Kia Ora and welcome to my first review on the FIFA world cup, this is where I will share my opinion on how the 2018 FIFA World cup is playing out also I’ll let you in on my current predictions on who will progress to the world cup round of 16. I will be upload after every group stage round then we will move forward with the round of 16, QFs etc.
Alright let’s get started from the beginning,
Russia hosting the World cup finals for the first time in history. The opening game being Russia vs Saudi Arabia with Robbie Williams as the opening act, there wasn’t much appeal to the average Joe, but there I was sitting in my lounge at 2am with the tv blasting and all rugged up and to my surprise we were not left disappointed. The opening ceremony got underway, the great Robbie Williams captivating the crowd with his performance, then next thing you know he’s swearing on live TV and flicking the camera the bird! True rock star fashion. Anyway back to the football, the host nation vs Saudi Arabia, in my opinion not the greatest match to kick things off but I was calling a close one because of their low world rankings (Russia 70th,Saudi Arabia 67th) but yet again for the second time in the same night my judgement was somehow completely off! The host nation opened the eyes of the world when they broke the deadlock in just the 12th minute, then continuing on to ruthlessly put the game to bed by scoring 5 unanswered goals! Winning the fixture 5-0. Statement made, Russia isn’t here to make up numbers.
I’m going to cast your minds back to November last year, this is when FIFA hosted the ceremony to draw the pools for the upcoming world cup. Early into the night we stumbled upon group B, The current European champions, Portugal were drawn first and their neighbouring country and 2010 Fifa World cup winners, Spain, were next! Only meaning one thing, we were about to have an all-time classic game on our hands. I would say this was the most anticipated game of the world cup group stages and the Russians were even kind enough to place the game at 6am NZT (Unlike the other not so favourable time slots such as 12am or 3am). So here I am once again but this time sharing my excitement with millions of people all across the world as we see the greatest player of all time step onto the pitch for what will be his last ever world cup finals. Knowing Ronaldo had never beaten a Spanish goalkeeper the whistle blows and we are underway, 3rd minute of the game Ronaldo has a charging run into the box and is brought down inside by his Real Madrid team mate Nacho. Here it is 3 minutes of gameplay and Ronaldo has the opportunity to put his nation in the lead and break the voodoo of scoring against the Spanish and to be fair he did what you expect a player like him to do, calm and collected, puts it past David De Gea with ease sending him the wrong way and putting Portugal in the lead. Some would say this was just the start of what people were calling “The Ronald show” but it’s not all smooth sailing. After 24 minutes Atheleco Madrid striker, Diego Costa, scored a solo goal out of the top draw, muscling Pepe off the ball, having some fun in the box, beating two Portuguese defenders to then slot it past the man between the sticks to make it 1-1. The game went back and forth, both teams desperately battling for the halftime lead. During the 44th minute the ball falls to Ronaldo’s feet, he powers a shot at the Spanish number 1 and makes a crucial error parrying the ball into the net allowing Portugal to take the lead into halftime. An attacking Spanish team came out in the second half a lot like the first but a flat looking Portugal content with their lead blew the advantage. Goals came from Nacho and a second for Costa. I still felt Portugal could still get something from this game but time wore on and Spain looked in control until a class Ronaldo touch drew a foul in his most dangerous position, in front of goal. Even cooler than his penalty he steps up to the free kick gliding like a butterfly on the tips of his toes , he bends the ball over a jumping wall and into the back of the net for this 51st career hattrick and also what happened to be the world cups 51st goal. The Game ends 3-3 and what we have just witnessed will forever be an all-time great World cup fixture.
Other Results from Day two:
Egypt 0 Uruguay 1
Marocco 0 Iran 1
France 2 Australia 1
Sunday at the World cup was smooth sailing with Peru taking on Denmark in the first game of the day. I had Denmark to win this game purely because I wasn’t convinced with Peru’s performance when here in New Zealand. Their New Zealand stint left them going home still yet to secure their world cup placing which was concerning for me, having to play in Russia away from home, how would they go? 30,000 Peruan fans were left disappointed at the Mordovia Arena as their team went down 1-0.
In this round there was the first real upset of the world cup, some would say the Iceland fairy tale continues. Taking on Lionel Messi’s Argentina most thought this should be a walk in the park! As the world ranked 5th team took on new comers to the world cup ranked 22nd I was thinking the same thing. But it wasn’t to be, the game ended 1-1. Goals coming from Manchester city forward Sergio Aguero for Argentina and Alfred Finnbogason for Iceland. The game didn’t go without it’s missed chances, In the 64th minute , the man himself went down in the box and a penalty was awarded, this was Messi’s moment (side note: I think this could be the moment where Ronaldo may have etched himself ahead of Messi but that’s a conversation for another day) to give his nation the lead, but in his way, an Icelandic goalkeeper saved the penalty to keep the scores level, not bad for a film director.
The Final game to feature this Sunday morning saw Croatia take on Nigeria. A very talented looking Croatian team that I think could be a serious dark horse in this competition outshone and out classed the Nigerians. Putting them down 2-0, scoring an own goal courtesy of Etebo. Luka Modric, Skipper, Luca Modirc is in my opinion the best midfielder in the world and he did not disappoint, he stood up to the spot and effortlessly buried the ball into the net.
Remember the day June 18th 2018. This right here is why we have these types of events and why people love watching the drama of the FIFA world cup. Some of the world’s greatest exports were on show today; there was a sense of redemption in the air for one of the teams, the talent riddled Brazilian team after their 2014 embarrassments. When I made my pre world cup predictions, I made the risky choice of not putting this team in my final 4 and after today I think I made the right choice. Brazil played Switzerland, the second seed in the group but for a team with the quality of Brazil this should have been a walk in the park. Brazil failed to hit the target after receiving so many opportunities. Philippe Coutinho provided a sensational goal from distance in the 20th minute but an even better comeback corner was scored by the Swiss Midfielder, headering the ball into the back of the net. The game finishes and Brazil have had another world cup nightmare. Round three once again provided an upset but not the kind that will be talked about for years to come. In this fixture sits the defending world cup champions, the heavy favourites to go back to back, Germany. Germany have a squad which easily stacks up man to man with the Brazilian squad. The German team took on Mexico who are world ranked 15. Yet another game where I thought the outcome would be a no brainer win, but yet again this 2018 world cup provides surprise after surprise. The magic that sealed the game for the Mexicans was when West Ham and former Manchester United striker Chicharito broke through the middle, sliding a ball down the left for Hirving Lozano to beat a player continuing on to strike the ball past the German Keeper. Not often do days like this happen in world cup but today marks a day in history.
Other results from Day Four:
Costa Rica 0 Serbia 1
A normal world cup day, well for English fans anyway. “This is our year” if you have never heard this all too common quote escape the lips of a proud English Man or woman the you’re not a true football fan. England took on world ranked 21, Tunisia, in their first round fixtures. England boasts a very young and good looking squad headed by skipper and 3 time premier league golden boot winner Harry Kane. Kane, who had never scored for England in a major tournament, had the high expectation to produce the breakthrough England needed. Kane answered the call scoring his first goal in the 11th minute and breaking the bunny. Then the English fans worst nightmare came true, referee Wilmar Roldan awarded the Tunisians a spot kick in the 35th minute where Ferjani Sassi put it past England keeper, Jordan Pickford. As time wore on, myself, along with most of the world thought “Great! Another England choke!” but no, it wasn’t to be because the man himself, Harry Kane, headed England into the lead early into extra time, the 91st minute in fact securing all points for the Three Lions and avoiding yet another world cup disappointment.
The rest of the round ran smoothly with Belgium coming up against a world cup debutant in panama. The class of Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku was just too much. With Lukaku scoring a brace, Dries Mertens scoring a sublime 47th minute volley to originally give Belgium the lead. The Belgium team is my favourite to go on and win the competition, although they are known to fall short at major tournaments so it will be interesting to keep tabs on how they go, I feel Lukaku will end with golden boot.
Group H is the final group on display for week one of the FIFA world cup and I personally believe this is the most competitive group from top to bottom (Colombia, Poland, Japan, Senegal), Why you may ask? Well simple, all four teams stack up fairly evenly compared to the other pools we have seen so far. Japan find themselves with the lowest FIFA ranking within this pool, sitting at 61st whilst the other nations sit comfortably inside the top 30. It was another day of unpredictable results in Russia with both top seeds in the pool failing to gain any points. Many are hailing the two games in this group to be upsets, as I said earlier this is a very competitive pool and any result wouldn’t shock me. Lining up on Wednesday, South America’s Colombia had promised so much heading into this tournament but within 3 minutes the Colombians had instantly put themselves on the back foot. Midfielder Carlos Sanchez was given his marching orders for stopping a sure goal for the Japanese side by handling the ball in the area, the first of many red cards for the 2018 World Cup. Time and time again in this tournament a star player has the opportunity to put his nation one step closer to achieving the ultimate goal of progression to the round of 16, but ultimately falling short. Unlike Messi, the Japanese man sent the Colombian goalie the wrong way and put his nation in the lead after just 3 minutes of world cup action. Colombia worked hard to get a grip on the game but it’s never easy with 10 men. A lot of the play went through Striker Falcao but to no avail, until finally in the 36th minute he’s brought down right out the area by Makoto Hasebe, up steps River Plate midfielder, Juan Quintero, with one of the cheekiest and smartest free kicks you’ll see at this world cup. Quintero powered the ball under a 5-man jumping Japanese wall to put it into the goal. Both teams traded attacking blows in the second half with Japan making the most of their possession (61.2%) by scoring off a well worked corner through Yuya Osako and giving the Asian nation the lead which they held onto and closing the game out to win 2-1.
Round of 16 predictions after week 1.
France vs Argentina
Russia vs Spain
Portugal vs Uruguay
Croatia vs Argentina
Brazil vs Germany
Belgium vs Poland
Mexico vs Switzerland
Japan vs England
Upsets, Goals and Ronaldo were the headlines of week one at the FIFA world cup. Personally, I’m loving the world cup so far because of the unpredictable results that have been happening along with the amount of quality goals scored by some of the best athletes in the world.
Thank you for reading and don’t be shy to give me your opinion of how things are shaping up. Catch you same time next week for week twos instalment.