ST PETERSBURG (Reuters) – Brazil made one change to their starting lineup for their second match of the World Cup against Costa Rica in St Petersburg on Friday, bringing in Corinthians right back Fagner for Danilo, who has a thigh injury.
Brazil drew their opening Group E match with Switzerland 1-1, while Costa Rica are bottom of the standings after losing their first match against Serbia 1-0.
Brazil coach Tite also starts striker Neymar, who sat out a midweek training session with a sore ankle.
Costa Rica also made one change to the team that lost to Serbia, with Bryan Oviedo coming in at left back in place of Francisco Calvo, who drops to the bench.
(Reporting by Simon Jennings in St Petersburg; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
ISTRA, Russia (Reuters) – France might not have impressed in their first two World Cup matches, but they have already secured their last-16 spot and will use their last Group C game against Denmark to improve before the knockout phase.
Les Bleus needed a penalty, given by the video assistant referee, and goal-line technology to beat Australia 2-1 in their opening game and they were shaken up by Peru on Thursday but won 1-0 thanks to a Kylian Mbappe goal.
They need to avoid defeat against Denmark on Tuesday to top the group.
With Argentina struggling in Group D, Les Bleus could face Jorge Sampaoli’s side in the last 16, but winning against Denmark is their only priority.
“Our mindset is to win this game, to finish what we’ve started, to improve,” said striker Olivier Giroud, whose deflected shot led to Mbappe’s goal against Peru.
Giroud believes France have to be more efficient, offensively and defensively, after Les Bleus failed to sparkle in their first two matches.
“We need to be more efficient in attack, and in defense. We have to improve and find that ‘killer instinct’.
“But let’s not forget that Peru were a very good team, who had conceded only three goals in their last matches, who beat Croatia, Uruguay, Iceland. We suffered but to me, 1-0 is the best possible result.”
After their opening game, some France players had questioned Deschamps’s tactics, saying they had no clear idea of what they were supposed to do, but the game plan appeared to be clearer against Peru as Les Bleus defended well.
“With Antoine Griezmann, we had been tasked to block the Peru center backs, with Antoine also having to be in the zone of their number 6,” Giroud explained.
“Everything was very clear and well oiled, we had worked on it at training and were ready to be aggressive and determined, which is paramount in modern football.”
France know that they can rely on midfielder N’Golo Kante, who was pivotal against Peru, winning 13 tackles and creating space for his team mates.
“He’s got 15 lungs. Football is so much easier with players like him,” said Paul Pogba.
(Reporting by Julien Pretot; Editing by Christian Radnedge)
By Jack Tarrant
SAMARA, Russia (Reuters) – Samara, once the secretive heart of the Soviet Union’s space program, is opening up as a World Cup host venue.
The city, known as Kuybyshev until 1991, was the primary manufacturing hub that made the rocket that took Yuri Gagarin on his journey to become the first human into outer space in 1961.
During that time, the city was closed off to the outside world, with very few foreign visitors and a culture of secrecy amongst the inhabitants of Kuybyshev, many of whom did not even know what program they were working on.
Boats passing along the River Volga, which runs past the city, were only allowed through at night so that the city could not be seen by those on the water.
“Almost every family in Samara is somehow involved in the process of the rocket-making industry,” explained Director of Samara’s Space Museum, Elena Kuzina, on Friday.
“It was a ‘classified’ city and closed for foreign visitors. It was impossible to get inside the city or get out, even for locals,” she said.
Thousands of soccer fans are descending on Samara, which hosts six games during the tournament at the Samara Arena that is shaped, not-coincidently, like a UFO.
Many of them are also taking time out to visit Kuzina’s museum and learn about the previously protected space program.
At a special exhibition at the museum, the story of the space race is told through Russian Matryoshka dolls, detailing various landmark events and the stories of pioneers such as Gagarin and Neil Armstrong, the first person to walk on the moon.
The dolls are an imaginative and beautiful explanation of the space race and illustrate many previously unknown stories.
“There was this one dog, ‘Brave’, who understood he was going up in space and the night before the launch he disappeared,” laughed Kuzina, explaining the various Matryoshka dolls showing dogs in space suits.
“Of course, the soldiers who were taking care of the dog got scared and found another one on the street and sent that one to space instead.”
With thousands of foreign fans now arriving, people in Samara are embracing the chance to meet new people.
“The World Cup was a good push to clean up town and to understand that we can make great things happen,” said Kuzina.
“I think it is a very good thing, a great unifying factor for all of us.”
This doesn’t mean the city’s past has been completely forgotten.
“I think this culture of keeping secrets still exists among the people of Samara and even today we can see the same thing,” she said.
“They are not telling all the secrets that they know.”
(Reporting by Jack Tarrant; additional reporting by Elena Glydenkerne, editing by Neil Robinson)