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FIFA World Cup 2018: Round 1 - Underdogs’ Day Out

These Shockers have occurred in Round 1 itself, meaning we could have one of the most open World Cups in recent times.

AR
Last updated: 22.06.2018
Underdogs day out in FIFA World Cup | Sports Social Blog

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The FIFA World Cup never ceases to amaze. Every 4 years, moments of brilliance, thrills, and shocks take place on international football’s biggest stage when least expected. Hence, the results that top teams got out of the very first round of games in this year’s World Cup, which fans are still finding hard to digest, come as no surprise to a seasoned football spectator.
However, what differentiates this World Cup from its past editions is the fact that these shockers have occurred in Round 1 itself, meaning we could have one of the most open World Cups in recent times.


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It began with Argentina vs Iceland game. Though fans did expect Iceland to pose quite a threat to the Albiceleste, it was expected that Lionel Messi and company would get the job done, and Sergio Aguero’s brilliant opening goal a little before 20 minutes of Argentine dominance only elaborated that stance further. However, Iceland clawed their way back less than 5 minutes later with a goal after a mad scramble inside the box to leave the game wide open again. For the rest of the game, Argentina continued to dominate with Messi initiating quite a few attacks, but the South Americans wasted chance after chance before finally receiving a penalty shortly after half-time. However, Messi’s resulting spot-kick was clawed away by Hannes Haldorsson to keep Iceland level. Another string of chances followed, only for Iceland’s tall and effective bus to clear the dangerous balls away each time, as Argentina shared the spoils at full-time in a match where they would have expected to grab all 3 points. A lot of the criticism has to be directed towards Jorge Sampaoli, the Albiceleste’s largely misfiring coach, who had neither prepared a Plan B nor taken Iceland’s height factor into consideration. The Argentines looked diminutive in front of their opponents and their long balls and corners were easily cleared away. Furthermore, Messi’s woes from the penalty spot and lack of support for him from his talented, but inconsistent teammates, didn’t help Argentina’s cause. Another tactical error was the ploy to start Angel di Maria and Lucas Biglia, who had rather ordinary 2017-18 seasons with their clubs, ahead of Paulo Dybala and Ever Banega. The latter did come on as a substitute and his arrival did seem to provide more chances and choices to Argentina, but it was too little too late.



Second up, was Germany’s absolutely shocking defeat to Mexico. In a match that was touted to be a clash between the teams vying for top spot in their group, the World Champions fell flat on their face. They lacked flair, consistency and the lethal finishing they displayed in Brazil 4 years ago. Hirving Lozano scored the sole goal in an end-to-end game where Mexico could’ve easily scored at least 2 more goals on the counter. El Tri blocked out the German attack and kept the midfield out of the attacking third for most of the game. Toni Kroos, Julian Draxler, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller are all celebrated and talented players, but on the day, they hovered between average and below-average performances. Marco Reus infused some much-needed pace along with Joshua Kimmich, who was one of Germany’s best players on the night, but it wasn’t enough against a Mexican defense that had clearly done its homework. Not only was the Mexican attack, led by Javier Hernandez, extremely quick on the counter, their midfield kept possession extremely well and suffocated the Germans, without giving any of their midfielders any space. It was a deserved win for El Tri, and a tough loss to take for Die Mannschaft and their fans.


Finally, we have Brazil’s unexpected draw against Switzerland. The Brazil side, filled with energy and an enormous quantity of talent, was expected to breeze past their group, but the 1-1 draw against the Swiss has only made it that bit harder. Philippe Coutinho curled one in from outside the box to give Brazil the lead on 20 minutes, but the Swiss hit back after half-time, with Brazil making forays into the attacking third but failing to do enough to seriously test the goalkeeper. After the leveler, the South Americans continued to attack, but the team comprising several stars in Gabriel Jesus, Neymar Jr., Willian and others just couldn’t find a way through a determined Swiss defense. Neymar Jr. to seems to have picked up an injury in the game after having been fouled a record 10 times in the game against Switzerland, with reports coming out that he was not fully fit when he took the field for the match. The draw is bound to hurt the South Americans because of this team, considered to be among the strongest in all the title challengers, disappointed on the night, with a weak and unsteady performance. They will definitely hope to fill all the holes in the team strategy and win their next two games, while the Swiss will consider this draw a win of sorts. The result meant this is the first time ever in a World Cup that all of Argentina, Brazil, and Germany have failed to win their opening matches.

So, at the end of Round 1, only France and Uruguay out of the top teams managed to grab wins, both rather unconvincingly. While France needed some magic from Paul Pogba to get them all 3 points against Australia, a largely ineffective Uruguay, with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani bundling way too many chances, required Jose Maria Gimenez to head in a set piece in the 89th minute to get off to a winning start against a Salah-less Egypt. Cristiano Ronaldo’s spectacular hat-trick for Portugal canceled out goals from Diego Costa (2) and Nacho for Spain in the most pulsating encounter of the first round, as both teams settled for a share of the spoils after a 3-3 draw.

In Image: Romelu Lukaku

Belgium, another team expected to go some distance in the tournament, came out with the most convincing win out of the top teams with a 3-0 thrashing of Panama, while England left it late to beat Tunisia 2-1 in another unconvincing victory where they struggled to get their game plan together for most of the 90 minutes. The first round popped up plenty of surprises and it will not be unfair to say that there could be more to come before the knockout stages. What will happen next is unknown, but it is clear that we are in for one of the most exciting World Cups!

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