WORLD CUP DIARY: The shocks keep on coming in Russia
We are halfway through the second round of the World Cup and the shocks keep on coming as Spain became the latest side to be sent packing.
Today we have news that may interest Safa House‚ as well as snippets from Egypt‚ France‚ a new World Cup record and a party the likes of which have rarely been seen before.
NO NEW DEAL FOR QUEIROZ
With continued speculation that coach Stuart Baxter might be leaving the Bafana Bafana hot-seat to return to club management to go back to Kaizer Chiefs‚ news out of Iran could be piquing interest at Safa House.
Iran Football Federation president Mehdi Taj said last week that coach Carlos Queiroz would remain with the side following their exit from the first round of the World Cup‚ but a source close to the coach says that is not necessarily the case.
"There was a new approach from the Iran Football Federation‚ but the agreement is far from done due to the basic conditions that would be necessary for the federation to put in place‚" the source told Reuters.
"In the present scenario‚ Carlos Queiroz's contract with Iran Federation finishes at the end of July. Apart from Iran‚ Carlos has other proposals and options that are open."
Queiroz has often had a strained relationship with the national association and is known to be a favourite of Safa president Danny Jordaan‚ having previously coached Bafana Bafana at the turn of the century.
Egypt star Mohamed Salah has hinted he may not have retired from the national team as some commentators have speculated.
Salah‚ who had a pre-World Cup fight with the Egyptian FA over image rights‚ was also unhappy at being paraded around at the tournament by the leader of Chechnya‚ a republic within Russia.
He was singled out for special attention and called for photo opportunities with Ramzan Kadyrov.
But talk of retirement from the national side seems premature‚ if a cryptic tweet from the player is to be believed.
“Some might think it’s over but it isn’t over. There needs to be change‚” he said.
Meanwhile‚ Salah also signed a new five-year contract with English Premier League side Liverpool on Monday.
INJURY RELIEF FOR FRANCE
France are expecting to have fullback Djibril Sidibe available for selection in their world Cup quarterfinal on Friday after he limped out of the 4-3 Last 16 win against Argentina on Saturday.
The Monaco star‚ who has parents of Malien descent‚ is a key player for Les Bleus‚ especially as other fullback options Benjamin Mendy and Lucas Hernandez are also suffering knocks‚ but should be ready to play.
"It's nothing serious. I can't say he'll [Sidibe] train with the others today and his ankle is bruised but it's nothing big‚" France assistant coach Guy Stephan said.
Is it the effect of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR)?
There have already been 27 penalties awarded at the 2018 World Cup‚ which is nine more than the previous record for a a single tournament.
And with 12 games still to go‚ it is a record that is likely to be extended much further!
Referees have clamped down on certain aspects of play in the box which has contributed to a higher number of decisions‚ but with VAR now able to check the awards‚ perhaps they are quicker to point to the spot and be talked out of it later.
The previous highest number of penalties awarded was 18 in the 1990‚ 1998 and 2002 finals.
PARTY LIKE IT’S 1945
Russians and their guests at the World Cup finals partied so hard last night following the country’s Last 16 defeat of Spain that it created scenes reminiscent of the end of World War II‚ according to Kremlin spokesman Dmitry Peskov.
"If we looked yesterday at the streets of many Russian cities‚ including Moscow‚ which I saw myself‚ it would probably be comparable in many respects to images of May 9‚ 1945‚" Peskov told reporters‚ referring to Victory Day.
That is the day in which Nazi Germany surrendered to end the second global conflict‚ one which is commemorated each year.
And while there is a global battle of another kind going on in Russia at the moment‚ the country is seemingly as gripped by this tussle.
"There were so many people‚ so much joy. I've never seen anything like it‚" said street cleaner Klara Bubnova said.
"It reminds me of Victory Day. Now we can say this about soccer too."