Five break-out stars from the first round of World Cup group games

first_img Lozano hit the net 17 times in 29 Eredivisie appearances for PSV in 2017/18 6 So far, this has been a tournament for the bookmakers. As favourites struggle and supposed minnows upset the odds, those cash-strapped bookies will be piling up the takings from punters who dared to believe that this was the time a 12-game accumulator would finally come off. Surely.Adding to the number of disposed betting slips on the floors of Britain was Osako, whose winning goal on Tuesday saw off much-fancied Colombia.Vaulted into the starting lineup after an injury to Leicester’s Shinji Okazaki, Osako’s tireless efforts gave Tottenham’s Davinson Sanchez nightmares as he struggled to keep up with the Japanese striker.Having caused havoc in the build up to the penalty which saw Japan go a goal and a man ahead inside three minutes, Osako rose highest to nod home from a corner in the 73rd minute and give Japan their first World Cup win since 2010, just 24 hours after being hit by news of a deadly earthquake back home.Osako is off the market this summer, having agreed to join Werder Bremen from relegated Cologne, but the 28-year-old will continue to draw interest with performances like these. While the tournament’s biggest names have either flourished (Ronaldo, Kane, de Bruyne) or floundered (Messi, Suarez, Neymar), some of the more under-the-radar talents came to the fore for their countries.Here, we look at five of the breakout performances that lit up the first six days of World Cup action, and what could be next for them if they continue their stellar form. Golovin’s 94th-minute free-kick rounded off a five-star Russia win 6 Osako’s header gave Japan a shock win over Group H favourites Colombia The goal was Niang’s first for his country We should remember that Germany, for all their poor recent results, are the reigning world champions. They have reached at least the semi-final of every World Cup this century, and had not lost their opening game in 36 years.Many a side, some of them far more well-renowned than Mexico, have capitulated against the imperious force of Die Mannschaft. The sides’ meeting in Moscow should have been nothing other than a routine win for Joachim Low’s side, with Mexico expected to do little more than fill 11 patches of grass on the other side of the field.El Tri, however, were having none of it. From the off they set about the wobbling German backline, repeatedly hitting them on the counter as Joshua Kimmich bombed forward with little consideration for his defensive responsibilities.Time and again filling the space vacated by Kimmich was Lozano, stretching play, harrying Jerome Boateng and keeping Manuel Neuer’s palms heated.Had Carlos Vela’s final ball been better, he could have scored four, but Lozano settled for an all-important one, released in acres of space before checking inside temporary right-back Mesut Ozil (??) to fire past Neuer.A seismic shock on and off the field, causing a minor earthquake back home, the goal should add a few zeroes to Lozano’s price tag and wage demands this summer, with the PSV winger being heavily linked to Chelsea, Everton and Valencia. 6 6 2. HIRVING LOZANO, Mexico Ronaldo’s hat trick put him top of the goalscoring charts after round one, but who were some of the lower-profile stars of the opening fixtures? center_img 5. MBAYE NIANG, Senegal The 2018 World Cup is now officially underway for all 32 teams at the tournament.In the opening round of group fixtures, we saw 16 games, 38 goals, 11 cities, 12 stadiums, four own goals, nine penalties, one red card, four free-kicks scored, Three jubilant Lions and a thousand controversial VAR calls. Twenty minutes into just his seventh international, Korean keeper Cho appeared about to be beaten, with Sweden’s Marcus Berg handed a simple tap-in from 12 yards.Undeterred, Cho quite literally faced up to the strike, pulling off a miraculous point-blank save that deflected up in the air off a combination of arm and forehead.Cho then sprang to his feet to punch away from the onrushing Berg to keep the score at 0-0.Two more saves followed as the 26-year-old almost single-handedly kept his team in the game, before he was cruelly beaten by Andreas Granqvist from the penalty spot.Now facing a gargantuan task if they are to recover and reach the knockout rounds, South Korea will need two more skin-saving performances from Cho against Mexico and Germany in their remaining fixtures.The Daegu FC keeper was voted the K-League keeper of the year last season and could be the latest Korean to be snapped up by a European club after a strong World Cup, following the likes of Park Ji-Sung and Lee Young-Pyo. 4. YUYA OSAKO, Japan 3. CHO HYUN-WOO, South Korea 6 Quick reflexes were required as Cho flung himself in front of Berg’s shot to deny Sweden an opener 1. ALEKSANDR GOLOVIN, Russia Although it was Dennis Cheryshev’s name plastered across the back pages for his two stunning goals against Saudi Arabia, CSKA Moscow’s Golovin was the real star of the show on opening night.A goal, two assists and a constant hand in proceedings had Premier League fans clamouring after the 22-year-old, who tore the Saudis apart and ensured a dream opening for the lowest-ranked World Cup hosts in history.Afforded freedom to roam by manager Stanislav Cherchesov’s system and a seemingly overwhelmed opponent, Golovin’s performance in the Luzhniki Stadium turned more than a few heads, capped by a pinpoint free-kick to seal a 5-0 win.With Manchester United and Arsenal reportedly circling, his father admitted this week that the player is taking English lessons ahead of a potential move this summer. 6 One of countless Football Manager ‘wonderkids’ who never quite made the grade this side of a computer screen, Niang is still only 23.At times in Samara on Tuesday, Poland appeared unable to cope with the young striker, whose performance will come as a shock to those Watford fans who saw him stutter his way to two goals in 16 appearances on loan at the Hornets in 2016/17.While his goal was in part the beneficiary of a comedy of errors from Polish trio Krychowiak, Bendarek and Szczesny, Niang’s deliciously devious run, stealing onto a backpass while returning from treatment, made it all happen.Keeping his cool as Szczesny flew past leaving a trail of red mist in his wake, Niang knocked the ball around the former Arsenal keeper before finishing into an open net.Niang has now found a home with Torino, making permanent the fourth and final loan he was sent on from AC Milan after signing for the Italian giants in 2012.Now seemingly full of confidence, the two opening round results in Group H could see Niang and Senegal go much further than expected in Russia, perhaps emulating the quarter-final performance in their first and only other appearance at the World Cup in 2002.last_img

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