This first week, not even all the way done yet, shows us just exactly why we love this sport. From the 5-0 win Russia earned in the opening game Thursday, to Ronaldo’s magic and Messi’s stumbles, all the way to some last minute winners, this tournament has not disappointed. At all.
I’m going to go group by group, recapping what happened in the games, and then make my predictions for the next round of match-ups. Some things I predicted were on point, while others, not so much. I also am now aware of plenty more teams that I did not even expect good games from, while others have dropped off my radar. Not gonna spoil it too much, so let’s get going!
Now that Russia has two wins and six points, they’re almost automatically through, while Salah and Egypt suffered heartbreak in their first game, as Uruguay headed home a last-minute winner to snag all three points, and then again, yesterday to Russia, where they are now officially eliminated. even if Saudi Arabia somehow beats Uruguay on Wednesday, this group is virtually wrapped up with Russia and Uruguay going through, now it’s just a matter of who will finish above who, and that’ll come down to the final day. I see Uruguay smashing Saudi Arabia and then onto the last games of the group to see who wins it.
After a very bland game full of injuries (some fake, a lot, not so much), Morocco was the next team to lose in heartbreaking fashion, as a 0-0 game goes against them and they score an own goal in the 95th minute to lose 1-0, sending Iran top of the group. The next one was *drumroll please* Ronaldo versus his club teammates! That’s right, Portugal took on Spain, and the first big match-up of the tournament was out of this world. Ronaldo gets a PK in the 4th minute (that he earns, takes, and scores), followed by a debatable Diego Costa goal, answered right back before halftime by Ronaldo yet again, after De Gea, who is supposedly the best goalie in the world even though Neuer still exists, lets the rocket from Ronaldo’s foot off his leg and arms and into the goal. As much hate as I give Cristiano, and luck like this happens to him all the time, there’s got to be a point where he makes his own luck happen, unlike anyone else. I’m only at halftime of this game, folks. Two goals in three minutes for the Spanish see them leading 3-2, holding onto that until the dying minutes. That is, because of Ronaldo yet again. The 88’ comes around, Ronaldo tricks his way into making Pique dive in and commit a foul from outside the box. Ronaldo doesn’t care about his recent accuracy of free kicks, as he shuts all haters up and BANGS one into the top corner to tie the game at three all, and give both teams one point.
The next games will be very interesting for the group as a whole. Spain takes on Iran who lead the group, and if the Spanish slip up, things could be very bad for yet another World Cup. I don’t think that will happen, Iran will finish with barely 30% possession, and Spain will win 2-0 to try to make some sort of statement. Portugal, on the other hand, are going against Morocco, who also need to make up some points lost, but Ronaldo will do Ronaldo things and help carry them past a struggling and beaten Moroccan squad. I think Portugal will win, but there’s a big part of me that thinks Morocco can rise to the occasion and earn a draw. Regardless, this group will come down to the last day, but we’ll see what happens here first.
This group ended up being pretty clear-cut after the first round of games, with my predictions coming true so far as France and Denmark top the group, with Australia and Peru behind them. The only thing I have to admit is how I slept on Peru. They are a dangerous, fast, gritty side that can make things go wrong for teams. They did it to Denmark who got lucky as they took their chance while Peru couldn’t. It’s not gonna be easy for Peru to flip it around, but it is definitely possible as both they and Denmark both have to play France still. Peru is the next team to face the French, and as much as I just hyped them up, I think they’re in a really unfortunate spot and they might be able to earn a draw to keep them slightly alive, but this game, and group, is France’s to lose. Denmark will perform a little better than their first time around, and just like Group A, I think there’s gonna be two teams at six points and through, and two teams at zero points and eliminated.
Group D was the one I marked all over. I had this as MY Group of Death, along with MY dark horse, Croatia, and A LOT OF PEOPLE’S eventual champions, Argentina. Some of these things I’ll still claim as mine, other’s, not so much, for obvious reasons. Argentina showed to be exactly what I hoped they wouldn’t be, and that is Messi’s herd of sheep that he has to guide. Literally, everyone’s first thought is to get the ball to King Leo (as it should be), BUT, he is boxed in by four Icelandic Vikings, so there’s got to be other open spaces. Aguero looked like he was gonna help out, as he banged a goal out of nowhere but then went invisible the rest of the game. The most notable part of the game, of course, is the fact that Messi did it again. This “it” isn’t a good one to be tied to, though. Missing a penalty in the Copa America final shootout that they lost to Chile in 2016, led Messi to retire from Argentina, only briefly. He came back, now in the World Cup, and he bluffs again. Like Clark Kent and kryptonite, Messi missed the penalty shot that could have won them the game. In this case, it would have as Leo has a decent game for the four defenders he had around him all 90’, but nowhere near Ronaldo-level, and he missed a penalty.
On the other hand, the ič’s are still my front runners to be the underdogs, as they shut down any hope Nigeria had coming into this tournament, now Croatia are the front runners in the group point-wise, and they are also more likely to finish above Nigeria. Such a dominant midfield Croatia has, and if they can continue to ball like this, I might be kind of right.
Next up we have Croatia taking on Argentina, in what is, basically, a must-win for Argentina to have a hope of making it out under their own control. If Argentina drop points, things will have to go in their favor, out of their control on the last day, so they will definitely be going balls to the wall for all three points. On the other hand, Croatia want to lock up their place into the next round, so they’ll try to manage the game so that Messi and Argentina can’t get those three points. Definitely gonna be a different game than ARG-ISL was, but Croatia is gritty enough to cause Messi & co. problems as well. I think Argentina figures their game out and finds a way to win, as they jump right up, level on points with Croatia. In Nigeria-Iceland, I hate to do it, but I think Nigeria wins. If Iceland win, I’ll accept their decency, but after watching their first game full of long throws, fouls, and scoring off their one real chance, I honestly don’t think they’re a top soccer team. Anyways, I don’t think they’ll play the same tactics as they did the first game to stop Messi, and I think that screws them up and they let Nigeria expose that.
Already halfway through! Not nearly as bad as my preview, is it? Let’s keep the ball rolling!
This group I thought would come down to the battle for second place. Right now it is, and Brazil is a part of that battle. They tie Switzerland as Neymar gets abused but Coutinho rises and scores a trademark BANGER, as them and Switzerland finish at 1-1, and one point each. Costa Rica and Serbia are both nothing special, but Serbia got the better of my fellow CONCACAF-ians, putting them in a real bad spot as they face Brazil this next game.
Brazil takes on Costa Rica, but now Neymar may be questionable. With or without Neymar, Brazil’s bench squad could beat Brazil, as I established in the preview how deep they are. at least a two-goal win for Brazil as they get back on track but knock out Costa Rica. Switzerland versus Serbia is now the battle to be alongside Brazil making it into the RO16, and this is gonna be just that: a battle. A rough Serbian side meets a slightly less rough but more gritty Swiss side. We’re in for a good one, I’m predicting a draw, but that’s just cause I can’t tell who’s gonna get that one deciding goal for their side.
Um, am I looking at this right? It’s completely flipped from what I predicted as of now, but I don’t see it staying like that. Germany played the cockiest game for a team that should’ve been crapping themselves, they looked like they knew they were gonna score, so it wasn’t a rush. Mexico got their deserved goal in the first half, and they easily could’ve been up 2, 3-0 if they buried their chances and connected on the final passes. They hold on to win 1-0 and 'shock'the Germans, even though I’ve been warning everyone, they’re not that good right now. Mexico, on the other hand, a team to look out for.
Because Germany is Germany and Mexico is balling, I would hate to be Sweden or Korea right now, even if you’re Sweden and on three points. I don’t see either of these teams beating either Germany nor Mexico, so I change my prediction (it’s my post, I’m allowed to), and I think Mexico and Germany will advance. I’m no big fan of Mexico, but I give credit where it’s due, and it’s due right here.
THIS is actually as clear-cut as it gets, well kinda. Belgium and England win their games, and sit at three points. Belgium looked very above mediocre against a very meh Panama squad, while England actually looked good, other than Kyle Walker not knowing how to play a 50/50 ball in the box and Sterling missing some sitters. They played a boring game, won by their boring captain scoring two boring poacher goals. Oh Harry Kane, how do you do it? I think this group will stay basically as it is, it’s just a matter of who is going to be in what place, between Belgium and England.
Last and oh my lord definitely not least, this group might just be the hardest to make it out of. Colombia thought they had their easiest game today, playing Japan, so they took some precautionary measures and James was on the bench to start. In that same start, the ex-Villan, Carlos Sanchez decided to stop a goal-scoring opportunity...with his arm. Obvious enough, he was red-carded, Columbia had to play 85+ minutes a man down, and Japan scored off that PK in the first 5’. Rough start. They equalized before halftime off a free kick, but then Japan picked it up and actually balled that second half. They found the winner and sit alongside Senegal at the top of the group, before they face each other this next stage. Senegal showed what they can do, and they took advantage of Poland and held onto a 2-1 win, 'shocking'the '8th' best team in the world. Get outta here with those rankings FIFA.
This next round is gonna be nuts, with every team needing a win, and needing it bad. In Japan-Senegal, whoever wins gets to control their own destiny in the last game, while the loser may be in a tough situation on the last day. In the Colombia-Poland game, these are the two favorites to advance out of the group, and whoever loses is surely out. I think both of these games end in draws, which will make for a berserk final match day in Group H
Now that you have the breakdown of each groups situation, I’m doing some updated power rankings, in a sense.
Dangers- Teams that are good and had good first games, definitely ones you don’t want to face
- Spain- Even though they tied Ronaldo, they played the best futból by far. Their next two games should be easy wins, and they’ll cruise into the RO16, playing a weaker side from Group A, looking like it might be Russia
- Mexico- Yup, I gotta do it. One of those teams that after their first game, you think it’s a team to win it. They had some mistakes and relied a little on their goalie’s smarts, but once again they’re three touches away from a two-to-three goal win against the defending champs. One game in, but the Mexicans are good
Honestly, those are the only two that I can outright say played a game dominant enough to call them dangerous. Croatia and Belgium are honorable mentions, but Belgium played Panama, so that doesn’t count.
Bluff’s- Teams that haven’t lived up to their expectations
- Germany- Duh, I already went over this
- Argentina- Messi is the big bluff here, not being able to score a 12-yard pass to the back of the net. But as a whole, they bluffed on what I thought would be a different tournament, but it looks like it won’t be, even if they make a late run
- Poland- Like I said, they’re the “8th best” team according to FIFA rankings, and that’s BS. This team sucks. They have the god Lewandowski and a few other semi-notable names, but what’s the point in having a player like Lewan, when you have no way of building an attack! They were in shambles for their first game against Senegal, and they’ll be embarrassed if they keep playing this way
- Egypt- Can’t really blame them, the one who was supposed to carry them, Mo Salah, is definitely not 100% him after the injury, and it showed. He got his World Cup goal off a PK, but that just might be the only one he’ll ever get with this side. I expected a little bit more, but Russia put them to bed early.
Phew. Alrighty, I think that’s all I got for you this week, I’m so pumped for this next batch of games, I don’t think it can possibly top those first ones, but it'sthe World Cup! Expect the unexpected, and I hope you all will keep watching and reading, because along with the tournament, I’m not done yet! Look out for next week’s after everyone plays their second games.