As the 2018 FIFA World Cup group stage edges closer to its conclusion, “Same Same But Different: Your Asian Football Show” picks our best XI from Match Day 2.
GK: Francis Uzoho (Nigeria)
Remarkably still only 19, Francis Uzoho has been given the nod as Nigeria’s first-choice goalkeeper at the tournament and has thus far repaid the faith shown in him by coach Gernot Rohr.
Having conceded two goals against Croatia through no fault of his own, Uzoho bounced back with a fine display against Iceland that went a long way in helping the Super Eagles notch a 2-0 victory.
Despite his tender years, the Deportivo La Coruna commanded his area with authority and showed extremely clean hands in claiming a number of dangerous deliveries into the box, suggesting he has a bright future ahead.
RB: Moussa Wague (Senegal)
Another bright prospect hailing from Africa that produced an outstanding display in Match Day 2, it wasn’t just the fact that he scored in a 2-2 draw with Japan that made Senegal’s Moussa Wague stand out.
The 19-year-old provided plenty of energy bombing down the right wing and also did not shy away from his one-on-one duel with Takashi Inui, which was one of the most intriguing battles throughout the 90 minutes.
Also, it helped that – when his chance after after Youssouf Sabaly’s left-wing cross fell into his path – Wague had no problems in finishing with aplomb as he dispatched an emphatic drive past Eiji Kawashima.
CB: John Stones (England)
He may have come under his fair share of criticism this past season, but John Stones has enjoyed a smooth transition to World Cup football so far.
In what already looks like a tactical masterstroke from England manager Gareth Southgate, England’s three-man defence has functioned perfectly and a key factor in that success has been Stones’ organisational ability and calmness on the ball.
Of course, when a game comes along where there is little defending to be done, how does a centre-back stand out? Well, by going up the other end and netting your first two goals for the Three Lions, as Stones did in their 6-1 rout of Panama.
CB: Domagoj Vida (Croatia)
To be honest, the whole Croatia side could have made our Team of the Round, such was their dominance in a 3-0 win over fancied Argentina.
While the goals certainly flowed, the defence also deserves plenty of credit for the way they completely nullified the Argentinean attack, rendering Lionel Messi ineffective and Sergio Aguero completely anonymous.
Domagoj Vida may be the less-famous of the Croatian centre-backs behind Dejan Lovren, but he was equally – if not more – commanding as the European dark horses claimed a famous win.
LB: Marcelo (Brazil)
It may have taken Brazil until the 91st minute to finally break Costa Rica’s resistance but one man who never stopped trying was left-back Marcelo.
His experience playing for Real Madrid really shone through as he kept his composure while many of his team-mates began to let their frustration get the better of them.
Fittingly, it was his deep cross from the left that was flicked on by Roberto Firmino which led to Philippe Coutinho finally opened the scoring for Selecao, before Neymar wrapped things up with a second in the 7th minute of injury-time.
CM: Makoto Hasebe (Japan)
With the likes of Shinji Kagawa, Keisuke Honda and Shinji Okazaki flying the flag for Japan over the past decade, Makoto Hasebe has not exactly received the recognition he deserves but he continues to be a key player for Japan.
With his dogged determination in shielding his defence but also tidy and confident in possession, the 34-year-old is exactly the midfielder the Samurai Blue need in the engine room, allowing the more creative types to work their magic in the final third.
Having captained Japan at three World Cups now, Hasebe will be looking for one final hurrah by guiding his country to the knockout round when they meet Poland on Thursday.
CM: Andres Guardado (Mexico)
Like Hasebe, Andres Guardado is one those underrated types who rarely get the plaudits but who are greatly appreciated from those within the dressing room.
Having began his career as a left-back and left winger, Guardado has since evolved into the composed central midfielder and the drive he provided has been key to Mexico claiming two wins from two so far at Russia 2018.
He played his part in earning the penalty which led to Mexico’s opener against Korea Republic and, once his side were two goals to the good, went on to ensure the likes the South Korean midfielders rarely got a second on the ball to get their team going.
AM: Luka Modric (Croatia)
For the second match day in a row, Luka Modric eases his way into our Best XI and is there really any surprise after another masterful display against Argentina?
The Croat mastermind has to be in the running to win the Golden Ball as the tournament’s best player but, while he is more often contributes with assists, he already has two goals this World Cup.
His strike against Argentina was a thing of beauty as he received possession outside the box, sized things up and – upon realisation that there were no better options – proceeded to send a shot arrowing into the far corner with unerring accuracy.
RF: Ahmed Musa (Nigeria)
Nigeria got their World Cup campaign back on track with an impressive triumph over Iceland and, while many expected Alex Iwobi and Kelechi Iheanacho to be their main source of goals, it was Ahmed Musa who came to the fore.
The 25-year-old may not have enjoyed the best of spells in the Premier League with Leicester but he has previously shown what he is capable of with CSKA Moscow, where he has 61 goals in 180 games to his name.
On Friday, Musa’s sheer pace and skill proved impossible for Iceland to handle as he helped himself to two all-important goals.
LF: Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Plenty of eyebrows were raised when Eden Hazard was handed the captaincy by Belgium manager Roberto Martinez, given he has not always exactly been a figure of leadership throughout his career.
But while some lead with their words, others lead by example and that was certainly what the Chelsea star did against Tunisia.
Having opened the scoring for the Belgians with a clinically-taken penalty, Hazard went on to help his side on their way to a merry rout and netted a fine second goal when he got in behind the opposition defence and coolly rounded the goalkeeper before keeping his cool to finish despite having two defenders closing in.
CF: Harry Kane (England)
Granted, it wasn’t a classic hat-trick from Harry Kane in England’s 6-1 thrashing of Panama. Two came from the penalty spot, while he hardly knew anything about his third when Ruben Loftus-Cheek’s shot deflected off his heel and past a stranded Jaime Penedo.
Nonetheless, Kane’s influence cannot be undervalued given the way he has led the way for this fresh-looking Three Lions side, constantly providing a target up forward and taking his chances when they come his way.
With five goals to his name, the Tottenham man is currently leading the scoring charts and few would bet against him going on to pick up the Golden Boot come the end of the tournament if he, and England, keep up their excellent form.