The World Cup is always full of surprises, rising stars, and emotional thrillers. The third and final matches of the group stage will occur over the next three days. Let’s recap some of the most memorable upsets so far.
Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia Russia is ranked 70 in the FIFA world rankings, and Saudi Arabia is ranked at 67. These two teams are in the same ballpark as far as past performances. That’s why it would have made sense for the final score line to be a little closer. Russia’s goals were evenly distributed throughout the match. The host nation scored twice in the first half, and kept on scoring right up until the final minute of extra time. This feat is even more prestigious because Russia had less than 40% of possession. Russia has proven to be a formidable force on the pitch. It’s not unfathomable that Russia one, but no one expected the host nation to win by so high of a margin. Russia certainly came out of the gate with victory in mind.
Croatia 2-0 Nigeria It’s not necessarily unbelievable on paper that Croatia, ranked 28 places above Nigeria in the world rankings, won the pace of the game made it seem like Nigeria would have one. Both teams were neck and neck in many aspects of the match. Both maintained close to 50% possession, and both made 2 shots on goal. The lies in the fact that Croatia’s two shots became goals and Nigeria’s did not. There’s no doubt about it. If passion of the fan’s could determine the winner, Nigeria certainly would have won because the Super Eagles faithful put on a display of lime green fervor accompanied by rhythmic drumming for all 90 minutes.
Germany 0-1 Mexico Germany is the reigning World Cup Champion and currently sits at the top of FIFA’s world rankings. Mexico is 15th in the rankings. Germany is the same team that pulled off a major 7-1 upset against Brazil, the host nation of the 2014 World Cup. When Mexico’s Hirving Lozano scored in the 35th minute, it seemed that his goal could have spelled disaster for his nation. Often, the German football machine turns on in full force when an opponent scores, but that was not the case. With only 33% possession and half as many shots on goal, Mexico claimed a victory against Germany, which could certainly help the North American nation stay in the tournament when the upcoming group stage eliminations happen.
Colombia 1-2 Japan The 16th team (in the world rankings) lost to the 61st. At the beginning of the tournament, anyone would have predicted that the lovable South American country who’s athletes popularized the Raz Taz Taz salsa dance last tournament would have emphatically won this match. Behavior proved to be a distraction for Colombia. Japan had more shots on goal and possession, and Colombia had more fouls, yellow cards, and red cards. In the end, the team that kept their cool and focus came off victorious.
Poland 1-2 Senegal With international stars like Robert Lewandowski on the squad, Poland would have seemed to be the obvious choice if one had to predict the winner of this match. Senegal proved to be the little team that could in the end. There seems to be a trend developing here. Once again, the team with less possession and less shots on goal won. Poland two times as many shots on goal, but Senegal had two times as many successful goals.
Argentina 0-3 Croatia The team with Lionel Messi was not expected to loose to the team with Luka Modric. Although both players are phenomenal, their two nations are separated by 15 spots on the FIFA world ranking. Croatia’s shots were far more precise, and the European nation gained crucial points that will help it stay in the competition. If the 2018 FIFA World Cup has proven anything so far, it’s clear that laurels are meaningless. Each team must give an excellent performance every day or fall behind.