Final preparations are being made ahead of Monday’s Group G opener against Tunisia in Volgograd, before the Three Lions take on minnows Panama in Nizhny Novgorod and highly-rated Belgium on June 28.
Gareth Southgate’s men will be hoping there is nothing riding on that final group game given the threat posed by Roberto Martinez’s highly-talented Red Devils, whose captain in Russia is twinkle-toed Hazard.
The 27-year-old arrives at the World Cup fresh from a match-winning display for Chelsea in the FA Cup final, netting the penalty he won against Manchester United by drawing a foul from out-of-sorts Jones.
“It was c**p,” the United defender said. “But that’s football. These things happen.
“You move on – you have to because I can’t sit on my a*** and dwell on it for weeks and weeks and weeks then I’d be ready to jump off a bridge if I think like that.
“It was disappointing, gutted, but that’s football. These things happen and there’s no point.”
It was a rare bad day at the office for normally dependable Jones, but the mismatch does not bode well ahead of the meeting in Kaliningrad.
“It happens to every single player, all over the world, every day,” the England defender said.
“Some get highlighted more than others, that’s football.
“I’m used to it now and I like to think I’m wise enough and experienced enough to deal with it and get on with it.
“(Hazard) has got to be up there with the best players, but I think there are a number of talented players all over the squads. We’ve got some here as well.”
England certainly look well placed to atone for recent major tournament failures this summer.
The 26-year-old is one of the five survivors from the squad that embarrassingly exited the 2014 World Cup at the group stage, but there is an air of positivity about the group moulded by Southgate.
“I feel there is more structure, everyone knows their jobs, their roles and what is expected of each other,” Jones said.
“Not just on the pitch but off the pitch. It works.
“I guess there is a clearer identity. I am not saying there was not previously but there is a different dimension and different way of doing things in certain situations.
“The lads have responded well.”
Jones spoke openly about a variety of issues at England’s media centre in Repino, from his Panini sticker to Twitter, and hotel curtains to the comparisons he has had to deal with over the years.
Sir Alex Ferguson once said he could be Manchester United’s best ever player and Sir Bobby Charlton likened him to Duncan Edwards, while former England boss Fabio Capello uttered him in the same breath as Franco Baresi and Fernando Hierro.
“No, it doesn’t bother me,” Jones said. “They are nice things to hear.
“When you are at a club like Manchester United or Manchester City, you are always going to get bigger hype, bigger headlines than if you are at a lesser club, no disrespect.
“You wouldn’t be studying me as much and that is part and parcel of being at one of the biggest clubs in the world. I love it.
“I remember one headline after the Italy game away (in 2015) and someone said I was ‘no (Andrea) Pirlo’ or something like that.
“I could have told them that before the game! “I remember thinking ‘no s***, Sherlock!’
“But that’s midfield. You have a laugh and a joke about it.”
Jones may be self-deprecating about his ability, but there is no little pride in his achievements to date.
“I’ve done well,” he said. I’m still at United, since 2011-12 and six years on I’m still there.
“I’m sure after the World Cup there’ll be some other story about me going somewhere else. But I am not interested.”
For now, his only interest is Monday’s match in Volgograd – and the chance to finally put hard work into action against Tunisia.
“It is about getting started now,” Jones added. “We are playing Monday so there are a few days left to train well and prepare well.
“You get itchy feet, now. We want the games to come around and we are ready.”
Cristiano Ronaldo is confident Portugal will progress to the knockout stages of the World Cup after his hat-trick stunned Spain in an astonishing 3-3 draw in Sochi.
Ronaldo – at 33 years and 130 days – became the oldest player to score a World Cup hat-trick, twice putting Portugal ahead before his 88th-minute free-kick secured a precious point.
It was the 51st treble of Ronaldo’s goal-filled career as he became the fourth player to score in four different World Cup and the first to do so at eight consecutive international tournaments.
“We have to look to the next match now because our goal is to win,” Ronaldo said.
“We have to take it match by match and move on through the group stage.
“We are not the favourites but we will do our best and try to beat Morocco on Wednesday.
“I think the team played very well and is going to do well for sure.”
Ronaldo’s records might stack up like his goals, but he was determined to focus on the team ethos of the reigning European champions.
Spain dominated for large periods – Diego Costa twice equalised and Nacho putting them ahead with a superb strike – but Portugal rallied in the final moments for Ronaldo to level.
“I am very happy, and I always believe in myself,” the Real Madrid forward added in quotes reported on fpf.pt.
“It is one more (hat-trick) in my career but the most important thing to me is to highlight what the teams has done.
“We played against a favourite team that wants to win the World Cup and we were winning twice during the game.
“We almost made those three points and we managed to draw. We are very happy because this game was about to end and we managed to equalise.
“We have to evaluate what the team did because it was a very hard-fought game.”
France play their first World Cup 2018 match against Australia in a Group C clash on Saturday.
There’s plenty of tactical tweaks that both managers will consider ahead of the encounter.
Here’s what could be on the minds of Didier Deschamps and Bert van Marwijk.
FRANCE’S MISERLY DEFENCE
Much has been made of France’s underwhelming approach under Deschamps. The general consensus is that the Les Bleus manager hasn’t made the most of the extensive pool of attacking talent he has at his disposal. What can’t be questioned though is their solidity in defence.
A formidable back four is only aided by the team’s compact nature and reluctance to take risks and throw too many bodies forward. As a result, Hugo Lloris’ goal rarely comes under threat. In fact, France conceded only 15 shots on target throughout qualifying – a joint record alongside Spain. Australia will have to be clinical because chances will be hard to come by.
ROGIC ROLE IS CRUCIAL
At 25, Tom Rogic is very much the main man for Australia and it’s around him that much of their attacking and indeed counter-attacking play revolves. They set up in a 4-5-1 formation without possession but on the ball, Rogic advances ahead of the two holding midfielders in Miles Jedinak and Aaron Mooy.
The latter quickly spreads play to the wide areas in the transition with Rogic then ghosting in at the edge of the area to be available for cutbacks. Given that Australia lack a prolific striker, much rests on the Celtic man’s late bursts forward.
FRANCE FORMATION CHANGE
Deschamps has ensured that TV studio pundits and journalists alike have had plenty to debate and dissect when discussing France in the final days leading up to their first World Cup fixture. After largely sticking to an uninspiring 4-4-2 formation over the last two years, he’s made the switch to a 4-3-1-2 system with Antoine Griezmann playing as a number 10 behind two wide forwards.
With Olivier Giroud unlikely to start following his head injury, Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele should make up the front line which does allow for a seamless transition into a 4-3-3. The French have been trying to perfect the new system in training lately and could facilitate greater fluidity.