Japan veteran Keisuke Honda comes up with leveller v Senegal to keep knockout fight alive

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Keisuke Honda ended his lengthy international goal drought for Japan to earn a 2-2 draw with Senegal and keep the race for progression at World Cup 2018 wide open in Group H.

Liverpool forward Sadio Mane took advantage of an awful mistake from goalkeeper Eiji Kawashima to deflect in an 11th-minute opener for the Lions of Teranga. New Real Betis winger Takashi Inui levelled things up in style on 34 minutes when he curled a shot into the bottom corner.

Japan dominated chances after the interval, but fell behind when 19-year-old full-back Moussa Wague lashed in on 71 minutes. Samurai Blue were then able to fight back for a second time when Pachuca forward Honda tapped in at the back post after a scramble, ending a drought that stretches back to September 2016.

The result at Ekaterinburg Arena left both teams on four points at the midway point in the fight to make the round of 16.

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Toni Kroos hits back at critics after Germany's start at the World Cup

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Match winner: Toni Kroos

Toni Kroos has hit back at former Germany internationals and pundits for their criticism following the team’s shaky start to the World Cup.

Kroos hit a stunning free-kick deep into stoppage time to seal Germany’s 2-1 win against Sweden on Saturday to keep their knockout hopes alive. The defending champions were beaten 1-0 by Mexic in their opener.

Speaking to ARD broadcaster, Kroos said: “Many people would have been happy if we had gone out.

“Anyone who speaks up, those experts, and anyone who writes about it can feel they have addressed things, but it gives me the feeling that it’s more fun to analyse or talk or write badly of us.

“I’m not talking about the fans who go to the fan miles (fan zones in Germany).”

If Germany are to reach the last-16 stage, they must win by a margin of two goals against South Korea on Wednesday. Anything less, and they will be relying on the outcome between Mexico and Sweden.

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Luka Modric would win Ballon d'Or if he played for Germany or Spain, says Croatia team-mate Dejan Lovren

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Luka Modric (r) has been sensational so far for Croatia

Dejan Lovren believes his Croatia team-mate Luka Modric would win the Ballon d’Or if he played for Germany or Spain.

The Real Madrid midfielder has had a strong World Cup campaign so far, scoring in both of Croatia’s first two victories in Russia.

The Ballon d’Or has been won by five-time winner Lionel Messi, who was upstaged in the 3-0 defeat to Croatia and Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo in previous years with Modric never even making the top three.

“It is a real pleasure to play with Luka Modric, who is one of the best players in the world right now,” Lovren said at Croatia’s training base in Roshchino on Sunday.

“Modric would probably be getting more attention than he is right now if he was a German or Spanish player. He would maybe even be a Ballon d’Or winner.

“But because we are a smaller country, he does get less attention than he deserves. We are all football lovers and we know Modric is an incredible player.”

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