Each team in this year’s World Cup has officially played their first game of the tournament, and it’s been absolutely nothing short of pure entertainment. Why? Most of the teams favourited to actually win the World Cup have not been successful, underdogs are playing superior, and late, dramatic goals are taking the stage.
Everyone loves a good underdog and cinderella story, as there usually is at least one in every major international tournament, but what if there were multiple cinderella stories? It’s still early, but as of right now, many teams that most put money on to qualify out of their groups are either currently last, or in a position where their last two matches are absolutely must wins.
Are the favourited teams walking into matches too confidently and taking these teams way too lightly, or have the less superior sides been playing for their lives? We haven’t seen upsets of this magnitude in quite a while, so let’s analyze, group by group, the events that have taken place so far.
Russia came out in the opening match of the tournament and absolutely dominated Saudi Arabia, welcoming them with a 5-0 thrashing. Uruguay, who were the clear group favourites, opened up their campaign against Egypt, with their best player Mohammed Salah sitting on the bench for that one, it took the side with Edinson Cavani and Luis Suarez leading the line until the 89th minute to bag a winner, as Atletico defender José Giménez scored a bullet header at the death to earn three points. Russia and Uruguay look the favourites to get out of Group A right now, but much can change over the next week.
Betting men all over the world definitely had Spain and Portugal advancing from this group. However, Iran pulled off a shock result in their opener against Morocco, with the Moroccans scoring an own goal off a set-piece in injury time to give the Iranians the 3 points. The clash of the heavyweights Spain and Portugal ended in a draw after Cristiano Ronaldo and Diego Costa brilliance, so the group is completely wide open.
After France, the last three sides are all relatively even and all three could pull off a few shock results to advance to the knockout rounds. France opened up against Australia, who absolutely gave them a run for their money. After swapping goals from the penalty spot, Paul Pogba sealed the deal for the French team (though it was awarded as an own goal) in the 81st minute to secure 3 points, but it was far from easy. If the Australians can give France a run, they have a great chance of sneaking in with positive results against Denmark or Peru.
Are the Argentines contenders, or pretenders? Messi’s team opened up against Euro 2016 cinderella story Iceland, who held the South Americans to a draw in the opener, which was a huge result for them and completely opens up the group’s structure. Since Croatia did the business against Nigeria winning comfortably, Argentina are now in must win mode and cannot drop any more points. Some may call this group the “group of death”, as any of the four teams can realistically qualify.
Another group classified as a potential “group of death.” The results in the first round of matches proved it. Brazil, who had all the odds to beat Switzerland, drew 1-1 and had no way past Yan Sommer in goal. Serbia beat Costa Rica to really open the group up. The Costa Ricans were the headline story in the 2014 World Cup after beating Uruguay and Italy in their group, so with two matches left you cannot count them out either. Favourites Brazil cannot drop anymore points either in their last two matches.
Might be the most nuts results so far of all. Mexico, who probably came into the tournament thinking they would start the summer with a loss, came out with a shock victory over World Champions Germany. However, the credit is all to Mexico, they were absolutely fantastic and played without fear against the Germans, and came out with a victory that might just give them that hope to qualify to the knockout stages. With Sweden beating South Korea as well, if the Germans drop any points to Sweden in a few days, their tournament will most likely be over.
No upsets so far in this group. Tunisia and Panama are far below in terms of quality behind England and Belgium, and with both countries picking up victories, it looks like the only thing left to be determined will be the seeding of the two strong sides. Belgium scored all three goals in the second half against Panama, and Tunisia took England till the 90th minute, where Harry Kane scored his second to bring crucial points home. Anything could happen, but no upsets here yet.
Crazy results so far. Coming into the tournament, most would say that it looks a pretty strong group, but Colombia and Poland would be the favourites. Well, those two teams both lost their opening matches to Japan and Senegal respectively! Since they both sit with 0 points, it’s very likely that only one of them will get in now. It all depends on the match between the two strong countries next week, as one could end the other’s tournament. Could we see Japan and Senegal top Group H, are they the cinderella stories this year? Time will tell.
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