Moscow (AFP) – AFP Sport takes a look at some of the stories you may have missed at the World Cup:
While some Mexican fans came by bus, three intrepid Swiss supporters arrived in Russia in style… on a venerable 54-year-old tractor. Josef, Werner and Beat set out on the bumpy 2,000 kilometre trip on June 9, chugging and spluttering their way into Kaliningrad 12 days later on Thursday on the eve of Switzerland’s date with Serbia. The worst bit of the journey wasn’t the unusual conveyance, but the drivers, according to Beat.
“We had no worries with the tractor, but every day I told the other two they were like the Muppet Show because they were carrying on like kids!” The Swiss trio’s tractor trek earned 17,000 euros ($20,000) for charity.
“I don’t think we’ll be playing him on Tuesday! It’s Peru,” was Australia defender Josh Risdon’s curt reply when one seemingly tired hack at the World Cup asked how the Socceroos would deal with the threat of Colombia’s James Rodriguez, who hit a tournament-leading six goals in Brazil four years ago, on Tuesday. Risdon was generous with his follow-up: “We obviously played them in the March friendly windows… and yeah it was amazing to come up against players like that.”
Bye bye Van Bommel
Australia winger Mathew Leckie has given assistant coach Mark van Bommel his best wishes after the former Dutch international was named coach of PSV Eindhoven on Thursday: “Mark’s been really good since he’s been here. He was successful as a player and I definitely think he’s got it in him, he’ll do really well as a coach.” Van Bommel is the son-in-law of Australia coach Bert van Marwijk, who, according to rumours from Dutch media at the World Cup, could become his assistant at PSV.
Argentina back on the road
After their dismal 3-0 reverse to Croatia, on the back of an opening 1-1 stalemate against Iceland, the wheels were in danger of coming off Argentina’s World Cup campaign. They badly needed Nigeria to pull off a famous win over Iceland on Friday to help their slim chances of making it into the last 16. So much so electronic motorway signs around Buenos Aires were displaying messages of encouragement – ‘Hoy vamos Nigeria’ (Go Nigeria Today). They worked, the Super Eagles duly won 2-0. It’s a fair bet though that the signs won’t be flashing up similar messages of support on Tuesday when Lionel Messi’s Argentina must beat Nigeria in their closing first-round game to have any chance of going through as runners-up from Group D.
Messi may have missed his against Iceland, but plenty of players have succeeded in converting theirs. Since the first ball was kicked in anger 10 days ago this World Cup has seen 14 penalties awarded and 11 scored, the latest Carlos Vela’s first-half spot-kick in Mexico’s win over South Korea. That means the 2018 World Cup has already beaten the 13 successful spot-kicks at the 2014 World Cup — and there are still 36 matches of this one still to come. Which suggests that with a little help from VAR the record of 18 penalties over an entire World Cup is set to be increased comfortably.