Brazil and Portugal launch group campaigns

Today at the World Cup: Brazil and Portugal launch group campaigns (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

Today at the World Cup: Brazil and Portugal launch group campaigns (Nick Potts/PA) (PA Wire)

World Cup favorites Brazil and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal start their group games against Serbia and Ghana respectively on Thursday.

Brazil’s Group G rivals Switzerland and Cameroon will open the day, while Uruguay take on Korea, the same group as Portugal, in Group H.

On Wednesday, Japan caused another upset when they beat four-time winners Germany 2-1, a day after Saudi Arabia’s surprise win over Argentina, and Spain 7-0 against Costa Rica.

2018 finalists Croatia were beaten 0-0 by Morocco and lackluster Belgium beat Canada 1-0, while England skipper Harry Kane appears fit for Friday’s Group B game against the USA.

Here, the PA news agency updates on events in Qatar.

Silva fuels Brazil expectations

Brazil arrived in the Gulf state as number one in the FIFA rankings and captain Thiago Silva declared “we are ready to make a great World Cup”.

The Selecao qualified atop the South American CONMEBOL rankings and there is high expectation that she can lift the trophy for the first time in 20 years.

Chelsea defender Silva said: “We really believe in everything we’ve done to date and as we head into our first World Cup appearance we’re in a very favorable position in the sense of ‘being good in every way’.

“What I can say to the Brazilian fans is please believe in us – rest assured that we are ready to host a great World Cup. It’s clear that the title is still very far away, but we can keep dreaming and we do that every day.”

I’m absolutely bulletproof – Ronaldo

Cristiano Ronaldo insists his explosive interview with Piers Morgan and subsequent Manchester United departure have not overshadowed Portugal’s World Cup preparations.

Ronaldo urged the media not to focus on him ahead of the first group game against Ghana when he was a surprise attendee at a press conference in Portugal on Monday.

Quoting The Daily Telegraph, Ronaldo said: “The atmosphere is excellent, no problems, we are fully focused.

“You can help by not talking about me. I’m totally bulletproof and iron armored. If you ask other players about Cristiano Ronaldo, I would be upset. If you want to ask him about the World Cup and the team, I ask you to do so.”

Japan overthrows Germany in historic turmoil

Japan coach Hajime Moriyasu described his side’s 2-1 win over Germany in their Group E opener as the best result in Japanese football history.

Germany took a wide second-half lead with Ilkay Gündogan’s 33rd-minute penalty, but late goals from Japanese substitutes Ritsu Doan and Takuma Asano, who play for Freiburg and Bochum respectively in Germany, caused a big upset.

Asked if he thought it was the greatest result in the history of Japanese football, Moriyasu told a press conference: “Yes, I think it’s a historic moment, a historic victory to say the least.”

Spain underscored their credentials by celebrating their biggest World Cup win of all time when they beat Costa Rica 7-0 in their Group E opener, but Belgium’s star-studded line-up fought off a 1-0 win over Canada and runners-up 2018, Croatia 0-0 held by Morocco.

Kane fitness boost

Harry Kane gave England a huge boost by training with the rest of the squad on Wednesday in preparation for Friday’s Group B clash with the United States.

Kane’s fitness was in doubt after picking up an ankle injury in Monday’s 6-2 win over Iran, but the England skipper, who is pending an examination, appears fit and is expected to return to training on Thursday.

Harry Maguire also trained on Wednesday after feeling unwell against Iran, but James Maddison was absent again as he recovers from a knee injury.

Germany should avoid sanctions

Germany will not face disciplinary action from FIFA for covering their mouth during a team photo ahead of the game against Japan, according to the PA news agency.

Tensions between the seven European nations backing the OneLove campaign and FIFA continued to simmer, while the Football Association declined to comment on whether the England team would copy the German gesture ahead of their game against the United States.

The FA, along with their Danish and German counterparts, are examining their legal options in the matter after FIFA threatened to issue yellow cards to captains who had planned to wear the OneLove armband during matches in a bid to acknowledge diversity and inclusion support financially.

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Who’s next?

Group G: Switzerland – Cameroon (1000, ITV1)Group H: Uruguay – Korea (1300, BBC1)Group H: Portugal – Ghana (1600, ITV1)Group G: Brazil – Serbia (1900, BBC1)

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