World Cup 2018 - Day Eight at a glance

Croatia and Luka Modric can leave Argentina on the brink with France also in action

Luka Modric will be key for Croatia against Argentina on Thursday night. Photograph: Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty

Luka Modric will be key for Croatia against Argentina on Thursday night. Photograph: Patrick Hertzog/AFP/Getty

 

THE MATCHES

GROUP C

Denmark v Australia (Samara, 1.0, RTÉ/ITV) Betting: Denmark 19-20, Australia 7-2, Draw 12-5.
France v Peru (Yekaterinburg, 4.0, RTÉ/ITV) Betting: France 3-5, Peru 11-2, Draw 3-1.

GROUP D
Argentina v Croatia (Nizhny Novgorod, 7.0, RTÉ/BBC) Betting: Argentina 21-20, Croatia 31-10, Draw 12-5.

ONE TO WATCH

Of the opening round performances, Croatia’s assured display against Nigeria side is one which has gone slightly under the radar. The Super Eagles came into the tournament full of confidence but were given the run around in Kaliningrad, with Croatia dominating proceedings in midfield. That was largely thanks to Luka Modric, who was at his bewitching best during his side’s opening 2-0 victory, in which he scored a second-half penalty.

At 32-years-old Modric is one of the world’s most complete midfielders, with that rare ability to dictate the tempo of a game on his own. Croatia face Argentina on Thursday evening, and with Modric supported by Ivan Rakitic and Mateo Kovacic they look to have a significant advantage in the middle of the pitch. If he can assert his dominance, Croatia could quite easily leave Argentina on the brink of an early exit.

YOUNG GUNS

From an Irish perspective it was sobering to see how blunt and agricultural Denmark were in their World Cup opener against Peru, particularly with Christian Eriksen largely subdued during their 1-0 win. However, Pione Sisto provided a few glimpses of his electric talent – the Ugandan-born 23-year-old possesses the frightening pace which Age Hareide’s side are largely lacking.

Pione Sisto ahead of Denmark’s clash with Australia. Photograph: Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA
Pione Sisto ahead of Denmark’s clash with Australia. Photograph: Tatyana Zenkovich/EPA

The Celta Vigo forward, who plays with his socks rolled down and his bootlaces untied, contributed the joint-fifth highest number of assists (9) in La Liga last season, his second term in Galicia following his move from FC Midtjylland. Thursday’s fixture against Australia looks his best chance to make a statement in the group stages, with France to follow.

DID YOU KNOW?

As Mads Mikkelsen tells us in a recent advert for a popular Scandinavian lager, “us Danes love to share, it’s in our nature.” And it’s a motto the Denmark squad clearly live by, after they all chipped in to pay for defender Jonas Knudsen to fly home from Russia to visit his newly-born daughter. The Ipswich Town defender, who was an unused substitute in the 1-0 win over Peru, found out his daughter had been born prematurely shortly after his arrival in Russia. In response, his teammates chartered a private jet allowing him to travel to Denmark and back in 24 hours in the wake of the side’s opening fixture. Goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel said: “I think you have to remember we are human beings as well as footballers.” A nice touch.

Denmark’s Jonas Knudsen on the ball during Denmark training. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP
Denmark’s Jonas Knudsen on the ball during Denmark training. Photograph: Jack Guez/AFP

GOLDEN BOOT

4 Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
3 Denis Cheryshev (Russia), Diego Costa (Spain)
2 Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Harry Kane (England), Artem Dzyuba (Russia)

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