The final group stages of the World Cup have seen some City players ease into the knockout phase, some scrape through while others are setting off on holiday.
We start as usual with the two Silva’s and Portugal’s Bernardo and Spain’s David. Bernardo was left out of Portugal’s starting 11 but made an appearance in the 70th minute, coming on for goalscorer Ricardo Quaresma. With Portugal leading 1-0, Iran equalised in the 93rd minute, but then missed a chance at the end to snatch victory and send Portugal home. As it happened, Portugal finished second and play Uruguay this evening.
Spain’s David Silva played 84 minutes of their 2-2 draw with Morocco, with the Spaniards needing a last minute equaliser to avoid a shock defeat. Morocco lead 2-1 from the 81st minute, until the Spaniards equalised in the first minute of injury time. The goal had to be decided by VAR, but the draw secured Spain’s place as group winners, and they will now face hosts Russia in the knockout stage.
City’s Benjamin Mendy failed to make the squad for France’s dire 0-0 draw with Denmark. With two prior wins, the French had already qualified, and played out a game which, quite frankly Mendy will be glad he wasn’t part of.
Their opponents in the next round are Argentina, who scraped into the knockout round courtesy of a goal four minutes from time to beat Nigeria 2-1. Nicolas Otamendi played the full 90 minutes for Argentina, but Sergio Aguero was dropped to the bench after an apparent fall-out with the Argentina coach. The City striker did make an appearance on 80 minutes, but will not be starting today’s match against the French.
Gabriel Jesus played the full 90 minutes in Brazil’s 2-0 win against Serbia, while Danilo was again absent from the squad with injury. Fernandinho replaced Paulinho on 66 minutes as the Brazilians eased into the knockout stages and a first round tie with Mexico.
It was delight for the City boys from Brazil but disaster for Ilkay Gundogan and Germany, who were knocked out at the group stage for the first time since 1938. The reigning champions had lost their first match against Mexico and scraped past Sweden, but were undone by an excellent South Korean side.
With Sweden cruising against Mexico, one goal for Germany would have been enough, but two goals in injury time meant Gundogan and his German teammates are heading for an early holiday. Gundogan was an unused sub for the match.
And so to Thursday, when City’s England Boys faced Kevin de Bruyne’s Belgium to decide the winners of Group H. Raheem Sterling, who many demanded he be replaced by Marcus Rashford, was given a rest along with Kyle Walker, while John Stones and Fabien Delph started the match. Stones later left the field injured. De Bruyne was also rested by Belgium.
Both team set out like they couldn’t really be bothered winning the group and it was a spectacular strike by Adnan Januzaj that won the match for Belgium. Rashford, Sterling’s replacement, missed a golden opportunity to level, but put his shot wide of the goal with just the keeper to beat. Lucky that Sterling who missed it and it’s safe to assume the City winger will regain his place against Colombia on Tuesday.
Today, City boys are in action as Argentina talk on France and Portugal face Uruguay for a place in the quarter final.