By Emmanuel Ebimoh
After 12 long years away from the biggest football stage, Sweden welcomed themselves back into the prestigious FIFA soccer fiesta with a hard-fought one nil victory over South Korea yesterday. Indeed, it was a nail-biting game with lots energy at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium in Russia as both teams were desperate to get a win in their first game. South Korea had never lost an opening match in the World Cup, so they came out with hopes to keep that trend going. But in the 64th minute of the game, Korea’s Kim Min-Woo brought down Swedish Midfielder, Viktor Claesson in the box. Although the referee initially ignored the call for penalty, he was later pressured to review the challenge via the VAR. A penalty was then granted to Sweden and their captain, Andreas Granqvist coolly converted from the spot. Sweden had never won its opening match of the World Cup since 1958. It was indeed an emotional victory for them. They play Germany next on June 23 in Sochi.
Another Africa representative at the World Cup, Tunisia, also filed out for their first game of the tournament against the young, vibrant Three Lions of England. After Egypt, Morocco, and Nigeria had all lost their opening games, the honours fell on Tunisia to at least give Africa something to smile about. The game started well for the English as they threw the first blow in the 11th minute through Harry Kane’s close range finish.
The Tunisians came out purposefully for an equalizer and in the 34th minute, they were gifted a penalty when Kyle Walker seemed to have elbowed Tunisia’s Ben Youssef in the box. Ferjani Sassi made no mistake from the spot as his low shot beat the outstretched arm of England’s Jordan Pickford. It was all going to end in a stalemate at 90 minute, but Harry Kane had other ideas. The Tottenham striker found space inside the box to nod home a cool header and give England the three points in the 91th minute of the game, with just two minutes extra time to play. The Tunisians felt shattered and were left to regret their shabby last minute marking in the box.
In the other game, the star-studded Belgian team with the likes of Chelsea’s Eden Hazard, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, Manchester United’s Romelu Lukaku, Tottenham’s Moussa Dembele, Yannick Carrasco of Athletico Madrid, amongst other stars traded tackles with Panama in the opening game of Group F. Panama were playing in their first ever World Cup and the emotion was seen in the team’s captain, Roman Torres as the country’s national anthem was sung. However, there was no doubt that Belgium would come out victorious ahead of the debutants and they made no mistakes as the game ended 3-0.
In today’s games, Columbia lost to Japan 1-2 in a heated Group G encounter played earlier, Poland will trade tackles with another African side, Senegal, and Russia will host Egypt. Stay with us as we bring you all the juicy details of the games as they unfold.
Emmanuel Ebimoh is a Writer, Blogger, and Social Media Strategist. You can contact him on Facebook and LinkedIn as Emmanuel Ebimoh. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org