World Cup 2018

5 shots from World Cup days 21-22: Rest days, what rest days?

England manager Gareth Southgate and Colombia coach Jose Pekerman console Mateus Uribe after the penalty shootout. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters
England manager Gareth Southgate and Colombia coach Jose Pekerman console Mateus Uribe after the penalty shootout. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters Carl Recine/Reuters

Maradona annoys Fifa, Stones is shocked by Colombian skulduggery, England out touchy-feelies Sweden and Cavani may not appear in the quarter final. All this revealed on days 21 and 22 of the 2018 World Cup.

  • There is no rest ...

While the spectators recovered after some heady action, in which there were shocks, controversies and goals, we had the aftermath. That dear old Diego Maradona, he had his fair share of highs and lows as a player. And his post-career antics are just as entertaining. After the Colombia v England last 16, the Argentine said on day 21 that England’s win was monumental robbery. Since Maradona has a TV show on Venezuelan TV, airing such theories will warm the cockles of the station executives’ hearts. However, such fearless showmanship does have a price. Maradona is a Fifa ambassador and what he said didn’t exude good will. Since he was a Fifa guest at the match in Moscow and is flown around the world in the Fifa bonhomie bubble and allowed to mingle with princes, sheikhs and presidents, a Fifa suit made it clear that it was a penalty shootout between the joys and jaunts of a South American TV station payroll or the Fifa metaeconomy sports complex. On day 22, Maradona put his hand up. What? Again?

  • Stone the crows

Hey, hey the spirit of '66 is back. Alf Ramsey, later knighted for what was to come, labelled the Argentina squad animals after a robust game against his boys in the quarter-final. Antonio Rattin was sent off and England eventually won 1-0 and went on to win the final. Ramsey opined: "We have still to produce our best, and this is not possible until we meet the right sort of opponents and that is a team that comes out to play football and not act as animals.” Five decades of international failure later and England defender John Stones has, unsurprisingly given his surname, read the runes. The latest set of demons? Colombia. Stones was shocked, shocked with Colombia’s skullduggery during the Battle of Spartak. Nursing his wounds, gladiator John on day 21 said Colombia were the dirtiest team he had faced. "When we won the penalty, they were surrounding the referee, pushing the referee, the headbutt that you've all seen, scuffing the penalty spot, a lot of off-the-ball things you probably haven't heard about. All the sort of things that you don't really hear in a football match.” But actually we do now because there are a million cameras to pick up every scrape and scrap. "I think the best thing for us was to beat them at football,” added Stones. “That's the biggest thing that'll hurt them, going back on the plane home.” Presumably, there’ll be a few days of quarantine before they’re allowed into their houses.

  •   St Gareth of Southgate

It’s soft. It’s touchy. It’s feely. It’s the England camp 2018. And on day 22, Fabian Delph came back from compassionate leave. He went back home to be with his wife for the birth of their third child. It was a girl. Southgate, who is a straight-backed English heritage site, said that leaving the battle zone is probably not something his father’s generation would have approved of, but St Gazza is talking ‘bout his generation and Nowgate says you only get one chance to be at the birth of your child. So off Fabian went.

  • Swede hards

No such fripperies in the emotional smorgasbord that is the Sweden squad. Sofie, the wife of skipper Andreas Granqvist, didn’t want him to come home even though she was expecting. “I’m just listening to her and doing my best and, of course, when I get the signal that something is happening, we will talk.”  On day 22, a daughter, Mika, was born to the Granitqvists.

  • Young gunslinger

Kylian Mbappé was the talk of the town for his sharpshooting during France’s 4-3 victory over Argentina in Kazan on day 16. The 19-year-old scored twice in the win. The old hand Edinson Cavani also bagged a brace in Uruguay’s 2-1 success over Portugal. The teenager and the 31-year-old ply their weekly trade at Paris Saint-Germain and it could have been one of the intriguing subplots of the Uruguay v France quarter final on day 23. But no, Cavani is likely to be absent because he has missed key training sessions on the rest days 21 and 22 due to a calf injury. The Belgium v Brazil quarter-final, also on day 23, has been billed as a showdown between Belgium’s Eden Hazard and Brazil’s Neymar. But it’s not about individuals, says Belgium defender Vincent Kompany, it’s about teams. We disagree. It’s all about Marouane Fellaini. If he plays, Belgium win. 

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