World Cup 2018 - Day 12 at a glance
Russia face Uruguay while Iran look to secure shock qualification against Portugal
Isco will be key as Spain look to top Group B with victory over Morocco on Monday. Photograph: Diego Azubel/EPA
ONE TO WATCH
There have been a number of standout midfield performances so far in this World Cup - with Luka Modric’s showing against Argentina and Toni Kroos’s heroics against Sweden both immediately springing to mind. And another player who is enjoying a fine tournament is their Real Madrid teammate Isco, who has drifted in and out of Spain’s opening two fixtures but has, at times, been irrepressible.
Along with David Silva and Iniesta, Isco has been charged with the task of unlocking opposition defences - with the likes of Iran opting to sit in, and attempt to hold on grimly for a draw. However, with Iniesta saying his international farewell this summer and Silva now 32-years-old, 26-year-old Isco is very much the future. He offers similar vision and passing ability but with an added turn of pace and the ability to beat his man.
Isco has made a minimum of 40 appearances a season since arriving at the Bernabeu from Malaga in 2013, and has been an integral part of aReal side who have won four Champions League titles in five seasons. His return of 10 goals in 30 international appearances is also impressive, and he will be a vital cog in the Spanish machine for years to come.
Eyebrows were raised when it was revealed hosts Russia had covered more ground and completed more sprints per game in their opening two fixtures than any other side. This led manager Stanislav Cherchesov to claim it was simply patriotism which was fuelling his team: “There is motivation to perform at the World Cup with the public’s support.”
And one player who has emphasised this better than anyone is Aleksandr Golovin (22), whose tireless, surging runs from deep have been a trademark feature of the opening wins over Saudi Arabia and Egypt. The CSKA midfielder - who has been heavily linked with a move to Arsenal - has plenty of silk to add to his stamina, as he showed with his fine free-kick in the opening 5-0 win. Sterner tasks lie in wait for the tournament hosts, but in Golovin they have a midfielder who can hold his own against the best.
DID YOU KNOW
England’s thrashing of Panama on Sunday has cranked up the giddy-o-meter a notch or six, with Gareth Southgate’s sprightly side making surprisingly light work of admittedly limited opponents. The 6-1 win was England’s biggest ever at the World Cup, and the first time since they had scored four or more at the finals since . . .they beat West Germany 4-1 in the 1966 final.