Belgium eased past Panama, Sweden beat South Korea and Harry Kane saved England at the World Cup on Monday. Let’s hand out some awards.
Sweden began the fifth day of the World Cup with an uneventful 1-0 win against South Korea, before Belgium eased past a tenacious, but mostly very bad Panama team. England finished off the day with an inspiring late win against Tunisia. Let’s hand out some awards.
The Sir Alex Ferguson Award for Football, Bloody Hell: Harry Kane
We’ve seen plenty of late winners in this tournament so far, but perhaps none more surprising than Harry Kane’s against Tunisia, if only because of how long it’s been since anything went right for England at a World Cup. Gareth Southgate’s side seemed primed for an extremely on-brand draw, having dominated the vast majority of the match only to see their profligacy in front of goal punished by a harsh penalty decision. Then Kane popped up with the winner in the 91st minute, heading in at the back post after Maguire won yet another header in the opposition box.
The Frank de Boer Award for Assists: Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium secured the second biggest win of the World Cup so far with their 3-0 victory against Panama. They also scored three of the best goals we’ve seen all week. Dries Mertens’ opened the scoring with a stunning first-time volley, while Romelu Lukaku closed it with a clinical chip over the keeper. The highlight of the lot, though, was Belgium’s second (Lukaku’s first), a simple header created by the outside of Kevin De Bruyne’s right foot. Eden Hazard also had some wonderful touches, including in the buildup to that second goal, but De Bruyne’s stole the show.
The Honduras Award for You Can Take The Team Out Of The CONCACAF, But You Can’t Take The CONCACAF Out Of The Team: Panama
Panama began their first ever World Cup campaign in the finest CONCACAF tradition on Monday, losing 3-0 to Belgium while picking up five yellow cards, all of which came before the hour mark. Roberto Martinez’s side weren’t entirely convincing, particularly in the first half, but the gulf in quality between the sides was impossible to miss, particularly after Dries Mertens’ wonderful opening goal. Which is of course my cue to remind you that it was Roman Torres, Panama’s captain, who scored the goal that ensured the U.S. men’s national team wouldn’t qualify for the World Cup, only four days after the U.S. men’s national team had beaten Panama 4-0. I believe that we will now lock ourselves in a cupboard and cry for a while.
The Jurgen Klinsmann Award for Weird Excuses: Shin Tae-yong
After Mexico’s victory against Germany on Sunday, the second match in Group F, between Sweden and South Korea, suddenly felt a lot more significant, with the loser almost certain to go home, barring an unlikely win against Germany. The match itself wasn’t much to write home about, with Sweden winning thanks to VAR-awarded penalty in the second half, but South Korea manager Shin Tae-yong raised eyebrows in his post-match press conference, saying of his players, “psychologically they were a little concerned by the height of the Swedes.” Given both teams completed the same number of crosses, one, by which I mean me, might be tempted to wonder what exactly the junk Shin was talking about.
The Iker Casillas Award for Brief-But-Heroic Goalkeeping Performances: Mouez Hassen
Mouez Hassan may have lasted only 16 minutes in the Tunisia goal against England, but he used that time to make two of the finest saves of the tournament, the first with his toe from Jesse Lingard and the second a full-stretch diving stop from John Stones. Between the two, he found time to pick up a shoulder injury in a collision with Lingard, which, after a valiant attempt to soldier on, ultimately forced him off, crying as he went. If the 23-year-old doesn’t recover in time to make a second World Cup appearance, he might at least take solace in the fact he made the very most of his first, brief though it was.