In what was a pretty awful second batch of group phases matches for the Bayern legionnaires at the World Cup, one man stood out. Here, we had it all. Red cards, bloody faces, and a mix of disappointment and euphoria.
A mixed Bavarian bag as Germany stay afloat… Just
After the opening defeat against Mexico, the pressure was all on the Mannschaft ahead of their second match against Sweden in Sochi. Win, and the campaign was back on the rails. Lose, and they were out. In the end, we had to wait with out hearts in our mouths, right until the very end. A goal down at half time, Marco Reus got Jogi Löw’s side back into the contest. They were then denied by the Swedish ‘keeper and the post, before former FC Bayern man Toni Kroos scored a dramatic free-kick winner deep into injury time.
It was hard work, on what was a mixed evening for the Bayern boys. First, Sebastian Rudy had to depart early after getting an accidental boot in the face from Swedish striker Ola Toivonen. The defensive midfielder had started well in his first-ever World Cup match, but was forced to leave the pitch, blood streaming from what would turn out to be a broken nose.
Jérôme Boateng would see a different sort of red. After what had been a pretty poor defensive display, two brainless challenges brought him two yellow cards in the space of just over ten minutes. In contrast to the bright red, Thomas Müller faded into a disappointing shade of grey after a bright(ish) start.
There were a couple of brighter notes. Joshua Kimmich had a much better game than against Mexico, while Manuel Neuer was his usual solid self. It was the ‘keeper who provided the best Bayern fan moment, with a stunning diving save right at the end of the first half to keep the Germans in the contest.
Having come off the bench in Colombia’s opening match against Japan, James Rodríguez was unable to stave off defeat. Against Poland in what was another make-or-break cup-tie encounter in Kazan, the Cafeteros captain showed his class.
Right from the start, creative midfield general James was the star of the show. He was a constant menace for the Polish defence, slicing and dicing them almost at will. In 2014 James had won the Golden Boot as the tournament’s top scorer, but this performance would show that it is not just about scoring goals. It is also about creating them for others.
In the first half, a deliciously teasing cross to tee up Yerry Mina for the opener. Then, a sublime through ball for Juan Cuadrado to wrap up a comfortable 3-0 win that keeps Colombia’s World Cup hopes alive. With the man of the match award as a nice little bonus.
If James was magnificent for Colombia, Robert Lewandowski was the polar opposite for Poland. After destroying all comers in the qualifying stages, the Poles were seen as potential dark horses. In the end, they were only good enough for the knackers’ yard.
Deprived of service by team mates unable to transfer their pre-tournament form onto the big stage, Lewandowski drew another disappointing blank in Kazan. Well, either that, or we were actually watching the mysterious Emil again.
For Lewy, this second group stage defeat means that Poland can proceed no further in the tournament. The only thing that remains is a final game against Japan, which will give the striker his last opportunity to get his name on a World Cup scoreboard.
There were no starts for Corentin Tolisso or Thiago Alcântara this week. Tolisso’s French team-mates ensured their qualification for the knockout stages with a win against Peru, while a scrappy 1-0 win for Thiago’s Spain against a feisty Iranian side means that Spain are still very much in the hunt.
For Germany, Niklas Süle is still to get a start. Mats Hummels, having suffered a neck injury in training, was rested against Sweden. He should be back for the Mannschaft’s next – and crucial – final group phase match against South Korea in Kazan.