On the same day Germany survived a major scare at the FIFA World Cup, Socceroos stars urged fans to think twice before posting on social media after it emerged winger Robbie Kruse has been the subject of threats and abuse.
Mathew Leckie, Aziz Behich and Josh Risdon fronted the press in Kazan on Saturday (AEST) following revelations that Kruse’s relatives had closed social media accounts after a deluge of criticism following Australia’s 1-1 draw with Denmark.
“For his own people, for Australians, to be slagging off – it’s not okay,” Leckie said.
“It’s never good for any player to cop that sort of stuff so, hopefully, it tones down.
“He [Kruse] is, I guess, shocked. It’s just disappointing. Not just for him, but for all players. We’re representing Australia.”
Despite pressure mounting on Australia coach Bert van Marwijk to drop Kruse for Daniel Arzani in a must-win clash against Peru on Wednesday morning (AEST), Behich said those critical of the 29-year-old were not watching matches properly.
“The people that criticise – I don’t think they actually watch the game and how hard he works,” he said.
“What he has been through in his career with injuries and setbacks … a lot of players would have crumbled a long time ago.
“So it shows just the character he has got. He is a champion and we will be behind him.”
Kruse, who has suffered serious injuries, including a knee reconstruction during his career, has made 66 appearances for Australia, scoring five goals.
What a thriller …
Reigning World Cup champions Germany looked headed for a draw with Sweden, a result that would have left its chance of qualifying for the last 16 in serious jeopardy after a first-up loss to Mexico.
But despite being down to 10 men, Germany, who earlier levelled through Marco Reus, beat Sweden 2-1 thanks to a stunning stoppage-time free-kick from Toni Kroos.
Kroos’ magic settled an unforgettable contest in Sochi, with Ola Toivonen giving Sweden a first-half lead in a match that could have ended Germany’s tournament defence.
— SBS – The World Game (@TheWorldGame) June 23, 2018
Also on day 10 at the Cup, Belgium’s attacking prowess was on full display as they thrashed Tunisia 5-2 in a tremendously entertaining clash at Moscow’s Spartak Stadium.
Eden Hazard opened the scoring from the penalty spot in the fifth minute and even though Romelu Lukaku doubled Belgium’s lead soon after, Tunisia made it 2-1 after just 18 minutes when Dylan Bronn nodded in Wahbi Khazri’s free-kick.
The end-to-end nature of the game did not stop, either, as after Tunisia squandered a series of half-chances, Belgium restored its two-goal advantage through an excellent Lukaku dink – his fourth goal of the tournament – on the stroke of half-time.
Hazard added a second after the break before substitute Michy Batshuayi got on the scoresheet, meaning Khazri’s stoppage time goal was nothing more than a minor consolation.
The day’s other match saw Mexico beat Korea Republic 2-1.
‘Never mix football and politics’
They were the words of Switzerland manager Vladimir Petkovic after two of his players, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka, celebrated goals in a 2-1 win against Serbia on Saturday (AEST) with what the BBC called a “nationalist symbol”.
Both players, who are ethnic Albanians, did the “double eagle” celebration – a representation of the nation’s national flag.
Shaqiri was born in former Serbian province, Kosovo, and Xhaka’s family fled the area after his father was jailed for campaigning for Kosovo’s independence.
In Kosovo, a Serbian crackdown on the Albanian population did not end until 1999.
Both players settled in Switzerland but clearly hold ill-feeling towards Serbia, with Shaqiri even wearing the national flag of Kosovo on his boots during the match.
The Football Association of Serbia said they will file an appeal with FIFA over the boots, “several controversial flags” and “the celebration of both goals for Switzerland”.
Afterwards, Shaqiri admitted his celebration was “just emotion”. Watch this space for an outcome.
Bad hair day …
Spanish football legend Carles Puyol was turned away from his gig with a television station in Iran because … his hair was too long.
A local news website that quoted Puyol said that the 2010 World Cup winner was not allowed on television “because of his looks”.
The news is bizarre for many reasons, not least being the fact Puyol has had long hair for a very long time.
England can book its spot in the last 16 with victory against Panama from 10pm (AEST).
Then it is a clash between Japan and Senegal (1am) before Poland and Colombia wrap up proceedings (4am). All matches are live on SBS and Optus Sport.