The first round of matches in the FIFA World Cup 2018 is over. And it’s been not as expected.
Here’s a snapshot:
Rankings Don’t Matter
If the first round of games is an indication, the top-ranked teams face a stiff challenge. Among the top 10 teams, only two—third-ranked Belgium and No. 4 France—managed to win their first game. Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Argentina and Switzerland had to contend with a draw, while the defending champions and the world’s No. 1 Germany team lost their first game to Mexico.
If the heavyweights are finding it tough in Russia, the minnows seem to be enjoying themselves. Iceland went toe-to-toe with Argentina and came away with a point; Mexico stunned Germany; Iran is leading a group that has Spain and Portugal; Japan became the first Asian side to beat a South American team; and Senegal became the first African team to win after beating Poland in the opening encounter.
Mixed Start For The Stars
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo showed why he is one of the biggest names in the sport with a hat-trick against Spain. Antoine Griezmann was quick to get off the mark for France while Belgian Romelu Lukaku scored for Belgium against Panama. Luka Modric successfully ran midfield for Croatia and Harry Kane was England’s saviour in their win over Tunisia.
But among those finding it hard to get a foothold in Russia is Argentina captain Lionel Messi, who missed a penalty against Iceland that would have won the game. Poland striker Robert Lewandowski was kept quiet against Senegal, while Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, was battered in his opening game against Switzerland. Spanish goalkeeper David deGea had a night to forget against Portugal, and German midfielder Mesut Ozil was unable to unlock Mexico’s defence.
No Shortage Of Goals
The first round of matches at the World Cup saw 38 goals scored so far. Only the 2002 World Cup in Korea and Japan, and the 2014 World Cup in Brazil saw more goals in the first round. There has also not been a goalless draw in the first round for the first time since 1994.
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Gift To Opposition
The first round has seen five self-goals—the highest since 1998 and just one short of the record.
Watch Out For VAR
FIFA introduced Video Assistant Referee, or VAR, for the Russia World Cup. It allowed the referee check replays during the game. Three penalty decisions given after a VAR review in the first set of matches. Referees have also booked players for fouls after watching replays.