What a World Cup 2018 so far! We’ve had Cristiano Ronaldo shine as Lionel Messi faltered, Spain pretty much coach themselves, Russia hit five and VAR make its mark on the tournament. And day four is even more exciting.
Costa Rica kick it all off against Serbia at 1pm BST before two of the heavy favourites make their first marks in Russia this summer.
World champions Germany start their campaign to become only the second team to retain the trophy against Mexico at the Luzhniki Stadium before Brazil, who have won this competition more than any other country, take on Switzerland in Group E.
So, let’s get to it!
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Good morning all, and welcome to Day Four of the 2018 FIFA World Cup. The Independent will have all the latest news, views and latest updates from Russia throughout the day.
A three-course Sunday for your pleasure today. First Costa Rica meet Serbia in Samara, with Los Ticos looking to recapture the magic of four years ago where they reached the quarter-finals. That kicks off at 1PM.
Then, from 4PM, Germany begin their quest to retain their crown and notch a fifth World Cup victory. They face an experienced Mexico side keen to dispel their reputation as underachievers.
And finally at 7PM the much-fancied Brazilians face Switzerland at the Rostov Arena. Can the Swiss replicate their strong qualifying campaign and shock Tite's men?
Talking of Tite, The Independent's Chief Football Writer Miguel Delaney has written an excellent story on how he has built his Brazil, and how they may look to beat Switzerland, using their physical midfield to overrun their opponents:
Meanwhile Jack Lang has produced a retrospective of England's defeat to the Seleção in the quarter-finals 16 years ago, speaking to Luiz Felipe Scolari and three of his players about the game and how it impacted their eventual triumph, but also commenting on how this was not a typical English tournament exit:
We must also look back on yesterday's action, and VAR (as many would have anticipated before the tournament) is the big talking point.
France's 2-1 victory over Australia began affairs on an action-packed Saturday, and Les Bleus benefitted from a VAR intervention, awarding Antoine Griezmann a penalty after the referee initially ruled no foul. Paul Pogba's late deflected strike gave France the victory after Australia scored a penalty of their own.
Argentina could only draw with Iceland at the Spartak Stadium as Lionel Messi endured a frustrating afternoon in Moscow. His 64th-minute penalty was saved, and Argentina were unable to score a winner against a resolute and well-organised Icelandic defence.
However, there are plenty arguing that La Albiceleste should have had another penalty. Yet there was no call from the video assistants, and Iceland gritted their way to a 1-1 draw.
Peru will rue their own missed penalty (awarded via VAR) as Denmark began with a 1-0 win in Saransk. Christian Eriksen's pass freed Yussuf Poulsen, and the striker finished well to give the Danes the ideal start to the tournament.
And finally, Croatia and Nigeria disappointed in a rather drab affair yesterday evening in Kaliningrad. Luka Modric's penalty sealed a 2-0 win for Croatia after new Stoke signing Oghenekaro Etebo had earlier put one into his own net.
Diego Maradona is in the news for all the wrong reasons, with allegations of a racist gesture he may have directed towards a group of South Korea fans yesterday.
For all the fallout from yesterday and a look ahead to today, you can listen to The Indy Football Podcast, via various podcast platforms including acast and iTunes. A new episode drops everyday throughout at the tournament, and the most recent episode saw The Independent's Chief Sports Writer Jonathan Liew join Sports Editor Ed Malyon and Northern Football Correspondent Mark Critchley for 45 minutes of entertaining discussion and analysis. Have a listen before the World Cup action begins again!
In case you were unaware, England play their first game against Tunisia tomorrow night. The trained for the final time in Repino before the game today, and they now head for Volgograd where Gareth Southgate will face the media tonight.
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