From Russia with love… Brief stories from the World Cup

Wayward: Gylfi Sigurdsson blazed a penalty over the crossbar against Nigeria
AFP

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

Whooooo

“Over the bar, over the bar, over the bar… whooooo, oooover!,” a Nigeria fan, later identified as Remi Akano, hopefully yelled a mantra in the stands when Iceland earned a penalty against the Super Eagles.

Then, in footage that went viral on Twitter, he celebrated wildly as his prediction came true and Gylfi Sigurdsson skied the ball over.

“There’s power in words,” Akano’s take on his part in Nigeria’s victory.

English TV looking ahead

No pressure or anything, but England’s flying start in Russia already has British media checking potential scheduling clashes if Gareth Southgate’s men reach the World Cup final on Sunday, July 15.

That coincides with the Wimbledon men’s final, leaving English sports fans with the dilemma of having to choose between football or tennis.

For the record, British-based journalist Ravi Ubha reports Wimbledon organisers say the tennis final will start at 1300GMT regardless, which is two hours ahead of kick-off in the football decider.

If the tennis is particularly one-sided it may be over before the football starts, otherwise it could be a battle royale for the remote control in households across the country.

Birthday card

Rodrigo Bentancur celebrated his 21st birthday on Monday. As a gift, Senegalese referee Malang Diedhiou booked the Uruguay midfielder for a second-half foul on Artem Dzyuba. It is better than former Italy forward Gianfranco Zola, who was sent off against Nigeria at the 1994 World Cup, the only other player to have received a “birthday card”. Fortunately for Bentancur, Uruguay breezed past Russia 3-0 to finish top of Group A.

Mourning defeat

When you count Lionel Messi in your ranks, you don’t expect to lose 3-0 in a group-stage match. Two-time champions Argentina were left in a state of shock after suffering that ignominy against Croatia, to the extent that TV channel TyC Sports observed a minute’s silence in tribute to the Argentine players.

Iceland, unrivalled optimists

Icelandic optimism? “It’s in the genes,” said coach Heimir Hallgrimsson on Monday.

“We are optimistic about everything, we still think we will win Eurovision, for example, but we never win it, it’s the same here, we lost against Nigeria but we think we’re going win the next match.

“And what will the Icelandic fans think if their team qualifies for the first time in its history for the round of 16 on Tuesday? They’ll think we’ll be world champions, we’re optimistic.”

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