World Cup favourites Brazil and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal launch their group campaigns on Thursday against Serbia and Ghana respectively.
Brazil’s Group G rivals Switzerland and Cameroon will kick-off the day’s action, while Uruguay face Korea in Group H, the same pool as Portugal.
On Wednesday, Japan provided another stunning upset as they beat four-time winners Germany 2-1, a day after Saudi Arabia’s shock defeat of Argentina, and Spain thrashed Costa Rica 7-0.
Croatia, 2018 finalists, were held 0-0 by Morocco and lacklustre Belgium squeezed past Canada 1-0, while England skipper Harry Kane appears set to be fit for Friday’s Group B game with USA.
Here, the PA news agency keeps on top of events in Qatar.
Silva fuels Brazil expectation
Brazil arrived in the Gulf state as as number one in the FIFA rankings and captain Thiago Silva declared “we are ready to do a great World Cup”.
The Selecao qualified top of the South American CONMEBOL standings and there is high expectation they can lift the trophy for the first time in 20 years.
Chelsea defender Silva said: “We truly believe in everything we have done up to today and are about to make our first appearance in the World Cup in a very favourable position, in the sense of being well in all ways.
“What I can tell the Brazil fans is please believe in us – rest assured that we are ready to do a great World Cup. It is obvious the title is still very far away, but we can dream on and that is what we do every day.”
I’m completely bullet-proof – Ronaldo
Cristiano Ronaldo insists his explosive interview with Piers Morgan and subsequent departure from Manchester United has not overshadowed Portugal’s World Cup preparations.
Ronaldo urged the media not to focus on him in the build-up to their opening group game against Ghana when he was a surprise attendee at a Portugal press conference on Monday.
In quotes reported by The Daily Telegraph, Ronaldo said: “The atmosphere is excellent, no problems, we are completely focused.
“You can help by not talking about me. I’m completely bullet-proof and iron-clad. If you ask other players about Cristiano Ronaldo, I would be upset. If you want to ask him about the World Cup and the team, I would like you to do that.”
Japan topple Germany in historic upset
Japan boss Hajime Moriyasu described his side’s 2-1 win against Germany in their Group E opener as the greatest result in the nation’s football history.
Germany were leading deep in the second half through Ilkay Gundogan’s 33rd-minute penalty, but late strikes from Japan substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano, who play in Germany for Freiburg and Bochum respectively, produced a huge upset.
Asked afterwards if he thought it was the greatest result in Japanese football history, Moriyasu told a press conference: “Yes, I believe it is a historic moment, a historic victory, to say the least.”
Spain underlined their credentials by recording their biggest-ever World Cup win as they thrashed Costa Rica 7-0 in their opening Group E game, but Belgium’s star-studded line-up laboured to a 1-0 win against Canada and 2018 finalists Croatia were held 0-0 by Morocco.
Kane fitness boost
Harry Kane gave England a huge boost by training with the rest of the squad on Wednesday in preparation for Friday’s Group B clash with the United States.
Kane’s fitness has been in doubt after he sustained an ankle injury in Monday’s 6-2 thrashing of Iran, but the England skipper, who is due for a scan, appears to be fit and is expected in training again on Thursday.
Harry Maguire also trained on Wednesday having come off against Iran feeling unwell, but James Maddison was absent again as he recovers from a knee injury.
Germany to avoid sanctions
Germany will not face disciplinary action from FIFA for covering their mouths during a team photo before their match against Japan, the PA news agency understands.
Tension between the seven European nations who supported the OneLove campaign and FIFA continued to simmer, while the Football Association declined to comment on whether the England team would copy the German gesture ahead of their match against the United States.
The FA is exploring its legal options over the matter alongside its Danish and German counterparts after FIFA threatened to give yellow cards to captains who had planned to wear the OneLove armband during matches to promote diversity and inclusion.
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Who’s up next?
Group G: Switzerland v Cameroon (1000, ITV1)
Group H: Uruguay v Korea (1300, BBC1)
Group H: Portugal v Ghana (1600, ITV1)
Group G: Brazil v Serbia (1900, BBC1)