A day after two-time champions Argentina were handed a stunning 3-0 loss by Croatia that dealt a severe blow to their hopes of making it to the next round, arch-rivals Brazil take on Costa Rica to improve upon their 1-1 draw against Switzerland in the opening game of the tournament.
Brazil, like Argentina, were held to a goal-apiece draw by the Swiss at Rostov-on-Don on Sunday, a result that would’ve frustrated their boss Tite given how fancied they were coming into the tournament. The second game of the evening is one that the Argentines will be watching with special interest — as Iceland face Nigeria in the fourth game of Group D at the Volgograd Arena, with Lionel Messi’s team hanging by a thread at the moment and their fate in this tournament depending on the outcome of the remaining games.
The final game of the day will see Serbia battle Switzerland at Kaliningrad — the former coming off a 1-0 victory over the Costa Ricans in their opening game the same day the Brazilians started off.
Here’s a look at what you can expect on 22 June, Matchday 9:
Brazil vs Costa Rica:
The day begins in St. Petersburg in a match between Brazil and Costa Rica. Questions surround Brazil star Neymar, who limped out of a training session earlier this week.
The Brazilian football federation said on Thursday that Neymar is just fine and posted photos and a video of him practicing on Wednesday with the rest of the squad.
Costa Rica, meanwhile, topped its group and reached the World Cup quarter-finals four years ago but is on its heels after a 1-0 loss to Serbia in its first game. Costa Rica doesn’t have history on its side: Brazil have won nine out of 10 matches against Costa Rica, with its only loss coming in 1960 friendly. Costa Rica’s only World Cup victory against a team from South America was four years ago against Uruguay.
Iceland vs Nigeria:
Nigeria dropped their first group match 2-0 to Croatia and are considered so far to be one of the underperforming teams of the tournament.
The Nigeria team is the youngest in the World Cup with an average age of just below 26, and although it is the most populous nation in Africa with some 185 million people, the team has never advanced past the round of 16.
The game in Volgograd is so highly anticipated in Iceland that its national post office has announced it will close more than three hours early as most of the country is expected to watch.
Serbia vs Switzerland
A 1-0 victory over Costa Rica has Serbia headed into its game against Switzerland eying a spot in the Round of 16.
Because Brazil’s opener also ended in a draw, Group E is wide open right now and Serbia will play on Friday for an outright victory against Switzerland.
“If we do the math and start playing for a draw then it will not be successful,” captain Aleksandar Kolarov said. “Of course we want to win.”
It was a free kick from Kolarov that put Serbia in solid position in the group, but Switzerland may be as tough a foe as Brazil. Switzerland has lost just one of its last 23 matches — a 2-0 defeat to Portugal in a World Cup qualifier in October.
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