The journey so far
An opening Saudi rout, a 3-star Ronaldo, a Messi miss, Brazilian frustration, rusty German machine and a continental Senegalese win. Russia 2018 has surely began on a mixed bag note; results coming as predicted, some disrespecting forecast, plenty goals and Video Assistant Referee, VAR palava.
The pick of the opening round of group games has to be Portugal vs Spain. It’s a fixture fit for the final and really lived up to the billing. A 6-goal thriller, the game had everything and matched its star parade with a befitting contest. Ronaldo’s hat trick calling Spain’s bluff and bettering Diego Costa’s brace.
Ronaldo’s goals gave his fans bragging rights over his rival Messi’s. Newcomers Iceland were supposed to be pushovers for Argentina. However, they would peg Messi and co back after going down to Aguero’s goal. The little magician would miss a penalty and come in for criticism once more. Argentina as a team must sit up.
Brazil. Tite’s men endured a tough night after what seemed like a cruising time for them. Coutinho’s wonder goal upped their confidence and it was a matter of time until the game was wrapped up. The Seleçao then took their foot off the gas and attempted showboating with a couple of flicks. They were hard done though by the equaliser. Miranda was clearly pushed prior to the headed goal as both ref and VAR went blind. Neymar must rethink his style.
Defending champs Germany fell to Mexico, the best side of the round for me. The Mexicans have proven to be a bogey side for the big guys. They exuded discipline and executed a well though out game plan. Jogi Löw’s team just couldn’t break a compact unit with any move and had to endure a frustrating evening. My critique for him having left out Leroy Sane is gathering reason.
Belgium recorded a routine 3-0 win over Panama with a goal from Napoli’s Mertens and a brace from Lukaku. It’s a confidence-boosting start for Roberto Martinez’s side, a team with the ability to win the title if it were won based on just human resource. In a repeat or revenge fixture, Colombia and Japan played an exciting game and the latter got their revenge with a 2-1 win. The South Americans have their work cut out for them.
From Africa, Nigeria paid the price of too much respect for Croatia and lost 0-2. They lacked the guts to invade opponent territory and kept possessing in their half. Egypt lost 0-1 to an Uruguayan side that was not at its best, without their recuperating talisman Mo Salah. Morocco scored an agonizing own goal in the dying embers to lose 0-1 to Iran. The Atlas Lions, as they’re called played well and didn’t deserve such an anticlimax. Tunisia went down 1-2 to England thanks to Harry Cane’s double. It would take Senegal to record Africa’s first win at the World Cup. The “Terranga Lions” beat Poland 2-1 to whole continent’s joy. You saw the determination to win in their play and it paid off.
Russia hammered Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opener, France beat Australia 2-1 and Sweden urged South Korea 1-0. 38 goals in the first round of group games promise a goal fest in the offing. For those rejoicing at the limping or falling of some giants, let them remember that the World Cup is a marathon and not a 100m race.
Yours in the beautiful game