A World Cup of shocks and surprises
Last updated: July 4, 2018 by Leon Marshal
It has been a mad World Cup so far! None of the teams have really showed total dominance. The big fish, in particular, have been made to work for results and some have already succumbed to the so-called lesser sides. The defending champions Germany, four-time World Cup winners Argentina, 2010 Winners Spain and Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal are already out in the tournament that has been a nightmare for your accas. Oh and England won on penalties!
In 1998, France won the World Cup and was eliminated in the group stages of the subsequent 2002 World Cup. In 2006, Italy won the World Cup and was eliminated in the group stage of the subsequent 2010 World Cup. In 2010, Spain won the World Cup and was eliminated in the group stage of the subsequent 2014 World Cup. In 2014, Germany won the World Cup and well, we all saw what happened with Die Mannschaft in this year’s competition.
It is often said that there are few certainties in life. Death and taxes are among these but you can normally add the German national team to win football matches to that list. But they also were victims of under-performing as world champions.
The reigning World Champions looked out of sorts in their first game in which they lost 1-0 to an energetic Mexico. It looked like it was just a case of a bad day at the office when the Germans fought hard to win their second match against Sweden coming behind from a goal down to win 2-1 in stoppage time by a Toni Kroos free-kick.
But in the final game of the group, the Germans were shocked by an unbelievable score-line of 2-0 at the hands of the South Koreans and they had the unusual taste of painful elimination.
In some ways the pain they felt was similar to the way they ravished Brazil in their own backyard 7-1 in last year’s World Cup.
The four-time World Cup winners seemed to be scared for a change, certainly not a mannerism you would normally expect from the serial winners. With hindsight, the German coach Joachim Löw, who has had a twelve year reign as the German boss, could and maybe should have left the post on a high after the 2010 triumph over Brazil, but he chose to stay and trusted the same players that brought him the 2014 title.
Even before the World Cup started in Russia, Premier League fans were left baffled at Löw leaving out Leroy Sane, the English Premier League Young Player of the Year who helped Manchester City to the Premier League title.
The squad seemed to be a pale shadow of their former selves and this exit may force the manager to rebuild the team with young talents such as Joshua Kimmich and the aforementioned Leroy Sane. Ironically, the reigning champions were the first big name to board the flight leaving Russia.
Russia pass the Spanish inquisition
Spain had the best defence going into the World Cup and arguably the best goalkeeper in the world. Now there are so many doubts about David De Gea and Spain as a whole. Despite them managing to win their group, there were a lot of off-field squabbles that were reflected in the team’s performance.
Julen Lopetegui, who had a perfect record managing the national team, was shown the door just two days before the tournament began because he was appointed Real Madrid coach. The move brought division in the camp with the La Liga rivalry arising between Real Madrid and Barcelona players. The Real Madrid players, lead by Captain Sergio Ramos, wanted Julen to stay. The manager who took over was Fernando Hierro, who had no experience of managing a national team.
Spain took the lead in their round of 16 game against hosts Russia through 38-year old veteran Sergei Ignashevich’s own goal in the twelfth minute. They conceded a penalty four minutes to half time through our good friend, the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), with Gerard Pique the culprit for handling the ball in the box and Artem Dzyuba converted.
The first match to head into extra time saw it decided in a penalty shout out. The best goalkeeper in the world was well below par and failed to save even one of the four penalties that he faced. Spain’s duo Koke and Iago Aspas failed to convert their spot kicks as they lost 3-4 on the night, a result that meant they were soon on their flight back home.
Portugal pay the price
Portugal was one of the most entertaining teams in Russia with Cristiano Ronaldo who was absolutely fabulous, especially in the first match against Spain where he scored a hat-trick in a game that ended in a 3-3 draw. Cristiano was also the team hero scoring the solo goal to beat Morocco 1-0 and a 1-1 draw against Iran was enough for them to qualify to the knockout phase
The reigning European Champions, however, faced a resolute defence in the shape of Uruguay, who had Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez leading the back line. They had a perfect defensive record having not conceded even a single goal coming throughout the group stage.
Uruguay scored first through Edison Cavani, who scored using his head, or neck, or chest. Ultimately it didn’t matter because the ball ended up in the back of the net. Portugal managed to equalise through Pepe’s header but Cavani curled in a magnificent shot to knock out Cristiano’s Portugal.
French resistance thwarts Argentina
A team full of incredible talent going forward such as Lionel Messi, Paulo Dybala, Angel Di Maria, and Sergio Aguero. They seemed to struggle to find their rhythm and score goals.
The manager Jorge Sampaoli preferred to field Christian Pavon and Maximiliano Meza more often than Dybala and Di Maria who are exceptionally great players.
In the group stages, Argentina drew their first match 1-1 against Iceland. They were then schooled in the second 3-0 by a well organised Croatia lead by Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic whom each scored a goal in the encounter. In the last and most important match, Argentina fought hard for a 2-1 win against Nigeria to qualify for the knockout phase with Messi making a mark scoring his first and only goal in Russia.
Argentina faced France in the round of sixteen with both teams displaying good footballing skills and a total of seven goals were scored.
Angel Di Maria curled in what was a perfect shot and one of the best goals of the tournament so far. Benjamin Pavard also scored, hitting a magnificent volley also from out of the box. The star of the day was Ligue 1 Young Player of the Year for two consecutive seasons, Kylian Mbappe. The 19-year-old became the first teenager since Pele to score twice in a World Cup knockout game. The youngster was a consistent threat to Argentina with great skill and speed. France won 4-3 to send the two-time World Cup winners packing.
The last word though has to go to England. Gareth Southgate’s team were seconds away from winning against Colombia in normal time only for Yerry Mina to equalise at the death. Colombia looked the more likely team to clinch it and as extra-time came to a close, England fans feared the worst as penalties loomed.
But for once it wasn’t ‘the same old story’, Eric Dier scored the winning penalty after a superb save from Jordan Pickford to send the English support into raptures.
Is it coming home?