Who wants more of the action? This showcase so far has been unpredictable and of course exciting to the viewers, pundits and fans alike. More of this is expected as we come to the end of group stage action and move forward to the knockout stages of the competition. Congratulations to the 16 teams left and we expect a treat. Who will win it? Should we expect more upsets? Let’s take you through the five things we have learnt in Russia so far.
We must understand and appreciate the VAR system
Nordin Amrabat lets the world know what he thinks of VAR… pic.twitter.com/0ZhQHk6Av4
— Myron Naicker (@myronnaicker) June 25, 2018
This world cup has seen the VAR system in full throttle. Although it has slowed the pace of the beautiful game and its decisions have sometimes left people confused and angry(I’m talking to you Nordin Amrabat), it has helped referees make the right game changing calls which before was the problem we had with football.
It may not be perfect and a lot of neutrals have not gotten the grips of it yet but of course, a new technology takes time to settle amongst the users and patience should be exercised.
The World Cup winners curse continues
The latest victim of this is the well-known Die Mannschaft, champions of the 2014 World Cup. They will unfortunately take the next flight home after a poor showing overall in their group, their first time since 1938.
🇫🇷 1998: France WIN World Cup
🇫🇷 2002: France OUT in Group Stage
🇮🇹 2006: Italy WIN World Cup
🇮🇹 2010: Italy OUT in Group Stage
🇪🇸 2010: Spain WIN World Cup
🇪🇸 2014: Spain OUT in Group Stage
🇩🇪 2014: Germany WIN World Cup
🇩🇪 2018: Germany OUT in Group Stage pic.twitter.com/CVTtIeCzGb
— SPORF (@Sporf) June 27, 2018
After a 1-0 loss to Mexico, they fought hard to secure a last gasp 2-1 win over Sweden even after Jerome Boateng received a red card. South Korea crushed the hearts of Joachim Low’s men with two unanswered goals leaving them at the bottom of Group E.
The German fans will surely question the team selection and the style of play Low adopted.
The fact that he left Leroy Sane, EPL young player of the year last season at home does not help matters either. The players should also be disappointed with their showing and should work things out to be ready for the next international tournament.
Croatia are the main dark horses of the tournament
One could make a case for England for their impressive showing so far but make no mistake, Croatia is the team for the upsets.
With 9 points out of 9 in group D including an emphatic 3-0 win over Argentina, Croatia look set for a date with Denmark in the round of 16. Zlatko Dalic can boast of a team with very potent midfielders.
Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic, Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic will no doubt put fear into any opponent, as they have the technical abilities to dictate the tempo through the middle and with the likes of Ivan Perisic, Rebic and Pjaca on the flanks, they can be assured of a team that can cause trouble on the wings as well. They will be expected to get past Denmark and possibly go as far as the semis.
The Cristiano Ronaldo and Lionel Messi debate continues
Another tournament means another opportunity for the fans to debate on who is the greatest among them.
The debate goes the way of Cristiano Ronaldo currently with the Portuguese captain lighting up the stage with a hat trick against Spain in their opening match that ended three apiece.
Cristiano added to his tally against Morocco to secure a 1-0 victory. The final group game however was disappointing. He missed from the spot and was lucky to get away with only a yellow after elbowing an opponent.
Ronaldo must check his discipline and regain his form as he is a key player to Portugal’s hopes of going far in Russia.
Messi started with a missed penalty in a 1-1 draw with Iceland. He then looked lost in a 3-0 loss to Croatia but showed his pedigree with a sublime performance against Nigeria, capping it off with the first goal in a 2-1 victory.
Argentina and Portugal have a possible quarter final clash should they manage to beat France and Uruguay respectively and if that happens, a battle between the two legends may settle the argument once and for all.
The favourites have not impressed yet
Spain, France, Brazil and Germany were on the lips of a lot of people before the World Cup commenced. Spain managed to top their group with 5 points but they have shown a very glaring weakness, their defending.
The main deal has seen them concede 5 already and if the trend continues, they may find themselves packing soon. Didier Deschamps’ men have done enough to secure top spot in their group with 7 points with only a goal conceded.
This may make one think that France have done nothing wrong so far. Well, that is far from the case. Deschamps is seemingly struggling to find the right mix in attack.
That is a small figure considering the big talent they have at their disposal. Brazil are slowly getting into a rhythm after the 1-1 draw against Switzerland in the opening match.
Tite’s men now have consecutive 2-0 victories against Costa Rica and Serbia. Neymar and co can offer so much more and they will have that chance against Mexico in the round of 16.