The first round of matches has been played in the World Cup and there have been some huge surprises, but also some very standard results that fans would have expected.
The usual suspects, like Brazil, France, England and Portugal, have hit the ground running, but the likes of Germany, who won it all in 2014, have given themselves a mountain to climb to make it to the next round.
Here are some of the main points after the first round of matches
Qatar with unwanted records
It’s no secret there’s an abundance of issues surrounding the Qatar World Cup and from a soccer perspective, you would think the home advantage would work in the Qatari’s favour.
Qatar became the first host nation to be eliminated from the competition before playing their final group game. It is a record that follows them after becoming the first host to lose their opening match.
The book is closed on Qatar’s World Cup story. The team did not impress in the first game, but they did improve in the second game, where they scored and the home crowd erupted; however, they lost to Senegal. It will go down as one of the most uninspiring displays from a host team in the history of the tournament.
Defending champions threatening a repeat
France secured their path to the knockout stages after their win against Denmark on Saturday. Kylian Mbappe, the golden-boy of French football, scored twice to get them over the line against a solid Danish defence.
They became the first team to secure their path to the knockout rounds and it seems fitting they have broken the “World Cup curse,” where the current holders have been eliminated in the group stage in the last three tournaments.
There is an aura about France that has a sense of inevitability about it. They did not start either of their matches well but managed to score six goals over those matches. They are trying to become the first team to win back-to-back World Cups since Brazil, who won in 1958 and then in 1962.
Canada’s crash course with Croatia
Canada’s first appearance in the World Cup in 36 years provided some hope for the fans. The Canadians outplayed Belgium with analysts and Belgian players admitting that they deserved to lose the match. The problem for Les Rouges was that they could not get the ball into the net despite creating a plethora of chances in the box.
Following the Belgium game, Canada coach John Herdman said, to put it nicely, that they were going to “go and F Croatia” in their next match. This comment was not well received by the media, and Croatian coach Zlatko Dalic responded by saying that he thinks his team deserves more respect.
The magnitude of this match cannot be understated as both teams need the three points. The comments have added an extra spice to the contest and we will have to wait and see the result.
Upsets or flukes?
When Saudi Arabia beat Argentina 2-1, the whole world was left shocked. The favourites for the tournament were beaten by minnows whom no one even gave a thought to getting out of the group. There was much doom and gloom surrounding the defeat, with many wondering if Argentina would be knocked out in the group stage.
Up stepped Lionel Messi to score the opening goal against Mexico on Nov. 26 to guide Argentina to their first win in Qatar. Argentina is in a much better position to progress in the competition after their horrendous start.
Germany, on the other hand, are staring elimination in the face when they take on Spain Nov. 27. The Germans were beaten by an inspired, comeback performance from Japan and the Japanese fully deserved the win. Spain, meanwhile, only managed to score seven against Costa Rica, a game which they could have had a lot more.
It is a make or break game for Germany. If they lose to Spain they would have been knocked out of the last two tournaments in the group stage. This would not be a good reflection on German soccer or maybe it would just prove that the loss to Japan should have been less of a surprise.
Who are the favourites so far?
Every team has played so far and some have been more impressive than others. France is the only team that has qualified for the next round so far, but only because they have played two matches before most other teams.
Brazil will have to make do without Neymar as he rests an ankle injury that he picked up against Serbia. Brazil’s squad is deep enough to compete and even without Neymar, they still are a force to be reckoned with.
The other teams that have impressed are Spain, Portugal, Argentina and England. With the next round of matches coming up, there is still room for more surprises that can turn the whole tournament upside down.