2018 FIFA World Cup: Group stages round up

Distraught German fans watch as their team is defeated
  1. The German’s Have Fallen

Recent history would tell us not to be shocked that the defending champions struggled. France in 2002, Italy in 2010, and Spain in 2014 were all defending champions and they all failed to qualify beyond the group stages.

However, this is Germany and no one expected this.

Before the tournament, Germany’s head coach, Joachim Low, stated that the Germans needed to ‘reinvent themselves’ as they were being ‘found out’ by other teams. Seems their hand will be forced to do just that now as German Football looks at ways to bounce back from this humiliation.

  1. Argentina’s sneak through

The Argentinians had left a lot to be desired during the group stage of the competition, then somehow managed to sneak through at the last minute. Croatia’s victory over Iceland was exactly what Argentina needed to make it through to the next round, but they played poorly and almost didn’t make it anyway.

That goal meant heartbreak for Africa. Nigeria was the better side for large parts of the contest, but the late Marcos Rojo goal ensured Argentina’s progress at the expense of Nigeria.

Don’t bet against Argentina going all the way now, momentum and belief can galvanize this squad.

The Argentina team celebrates their win
  1. So close, yet so very far for Africa

Another World Cup, another poor display from African teams. Although there have been some spirited displaces, namely Morocco against Spain and Nigeria against Argentina, African teams once again failed to progress beyond the group stage of the competition.

Many of these African players ply their trade across Europe’s most elite leagues, yet when it comes time to put out for the national team, there always seems to be an air of inevitability.

There has been one tournament hosted on African soil in the 20 edition history of the FIFA World Cup, one might ask how long we should have to wait for an African team to finally lift the trophy.

Egypt’s Mohammed Salah left the tournament after Egypt and Saudi Arabia failed to qualify from their group
  1. Dark horses setting the Pace

Croatia, Belgium, England and host nation Russia have all been the clear pace setters of the tournament, with Croatia making the biggest statement with their 3- 0 thumping of Argentina.

All of them managed to qualify comfortably from their groups, but now comes the time when the big questions will be asked.

The time has come to find out if they are genuine contenders or constant pretenders.

  1. The Role of VAR

We would love to keep our talking points to strictly football matters, but it would be impossible at this stage not to mention the effect of the VAR system at this tournament.

For those who don’t know, VAR stands for ‘Video Assistant Referee’ and this is the first FIFA World Cup that it is being used. The controversy is rife, with many players and pundits concerned that the system is robbing the essence of the sport.

Whichever way you see it, as the stakes grow, so will criticism by those who fall on the wrong side of it.

 

PICK OF THE NEXT ROUND

  1. Spain v Russia (probably the biggest)

The hosts will be inspired and determined. Spain has failed to get out of second gear during group stages. If Spain don’t find those other gears quickly, they could be joining Germany.

  1. France v Argentina

All eyes are still on Messi. If they win this contest and Portugal overcome Uruguay, then it will be Messi v Ronaldo in the quarters. And everyone wants to see that.

 

FULL FIXTURES AND LISTINGS
Saturday

(16h00) – France v Argentina

(20h00) – Uruguay v Portugal

Sunday

(16h00) – Spain v Russia

(20h00) – Croatia v Denmark

Monday

(16h00) – Brazil v Mexico

(20h00) – Belgium v Japan

Tuesday

(16h00) – Sweden v Switzerland

(20h00) – England v Columbia