With the matches coming thick and fast during the group stages of the 2018 Fifa World Cup in Russia, here’s a look at some of the stories from the sidelines.

Not going home yet

Germany’s Sami Khedira gave a cool response to an attempt at provocation from a Swedish journalist ahead of Saturday’s vital game between the teams in Sochi.

The journalist, from a Swedish tabloid, tried to wind up Khedira by offering him fake airline tickets for the German side to return to Berlin on Saturday evening, in the event the World Cup holders lose to the Scandinavian side and find themselves eliminated early from the tournament.

The Juventus midfielder politely refused the offer, saying: “I think we’ll need them on July 16.” That’s the day after the final...

Meat and wine

Uruguay fans unfurled a giant banner that read “asado y vino” (roast meat and wine), before their 1-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. It was unsure whether this was to goad the teetotal Saudis, or if they really just like their food and drink.

“This is much bigger than football”

Iceland will be going out all guns blazing on Friday against Nigeria, but it did not prevent them paying tribute to Super Eagles goalkeeper Carl Ikeme, who couldn’t make it to the World Cup after being diagnosed with leukaemia.

The whole squad signed an Iceland goalkeeper’s jersey with “Ikeme” and the number 1 emblazoned on it and striker Jon Dadi Bodvarsson posted a picture of it on Instagram with the caption “All of us in @footballiceland are with you @carlikeme”.

“The gesture comes from the squad and obviously Bodvarsson who used to play with him at Wolverhampton,” captain Aron Gunnarsson told reporters Friday.

“I’m wishing him all the best from the squad and, it just shows that football is one big family that will stick together.”

White nights

Saint Petersburg’s white nights of near 24-hour daylight have been causing some difficulties for the Brazilian and Costa Rica players ahead of their match on Friday.

“It’s a little hard for us because we are not used to this kind of situation,” said Brazil skipper Thiago Silva. “Fabio (Mahseredjian – team physio) has already talked to each player specifically about this subject. Last night we arrived late then had some physio. About 0130 in the morning it was getting light, Fabio said we should turn off the iPad, iPhone so we could get some sleep. Talking to the family in Brazil this is going to give us a sleeping problem.”

Costa Rica captain Bryan Ruiz wasn’t so perturbed, saying: “It’s strange but it’s nice to have this kind of situation. We have to close the curtains around 1030 otherwise we cannot sleep.

“It’s something nice, it’s different but something you are thankful to live.”

A bad bet

Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo explained the growing stubble on his chin was the result of a bet with team-mate Ricardo Quaresma.

“My new beard? That was a joke with Quaresma,” he told the Budweiser man-of-the-match interview after the win over Morocco.

“We were in the sauna and I started shaving my beard. I left a bit and said that if I scored against Spain, I wouldn’t shave it until the end of the World Cup. In the end it brought luck, I scored, as I did today. So, I’m going to keep it.”