WORLD CUP DIARY: Achilles the cat predicts win for Nigeria against Messi's Argentina
It is D-Day for Nigeria at the World Cup but their chances of success have been given a lift with some backing from an unusual quarter.
Our SowetanLIVE diary also has news from Morocco‚ Senegal and Spain‚ with a unwanted World Cup record having been matched at the 2018 finals.
NIGERIA IT IS THEN
Anybody wondering if Nigeria will beat Argentina in Tuesday’s crunch World Cup Group D clash in St Petersburg have their answer after Achilles the cat predicted victory for the Super Eagles!
The fortune-telling feline has correctly predicted the results of all three matches in the Russian city so far and has picked Nigeria to triumph this time round.
Bowls of food are placed in front of the Achilles with the flags of the national teams that are playing and whichever he eats from is deemed the side to win.
He correctly forecast Iran beating Morocco‚ Russia beating Egypt and Brazil beating Costa Rica.
Argentina go into the game bottom of Group D and must win to have any hope of advancing to the knockout rounds‚ though even a victory could see them exit the tournament if Iceland beat Croatia by enough goals.
Achilles will hope to become a predictions legend like the now deceased Paul the octopus‚ who correctly forecast the results for Germany in 2010 and selected eventual winner Spain.
GET YOUR CHEQUEBOOK OUT DANNY!
If Stuart Baxter does make the switch to Kaizer Chiefs‚ then one of SAFA’s long-term targets could be free to take over Bafana Bafana … though he won’t come cheap.
Herve Renard has refused to commit his future to Morocco after they exited the tournament Monday with a 2-2 draw against Spain‚ and says he will only think of his next steps after the World Cup.
“For the time being we are savoring the moment‚” he said.
“I will think of the future later on. Let’s wait until the end of the World Cup... It’s been an exceptional experience.
"We have learned a great deal in three matches. We learned what it is to play at a very high level.
“We lacked experience... We needed it in order to progress but we showed we were able to take on two of the best teams in the world in Spain and Portugal.
“We showed we could represent Morocco in a World Cup. We’ll keep this tournament in our minds‚ it was a magical moment.”
Renard has had talks with SAFA in the past over the Bafana Bafana position having led unfancied Zambia and Ivory Coast to the African Nations Cup titles.
Senegal youngster Moussa Wagué set a new African record at the World Cup when he became the youngest player from the continent to net in the global showpiece.
Wagué was 19 years and 263 days old when he netted against the Japanese in Sunday’s 2-2 draw‚ beating the previous mark set by Draman Haminu from Ghana‚ who was 20 years and 82 days old when he scored against the United States in 2006.
That was not the only record in that game though‚ as Keisuke Honda became the first Japanese player to score in three World Cup when he equalised for the Asian side.
Sergio Ramos says Spain need to show more composure if they are to lift the World Cup following their frenetic 2-2 draw against Morocco on Monday.
The Spanish were on the brink of defeat to the North Africans‚ which would not have effected their path into the Last 16‚ before Iago Aspas netted a late equaliser with a neat backheel flick.
The goal did though ensure a second round meeting with Russia and not Uruguay‚ which would have been an altogether more tricky proposition.
"We got through and won the group‚ that was the objective‚ but the game wasn't good at all for us‚ it's a night for everyone in the squad to take a look at themselves‚ we need to get ourselves into gear‚" Ramos told reporters.
"There's no need to panic‚ but we do need to evaluate ourselves generally and individually‚ we can all contribute more and be more balanced defensively and solid so we can make the difference in attack."
Ramos said he believed his team would get better as the competition goes on.
"We prefer to do our talking on the pitch and I hope we can have a great game against Russia‚ who have been playing at a very high level. I hope we can impose ourselves on them‚ we need to show who we are as soon as possible."
OWN GOAL MAYHEM
We are only just into the final round of group stage matches and already there have been six own goals scored …. matching the World Cup record of set in 1998!
Aziz Bouhaddouz (Morocco)‚ Aziz Behich (Australia)‚ Oghenekaro Etebo (Nigeria)‚ Thiago Cionek (Poland)‚ Ahmed Fathi (Egypt) and Denis Cheryshev (Russia) have all put the ball into their own net and not surprisingly‚ have also been on the losing side in each game.
In all there have been 47 own goals in World Cup history‚ which means 13 percent have come in this tournament alone.
The quickest World Cup own goal was netted by Sead Kolašinac after just two minutes and 10 seconds for Bosnia and Herzegovina against Argentina in 2014.
One of the own goals scored in 1998 was by Bafana Bafana’s Pierre Issa against France in their opening match.