World Cup 2018 - Day Nine at a glance
Brazil are up against Costa Rica after their opening draw while Nigeria face Iceland
Brazil full-back Marcelo. Photograph: Buda Mendes/Getty
ONE TO WATCH
Full-backs are arguably more important now than they ever have been. With a dearth of old-fashioned wingers it is often up to the full-backs to get chalk on their boots and provide a team’s width. For Brazil however, they have always been part of the side’s attacking DNA. From Júnior through to Leandro, Jorginho to Roberto Carlos and Cafu, the Seleção have always been synonymous with flying wing-backs in yellow.
And there is no better example of this than the brilliant Marcelo, who at 30-years-old is one now one of the most decorated club players of his generation. Since joining Real Madrid from Fluminese in 2007 he has made nearly 500 appearances for the Spanish giants, lifting 19 trophies in the process. His trademark ventures down the left flank are a joy to behold, and he has been a cornerstone of Real’s recent European dominance, playing an integral role as his side lifted four Champions League titles in five seasons.
Marcelo’s international honours have been confined to one Confederations Cup win in 2013, but if he can replicate his club form this summer, it will be crucial to Brazil’s hopes of ending their 16-year World Cup drought.
As N’Golo Kante’s performances so far at this World Cup have emphasised, Leicester City were always going to find it difficult to replace the midfielder when he was poached by Chelsea in 2016 - especially considering they signed him for just €8 million. However, the Foxes pulled off another fantastic piece of recruitment when they replaced Kante with Wilfred Ndidi in January 2017 - the Nigerian midfielder costing just £17 million from Belgian side Genk.
Ndidi was a revelation in his first full season in English football, topping the Premier League tackle charts with 138 - well clear of Everton’s Idrissa Gueye (117) and Kante (113). The 21-year-old’s World Cup debut was a sobering one as the Super Eagles were comfortably beaten by Luka Modric’s Croatia - but his energy in midfield will be key against Iceland on Friday.
DID YOU KNOW?
The Iceland story is often likened to something from a fairytale or a movie - and the latest chapter in the script was written last Saturday as the minnows held Argentina to a 1-1 draw in Moscow. Goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson was the hero as he saved Lionel Messi’s second-half penalty - and it transpires the 34-year-old is already well-accustomed to producing moments for the silver screen.
Indeed, while Halldorrson was plying his trade in the domestic league, he also worked in the film business to supplement his part-time wages. Ahead of Friday’s clash with Iceland, he said: “Many footballers, when they play in the Icelandic league, they have a job on the side. My job just happened to be a film-maker.”
A slightly more romantic profession than his gaffer, who works as a dentist when he isn’t plotting Iceland’s route to major tournaments.