On Tuesday, when Poland’s clash with Senegal kicks off, all 32 teams in the tournament will have played their opening matches.
It’s been an action-packed five days of football so far, featuring Mexican fans causing earthquake sensors to go off, a Cristiano Ronaldo stunner (not to mention a hat-trick too), Harry Kane’s stoppage-time winner, an airplane ferrying the Saudi Arabian football team catching fire, swarms of bugs at Volgograd, Lionel Messi missing a penalty and Germany’s tumble against Mexico.
Here are the storylines to watch on Day 6 of the glitzy tournament:
Colombia vs Japan
Japan’s build-up to this match has been marred by a 6.1 earthquake which shook Osaka on Monday and left hundreds injured. With many players’ family members being affected, the disaster sent the players’ focus out for a toss. As if the team needed more distractions, players were rudely awoken early in the morning after a false alarm in the team hotel blared for 15 minutes. Coincidentally, the alarm went off almost at the same time the earthquake struck back home.
Colombia, who are looking to go beyond the quarter-finals for the first time in their history, also have concerns of their own with a fitness cloud hanging over prolific forward James Rodriguez, who is said to be nursing a calf strain. While his participation in the match is not yet certain, the South American giants have the likes of Radamel Falcao and Juan Cuadrado to bolster their attack in his absence.
The last time the two sides met in 2014, the result was a 4-1 rout in favour of the Colombians.
Poland vs Senegal
When Poland take on Senegal, it will hard not to bill the battle as a clash between Robert Lewandowski and Sadio Mane. The two forwards have lethal records for their clubs, and their countries will hope they can translate that to success at the World Cup too.
Lewandowski has already said that he will put in the hard yards at Russia to ensure the World Cup is one to remember for him and the team.
"I know that sometimes I'll have to do the donkey work for the good of the team," the 29-year-old told Poland's Wirtualna Polska news website in an interview last week.
Poland are looking to improve on their third-place finishes at the 1974 and 1982 editions in Russia. Senegal, on the other hand, are relying on debutant Mane to inspire them. In their opener, the African team will be further buoyed by the absence of Polish centre-back Kamil Glik.
On Glik’s absence, Senegal coach Aliou Cisse said: "We all know Poland have some very good individual qualities, but also some defensive weaknesses. I think it's going to be a very nice game. We have lots of assets."
Russia vs Egypt
The Russian team may have issued a bold proclamation of their intent with a 5-0 thumping of Saudi Arabia in their opener, but their World Cup calibre will be properly tested when they come up against Egypt on Tuesday. The Egyptians themselves slumped to defeat against Uruguay, but that result could be attributed to the absence of talisman Mohamed Salah. With the Liverpool man available on Tuesday, the match will be a more rounded clash.
As forward Alexei Miranchuk pointed out, "Egypt's game with Salah is different from the one they play without him."
Mo Salah’s return
He did not play in Egypt’s opener at the 2018 World Cup against Uruguay and the absence was evident as they slumped to a 0-1 defeat. But it seems likely that he will be present on the pitch when the Egyptians take on Russia in their second game on Tuesday. The host nation’s coach Stanislav Cherchesov said that Russia have a plan to neutralise Salah.
"The level he will be playing at only he and his coach know but we have a mission and we will accomplish the mission," Cherchesov said. "I trust in my team, I believe in my players and I will give you a simple answer: we are ready to do this and we will do this."
The boldness of the proclamation notwithstanding, there are very few teams who have gotten the better of Salah this season and Russia will know that should he play, he will be a handful to cope with.
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 12:04:51 IST