Come to think of this. After five days of football extravaganza in Russia, Argentina, Brazil, Germany and Spain together have the same number of points as Iran — 3.
It’s true that the World Cup is all about expecting the unexpected. The stage brings out the best out of the minnows. This edition has seen big teams flounder in the first group matches. The possibility of one of the juggernauts missing the knockout stages looms large.
Here, we look at how the big names stuttered in their first matches in Russia.
Argentina had dominated for the major part of the match against a stout Icelandic defence, but faced difficulties in the final third. The team looked like Manchester United under Loius van Gaal in the first half. Move ahead, side pass and slow the tempo to concentrate on possession. Lionel Messi missed a penalty. It was evident that he was low on confidence. Well, bad day in office? But that raises questions about the approach of the rest of the team.
Despite having 78 percent of possession, the 1-1 tie was really quite equitable. Iceland proved the doubters wrong and snatched a point. The Icelanders enjoyed every bit of it. Oh, and the Viking claps!
It’s almost as if everybody knew that the ball would go in even before Cristiano Ronaldo struck it. The Spanish players stood still as the ball went past David de Gea. Poetry in motion. That goal was enough to secure a point for Portugal against a strong Spanish squad.
Just 48 hours before the tournament, coach Julen Lopetegui was sacked by the Spanish Federation after Real Madrid announced that Lopetegui will take charge of the club post World Cup. Instead, it made atypical mistakes and struggled to command the game.
On a night when Brazil were cruising, the Neymar-led side didn’t do enough to vanquish the seemingly beatable Switzerland, settling for a 1-1 tie. While the five-time champions demonstrated their attacking intent, they struggled to make the most of their chances. Neymar, Willian, Roberto Firmino and Philippe Coutinho — even though he scored the opener — fluffed their lines.
Switzerland, like Iceland, snatched a point from under the nose of Tite’s men.
Did you see that coming? What was wrong with Germany’s midfield? Wait, where was the midfield?
The Germans lost their opening match in 36 years. Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos, 2014 World Cup champions, were outpaced by the Mexicans. Hector Herrera put up a 'Man of the Match' performance to embarrass the Germans as the Nationalmannschaft defenders – Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels – failed to match up to Mexico’s counter-attacks. El Tri keeper Ochoa – the 'Mexican Wall' – proved to be too strong for Timo Werner and Julian Draxler. Thomas Muller was wasteful on the right flank
Mexico, on their part, exceeded expectations. The young Hirving Lozano scored the only goal of the match, as the Mexican fans caused a minor earthquake. Did you see that coming?
Firstpost is now on WhatsApp. For the latest analysis, commentary and news updates, sign up for our WhatsApp services. Just go to Firstpost.com/Whatsapp and hit the Subscribe button.
Updated Date: Jun 19, 2018 17:01:22 IST