Spain will seek to secure their passage into the last 16 with their final group game against eliminated Morocco on Monday night, with La Roja knowing a draw in Kaliningrad would be enough to send them through.
Here are the three big talking points ahead of the action.
One eye on Portugal?
Spain only need one point to be sure of advancing into the knockout stages, but perhaps more pertinently they want to ensure finishing top of the group by gaining a better result than Portugal in their final game against Iran, who could also still finish first by winning their game and seeing Spain draw.
However much Spain’s players and coaches might insist that they will only focus on the task of winning the game and won’t pay any attention to the news from elsewhere, it’s inevitable that the scoreline from Saransk will filter its way down onto the pitch.
The final half-hour could be particularly shaped by Portugal and Iran’s progress, potentially giving Fernando Hierro’s men something of a mental dilemma if they are already winning by one goal but need another to overcome Portugal – how many risks should they take in pursuit of a bigger margin of victory without also putting themselves in danger of conceding?
However, it’s not entirely clear that finishing in first place would be a particular benefit, with a second-placed finish setting up a last 16 tie against Russia or Uruguay followed by a possible quarter-final against a France team which has not particularly impressed so far.
Living up to Hierro’s billing?
Interim boss Hierro made the most outspoken claim of his brief reign by comparing his squad with the 2010 World Cup-winning team, a statement which was intended as a display of confidence but will also put pressure on his players to emulate their illustrious predecessors.
Of course, many of the players in Hierro’s squad now were also part of that triumphant team in South Africa eight years ago, with central defensive pairing Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, midfield masters David Silva, Andres Iniesta and Sergio Busquets and third-choice goalkeeper Pepe Reina all hoping to secure their second world title in the next few weeks.
But the new generation is being led by the likes of Isco and Diego Costa, who have sparkled in attack and are arguably the most important players to the current Spanish side – certainly in ensuring their pretty approach play is accompanied by the necessary incisiveness in front of goal.
In truth, the performances delivered by Hierro’s men so far have been promising without reaching the heights set by the 2010 winners. There is undoubtedly potential for them to get even better, and Hierro will hope they can now start to accelerate through the gears and move towards their peak form in time for the crunch clashes that lie ahead in the knockout stage. If they can do that, Hierro’s words of praise could prove to be prophetic indeed.
Morocco motivated or deflated?
Morocco know their chances of extending their stay in Russia have already been ended, with a pair of 1-0 losses against Iran and Portugal ensuring they will return home after this final group game.
The African side will feel hard done by to have suffered an early elimination after playing some decent football, especially in the unfortunate defeat to Portugal, and their mental state could go one of two ways for this final game: they will either be deflated by their disappointment and struggle to produce the competitive edge needed to confront a quality team like Spain, or they could be extra-determined to claim a major scalp and ensure they don’t leave the competition with nothing to show for their efforts.
The quality of Morocco’s play so far definitely warrants more than zero points, and Spain will know they are a potentially dangerous opponent. In particular, it’s a big occasion for David De Gea after a worrying patch of form for the Manchester United keeper, who could be kept busy by Morocco’s ability to create chances. Morocco might be out, but they can still have a significant say in this World Cup.
England were at their rampant best against Panama as they secured a 6-1 victory and a ticket to the knockout stages of the World Cup.
Here, we take a look at all the goals from the game in animation.
A corner delivered perfectly landed in the penalty area where Manchester City star John Stones was left unmarked and fired in his header to put England into the lead in the eighth minute.
After Jesse Lingard made a fantastic run, he was brought down by Escobar inside the box and they referee awarded a penalty which Kane struck into the left top corner with fearsome power.
Lingard was without doubt the best player on the pitch for England. He exchanged one twos with Raheem Sterling before unleashing a curling strike into the right top corner.
The fourth goal for the Three Lions again came through from a set piece – as Trippier played it short to Henderson who lobbed it first time near the far post where Kane headed it for Sterling in front of goal whose effort was saved, but Stones was there on the rebound to make it 4-0.
The fifth goal arrived after some Kane was brought down in the box after Panama’s repeated attempts of keeping hold of him during a corner. The Spurs striker took the penalty in a similar manner as the earlier one and the score line stood at England 5-0 Panama at half-time.
Loftus-Cheek’s strike at goal from out of the penalty area hit Kane and the deflected shot went into the net as Panama goalkeeper Penedo was completely wrong-footed. Kane registered a hat-trick, and became the first England player since Gary Lineker to do so in a World Cup.
While it was a consolation goal, Panama celebrated it with all their emotions coming out. 37-year old Felipe Baloy stretched fully to lash in a free-kick delivered well into his path. It was Panama’s first goal in the World Cup.
Senegal and Japan played out a 2-2 draw in their group stage fixture on Sunday, at the World Cup.
Akira Nishino’s team showed tremendous character having fallen behind twice but still managing to keep the score level at the final whistle.
In what was thrilling game of football at the Ekaterinburg Stadium, it was Keisuke Honda’s goal that meant both teams had to share points and aim to secure qualification for the knockout stages in their next Group H match.
Here, we take a look at all the goals from the game in animation.
Liverpool forward Sadio Mane was there at the right place at the right time as Japan goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima failed to collect the ball cleanly and it came off Mane’s foot to eventually roll into the net.
Inui’s curled a shot into the bottom left corner after Nagatomo made a terrific run into the left hand side of the Senegalese box. Goalkeeper Khadim N’Diaye couldn’t do much about it.
A low cross from Youssouf Sabaly found Moussa Wague at the end of it, who had a difficult angle but somehow managed to unleash a shot into the roof of the net and put Senegal into the lead again.
A goalkeeping mistake from N’Diaye, who came for a punch, but missed it, led to substitute Honda lashing in a shot and leveling things for Japan.