The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has seen many goals, with every game having at least one goal so far. Russia the host nation has shown dominance in Group A by defeating Saudi Araba and Egypt, only falling to Uruguay who showed their class in a 3-0 victory. Russia’s defeat didn’t matter though, as both Uruguay and Russia advance to the knockout stages of the tournament, while Saudi Araba and Egypt were knocked out.
The group stages so far have been filled with moments of brilliance, like the tournament form of one Cristiano Ronaldo helping Portugal forge a draw against neighbours Spain, in the battle of the Iberian Peninsula. Spanish footballer Diego Costa, has also shown his class bagging a brace against Portugal and securing the only goal when Spain played the Iranians in the Group B fixtures. The Group ended very predictably though, as both Morocco and Iran were eliminated and Spain and Portugal advancing.
Group C on the other hand is one of the dullest groups, with France going just enough to gain victories over both Australia and Peru. The only interesting thing about this group was the use of Video Assistant Referee (VAR) coming into play with the awarding of penalties and the time delays it came with. Many football analysts have welcomed VAR but have called for the decisions taken using the system to be shortened. Group C saw France and Demark advanced while Australia and Peru took flights home.
Group D which hold Argentinean star Lionel Messi is another group which has failed to live up to projections, Messi struggling to gain a footing in every match Argentina has played only being able to play at high level against Nigeria. After Argentina’s performers against Iceland (1-1) and losing (0-3) to Croatia many have questioned Messi’s mentality at a national level.
Group D also include Nigeria’s Super Eagles which has been very clawless in their match against Croatia losing 2-0, Croatia not only defeated the Super Eagles they also put 3 goals pass Messi’s Argentina. Nigeria unfortunately became the victim of a desperate Argentina, which eliminated them in the last game of the tournament. Both Nigeria and Iceland were sent home, with Croatia and Argentina advancing.
Tournament favorite Brazil, first game against Switzerland didn’t go accord to plan as the Swiss held on for a 1-1 draw. They did make up for it by finishing 2 goals to zero against Costa Rica in in the second round of Group E fixtures. Brazil predictably won their last game against the Serbians, finishing top of the Group and advancing to the knockout stage. Switzerland did enough to finish second which mean Serbia and Costa Rica were sent packing.
Group F saw Sweden and Mexico advance and former champs Germany and South Korea knocked out. Group F is probably the group with the biggest shock of the tournament so far, when Mexico defeated World Cup holds Germany (0-1) as well as a second shock defeat from South Korea (2-0) in their last game securing their elimination from the World Cup and maintaining the curse of the champions. Many fans have questioned Germans coach Joachim Löw World Cup team selection while he is also considering rising from the post.
Group G housing England and Belgium is one of the more predictable groups, both teams won against Tunisia and Panama, and are set to advance. Both teams on paper look very formidable, and both judging from their first games, look like possible contender for the World Cup Champions title. In the last game however, Belgium edged out England to top the group, while England finished second and Tunisia and Panama return home.
Group H saw the shock defeat of Colombia by Japan (2-1), Japan becoming the first Asian nation to defeat South American opposition at the World Cup. Senegal seemed to be the only African hope in the tournament, but a defeat from Colombia left the Senegalese equal in points with Japan. Unfortunately Senegal become the first team to be eliminated by the FIFA fair play Rule, which states if teams have equal points, equal head to head goals, then the one with the most yellow cards is eliminated.
Players of the Group Stages: Harry Kane
Team of the Group Stages: Belgium
By Mokgethi Mtezuka