Hey everyone, welcome to the third edition of the much loved World Cup Wednesday. The thing you may be questioning right now at this very moment is: Why is World Cup Wednesday on a Monday? Great question. It’s just sounds weird doesn’t it? Well, here’s the reason: Why not? It’s always good to mix things up a little, you know? Just be a little spontaneous every now and then. Who knows what’s next? Flashback Friday could be on a Tuesday, or Mystery Monday could be on every fourth Saturday. Yeah, that should liven up the blog a bit. Nah look I’m just kidding around. The real reason is that the 2nd Round of the Group Stage has concluded, and the 3rd Round begins tonight, or tomorrow morning really. So, like last week, I’m going to go through and review the 2nd Round, and touch on what to expect from the Final Round of the Group Stage.
Russia v Egypt: Russia dominated the game after Egypt’s captain put the ball in his own net. The Russians scored another two, and whilst they conceded a penalty converted by Egypt’s star player Mohamed Salah, it had no impact on the match, with the host nation taking out the match 3-1, leaving Egypt to resign to the fact that after 28 years of attempting to get back into the World Cup, their dream was over. You’ve got to really feel sorry for Egypt, they did so much to keep themselves in the tournament. Russia now progress to the Round of 16, although there will be a fight for the top spot against Uruguay.
Portugal v Morocco: You’ve really got to feel sorry for Morocco too. They were solid against the Portuguese this week, and they really played well, making it surprising that they didn’t win the match. However, a few bad calls, and a header from Ronaldo in the first few minutes of the game unfortunately put Morocco in a position no team would want to be in. A 1-0 win put Portugal in a fairly good position on the Group B ladder, however they will have to ensure they beat Iran in their final game of the Group Stage in order to ensure they progress to the Round of 16. Morocco ,on the other hand, are out of the tournament.
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia: It was somewhat surprising that Uruguay didn’t score a lot against Saudi Arabia, considering the battering Russia gave them in their previous match. However, Saudi put up a fight, and kept Uruguay at bay most of the game, with striker Luis Suarez only scoring in the 23rd minute to win the match. This means that Uruguay are safely through, although they will play Russia to determine who gets the top spot of Group A, and Saudi Arabia are out of the tournament.
Iran v Spain: Iran have played quite well so far at this World Cup, and they kept that going against Spain, holding them off until the 54th, however, at least keeping them from scoring multiple goals. Iran are still very much in this tournament, and if they manage to beat or draw with Portugal this week, they may be able to progress to the Round of 16. Spain on the other hand only need a win or a draw this week against Morocco to progress.
Denmark v Australia: Now this was an interesting one. Australia knew they needed to get a result from this match, and Denmark were looking to guarantee themselves a spot in the Round of 16. And after a tense start for Australia, which saw them go down 1-0 within 7 minutes after Christian Eriksen scored off a volley, the Socceroos fought back to gain a penalty, again from a handball in the box, the second time they’ve done so in this World Cup. And after Jedinak converted once again, it was 1-1, and Australia began to fight harder. They dominated the second half, and were unlucky not to score, leaving the match as a draw. Australia now have a tough scenario to face, and will most certainly fight hard to win against Peru, hoping meanwhile that Denmark get beaten by France. This will be interesting.
France v Peru: Peru managed to play quite well against the French, continuing to favour a possessive style of football, not giving the ball up too easily. However, after making numerous attempts on goal, France managed to finally put one on the back of the net, with a strike from teenager Kylian Mbappe winning France the match 1-0. Peru is now out of the tournament, however have one left to play against Australia, and they will probably be looking to win for honour. France are safely through to the Round of 16, however, a win against Denmark would help them secure the top spot and potentially put Denmark out of the tournament.
Argentina v Croatia: Argentina were very much off their game in this match. Star player Lionel Messi was making barely any impact on the match, and after a costly mistake from goalkeeper Willy Caballero, Argentina’s game just got a whole lot worse. Croatia furthered their lead in the second half, with a brilliant wonder goal from Luka Modric, and an added time goal from Ivan Rakitic, easily beating out the Argentines 3-0. Croatia are now safely through to the Round of 16, whilst Argentina are facing a tough challenge to progress this week.
Brazil v Costa Rica: The Costa Ricans played a much better match this time, holding Brazil off for the entirety of regular time, and putting in a good effort themselves to score. Goalkeeper Keylor Navas was brilliant between the posts, and played a great match, however it wasn’t enough to stop the Brazilians scoring two goals in the 91st and 97th, putting Costa Rica our of the Cup, and Brazil in a position where they need to beat Serbia this week to guarantee themselves a spot in the Round of 16.
Nigeria v Iceland: Nigeria played the match of their lives this Round. Striker Ahmed Musa was just too good for the Icelandic keeper, managing to net two goals in the second half to put Nigeria in a good position, but they aren’t safe just quite yet. Iceland, despite missing a penalty and losing 2-0, are not out of the tournament either, making this Group probably the most interesting one to watch.
Serbia v Switzerland: The Serbs started the match well, putting themselves in the lead early in the 5th minute. However, the Swiss made sure that they didn’t let the match slip from their grasp, with a goal from Granit Xhaka in the 52nd, and a last minute goal from Xherdan Shaqiri right on the 90th, putting Switzerland in a decent position on their Group ladder, however they need to get the win against Costa Rica to ensure they progress. Serbia are not yet out of the tournament either despite the loss.
Belgium v Tunisia: Belgium are really shining this year. This game was probably the best match of the Round. Belgium converted an early penalty, then put in a second goal in the 15th. But Tunisia struck back and put one in the back of Belgium’s net just two minutes later. Belgium put the score up to 3-1 just in half time, before adding two more to that in the second half, with a late goal from the Tunisians making it 5-2. Belgium now progress, while Tunisia are out of the tournament.
South Korea v Mexico: The Mexicans continued their winning ways this Round, after a penalty and a goal from Javier Hernandez was enough for them to win the game despite a late goal from Heung Min Son. Mexico are in prime position tor progress, however they are not completely safe just yet. The South Koreans are also not necessarily out, however it will take a minor miracle for them to progress from here.
Germany v Sweden: Sweden put the Germans on edge after scoring the opening goal of the match late in the first half. But the Germans fired back in the second, with an early goal in the second half bringing the scores level, before a last minute goal from a free kick saw the Germans take all three points. Germany now must win their final Group Stage match to progress, whilst Sweden must do the same.
England v Panama: There’s really not much to say about this one. England dominated the game from start to finish, and the Panamanians were lucky not to get a few red cards with the types of fouls they were conceding, and after two penalties. Credit to them for scoring a goal, however England were the better team. The 6-1 win now sees England progress, with a match against Belgium deciding who takes top of the Group, whilst Panama are out of the tournament.
Japan v Senegal: This was a tight match. Senegal provided the opening goal once again, with the Japanese levelling the scores late in the first half. The next goal didn’t come until the second half, with Senegal putting another one in in the 71st, only to see Keisuke Honda level it up again seven minutes later in the 78th. The match ended in a 2-2 draw, meaning that neither team is safe just yet, and both have to get results in the Final Round.
Poland v Colombia: Colombia played a great match, dominating the Polish, and putting three in the back of the net to win the game outright 3-0. This means that Poland are out of the tournament, although they could still have an impact on who progresses when they play Japan in the Final Round of the Group Stage, whilst Colombia will have to get a result from their final match of the Group Stage.
Highlight Of The Round: There were three games which really stood out this Round. Croatia’s win against Argentina was amazing to watch, and Luka Modric’s goal was a wonder to behold. Belgium v Tunisia was probably the most entertaining match of the Round, with a 7 goal thriller keeping the crowd in awe, and some amazing goals were scored. And England’s brilliant defeat of Panama, with 5 goals in 24 minutes in the first half, making the game so lively and so great to watch. I’ll add as well that Australia put in a really great effort this Round, and they should be commended for putting up such a great fight against Denmark, dominating the second half of the match, and hopefully they’ll be able to go one step further in their match against Peru.
Biggest Upsets: There was only really one major upset this week, that being Croatia’s big win against Argentina. Although both teams are highly skilled and play well, Croatia dominated the match and managed to put three past Argentina to win the match completely outright. It was a brilliant match for Croatia, and left Argentina questioning what went wrong.
Who’s Out?: After two Rounds of the Group Stage, 8 teams have been eliminated, although they will still have to play their final Group Stage matches, some of which could have an impact on who progresses to the Round of 16. The 8 teams who have absolutely no chance of progressing to the next round, and who will be heading home after this week are: Egypt (Group A), Saudi Arabia (Group A), Morocco (Group B), Peru (Group C), Costa Rica (Group E), Tunisia (Group G), Panama (Group G), and Poland (Group H). South Korea appear to be out of the tournament, however there is still a very very slight chance that they will progress.
On Argentina: Argentina have made an attempted coup on their head coach Jorge Sampaoli after their loss this week, and the coach, whilst being allowed to stay on for the rest of the World Cup, will be sacked after Argentina’s World Cup concludes.
Controversy: Three Swiss players are being investigated by FIFA after their goal celebrations against Serbia this Round. Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Stephan Lichtsteiner are all under investigation for their celebration which involved linking their open hands together by the thumbs to make them look like a two headed eagle, a sign of rebellion and defiance against Serbia due to the players’ roots with the Republic of Kosovo. The World Cup is not supposed to be used as a stage for political reasons, and an investigation is under way.
Groups To Watch: There are two Groups in particular to keep your eye on this week, Group D and Group G. Both have all four of their teams still in with a chance at progressing to the Round of 16, so will be interesting to watch.
What To Expect From The Final Round: The Final Round of the Group Stage will be an interesting one. Some matches will be for pride, some will be for the top of the Group table, and others will be to secure a spot in the Round of 16. Groups B, C, E, F and H all have three teams vying for a top two finish, and Groups D and G have four. You can expect a lot of good matches this week, and many close ones. With so many teams going into the Final Round of the Group Stage fighting for a spot in the Round of 16, they will be fighting hard to ensure they aren’t eliminated from the tournament. And with all the games for each Group being played at the same time in order to prevent any teams from knowing what they have to do to progress, each team must fight like their lives depend on it to make it through. This should be a good one.