first_img Read more The Fiver: the Guardian’s take on the world of football Leroy Sané was well marshalled by Brazil’s defence on Tuesday. Photograph: Matthias Hangst/Bongarts/Getty Images 1) Argentina increase pressure on Messi with woeful displayBefore this game, Jorge Sampaoli had said that when it comes to the World Cup, Lionel Messi has a revolver pressed against his head. Far from removing it, on Tuesday night the Argentina manager and the rest of the team loaded it and took the safety off. Messi watched his team get taken to bits without him and it made for painful viewing, the pressure building: he didn’t even make it to the end, getting up and leaving before the final whistle. It may feel reductionist to make it all about Messi but it is unavoidable, not least because his manager does the same. There was something sad, almost needy, about the way Sampaoli insisted afterwards that Messi had shown his commitment by being with the team before the game, after the game and at half-time. It is during the game that they need him. Sid Lowe• Spain 6-1 Argentina: read Sid Lowe’s match report2) England should go for all-out attack in RussiaThat five-game, 624-minute streak without conceding was mighty flattering, because England – specifically John Stones – can’t afford to defend at a World Cup like they did against Italy. Not everyone will be as ponderous as Ciro Immobile when presented with such generous gifts. Thing is, this problem isn’t going to be fixed in time for the summer – even Pep Guardiola hasn’t got to the bottom of it – so better to accentuate the positives. Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard were clever and effervescent; Jamie Vardy scored a screamer; Kyle Walker, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Ashley Young don’t half look dangerous when they’re at full pelt; Harry Kane is coming back. England may as well opt for reckless all-out attack, and to hell with the consequences, because attempting to keep things tight can only be an exercise in futility. At least this way they’ll have a puncher’s chance … and whatever happens, it’ll be a blast finding out how the story unfolds. Scott Murray• England 1-1 Italy: read Daniel Taylor’s match report• Dominic Fifield: who is on the England plane to Russia?• Southgate: Italy’s penalty not ‘clear and obvious’ for VAR• Barney Ronay: Sterling’s craft key for England to throw off shackles Facebook Share on WhatsApp Read more Spain Twitter Pinterest Twitter Pinterest 3) A missed opportunity for SanéThere was praise this week for Leroy Sané, with the Germany coach, Joachim Löw, saying how much the youngster has improved at Manchester City. On Tuesday night he started against Brazil but was the least impressive of the three attacking midfielders (Julian Draxler and Leon Goretzka being the other two), failing to make an impact against Dani Alves and being replaced on the hour. He should make the squad for Russia but did nothing on the night to suggest he will start Germany’s first game at the World Cup. Marcus Christenson• Germany 0-1 Brazil: Jesus restores some pride after 2014 defeat Share on LinkedIn Read more Kylian Mbappé avoids the attention of the Russia defenders Igor Smolnikov, Roman Neustaedter and Vladimir Granat. Photograph: Franck Fife/AFP/Getty Images 7) Who needs Neymar?Brazil continued their remarkable recovery under Tite with a 1-0 win in Berlin against Germany and, following Friday’s 3-0 victory in Russia, the team showed that they can cope without the injured Neymar. Gabriel Jesus played up front against Germany and scored the only goal of the night but Willian was arguably the team’s outstanding performer. Playing to the right of the attacking three, he provided the cross for the goal, nearly scored and helped the right-back Dani Alves with some impeccable tracking back. Marcus Christenson• South American women rise again for the Copa América Femenina• Tunisia 1-0 Costa Rica: read Paul Doyle’s match report 4) Carrasco remains a weak link for BelgiumAlthough Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku sparkled in Belgium’s 4-0 victory over Saudi Arabia, the balance of Roberto Martínez’s defence was less convincing. Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany and Jan Vertonghen are three of the best centre-backs around, so it makes sense for Belgium to use a 3-4-3 system, but Martinez’s persistence with Yannick Carrasco as a left wing-back could cause problems in Russia. Carrasco is not a defensive player and he left space for Saudi Arabia to exploit. Belgium got away with it but better opponents are likely to capitalise on Carrasco’s naivety. Jacob Steinberg• Belgium 4-0 Saudi Arabia: read Jacob Steinberg’s report• Hazard to prioritise Belgium’s World Cup over Chelsea contract talks5) Spain show world champion identitySometimes it is tempting to strip it all down to something a little simpler. To cut through the nuance and the analysis and ask something a bit more basic: how good are your players? And Spain’s players are very, very good. This talking point is supposed to 100 words long. That target could be nearly met just by listing them: Sergio Busquets and David Silva were not there on Tuesday night but there in Madrid were Francisco Alarcón “Isco”, Marco Asensio, Andrés Iniesta, Thiago Alcântara, Jorge Resurrección “Koke”, Saúl Ñíguez and Diego Costa. And, yes, Iago Aspas too. There, that’s 100 words, and without mentioning Jordi Alba, Gerard Piqué, Dani Carvajal or Sergio Ramos. But it’s not just that: it’s that they share an idea, that they fit together, that they play together, combine, that there’s an identity. The identity that made them world champions. Sid Lowe• World Cup worries XI: key men with cause to fret6) Mbappé performance papers over French cracksLow intensity, little rhythm and a lack of cohesion – it was clear on Tuesday in St Petersburg that this is a France side still in preparation mode. Save for a few sparks of individual skill, the front three were unable to create much, while lapses in concentration from the defence kept Russia constantly within touching distance. Kylian Mbappé’s dynamic two-goal performance papered over many cracks. A much-improved Paul Pogba impressed with a string of precise through-balls and a goal from a free-kick but, despite a 3-1 win, Didier Deschamps will not be able to rely on individuals to drag the team out of these situations against better opposition in a few months’ time. Raphaël Jucobin, Get French Football News• International roundup: Pogba shines in Russia after regaining starting spot Share on Facebook Facebook Germany Ciro Immobile was wasteful in front of goal against England. Photograph: Tom Jenkins/The Guardiancenter_img Share on Twitter Twitter Facebook Topics Friendlies Pinterest Share on Messenger 9) McLeish quietens dissenters in HungaryWe may be in the midst of the most significant set of friendlies in Scotland’s international history. Those vocally unconvinced by the return of Alex McLeish as manager found sentiments endorsed by the insipid loss to Costa Rica on Friday. Scotland were booed off. With testing fixtures against Peru, Mexico and Belgium to come before the onset of the Nations League, McLeish had to buy some goodwill in Hungary. Amid experimentation and despite the dismal nature of the opposition, victory really was an important one as McLeish seeks to turn public opinion. The unsatisfactory circumstances by which McLeish succeeded Gordon Strachan continues to grate with many; Tuesday marked a necessary step towards dousing dissenting voices. Ewan Murray• Hungary 0-1 Scotland: Phillips gets off the mark for Scots10) Netherlands embrace change against Ronaldo and co“With Koeman, we now have a national team coach who will lead Dutch football into a brighter future,” Louis van Gaal said after Ronald Koeman’s second match in charge. For his first match, at home against England, Koeman used a 3-4-3 with Bas Dost up front, which did not work well. Against Portugal he switched to a more mobile 3-5-2 with Ryan Babel and Memphis Depay in attack, and oddly, the central midfielder Tonny Vilhena at left wing-back. The result? They won 3-0. Depay and Matthijs de Ligt in particular have hit the ground running along with the new captain Virgil van Dijk, while Davy Pröpper and Nathan Aké have also made good impressions. Priya Ramesh• Portugal 0-3 Netherlands: Depay, Babel and Van Dijk strike• Football Weekly: the World Cup countdown continues Brazil Share via Email Argentina 8) Immobile’s number may be up for ItalyCiro Immobile has played 32 matches for Italy, scoring seven goals. A record which suggests that, at 28, he’s not going to get any better. Which is an awful shame, because he really needs to: a top-class striker would have polished off a hat-trick within the first 16 minutes at Wembley. To be scrupulously fair, his sly movement led to chances one and three, and his harrying skills carved chance two out of nothing. But it’s equally fair to point out that tucking such chances away is the whole point, and it’s this sort of carry-on that cost Italy a place at the World Cup. They looked instantly sharper once he was hooked midway through the second half and replaced with younger models. It may be time for them to move on and give others a chance. Scott Murray• World Cup stunning moments: Suárez bites Chiellini in 2014 11) Russia heading for potential disasterNine goals conceded in three games, no wins in five. Russia are a record low 65th in the Fifa rankings and most would agree that reflects the state of the World Cup hosts. To add to their troubles Russia have lost to injury this year three players who would normally start and none is likely to recover for the tournament. The centre-backs Georgi Dzhikiya and Viktor Vasin tore knee ligaments and one of the team’s best attacking players, Aleksandr Kokorin, got badly injured, too. Strained relations between the coach, Stanislav Cherchesov, and Igor Denisov, Artem Dzyuba, the Berezutski brothers and Sergei Ignashevich mean players who would improve an (at best) mediocre team are out of the picture. Russia risk being the biggest disappointment of their own World Cup. Artur Petrosyan Italy Share on Pinterest David Squires on … England’s latest World Cup 2018 preparations World Cup stunning moments: Luis Suárez bites Giorgio Chiellini in 2014 England features Reuse this contentlast_img

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