From Russia with love… Brief stories from the World Cup

France defender Samuel Umtiti took to social media to alleviate his embarrassment after his handball led to an Australia penalty
AFP

Moscow (AFP) – AFP Sport takes a look at some of the stories you may have missed at the World Cup:

Sam dunk

Samuel Umtiti resorted to self-deprecating humour to help alleviate the pain of his handball which led to an Australian penalty against France on Saturday. The Barcelona defender posted a photo on Instagram with his outstretched hand brushing the ball… into a superimposed basketball net. The accompanying emojis included one depicting derision, a hand, a pair of popping out eyes, embarrassment, and a ‘what the hell?’ icon. All’s well that ends well though as Paul Pogba nabbed the winner for France.

180….degree turnaround 

Journalists were barred from asking questions on who was winning darts tournaments between players at the England camp during an ill-fated campaign at Euro 2016 such was the tension between press pack and a protected squad. Two years on and the more relaxed, media friendly atmosphere encouraged by Gareth Southgate is seeing England’s finest take on and beat the journalists at the oche. Jordan Pickford followed Gary Cahill’s example in winning the player-media match-up on Friday.

Mladen in the land of nod

“Thanks, it’s kind of you to be concerned,” Mladen Krstajic to a journalist inquiring whether the Serbia coach had managed to sleep ahead of his team opening their World Cup campaign against Costa Rica. He was right to be confident, they won 1-0. “I can honestly say that I slept like a log.”

Denmark dream of ’92

“Perhaps it would be a good idea if we drink a beer and drive past McDonald’s now and then. I will suggest that to the coach,” said defender Jannik Vestergaard. When Denmark were late replacements for Yugoslavia at Euro ’92 and went on to win the tournament, their coach Richard Moeller Nielsen famously gave the players plenty of freedom – including visits to fast-food outlets.

Alli’s superstitious streak 

England’s Dele Alli is so superstitious that he still wears the same “battered” shin guards that he had in school. “I don’t know if anybody knows this but I’ve had the same shinpads since I was 11,” the Tottenham midfielder told FIFA.com. The 22-year-old is hoping the pads he has worn for half his life will bring him and England luck in their opener against Tunisia in Volgograd on Monday. “They are battered. I am very superstitious,” he revealed.

.