching and is set to kick-off his debut World Cup campaign as a manager against Poland tomorrow night.
He captained the last Senegal team to go to a World Cup in 2002 and they experienced great success in the group stages – beating holder’s France in their opening game.
They were able to progress to the quarter-finals, beating Sweden in the last-16, but stumbled against Turkey, falling to a 1-0 defeat, to narrowly miss out on a place in the semi-final against eventual victors Brazil.
SENEGAL BEHIND ‘UNIQUE’ MANE
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane has received backing from Senegalcoach Aliou Cisse on the eve of their first World Cup game since 2002.
They play Poland in Moscow tomorrow evening.
“Sadio Mane is a unique player and he cannot be compared to any other Senegal player, even the major ones we’ve had in the past,” said Cisse.
“And despite everything that has happened for him over the last two years, he hasn’t changed – he’s just as humble as he was when I first met him at the 2012 Olympics.
“Senegal isn’t only Sadio Mane, though, he has a good team built around him and I think it should be a little plus for him that we’re all behind him.
“He plays for one of the most iconic clubs, one of the best in Europe, and he’s top-notch for them.
“He’s absolutely unique because he is so unpredictable, that’s what makes him great – he can make the difference with a pass or shot. He’s already one of the best.”
FIFA OPEN PROCEEDINGS AGAINST MEXICO
World soccer’s governing body FIFA has opened a disciplinary procedure against Mexico after alleged homophobic chants by fans during their World Cup win over Germany on Sunday.
Mexico fans have long shouted an insult that gay rights groups argue is homophobic at keepers taking goal kicks.
The country has been fined several times during World Cupqualifying play over the slurs. Mexico’s football federation (FMF) has in the past appealed to fans to refrain from using the chant.
JUST FOUR HOURS TO GO!
The anticipation in the office here is rapidly rising as we near England’s opening World Cup match.
Will England let us all down once again? Or is Gareth Southgate the man to turn around our fortunes and bring football home?
We will find out at 7pm!
STEVIE G OPTIMISTIC OF ENGLAND’S WC CHANCES
Can’t be bothered to read our Steven Gerrard article? You can always watch this short clip to hear the former Liverpool man’s words.
GERRARD: ENGLAND HAVE FIGHTING CHANCE
Former England captain Steven Gerrard has spoken positively about England’s World Cup chances, ahead of tonight’s match against Tunisia.
ENGLAND FAN SAILS TO RUSSIA
Fewer England fans made the journey to watch their team’s first World Cup match in Russia than some expected, but one made a special effort, sailing from Bulgaria to Volgograd in a yacht.
It took Graham Kentsley, originally from St Albans in Hertfordshire, just over five weeks to make the around 2,000 kilometre (1,243 miles) journey, which he timed so that he would arrive in good time for England’s first World Cup match against Tunisia in the southern Russian city of Volgograd.
“This idea has been hatching in my brain for a good number of years,” said Kentsley, speaking in a pub near the World Cup fan zone in Volgograd.
“It was always in my mind that we’d get there just before the football with the World Cup coming to town and that it would be fun.”
He will be watching England against Tunisia on Monday, he said, and attending other matches later in the tournament too.
Travelling aboard his 9.9 metre yacht “Sharlyn” with three other crew members, Kentsley set off from the end of the River Danube, traversed the Black Sea, and stopped off at Crimea, which Moscow annexed from Ukraine in 2014.
He then sailed beneath a new bridge connecting Crimea to Russia which President Vladimir Putin opened, before crossing the Sea of Azov and sailing up the Volga-Don Canal to Volgograd, which is located around 900 kilometres south of Moscow.
CROATIA AXES KALINIC FROM WORLD CUP FOR REFUSING TO COME ON AGAINST NIGERIA
Croatia boss Zlatko Dalic has sent striker Nikola Kalinic home from the World Cup in disgrace.
The Vatreni won their opening match on Saturday night, defeating Nigeria 2-0.
Kalinic, the AC Milan striker who once upon a time represented Blackburn Rovers, was a substitute during the encounter.
It was the fourth successive international fixture where he had been left on the bench.
But asked to come on in the 85th minute, it’s claimed Kalinic complained of a back problem and refused to enter the fray – something which didn’t convince his manager.
Marko Pjaca, nominally a wide player, came on instead and Kalinic’s subsequent exit means Croatia have just Mario Mandzukic left within their squad as an out-and-out No.9.
ICELAND GRIPPED BY ARGENTINA DRAW
The Icelandic FA says it has figures which show 99.6 percent of all people in Iceland who were watching TV during the national team’s 1-1 draw with Argentina were watching the match in Moscow.
SWEDEN 0-0 SOUTH KOREA
The two teams have just kicked off in Nizhny Novgorod. You can follow all the action in our live blog RIGHT HERE.
COURTOIS: BELGIUM ARE OUTSIDERS
Thibaut Courtois insists Belgium cannot be considered as one of the favourites to win the World Cup ahead of his side’s opening game against Panama.
ENGLAND TO PLAY SPAIN IN SEVILLE
Looking past the World Cup for a moment, England’s Nations League clash away to Spain on October 15 will be played at Real Betis’ Benito Villamarin Stadium.
England are grouped with Croatia and Spain for the tournament, which sees the sides play each other twice. Spain visit Wembley to open the group on September 8.
RUSSIA 2018: KEY MAN – DELE ALLI
Tottenham midfielder Dele Alli could prove to be the key man when England face Tunisia this evening. Here’s a look at some of his key moments from last season
ENGLAND’S PRE-MATCH PLANS
England have left their hotel in Volgograd ahead of tonight’s match against Tunisia. Sky Sports reporter Anton Toloui runs us through their immediate plans..
“England have set off for their training pitch next to the Volgograd Arena to stretch their legs ahead of tonight’s match.
“The training ground is less than a two minutes drive away but the thinking behind coming out now is that the game doesn’t kick off until 9pm local time so it helps break the day up for the players.
“The temperature is hot this afternoon, it’s currently around 30°C, so we don’t expect the players to do much more than a walk around the training facilities.
“They’ll come back to their hotel afterwards to continue their pre-match preparations.”
1. FT Russia 5–0 Saudi Arabia (Gazinsky 12′, Cheryshev 43′, 90+1′, Dzyuba 71′ & Golovin 90+4′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Dennis Cheryshev (Russia)
2. FT Egypt 0–1 Uruguay (Giménez 89′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Mohamed Elshenawy (Egypt)
3. FT Morocco 0-1 Iran (Bouhaddouz 90+5′ (o.g.))
MAN OF THE MATCH: Amine Harit (Morocco)
4. FT Portugal 3-3 Spain (Ronaldo 4′ (pen.), 44′, 88′ – Costa 24′, 55′ & Nacho 58′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
5. FT France 2–1 Australia (Griezmann 58′ (pen.) & Pogba 81′ – Jedinak 62′ (pen.))
MAN OF THE MATCH: Antoine Griezmann (France)
6. FT Peru 0–1 Denmark (Poulsen 59′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark)
7. FT Argentina 1–1 Iceland (Agüero 19′ – Finnbogason 23′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Hannes Halldórsson (Iceland)
8. FT Croatia 2–0 Nigeria (Etebo 32′ (o.g.) & Modrić 71′ (pen.))
MAN OF THE MATCH: Luka Modric (Croatia)
9. FT Costa Rica 0–1 Serbia (Kolarov 56′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Aleksandar Kolarov (Serbia)
10. FT Germany 0–1 Mexico (Lozano 35′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Hirving Lozano (Mexico)
11. FT Brazil 1–1 Switzerland (Coutinho 20′ – Zuber 50′)
MAN OF THE MATCH: Philip Coutinho (Brazil)
Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Russia 1 1 0 0 5 0 +5 3
2 Uruguay 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
3 Egypt 1 0 0 1 0 1 −1 0
4 Saudi Arabia 1 0 0 1 0 5 −5 0
Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Iran 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
2 Portugal 1 0 1 0 3 3 0 1
2 Spain 1 0 1 0 3 3 0 1
4 Morocco 1 0 0 1 0 1 −1 0
Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 France 1 1 0 0 2 1 +1 3
2 Denmark 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
3 Australia 1 0 0 1 1 2 −1 0
4 Peru 1 0 0 1 0 1 −1 0
Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Croatia 1 1 0 0 2 0 +2 3
2 Argentina 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
3 Iceland 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
4 Nigeria 1 0 0 1 0 2 −2 0
Pos Team Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Serbia 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
2 Brazil 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
3 Switzerland 1 0 1 0 1 1 0 1
4 Costa Rica 1 0 0 1 0 1 −1 0
Pld W D L GF GA GD Pts
1 Mexico 1 1 0 0 1 0 +1 3
2 Sweden 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
2 South Korea 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0
4 Germany 1 0 0 1 0 1 −1 0
MATCHES PLAYED – 11
GOALS SCORED – 25 (2.27 per match)
OWN GOALS – 2
PENALTIES TAKEN – 6
PENALTIES SCORED – 4
PENALTIES MISSED – 2
FREE-KICK SCORED – 3
1. Ronaldo (Portugal) – 3
2. Cheryshev (Russia) – 2
3. Costa (Spain) – 2
DAY 5 – MONDAY, 18/06/18…(TOMORROW)
12:00pm – Sweden vs Korea Republic
3:00pm – Belgium vs Panama
6:00pm – Tunisia vs England
* Three players have scored directly from a free kick this World Cup:
* Oghenekaro Etebo has completed the most take-ons in a single game at the 2018 World Cup after the first four days.
• 9 attempted
• 9 completed
* European teams so far at the 2018 World Cup:
Mexico are the only team to beat a European team… the reigning champions.
* Neymar is the first player to win 10+ fouls in a single game at the 2018 World Cup.
* Coutinho’s goal for Brazil was the 12th goal scored by La Liga players at the World Cup.
They account for exactly 50% of the total 24 goals scored at the tournament to date.
* Most saves in a single game during the World Cup so far:
Guillermo Ochoa (9)
Hannes Þór Halldórsson (6)
Kasper Schmeichel (6).
* Only three players have played in five World Cup tournaments:
Antonio Carbajal (1950-66)
Lothar Matthäus (1982-98)
Rafael Márquez (2002-2018)
Mexico’s Márquez is the first to captain a country at five tournaments.
* Mesut Özil has started each of Germany’s last 26 games at major tournaments:
✔2010 WC: 7 games, 7 starts
✔EURO 2012: 5 games, 5 starts
✔2014 WC: 7 games, 7 starts
✔EURO 2016: 6 games, 6 starts
✔2018 WC: 1 game, 1 start
* All-time Most appearances for Serbia:
104: Branislav Ivanovic
103: Dejan Stankovic
102: Savo Milosevic
85: Dragan Dzajic
84: Dragan Stojkovic
CURSE OF CHAMPIONS?
Germany are facing similar problems to those that have afflicted previous World Cup holders.
Their status among the favourites to win the 2018 World Cup should come as no surprise given their pedigree. Not only are they the holders but they have reached the equivalent of the quarter-final stage in each of the last 16 World Cups.
And yet, their opening-game defeat to Mexico is part of a wider trend for reigning champions.
GOMEZ SENDS HIS SUPPORT…
Liverpool defender Joe Gomez has sent his support to the England squad ahead of their Group G opener against Tunisia.
Gomez was in contention to make the World Cup squad before an ankle injury ruled him out of the tournament, as well as the Champions League final defeat to Real Madrid.
‘WE NEED HAZARD AT HIS BEST’
Belgium goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois believes Chelsea team-mate Eden Hazard will have to be at his very best if the Red Devils are to win the World Cup.
Belgium take on Panama in their opening Group G game in Sochi later this afternoon.
“I have known Eden for so many years but I don’t think I have seen him train and play this amazing as in these last three weeks and these last games,” Courtois said.
“I am very pleased and I hope he can show that at the tournament but we don’t just need him; we also need Romelu [Lukaku], Kevin [De Bruyne], who is playing well at City, and other players too.
“If we want to go far, we will need all them at their best – and I feel that we are playing well.”
‘SANE WOULD HAVE GIVEN SOMETHING DIFFERENT’
Sky Germany’s Marc Behrenbeck thinks Manchester City forward Leroy Sane – left out of Germany’s Word Cup squad – could have turned the game in their defeat to Mexico.
MEXICO FANS CAUSE EARTHQUAKE?
Mexico football fans are believed to have caused a minor earthquake as they celebrated their team’s shock win over Germany.
Tremors were recorded in Mexico City after Hirving Lozano fired the winning goal past German goalkeeper Manuel Neuer in Russia, according to seismic monitoring agency Simmsa.
“The earthquake detected in Mexico City originated artificially,” the Mexican engineering and mining firm said.
“Possibly by massive jumps during the goal….of Mexico in the World Cup.”
‘BELGIUM OUTSIDERS, NOT FAVOURITES’
Most of the top nations failed to win their opening game of the World Cup, with Germany, Spain, Brazil and Argentina all dropping points early on.
Belgium are up next against Panama this afternoon but Chelsea goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois insists the Red Devils are not among the favourites for the tournament.
THREE LIONS CALL FOR FAN SUPPORT
England’s squad have urged their fans to show patience and get behind the team in Russia.
The Three Lions face Tunisia in their opening game of the tournament in Volgograd this evening.
GUNNARSSON: YOU CAN’T IDOLISE MESSI
Iceland midfielder Aron Gunnarsson has revealed how he kept Lionel Messi relatively quiet in his side’s 1-1 draw with Argentina.
HOW DO ENGLAND STOP CHOCKING AT BIG TOURNAMENTS, GARTEH?
England have a long history of failing to turn up at big tournaments, so what will be different this time?
Gareth Southgate take it away….
“The first thing is to have a really clear understanding of how we want to play because when you’re in tense moments of games everybody knows they’re in their individual role and the team are connected on the pitch,” said Southgate.
“We talk a lot about different scenarios within games – the players are ready for being ahead in the game, being behind in the game, the changes we might make and the way we would want to approach that.
“But in the end you have to stick to your beliefs, we saw Spain and Portugal other night – whatever the stage of the game they stuck to what they do well. We’ve got to have that strength of character to do that.”
‘ENGLAND PLAYERS OF THE PAST ARE GONE’
Gareth Southgate believes his squad are different to Englandteams of the past and says they should not have to bear the mistakes of previous teams as they begin their World Cup campaign.
“This team shouldn’t be burdened with [what happened in the past] because they’re a fresh group, most of them have very few international caps, so the future is all ahead of them,” said Southgate.
“They’ve got to be thinking about what’s possible, the players of the past and the opportunities of the past are gone. This team is looking at things in a different way, trying to play in a different way.
“They have a hunger, they have a desire, we have better technical players than we’ve had in the past coming through our academies so there’s a real enthusiasm and they’re looking forward to getting going.
“I don’t think they want any more information, they just want to get on with the games now.”
KANE: WE WILL ATTACK
England captain Harry Kane warns Tunisia to expect an offensive approach from his side.
“First and foremost we are going to want to attack the game, we feel like we are going to have a lot of possession of the ball,” Kane said.
SOUTHGATE: SUPPORTER CONNECTION IMPORTANT
Gareth Southgate believes it is of vital importance that Englandfans witness and understand how much desire the squad has to play for their nation.
“That connection with our supporters is really important, there’s been lots of perceptions about our players for a long time and I don’t think that’s been the truth,” Southgate said.
“It’s been really good for our public to see how much it means to the players to play, to see a different side of their personality.
“Of course, in the end it’s about how we perform and how we play in this tournament.
“But, there’s a bigger picture as well for us in that with a young group of players, who I think are going to be together for a long time , it’s important that people see the enthusiasm and hunger that they have to play for their country.”
KANE ON HIS JOURNEY SINCE BRAZIL 2014
Harry Kane watched England fail to progress beyond the group stage in the last World Cup in Brazil while on holiday, but this time he he leads the team out as captain and he is ready to show the footballing world what he is all about.
“Four years ago I was watching it [the World Cup] on holiday,” said Kane.
“I played the last six or seven games of the Premier League under Tim Sherwood and then Mauricio Pochettino came in that summer and got me fit, got me in better shape – more powerful.
“I kicked on from there really – a lot of hard work, a lot of determination, there were players ahead of me at the time. It was always about working hard on the training pitch and whenever I got the opportunity to make sure I took it.
“The last few years have been amazing – each year improving, feeling better and just excited to be here on the bigger stage. I can’t wait to get out there and show the world what I’ve got.”
‘WE SHOULDN’T BE BURDENED BY PAST’
Gareth Southgate believes England should not have to bear the mistakes of previous teams at big tournaments.
WORLD CUP: RUSSIA REPORT DAY FOUR
In case you missed it yesterday, he is all the latest news from day four of the World Cup.
…and welcome to today’s World Cup blog! The wait is nearly over – in around 12 hours’ time England face Tunisia in their opening game of the tournament in Volgograd.
Elsewhere, Sweden take on South Korea in the early kick-off before England’s Group G rivals Belgium and Panama go head-to-head in Sochi.
We’ll bring you all the build-up and reaction to the three games as well as all the other key lines from across the tournament, so stick with us!