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World Cup, day 15: the things you might have missed

1. Belgium top group after England win

There was much talk pre-match about whether it would be beneficial for England to lose this game and therefore finish second in Group G, which theoretically brings a more straightforward route to the final.

Both Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez signalled their intentions by fielding heavily rotated sides, and it was Belgium's second string which proved the stronger. Adnan Januzaj scored a wonderful second-half goal to earn the Red Devils all three points, bamboozling Danny Rose with some sublime skill before bending the ball into the top corner.

All of which means England face Colombia in the round of 16, while Japan face Belgium. Let the fun commence...

2. Group H decided by fair play


Group H always looked like being the most open and intriguing section of the first round, and so it proved as Japan and Senegal also had to be separated by their disciplinary records. The two teams had identical records in terms of points, goal difference, goals scored, goals conceded and head-to-head results, but Japan's tally of four yellow cards saw them finish second ahead of Senegal, whose players went into the referee's notebook on six occasions.

Given that the rule was introduced ahead of the 2018 edition, Senegal became the first side to bow out of the World Cup due to the number of bookings they received. The Lions of Teranga will no doubt feel hard done by, particuarly as Japan ended their 1-0 loss to Poland by simply passing the ball around the back in order to avoid further cautions.

3. Colombia grind out win 

Yerry Mina

Colombia delivered one of the best performances of the group stage in their 3-0 victory over Poland, but they failed to replicate that display against Senegal. Aliou Cisse's side were the better team in the first half, with los Cafeteros - shorn of the injured James Rodriguez from the half-hour mark onwards - lacking ideas in attack.

It took a towering header from centre-back Yerry Mina to break the deadlock in the 74th minute, after which time Colombia did a decent job of shutting the game down. Jose Pekerman's men deserve credit for bouncing back from a defeat in their opening game to win Group H; now, England await.

4. Tunisia edge out Panama


Scoring a goal against England was a great moment for Panama's fans, and they threatened to go one better when they took the lead against Tunisia in their final match.

It wasn't to be, though, as the Eagles of Carthage rallied after the break to turn the game on its head with goals from Fakhereedine Ben Youssef and Wahbi Khazri.

5. Sweden sorry to see Germany go... not

Marcus Berg

Swedish feathers were ruffled when several members of the Germany coaching staff celebrated provocatively when Toni Kroos curled home a last-minute winner in the two teams' Group F clash last weekend. The reigning world champions followed that victory up with a 2-0 defeat by South Korea, a result which sent them crashing out before the knockout stage - much to the delight of Swedes everywhere.

"It is sad for Germany,” said striker Marcus Berg, “but this is the thing: karma can be a bad thing sometimes." Defendder Mikael Lustig was in agreement, telling Aftonbladet: "It's never wrong to eliminate Germany considering their behaviour [on Saturday] and considering what some players have said. It feels nice. I am not going to deny that. It feels really nice."

6. Iran's Azmoun exits international arena

Sardar Azmoun

Monday now seems like an awfully long time ago in World Cup Land, but if you cast your mind back to the start of the week you may recall Iran missing a great chance to win their game against Portugal in second-half stoppage time. Carlos Queiroz's side would have advanced to the knockout rounds had they found the net and held on for a 2-1 win, but despite ultimately finishing third in Group B, they still departed Russia with their heads held high. That hasn't stopped the team being abused by some supporters back home, however, and star striker Sardar Azmoun has retired from international football as a result.

"My mother had overcome a serious illness and I was happy," said the 23-year-old. "Unfortunately because of the unkindness of some people, and the insults that me and my team-mates in no way deserved, her illness has become severe. This has put me in a difficult position where I must pick one or the other - and as a result I pick my mother."

7. Bring on the knockout stage


After 48 games, 122 goals, 158 yellow cards, three cards and just one 0-0 draw (those pesky Danes and French have a lot to answer for), the group stage of the 2018 World Cup is over. Sixteen teams are still standing, and the knockout phase gets under way with France vs Argentina on Saturday afternoon. 

First, though, we've all got a Football Free Friday to catch our breath. See you on the other side!