The FIFA World Cup 2018 has started with a bang with almost every team giving neck-to-neck competition to other in the first week of the mega football event. Russia is hosting the World Cup this time with fans from every country going there to support their teams. Except for the opening match where Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia by 5-0, all the other matches were quite competitive. Unfancied teams like Peru, Iceland and Mexico are playing the game with immense quality and they are giving their 100 per cent on the field. However, this World Cup has also been a big turnaround for some well-established teams and title contenders like Germany, Brazil, Spain and Argentina, who have failed to win their opening matches, sending shockwaves throughout the football world.
Five of the top six nations in the FIFA rankings have played, and none were able to win their opening encounters. Top-ranked Germany lost to No. 15 Mexico, second-ranked Brazil tied No. 6 Switzerland, No. 4 Portugal drew 10th-ranked Spain, and No. 5 Argentina tied 22nd-ranked Iceland. Among other teams in the top 12, only No. 7 France (over No. 36 Australia) and co-No. 12 Denmark (against No. 11 Peru) have victories.
As the first week of the World Cup is nearing its end, we analyse the main reasons behind the top team's debacle in their opening matches.
The defending champions are the hot favorites to retain the World Cup in Russia, but their opening match essayed a different story. The mighty Germans lost the first match of their campaign against Mexico, something which came out of the blue. Germany were not up to the mark against the Mexico side in the 1-0 loss. The world-class midfielder of the European side were clueless against the pacy Mexican counter-attack. The biggest problem for the 2014 World Champions was their control over the ball throughout the match. Star players like Toni Kroos, Mesut Ozil and Thomas Muller had one of the worst nights of their career in Russia. Germany need to rectify their midfield problems as they have the quality side who can bounce back and lift the trophy again. Germany play their next match against Sweden on June 23. (Also Read: Mexico stun defending champions Germany 1-0 in group match)
The 2018 World Cup campaign started with a nightmare for Lionel Messi and Argentina as they drew 1-1 in their opening fixture against debutant Iceland. The biggest fallout for Argentina in the match was Messi's penalty which was saved by the Iceland goalkeeper which changed the course of the game. Iceland too played the best football of their career against the last World Cup's runners-up. Iceland marked Messi so well that the Barcelona star was not able to move much in the game with three to four defenders near him. The only good thing for Argentina in the match was Sergio Aguero's goal, which was also his first World Cup goal. The South American nation need to work on their midfield and improve their goalkeeping to keep going in the tournament. Argentina play their next match against Croatia on June 21. (Also Read: Messi misses penalty, Iceland holds Argentina to 1-1 draw)
The 2010 World Champions were involved in probably the 'Match of the first week' against the Cristiano Ronaldo-inspired Portugal side. The match between the clash of champions ended with a 3-3 draw with the Real Madrid star scoring his 51st career hat-trick. It was a disappointing night for Spanish goalkeeper David de Gea as he fumbled during the second goal of Portugal where Ronaldo struck a shot and the ball just slipped past de Gea's hands. Spain midfield played beautifully throughout the match while their defenders were not at their best at all. Big players like Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos were not convincing in the big clash. The European giants need to work on their defending tactics to repeat their 2010 World Cup success. Spain will take on Iran on June 20. (Also Read: Cristiano Ronaldo scores hat-trick as Portugal draw 3-3 with Spain)
Before the World Cup started, Brazil were playing fluent football with great skills of Philippe Coutinho, Neymar Jr and Gabriel Jesus. However, in their opening game against Switzerland, nothing went right for the five-time world champions. They drew 1-1 with the Swiss side in a tight match where Coutinho scored the only goal for them. It was a tough game for Neymar Jr as he was fouled by Swiss players around 10 times, they didn't let him settle on the ground. Brazil have a quality side and they can make a comeback, provided they focus on their key players. Brazil play their next game against Costa Rica on June 22. (Also Read: Brazil held to 1-1 draw by Switzerland)
- Written by Aditya Maheshwari