Monday 10 December 2018

What time, who is playing and our verdicts on Day 4 at the World Cup finals

Neymar has scored 55 goals for his country (Nick Potts/PA)
Neymar has scored 55 goals for his country (Nick Potts/PA)
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

The 2018 World Cup finals have got off to a thrilling start and we can look forward to more big games on Sunday.


Opening group games at the World Cup tend to be tight and tense encounters, yet these two teams need to go for victory from the off in a group that also features Brazil and Switzerland.

Quarter-finalists four years ago in Brazil, Costa Rica’s highest profile stars are Real Madrid goalkeeper Keylor Navas, Sporting Lisbon star Bryan Ruiz and oft-loaned Arsenal striker Joel Campbell.

As for the Serbs, their victory against Ireland in Dublin last September was crucial to their progression to the finals, yet they showed little in that qualifying campaign to suggest they will be a big threat in Russia.

Nemanja Matic and Aleksander Kolorov are familiar names for regular watchers of the Premier League and look out for their Lazio midfielder Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, who has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United and Liverpool in recent weeks.

One to watch: Nemanja Matic (Serbia)

Matic was not at his best in the final third of United’s campaign as he struggled with an injury problem, but he will need to dominate the midfield battle if

VERDICT: A draw that may not suit either side.


Germany start the defence of the World Cup they won in such convincing fashion in Brazil four years ago with a large helping of pessimism hanging over their squad.

Manuel Neuer is ready to start for Germany in their World Cup opener (Ronald Zak/AP)

Joachim Low and his players may be among the bookies favourites to regain their title, but doubts over their attacking firepower, a lack of fresh blood in their ranks and question marks over the fitness of keeper Manuel Neuer as he returns to action after a lengthy injury break.

The Germans will be tested by a vibrant Mexico side led by West Ham striker Javier Hernandez, who has struggled to hit top form in the Premier League in recent months.

Mexico’s Colombian coach Juan Carlos Osorio has come under fire from some fans in his homeland in recent months as he has struggled to find a coherent winning formula and he will face the ultimate test of his tactical nous against Germany.

One to watch: Mesut Ozil (Germany)

The subject of ridicule during Arsene Wenger’s final turbulent season as Arsenal boss, Ozil has a chance to silence his doubters on the World Cup stage once again.

VERDICT: This is a dangerous game for Germany, but they have enough class to emerge with a positive result.


The debut of Brazil in a World Cup is always a special moment and this occasion in Rostov will be enhanced by the presence of their returning icon Neymar.

Tite has lost just one game as Brazil boss (Adam Davy/PA)

The Paris Saint-Germain forward has not kicked a ball in a competitive match since he sustained a foot injury in February, yet he has looked sharp in comeback games with Brazil in recent weeks and will want to explode into life in this opener against the Swiss.

Switzerland needed some fortune to make it through to the World Cup finals after a play-off win against Northern Ireland after a couple of unconvincing displays against Michael O’Neill’s side. Those performances suggest the Swiss will be outclassed by Neymar and his pals.

One to watch: Gabriel Jesus (Brazil)

The Manchester City forward has struggled with injuries during his time in England, but there are high hopes in Brazil that he could shine at this World Cup.

VERDICT: Brazil to send out of a message of intent with a convincing win.

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