Ashes hosts Australia need to be humble for glory

Updated 15 November 2017
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Ashes hosts Australia need to be humble for glory

LONDON: When you’re just a week away from the first ball being bowled and the one player that gives your side that X-factor is halfway around the world facing police charges, it would be pointless to pretend that all is going according to plan.
To be fair to England they haven’t, and there’s little doubt that has greatly contributed to the feeling that the tourists are about to face a trouncing.
But while it’s clear Root and Co. are some way off Plan A, all the Stokes saga has done is take the spotlight away from both England’s strength and Australia’s weakness — namely the tourists’ attack and hosts’ batting lineup.
Even without Stokes, as Ryan Harris says, England have bowlers that probably cannot wait to get stuck into the Australians. Apart from David Warner and Steve Smith, the Baggy Green batters don’t inspire much confidence. You don’t have to be editor of Wisden to work out that Matt Renshaw, Usman Khawaja, Peter Handscomb and Matthew Wade are hardly in the same league as Hayden, Langer, Ponting, the Waugh twins and Gilchrist.
James Anderson and Stuart Broad are very good, shrewd bowlers and, while their form in Australia has been patchy, will fancy themselves to regularly make early inroads into the Australian lineup. Add in Chris Woakes as first-change bowler and Mooen Ali, who’s form as the side’s spinner was as good as ever this summer, and genuine reasons for optimism aren’t hard to find.
Harris was right when he said: “Both bowling attacks are world class…Bowling will dictate the series.” England will miss Stokes — which side wouldn’t? — but the tourists have the attack to get 20 wickets without him.
Australia are favorites, but as England found out four years ago, any overconfidence at this early stage could be badly misplaced.


LIVE: Spain 1-1 Morocco - Spain strike back after early Khalid Boutaïb goal

Updated 4 min 30 sec ago
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LIVE: Spain 1-1 Morocco - Spain strike back after early Khalid Boutaïb goal

10.28PM: Spain are seeing most of the possession but taking too many touches and moving the ball around too slowly. As it stands they will finish second in the group and face Uruguay in the second round...

HAPPY MOROCCO FANS: The Atlas Lions supporters have every reason to be smiling, their team is giving Spain a real game here. 

10.19PM: Great goaline clearance from Morcco. Isco's header was goal-bound with the keeper beaten. But Romain Saïss somehow rises to nod it away. From the resulting corner Pique, who is lukcy to still be on the pitch, heads just wide. We're not sure how this match is still 1-1. 

MOROCCO HIT THE POST:  What a strike from Amrabat, just outside the area on the righthand side the Watford man hits a sweet shot which beats De Gea all ends up, deserved to go in but hits the upright. So, so close. Nervous times for Spain. 

10.08PM:  Football fans have warmed to the Atlas Lions.

 

 

10.03PM:  A good start to the second period for Morocco, once again Spain are half asleep in defence and the Atlas Lions are seeing a lot of the ball. That results in Pique handling the ball on the edge of the box, for some reason the ref does not see the infringment and play continues. Good signs, though, for the North Africans. 

SECOND-HALF STARTS:  A key 45 minutes coming up here for Spain and Morocco. Spain know they have to win to get Russia in the next round, not an easy task but an easier one than Uruguay who they will face if they finish second. Morocco will want to finish the tournament with a result. They have played better thatn their results so far and will want to avoid three straight defeats. 

HALF-TIME: A mixed half for Morocco - they are creating chances and causing Spain problems in attack, But when without the ball they are under constant pressure, as the three yellow cards illustrate. Can they keep out Iniesta and Co. in the next 45 minutes? As it stands both Portugal and Spain are going thought, with Portugal beating Iran 1-0. A crucial next half coming up. 

SPAIN STRIKE: Iniesta and Isco celebrate the much-deserved equalizer. 

9.42PM: They may have been defending for long periods of this half, but they have always been comfortable on the ball and when they have got the chance to attack they have. A very well-worked move down the left ends with Ziyech having a decent shot from outside the box. They are doing themselves and their fans proud here. 

HISTORY MAKER: Take a bow Boutaib! 

 

 

9.33PM: Busquets has a great chance for Spain but heads wide from a corner. The Spainish are trying to turn the screw here, it's important Morocco get to half-time still level or you worry Spain may run away with it. Important nxt 10 minutes coming up. 

9.30PM: Spain, as expected, are seeing alot of the ball, while Morocco are seeing several yellow cards. The Morocco captain Moubarak Boussoufa rowing with the ref makes him the third Atlas Lion to go into the book — it's looking unlikely that Morocco will end this one with 11.

BRILLIANT BOUTAIB: The moment the Moroccan striker shocks Spain

9.23PM ANOTHER GREAT CHANCE FOR MOROCCO: Schoolboy defending by Spain gifts Boutaib another clear run-in on goal, De Gea does brilliantly to save and spare his side's blushes. Spain are being very adventurous here, there will be more chances you fancy for the Atlas Lions. 

9.17PM GOAL FOR SPAIN: That goal has given Spain a wake-up call. They come straight back. Iniesta atones for his mistake with a neat interchange with Diego Costa, before pulling back for Isco to finish from close range. Lovely goal.

9.12PM GOAL FOR MOROCCO!  Two of Spain's most experience players, Sergio Ramos and Andres Iniesta, both dithered on teh halfway line gifting the ball to Khalid Boutaïb who had a clean run in on goal. If he was nervous he didn't show it as he coolly slotted home past David de Gea. What a response! 

9.05PM: It has been a bright star for Spain, they are definitely not taking Morocco lightly. The Noerth Africans are chaing shadows at the moment. 

KICK-OFF: We're under way in Kaliningrad...

9.00PM: Should they lose this match, it will be only the second time Morocco have lost all of their World Cup group matches in a single campaign, having previously done so in 1994.

Whereas Spain have won their final group game in each of the last eight World Cup tournaments, a run stretching back to 1986.

8:50PM: Such is the support for the Atlas Lions in the stadium that is is almost like a home game. 

 

 

8:40PM: Morocco might be out, but that has not prevented plenty of their supporters showing up here in Kaliningrad. 

8:35PM: Starting line-ups...

Spain:
David De Gea; Dani Carvajal, Gerard Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba; Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta; Isco, Thiago Alcantara, David Silva; Diego Costa
Coach: Fernando Hierro (ESP)

Morocco:
Monir El-Kajoui; Achraf Hakimi, Manuel Da Costa, Ghanem Saiss, Nabil Dirar; Noureddine Amrabat, Mbark Boussoufa, Karim El-Ahmadi, Younes Belhanda, Hakim Ziyach; Khalid Boutaib
Coach: Herve Renard (FRA)

Tonight's referee is Ravshan Irmatov from Uzbekistan.

8.30PM: So, after the dramatic late winner for Saudi Arabia in Group A, we move our attention to Morocco's final game of the 2018 World Cup. The Atlas Lions cannot progress, but could make like difficult for the former world champions Spain. The Spanish know nothing but a win will guarantee their progress at this tournament, and have named a strong side in their quest to get through.

Kick off is 20:00 KSA time.