World Cup 2018 So Far - A Round-Up Of The Group Stages

World Cup 2018 So Far - A Round Up Of The Group Stages

There’s already been plenty of drama from the opening twenty-four games of the 2018 World Cup, with Morocco naming and shaming VAR, Pepe falling to the floor like there’s no tomorrow, Harry Kane reaching prolific form, and the already infamous Iran throw-in which confirmed their exit from the competition being just a handful of highlights.

As there’s been so much to talk about, we’ve taken a moment to reflect on all the goings on at the competition so far, with a view to anticipating what’s yet to come in future games:

World Cup Trophy
Who has looked the most capable of winning World Cup 2018?

Group A

Mo Salah? More like No Salah

Despite Liverpool superstar Mo Salah not making an appearance in the first game, having little to no impact in the second, and only scoring a consolation in Egypt’s shocking defeat to Saudi Arabia, there was a lot of hype surrounding last season’s Premier League Golden Boot winner. It was a difficult group to call as there were different opinions in the quality of all four sides, and it was hard to predict how strong World Cup hosts Russia could be.

Denis Cheryshev Russia World Cup 2018
Villarreal winger Denis Cheryshev is Russia's top scorer, netting three in three

The opening game of the tournament was expected to be dull as Russia took on Saudi Arabia, but the 5-0 thrashing conducted by the hosts went against the script. While Russia proved that they could capitalise from a home advantage, Uruguay became their only threat, eventually defeating them in their final Group A fixture, but it’ll be hard to disregard Stanislav Cherchesov’s men, and it’ll be interesting to see how they handle an even greater threat in playing Spain in the Round Of 16.

FA World Cup 2018 Group A

Russia were expressive and fierce in the final third but lost that mentality in their last game, which was half expected against the defensive stability of Uruguay. Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani will hope to show more reasons why they’re so highly rated throughout Europe in their upcoming tie with Portugal. Both sides possess plenty of organisation and defensive strength, so it’ll be a test of who performs better than the other as they lock horns in the Round Of 16.

Group B

A Step Too VAR

With many believing this to be Cristiano Ronaldo’s last World Cup appearance at the age of thirty-three, it’s been hoped that we’d see the best of the Real Madrid forward, and that’s certainly been the case so far. Scoring a hattrick in his opening game against Spain presented his ability to perform even as he reaches the latter part of his career, then scoring the winner in his side’s 1-0 win over Morocco, but with some still hailing Portugal as a one-man-team, it’ll be interesting to see how they, or he, copes against Uruguay.

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal Real Madrid World Cup 2018
Cristiano Ronaldo's opening game hattrick temporarily fired him into pole position as World Cup Top Scorer

Both Portugal and Spain were predicted to walk through Group B, especially after fighting tooth and nail in their opening game pitted against one another, but Portugal’s narrow 1-0 win over Morocco and Spain’s uninspiring 1-0 win over Iran saw a far less competitive side to both nations. Spain weren’t helped by manager Julen Lopetegui being relieved of his duties just one day before the World Cup started. This came after The Royal Spanish Football Federation learned of his intentions to take over at Real Madrid after the competition, but we still expected more from them.

FA World Cup 2018 Group B

Each final game had an equal level of controversy, both caused by the introduction of VAR. Morocco took the lead ahead of Spain and looked deserving of a win over the favourites but saw their hopes dashed by an equaliser from former Liverpool flop Iago Aspas. His goal ended up being onside but the time it took to judge that from the referee and his VAR team was frankly unacceptable. The same can be said for Portugal’s final game with Iran, where there were too many questionable VAR decisions to mention, not helped by a missed penalty from usually clinical Cristiano Ronaldo.

Group C

There Is Nothing Like A Dane

While France were always predicted to conquer Group C, the side who would result at the almost as desirable second place was difficult to anticipate. Peru, Denmark and Australia were in the running and all put forward their own case for qualifying to the next round - Peru defeating Australia and Australia showing signs of life in taking a hard-earned draw with Denmark - but it was Denmark who deservedly qualified behind Didier Deschamps’ France through a record of one win and two draws. Of all players for the Danes, Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Christian Eriksen lived up to the hype through achieving a goal and an assist.

Christian Eriksen Denmark Tottenham Hotspur World Cup 2018
Christian Eriksen admirably guided his side to the Round Of 16

As France were so highly rated in the run-up to the World Cup, many saw them as being capable of winning all three games by some distance but that was far from the case as they needed a penalty in order to narrowly squeeze past Australia in their first game. Their second fixture in Group C resulted as a 1-0 win, ruining any handicap bets staked by onlooking punters, who were awaiting a thrashing from France. If that wasn't already enough, their final game saw even less excitement, drawing 0-0 with Denmark, which some are claiming as the worst game of the 2018 World Cup so far.

FA World Cup 2018 Group C

After losing the 2016 European Championship on home soil, France haven’t started in the best of ways – something that can be said for a lot of the more elite nations competing at this year’s World Cup. Antoine Griezmann and Kylian Mbappe have each scored once, amounting to a total of three goals in three games, and the third goal came from an Australian own goal, so there’s clear reasons why people aren’t too excitable about their chances. France will need to overcome underperforming Argentina while Denmark face impressive Croatia in the Round Of 16, so both qualifying sides will have plenty of work to do.

Group D

Modric and Co Dominate Group D

Fans of European football were geared up for Argentina’s attempt at this World Cup due to Barcelona superstar Lionel Messi, Atalanta winger Alejandro Gomez, Manchester City’s own Sergio Aguero, and Juventus forwards Paulo Dybala and Gonzalo Higuain making up an undoubtable attacking outfit. The only issue was the imbalance in the squad from being so top-heavy, which has ended up being their downfall, as they drew their opening game with far less threatening Iceland.

Luka Modric Andrej Kramaric Real Madrid Croatia World Cup 2018
Croatia capitalised on a poor Argentina side in matchday two

While Iceland still send shivers down the spine of any England fans who recall the infamous Euro 2016 defeat, Argentina were expected to win quite significantly, but instead fell short by some distance. Their next game had every dumbfounded Argentine praying for a response until a 3-0 defeat to Croatia did the opposite. Fortunately for Jorge Sampaoli, they were able to bounce back in their final game with Nigeria, unlikely scorer Marcos Rojo netting a crucial winning goal in the eighty-sixth minute, but there’s far too many issues with this Argentina side that even the magic of Lionel Messi can’t save. They’ll be up against the tide when they take on France in the Round Of 16.

FA World Cup Group D

It's been hard to fault Croatia, who’ve been one of the only sides capable of winning all three games they’ve played at this World Cup. They’ve certainly not had it easy either, facing an overpowering Argentina, a surprisingly organised Iceland and an underdog Nigerian side. Netting seven goals in the three games they’ve played has said a lot about them, as has the fact that they’ve only conceded once, so they’re seeing a lot of interest from punters who like an outside bet for outright World Cup winner.

Group E

Neymar Brazilian Dominance

Around 20% of people who’ve backed an outright winner for the 2018 World Cup have chosen Brazil as the side they expect to lift the trophy in July. Their opening game wasn’t all to exciting, as Philippe Coutinho’s goal from distance was cancelled out by an equaliser from Hoffenheim’s Steven Zuber, resulting the game as a dull 1-1 draw. It wouldn’t have been so frustrating if it weren’t for the hype surrounding Brazil, and the credit given to them by most football fans over their immense depth of world class talent.

Philippe Coutinho Brazil Barcelona
Philippe Coutinho scored Brazil's first goal, curling a fantastic effort past Switzerland goalkeeper Yann Sommer

Despite struggling in their game with Costa Rica, Brazil managed to score two late goals to push them to the top of the table before winning their final game against Serbia by two goals to nil. Philippe Coutinho has been the most consistent attacking player with two goals to his name, so it’s hoped that star player Neymar will show more of his quality in the Round Of 16, where they go up against everyone’s favourite underdogs Mexico.

FA World Cup 2018 Group E

It was always a tough call to work out who from Switzerland, Serbia and Costa Rica would finish second to push their way into the Round Of 16 but Switzerland made the cut by just two points. Serbia were massively disappointed after winning their opening game with Costa Rica and always looking capable from the players at their disposal but losing to Switzerland in matchday two practically confirmed their fate. Switzerland will be up against Sweden in the Round Of 16, where we see one of the hardest games to call, as both sides are immensely organised and deserve it just as much as each another.

Group F

Auf Wiedersehen, Germany

Another group with a clear favourite, Group F was spearheaded by Germany, leaving a lot of football fans prepared for the current world champions to finish top with three wins from three. Die Manschafft’s opening fixture saw defeat to Mexico, turning that concept on its head, and presenting this World Cup as being far fuller of surprises than anyone had first anticipated. As Mexico found the strength and organisation to beat Germany, Sweden caused the same damage on bottom place South Korea, with Spurs winger Heung-Min Son not being enough to push his national side forward as they lost to Mexico in matchday two.

Hirving Lozano Mexico World Cup 2018
Hirving Lozano has been closely linked to Barcelona and Everton

Germany were close to a draw with Sweden before an extremely late free-kick from Toni Kroos cancelled out any chance of Joachim Low’s side going two games without a win. Group F’s third and final set of games relied on the likely outcome whereby Mexico defeated Sweden to finish top with a 100% record and Germany demolished faltering South Korea to scrape their way into the Round Of 16. Anyone betting on that outcome would find disappointment from every angle, as Sweden categorically beat Mexico 3-0 and ninety minutes of deadlock between South Korea and Germany ended in heartache for one of the tournament favourites, as two goals in stoppage time catapulted Germany out of this year’s World Cup.

FA World Cup 2018 Group F

South Korea had already failed to make it past the group stages, but they certainly set their stamp on the competition in defying the laws of the sport in stomping on the hearts of one of football’s most dangerous superpowers. Mexico will have to swiftly rebuild from their defeat to Sweden as their Round Of 16 game sees them facing current World Cup favourites Brazil, with their lively fanbase hopefully being enough to cause another big shock. Other permutations see Sweden tested against an equally as organised Switzerland.

Group G

Rock You Like A Harry Kane

It’s unsurprisingly been Group G that we’ve had the biggest interest in, as it’s where all of England’s hopes and dreams could finally come into fruition. The fifty-two-year wait has been far too long and most, if not all, England fans see a place in the final as being the bare minimum. Despite facing two of the lowest ranked sides in the competition, England beat Tunisia late on in dramatic style and thrashed Panama by six goals to one, leading to more claims that football is in fact coming home.

Harry Kane England Tottenham Hotspur World Cup 2018
Harry Kane stands as favourite to take the World Cup Golden Boot

The only issue for the Three Lions was Belgium, who had a similar record through beating Panama 3-0 and Tunisia 5-2. They’ve always been a wildcard in the competition, with lots of punters backing them to go all the way at the 12/1 odds they were gifted prior to it getting underway. Romelu Lukaku’s goalscoring efforts had him netting four goals in two games but he was thwarted by Harry Kane, who took the lead in the chase for the Golden Boot with five goals in two games, including a hattrick against Panama.

FA World Cup 2018 Group G

Meeting in the final game of Group G had a puzzling undertone, as finishing top of the group would mean that the winner of the following game in the Round Of 16 would be likely to face Brazil, making second place far more desirable. With this in mind, both Gareth Southgate and Roberto Martinez put out weakened starting elevens that were without Harry Kane, Kyle Walker, John Stones, Romelu Lukaku, Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne. A goal from former Manchester United winger Adnan Januzaj completed a 1-0 win over England but this means that England scoop their desired second place and will play Colombia in the Round Of 16. Belgium will play Japan.

Group H

A Flash In Japan

Any and all of Colombia, Japan, Senegal or Poland could have made it to the Round Of 16 prior to the tournament starting but there were some surprises from the World Cup’s final group. Poland were practically invisible throughout their fixtures, losing their first two games to Senegal and Colombia before narrowly beating Japan 1-0 when it was too late to qualify. Star player Robert Lewandowski failed to score at all, which wasn’t a usual characteristic of the Bayern Munich striker.

James Rodriguez Colombia Bayern Munich Real Madrid
It's hoped that James Rodriguez makes a swift recovery from his recent injury

After the previous World Cup saw some moments of brilliance from Colombia, it took a while for them to get involved, not helped by the red card they suffered in the opening minutes of their first game, but they made up for it with two wins from the other two games. The only concern is the fitness of midfielder James Rodriguez, who went off during the first half of their game with Senegal and could potentially miss their Round Of 16 meeting with England.

FA World Cup 2018 Group H

With one place left to claim, it was a close call between Japan and Senegal. Most neutral football fans preferred Senegal to make it to the next stage of the tournament based on their performances, but Japan marginally managed to get there through their lesser number of bookings. Japan will play Belgium in the Round Of 16, where they’ll have to fend off the likes of Lukaku, De Bruyne, Hazard and Mertens.