The first set of games in the group stage of the World Cup is now complete. Each nation will play two more games before we get to the knockout stage. There have certainly some surprises so far, including Iran, Croatia, Serbia, and Senegal sitting atop their respective groups. European teams have done very well so far while South American teams have been a bit of a disappointment. Iran and Japan were the only Asian teams to win while Senegal was the only African team to get a result. Here’s a quick rundown on some quick takeaways from the opening round of games.
– Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 defeat by Russia was a bad result, but it was still 3 goals shy of their worst opening World Cup result ever. That came in 2002 when they lost 8-0 to Germany in their opening game.
– Egypt did what they needed to for most of the game without Mo Salah, but got sloppy at the end and took some careless fouls which led to Uruguay’s only goal.
– Given that Russia already racked up a big goal differential, there will be incentive for Uruguay and Egypt to run up the score against the Saudis to try to make up the difference.
– Portugal and Spain lived up to the billing and Cristiano Ronaldo delivered a beauty of a free kick to complete his hat trick and earn a draw.
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 16, 2018
– The goal by Spain defender Nacho was being called the “goal of the tournament” until Ronaldo’s gem later in the match.
– Speaking of Nacho, Better Call Saul will be back in August.
– Iran got their second win in World Cup history thanks to an own goal from Morocco late in the match.
– VAR wasn’t talked about until we got to Group C when France was awarded a penalty kick and a goal based on video review. Both calls were correct.
– Denmark edged a tenacious Peru team and solidified their position to advance to the knockout stage.
– Peru was outstanding in the middle of the field and was creative and inventive in the final third to try to find shots but just couldn’t get that finishing touch to score.
– Peru’s Christian Cueva let Leo Messi off the hook by skying a penalty over the goal. Messi now won’t be remembered as having the worst free kick of the tournament.
– Speaking of Messi, his free kick that was blocked was decisive in Iceland holding on for a 1-1 draw against Argentina. Big changes are coming to the Argentine lineup for the second game.
– Nigeria also conceeded an own goal en route to a 2-0 loss to Croatia.
– Brazil and Switzerland are expected to be the class of Group E and played to a 1-1 draw. The big news from the Brazilian camp is the status of Neymar’s ankle injury and his availability for the rest of the tournament.
– Serbia topped Costa Rica (one of the darlings of the 2014 World Cup) to take the lead in Group E after the first set of games.
– The most surprising result of the first round was Mexico’s 1-0 victory over defending champions Germany. The curse of the “Defending Champions” patch is real.
– Belgium looked the part of a team that was favored for a deep run in the tournament with a 3-0 defeat of Panama.
– England needed a stoppage time header from Harry Kane to get past Tunisia who was playing without their leading goal-scorer.
– No one expected Senegal and Japan to be sitting atop Group H, but Colombia taking a red card in the 3rd minute and having to play 87 minutes with only 10 men went a long way to helping that.
– If you listened to our World Cup preview podcast, we talked about how Poland was too heavily reliant on Lewandowski and a tight defensive scheme could take him out of the game while Senegal had some explosiveness and could make for a surprise coming out of the group. That played out in the first match.