The second round of World Cup group matches continues on Friday with Brazil aiming for their first three points of the competition.
Eight days into Russia 2018 and the games keep coming thick and fast, with Brazil kicking off Friday’s action as they take on Costa Rica in Group E (1pm) before Iceland go up against Nigeria in Volgograd (4pm).
It’s then an all-European tie in the second Group E match of the day with Serbia – who beat Costa Rica in their opening game – going head to head with Switzerland, who drew 1-1 with Brazil on Sunday.
Each morning during the tournament we’ll bring you an overview of what’s coming up that day. Here’s what you can expect on the second Friday of the 2018 World Cupâ€¦
Who’s playing today?
Brazil v Costa Rica (Group E) – Krestovsky Stadium, 1pm
Nigeria v Iceland (Group D) – Volgograd Arena, 4pm
Serbia v Switzerland (Group E) – Kaliningrad Stadium, 7pm
What’s the deal?
Brazil went into this year’s tournament as one of the favourites, but stuttered in their opening game against Switzerland, with the sides drawing 1-1. Group E is still wide open for last 16 qualification, and Costa Rica will also be looking to register their first points on the board.
Serbia could secure their spot in the knockout stages if they beat Switzerland, having already picked up three points in their opening game, although the Swiss looked resolute in their draw with Brazil and will provide a tough test.
Nigeria were swept aside by Croatia in their opening game, and will also be in the hunt for their first World Cup points against Iceland. However, Heimir Hallgrimsson’s men are continuing to surprise people – following on from their Euro 2016 success – and will be confident after a 1-1 draw with Argentina in their opening match. Again, qualification from Group D remains up for grabs.
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Three to watch
Philippe Coutinho: The Brazil playmaker is looking to put his stamp on the World Cup, and got off to a good start with a stunning opening goal against Switzerland on Sunday. With Neymar yet to kick into high gear and a few question marks over his fitness, it could be time for Coutinho to step out from his team-mate’s shadow against Costa Rica.
Gylfi Sigurdsson: An injury doubt ahead of the World Cup, Sigurdsson will be hoping to get back to his best after a stuttering season with Everton. He produced a decent performance against an out-of-sorts Argentina side, but can really make his mark against a Nigeria side who have not won in five outings.
Xherdan Shaqiri: Another player who had a difficult Premier League season after suffering relegation with Stoke, Shaqiri continues to be an integral part of Switzerland’s team as they look for their first three points of the World Cup. It could also be a chance for the playmaker to put himself in the transfer market window, having previously expressed his desire to continue playing in the Premier League.
Also look out for…
There could be some awkward questions coming the way of Germany coach Joachim Low. The defending champions, tipped by many to retain their crown, suffered a shock opening defeat to Mexico.
The early setback has reportedly prompted a crisis meeting among the German players ahead of Saturday’s crucial game against Sweden in Sochi. Low will address journalists on Friday amid increasing calls for him to change tactics and drop Arsenal playmaker Mesut Ozil.
Defender Thiago Silva will be Brazil’s captain against Costa Rica.
Marcelo wore the armband in the 1-1 opening draw against Switzerland but head coach Tite decided before the World Cup that he would rotate the captaincy. Silva was Brazil’s captain at the World Cup in 2014, when he was criticised for breaking down before a penalty shootout in the round of 16.
History awaits Serbia in Kaliningrad. Having already defeated Costa Rica, back-to-back victories would see them reach the last 16 of a World Cup for the first time since they started competing as an independent nation in 2006.
What’s happening with England?
Thursday will be England’s last full day at their base in Repino before travelling to Nizhny Novgorod on Friday. The squad will take their usual training session in the morning before a player faces the media at 1.15pm.
England face Panama in Nizhny Novgorod on Sunday.
Stat of the day
All five of Nigeria’s wins at the World Cup have been against European sides.
On this day
Perhaps one of the most infamous days in England football history – Diego Maradona’s ‘Hand of God’. The Three Lions bowed out of the 1986 Mexico World Cup at the quarter-final stage thanks to two memorable goals from Maradona. The first was the ‘Hand of God’ goal scored against Peter Shilton which he followed with one of the best individual goals ever seen at a World Cup. Gary Lineker scored one for England in the 2-1 defeat.
What the papers are saying
Argentina’s media stuck the boot into Lionel Messi and his Argentina team-mates, branding the 3-0 defeat to Croatia a “catastrophe” and a “humiliation”.
“Catastrophe against Croatia, Argentina disappoints and is on the way out of the World Cup,” said Clarin.
“Argentina were ridiculed by Croatia and has jeopardised its future in the competition,” La Nacion added.
Television commentator Diego Latorre, of the TV Publica network, reflected on the lacklustre contribution of Messi, saying: “Messi was at a standstill, he was off the pace, depressed.
The Infobae website described the loss as a “humiliation” and took aim at the blunder by goalkeeper Willy Caballero that handed Croatia their opening goal early in the second half, describing it as “incredible”.