The first week of Group Stage battles at the 2018 World Cup is almost in the books. Already, some surprises have occurred. One major surprise, Germany losing to Mexico 0 to 1, could end up as the biggest surprise in the World Cup. How did the Mexicans beat the Germans in what some are already calling one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history?
I get into that. I also get into some of the more interesting things that have so far occurred in this World Cup, including Messi showing that he doesn’t necessarily enjoy taking penalty kicks, Ronaldo proving that he might be the best player on the planet right now, and the Belgians throwing down the gauntlet.
2018 World Cup Update: Ronaldo Shines, Messi and Germany Bomb
Ronaldo Gets a Hat Trick Versus Spain…Yes, Spain!
Ronaldo absolutely rocked it in Portugal’s first World Cup Russia match. Although the Portuguese could do no better than to tie Spain, Ronaldo showed that he, not Messi, might be the greatest soccer player of all time. Christiano scored a hat trick versus one of the favorites to take home the World Cup trophy.
Two of the goals were due to fouls. That shouldn’t take away from the greatness he showed on his second goal, a simple grounder at the top of the box. To me, the goal resembled the type of slight slider that puts the batter to sleep just enough to sneak past him for a strike. That’s the brilliance of Ronaldo.
The third goal, via a penalty kick, wasn’t your average penalty kick. Ronaldo hit an amazing curve around the wall. He struck that slider right into the top right corner of the net. If the second goal was a slight slider, the third goal was a straight up Chris Sale end your night slider. That’s how great Ronaldo is. Check out highlights here.
…But, Spain Also Looked Good
Let’s not forget that for Ronaldo’s late match heroics, the Spanish had the win in the bag. Spain controlled the entire match. The great Isco is the reason why. He played the game as beautifully as it could be played. Diego Costa, who was a question mark to start, scored 2 goals.
Going back to Isco, he thinks ahead like a chess master. With Isco, the Spanish appear suited to at least march to the World Cup Semifinals. Right now, they look like the World Cup winners. The big question was how Julen Lopetegui might change Spain’s strategy. He did so much, or so little, that Spain scored an awesome 3 goals versus one of the better defenses in Europe.
Portugal might be a quarterfinal team. Not bad for a squad that so evidently relies on a single player for its offensive production. Portugal must improve on the defensive end. After Ronaldo knocked in the first goal, a penalty kick on what I thought might have been a phantom foul, Portugal should have at least played Spain to a 1 to 1 tie.
First, let’s get the bad out of the way surrounding Argentina’s 1 to 1 draw with Iceland. Lionel Messi is still one of the Top 5 greatest soccer players of all time. He always will be. What he’s done on the pitch can never be taken from him. However, all he had to do was knock in a penalty kick in the late stages for Argentina to get the win over Iceland. He didn’t. Messi missed a penalty kick.
So, Messi isn’t the guy to take penalty kicks? No worries. Argentina played well versus what I believe is one of the very best defensive teams in the World Cup. I’m not holding Messi’s missed penalty kick against him. Argentina didn’t push too much to get themselves into bad positions while they were patient enough on offense to score a goal versus Iceland.
It should get easier from here. There’s some in fighting going on with Croatia while Nigeria isn’t good enough to touch Argentina.
Germany Bombs Bigger than Messi
Messi missing the penalty kick was awful. It wasn’t nearly as awful as Germany losing straight up 0 to 1 to Mexico. Think about it. The Mexicans have never advanced passed the Group Stage. Up until a couple of weeks ago, Germany was favored at +450 to win the World Cup. The Germans didn’t just lose a soccer match. They lost to Mexico!
Why did the Germans bomb? My theory is that Germany bombed because they were missing some key players from their 2014 World Cup winning squad including Lukas Podolski, Miroslav Klose, and Philipp Lahm. Bastian Schweinsteiger isn’t on this squad either.
That’s a lot to lose. Can the Germans bounce back? Maybe. At the beginning, their draw didn’t look too tough. Sweden handled South Korea, though. Plus, losing to Mexico will only make Germany’s opponents that much more motivated to put a nail into their already built coffin.
Brazil’s Got Some Issues and Colombia Might be a Joke
Brazil’s got some issues heading into their second Group Stage match. The big issue is that Neymar, who’s the poster child for soccer’s walking wounded, twisted an ankle in Brazil’s 1 to 1 tie versus Switzerland. Neymar is out of training. That could devastate Brazil’s chances of getting by Serbia in Group E. I do feel Brazil makes it to the Round of 16. After that, things could get super dicey for the World Cup favorites.
At least Brazil isn’t Colombia. Colombia was the favorite to win Group H. Jaime Rodriguez returns to the World Cup after winning the Golden Boot in 2014. If anything, Colombia was supposed to be better this year than they were in 2014.
Not so. Colombia lost to Japan. Yes, Japan. The Japanese were massive underdogs to even tie Colombia, much less beat the Colombians straight up. We’re talking about a Japanese side that changed managers two weeks before the World Cup. That’s two weeks before the most important sports event for most nations on the planet. Japan beat the favored team in their group 2 to 1. How can Colombia get past that? I don’t believe they can.
I’ve already put a fork in the Colombians.
Belgium and England Are for Real
Most everyone felt that the deepest group heading into the 2018 World Cup was Group H. Although neither Tunisia nor Panama had a shot at getting past Belgium and England, Belgium and England’s presence meant that both Group H teams likely to move on had a shot to make it to the World Cup Semifinals.
Based on Belgium’s and England’s first matches, the thought hasn’t changed.
Belgium was unreal in their 3 to 0 beat down of Panama. Dries Mertens scored the first goal. He placed it perfectly at the back of the net. Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku scored the other two goals.
Lukaku headed in a perfectly placed ball from Kevin De Bruyne. Then, Romelu got loose down the left side of the penalty box. All he had to do was flip it over Panama’s goalie. Check out all the highlights of Belgium’s dominating win over Panama.
England proved best in a 2 to 1 win over Tunisia. The Tunisians got their goal via penalty kick. Harry Kane scored both of England’s goals. More importantly, England’s offense was as fast and devastatingly effective as so many believed it to be.
The key for England will be to continue to play as well on defense as they did versus Tunisia. The Belgians are loaded. They don’t figure to fall apart any time soon.
The bottom line is that Spain, England, and Belgium appear set for deep World Cup runs. Argentina gets a pass for the tie against Iceland while both Germany and Brazil look to be in some trouble.