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World Cup Round-up: Opening Games

By Kieran Cleeves • 20 June 2018

Despite Brighton & Hove Albion’s representatives all featuring for their respective countries in the opening round of games at the FIFA World Cup - Mathew Ryan, Leon Balogun and Jose Izquierdo all found themselves on the losing side.

Mathew Ryan was the first to represent his country, as Australia came up against France at the Kazan Arena, but the Socceroos were beaten 2-1 on Saturday afternoon.

Antoine Griezmann fired past Ryan from the penalty spot in the 58th minute, after the shot-stopper had made four saves for his nation in the opening half.

The Socceroos drew level four minutes later when Mile Jedinak also dispatched from the penalty spot, but an unfortunate own goal from Aziz Behich put France ahead with nine minutes remaining.

The evening kick-off saw Leon Balogun make his first appearance in the World Cup, but Croatia scored either side of half-time to seal a 2-0 victory to move top of Group D.

The defender covered 9.35km at the Kaliningrad Stadium, but the Super Eagles were undone in the 32nd minute when Andrej Kramaric’s header deflected off Oghenekaro Etebo into the back of the net.

Luka Modric extended Croatia’s lead in the 71st minute when Balogun’s centre-half partner William Ekong was penalised for a foul inside the box, and the Real Madrid man fired home from the spot.

Yesterday afternoon saw Jose Izquierdo earn his first-ever start for Colombia, as he lined up on the left wing at the Mordovia Arena, but the South Americans were made to pay for an early error.

Carlos Sanchez was given his marching orders in the third minute of the game for a deliberate handball inside the penalty area, and Shinji Kagawa drilled home from the spot to put Japan 1-0 ahead.

Izquierdo looked to make something happen for his side, as they battled away with ten men, and Juan Quintero’s clever free-kick drew Colombia level before the break.

But three minutes after Izquierdo was replaced by Carlos Bacca in the 70th minute, Japan retook the lead through Yuya Osako, as the striker glanced a header past David Ospina to seal three points.

When are Albion’s players next in action?

Mathew Ryan comes up against Denmark on Thursday 21st June at the Samara Arena, kick-off 1pm (UK time). Watch the game live on ITV.

Leon Balogun’s Nigeria will take on Iceland on Friday 22nd June at the Volgograd Arena, kick-off 4pm (UK time). Watch the game live on BBC One.

Jose Izquierdo will face Poland on Sunday 24th June at the Kazan Arena, kick-off 7pm (UK time). Watch the game live on ITV.

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