RUSSIA 2018: WORLD CUP NEWS HIGHLIGHTS
*Andreas Granqvist’s VAR-assisted penalty handed Sweden who are making their first appearance at the World Cup in 12 years a deserved 1-0 win over South Korea at the Nizhny Novgorod Stadium.
*Sweden reached Russia by beating France in a group game on the way to finishing above the Netherlands in the table and reach the play-offs, when they overcame Italy.
*South Korea lost their opening match at a World Cup for the first time since 1998 and are winless in seven World Cup matches (D2 L5), losing their last three in a row.
*Sweden now have the chance to all but knock holders Germany out of the tournament on Saturday, while South Korea face Mexico desperately needing a win to maintain their hopes of qualifying for the knock-out stages.
*Dries Mertens scored a stunning volley and Romelu Lukaku was twice on target as Belgium started their Group G campaign with a 3-0 defeat of World Cup debutants Panama in Sochi
*A national holiday was declared after Panama sealed qualification in October and their fans, who outnumbered those from Belgium, created a fantastic atmosphere, cheering every time their team crossed the halfway line.
*Belgium are now unbeaten in their last 10 World Cup group games (won five, drew five), winning each of their last five.
*There were eight yellow cards in this match between Belgium and Panama – the most of any game at the 2018 World Cup so far and also more than in any single game at the 2014 tournament.
*Dries Mertens is the first Belgian player to score in two different World Cup tournaments since Marc Wilmots (1998 and 2002).
*Harry Kane scored a dramatic injury-time winner as England beat Tunisia 2-1 in their World Cup Group G opener in Volgograd.
*England scored more than once for the first time in 10 World Cup matches, since a 2-2 draw against Sweden in 2006.
*England’s Kieran Trippier created six goalscoring opportunities, more than any other player has managed so far in the 2018 World Cup.
*England are unbeaten in their seven meetings with African nations in the World Cup (W4, D3).
*Iceland national team have shown their support for Nigeria goalkeeper Carl Ikeme before both teams meet at the Volgograd Arena on Friday. The Nigeria international has been out action since March 2017 after he was diagnosed with acute leaukemia.
*Croatia striker Nikola Kalinic has been sent home from the World Cup in disgrace after refusing to come on as a substitute during their 2-0 victory over Nigeria.
*However, according to reports in Croatia, the striker declined his manager’s orders, citing a problem with his back.
*Saudi Arabia have landed safely in Rostov-on-Don after experiencing a technical failure in one of their plane’s engines mid-flight. The squad were travelling to the port city in the south of Russia ahead of their second World Cup match against Uruguay on Wednesday in Group A.