Spain’s defeat clears path for fresh face in final

Tuesday, 3 July 2018 00:23 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}

Soccer Football - World Cup - Round of 16 - Spain vs Russia - Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow, Russia - Spain's Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta look dejected after losing the penalty shootout - REUTERS


MOSCOW (Reuters): Spain’s dramatic defeat by Russia on penalties in the World Cup round of 16 on Sunday ensured that at least one of this year’s finalists will not have reached the title decider for half a century, if at all.

Former finalists England, who played their one final when they won the title in 1966, and Sweden, who lost to Brazil on home soil in the 1958 final, are still in the half of the draw vacated by the 2010 champions after their loss to the hosts.

The odds on England winning the World Cup for a second time were immediately cut from 6-1 to 5-1 after Russia’s victory, making them third favourites behind France (7-2) and Brazil (4-1) with bookmaker William Hill. 

Also still alive in their section of the draw are Croatia and Denmark, who face off in Nizhny Novgorod later on Sunday and have previously done no better than a single semi-final and quarter-final appearance respectively.

Russia will face the winners of that match, hoping to continue to benefit from the hosts’ dividend to better the single semi-final appearance that the Soviet Union achieved in 1966.

Switzerland, who have never done better than the spot in the last eight they achieved as hosts in 1954, take on the Swedes on Tuesday in St Petersburg with the winners going on to face England or Colombia.

Colombia, whose best finish was their run to the quarter-finals in Brazil four years ago, take on the English in the last round-of-16 match later the same night in Moscow. The last addition to the elite group of 12 nations who have contested World Cup finals was Spain when they won the title for the first time in 2010.

France, the 1998 winners, beat Argentina to reach the quarter-finals on Saturday and are in the other half of the draw with fellow former champions Brazil and Uruguay, the three nations having competed in 11 finals between them.

 Leading odds on winners of 2018 World Cup:

7-2 France

4-1 Brazil

5-1 England

6-1 Croatia, Belgium 

14-1 Uruguay

20-1 Colombia, Russia

33-1 Bar


Xhaka confident he will keep his cool against Sweden

Saint Petersburg (AFP): Switzerland midfielder Granit Xhaka insists he will not be provoked into getting sent off during their World Cup last-16 match against Sweden today. 

Xhaka has received nine red cards since 2014, with Sweden defender Mikael Lustig admitting they will target the 25-year-old at the Saint Petersburg Stadium.  Premier League you can see he tends to get red cards,” Lustig told reporters on Sunday. “It’s just about keeping your head and trying to get him sent off.” 

Xhaka, however, is not worried. “My friends have told me what the player said. It’s no problem for me,” he said. “It’s part of pre-match provocation if you like. But I have learned a lot in my time and I’m confident I won’t be pushed out of the game. Quite possibly I will stay on the pitch all the way to the end.” 

Swedish defender Pontus Jansson, meanwhile, was pictured laughing while showing an ‘eagle salute’ during a training session yesterday.