It was no shock seeing Brazil and Spain at the top of the groups this week as Matchday 2 led to more of what was expected from the “big boys” in Russia.
We also said our first goodbyes of the tournament, some of these sides simply being not good enough, and others coming up with little to no luck.
We have more than a few teams on the cusp of elimination as well, with Argentina the most shocking of them all.
32. Saudi Arabia
The Saudi’s just couldn’t get anything going for their side and almost seemed to digress, rather progress in their two matches.
Couldn’t get it done against England, but having two significantly greater sides in their group didn’t help their cause.
Same as Panama, not great but having England and Belgium in their group wasn’t helpful.
A half-fit Mo Salah couldn’t save Egypt from Russia. Some might have thought they were worse with him at half-speed, and those people would probably be right.
28. Costa Rica
They fought hard against Brazil for 90 minutes, but a goal that was bound to happen went past Keylor Navas because of Philippe Coutinho’s quick thinking to toe poke the loose ball home.
They were the highest seeded team in Group H , but proved to be the most average one in the end. It was uninspiring watching the Polish try and rely on Robert Lewandowski to save them, even when they had decent talent around him. The defense was shaky, but was always going to be with Karim Glik out injured.
The Moroccans were hardly a bad side, liable to be the best side to not qualify for the Round of 16, next to Peru and Australia. Cristiano Ronaldo’s goal sent the Atlas Lions packing, but the Moroccans should be proud of the great football they showcased while still in the tournament.
It was a valiant effort by the Peruvians. They were one of the most exciting sides to watch, and had some of the best players in the tournament so far in Luis Advincula and Andre Carillo. But, you have to score goals to win games which was something the Peruvians couldn’t seem to do.
24-20 The Struggling
24. South Korea
Like all the countries in this category, the Koreans are still in with a shout. Heung-min Son had rocket of goal against Mexico, and the Tottenham forward could lead South Korea past Germany with an incredible game. But, even with the Germans struggling, it does seem Taeyong Shin and his men will be saying goodbye next week.
The infamous Thunder Clap couldn’t get Iceland across the line against Nigeria, losing 2-0 in a match that could have brought them one step closer to the Round of 16. To say that Heimir Hallgrimsson’s side underestimated the Super Eagles would be entirely correct, although weird to say as both sides are about equal in quality. Iceland now need to win by three goals against Croatia and hope Argentina and Nigeria can draw each other, the former of which is very unlikely.
Another performance to applaud by the Socceroos, almost taking down Denmark in the final minutes of the game. They had to settle for a draw, yet it feels like the Socceroos deserve more than they’ve been given, holding France till Paul Pogba’s wild goal and being the better side against Denmark for a good portion of the match. The Australians have to win big against Peru and hope France take down Denmark to qualify, so it is likely goodbye to one of the most likable teams in Russia this summer.
With only one point to their name, Jorge Sampaoli has a lot to fix, and no time to do it. The Argentines looked worse for wear, not creating anything and standing with zero confidence, as if they had lost the game before it even started. There is a fundamental issue weighing this side down and it is not something even Leo Messi’s brilliance can fix. If Argentina can take down Nigeria, they will surely make it look laborious.
Deserving of a point against Spain, Carlos Queiroz and his men could yet advance with a win against Portugal. Iran are an aggressive counter-attacking side, easily being a top ten defensive side in this World Cup and have the speed of Vahid Taremi, Medhi Taremi and Alireza Jahanbakhsh to threaten in the final third. Stopping an inform Cristiano Ronaldo is going to be a whole different challenge for the Iranians, but most would rather see them advance over Portugal’s Ronaldo and friends mentality.
19-1 The Rest
On the brink of eliminating Germany, the Sweds were dealt a nasty blow with Toni Kroos’ winner. Marcus Berg and Ola Toivonen were a handful to deal with up front, as was Viktor Claesson on the right side. Sweden isn’t spectacular, but they can get a job done, which is exactly what they need to against Mexico in order to advance.
One of the best matches of the tournament gave Serbia a harsh reality, dropping 3 points in the 90th minute and now giving them a difficult path to get through the group stage. Aleksandar Mitrovic played well again, scoring an early header and almost capitalizing many a times throughout. Dusan Tadic was tricky on the wing, putting in cross after cross, making Ricardo Rodriguez’s life a living hell. The Serbs need a win against Brazil to advance.
The Super Eagles flew the losing coop with a win that keeps them alive in Group D. Ahmed Musa’s outstanding performance, along with Gernot Rohr’s positive tactical changes, explored Iceland’s lethargy and proved hard to defend. The Nigerians were able to find the space they needed as Victor Moses shined on the right flank and Wilfred Ndidi shut down Iceland in the middle. It’ll be a tough match against Argentina, but a win would seal another week of seeing those lovely jersey.
The Samurai Blue are fighters, and they used every bit of energy they had against Senegal to come away with a point. Takashi Inui was the star for Japan, yet again, scoring a low driven, curling effort to get his side back into the game and pestering Senegal’s defenders all night. They’ll need a win against Poland to ensure qualification, but a draw could do the trick with the right result in the Senegal v Colombia match.
Not exactly according to script for the Lions, but another point to inch them closer to the Round of 16. It was another stand out performance from Mbaye Niang, even he didn’t grab a goal for his efforts. The biggest questions for Senegal are in their backline, which looked surprisingly disjointed at crucial points in the match. Still work to be done as they need a positive result against Colombia to advance.
They came out with a much needed point against Australia, due to an unfortunate handball by Yussuf Poulsen leading to Mile Jedinak burying a penalty home. Still one of the toughest defenses in the competition, and the link up play between Christian Eriksen and Yussuf Poulsen up front is threatening to say the least. Facing France will not be easy, but another Eriksen moment of magic could seal the deal for the Danes.
They’re far from spectacular to watch, but they’ve gotten the results they need to advance. Luis Suarez scored on his first attempt, something he couldn’t do at all in Matchday 1, which was a good sign for Le Celeste. Uruguay’s savior will lay in their defense most likely, as Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez are unmoved and Martin Caceres has done well as a make-shift left full-back. No real test yet, so it is still hard to gauge how good Le Celeste are.
It was a 3-0 against Poland where we saw the Colombia of old. They were tricky, fast paced, and playing through an inform James Rodriguez. Juan Cuardrado was unstoppable down the right, eventually earning himself a goal from a James wonder pass across the field. They looked better defensively as well, probably because of having 11 men and Wilmar Barrios’ splendid work sitting in front of the backline. They can make it out of the group with a victory against Senegal or a Japan loss to Poland.
Two big results in a row, and Vladimir Petkovic has got his side believing they can do anything. Xherdan Shaqiri’s 90 minute goal said it all, as the little midfielder raced towards the Serbia’s goal and slipped it past Vladimir Stojkovic. The Swiss are tough as nails in the back and are also incredibly patient to wait for chances. Now favorites to advance from Group E, Switzerland will be an annoying bunch for their next opponent.
Another win for the hosts sees them qualify for the Round of 16 for the first time in a major tournament since Euro 2008. There is a lot to like about how Stanislav Cherchesov has his 11 playing. With Aleksandr Golovin and Denis Cheryshev’s movement and link up play, Roman Zobnin’s box-to-box masterclass and Artem Dzyuba scoring, there is little stopping Russia from an upset in the Round of 16 against one of Portugal, Spain or Iran.
From almost eliminated to speaking about still winning it all, the Germans are no stranger to self-confidence, or maybe a mixture of arrogance and self-delusion. Joachim Löw is set on leaving two defenders at the back to defend opposition counter attacks, and it has now failed him twice, the second time being against the non-attacking side of Sweden. It is difficult to see Germany make it past any of the favorites in their current state, but stranger things have happened (See Portugal in Euro 2016).
For more on Germany’s issues, check out our piece that dives deeper into their struggles here.
Truthfully, this Portuguese team is not very good. But, they do have, arguably, the best goalscorer in footballing history in Cristiano Ronaldo. The superstar will undoubtedly continue to produce, even with Portugal playing like chickens with their heads cut off, which could see Fernando Santos get a little luckier than he should for a second tournament in a row.
Scoring only one goal against Peru should be a bit worrying for the French, who had more than enough chances to win by 2 or 3. Olivier Giroud has again shown to be a integral part of Didier Deschamps attack, giving Mbappe and Griezmann the structure and hold up play they need to run in behind and fire. There are still questions about who fits best on the left flank for France, with Blaise Matuidi playing just OK there against Peru. Maybe Nabil Fekir will get a chance against Denmark, filling Dimitri Payet’s shoes from Euro 2016 on that left flank.
Another win for El Tri see them all but advance to the Round of 16, possibly at the top of the group as well. There is some real talent in this Mexican side, with Hirving Lozano and Carlos Vela leading the attack. Hector Herrera has proven to be one of the best midfielders in the tournament, keeping tempo and distributing balls all around the final third. A team to watch going into the next round as they could upset just about anyone in this form.
After a 6-1 rout of a terrible Panamanian side, England are on track to rise up as World Cup favorites. Harry Kane scored a hat-trick, moving his tally above Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku’s for now, but wasn’t the only attacking threat for the Three Lions. Jesse Lingard had a terrific game, scoring a crazy curling effort from outside the box, while John Stones grabbed a brace from two training-ground set pieces. Gareth Southgate will rest some of his starters ahead facing Belgium and the Round of 16, although the English will have their sights much further than just the next round.
Much like their group compatriots, the Red Devils enjoyed a seizing 5-2 win against a weak Tunisia side. The front three of Dries Mertens, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku is scary good, making the entire team flow with confidence of their attacking abilities. Thomas Meunier had a stellar game, not only delivering wicked crosses, and being a vital link up man on the right flank, but also for tracking back and defending well. There are still questions about the left side of their defense with Yannick Ferreira Carrasco as a left wing-back, but up to this point, Roberto Martinez has his side playing out of their 2014 skin.
It took till stoppage time to do so, but the Brazilians finally scored 2 on the night and got the much needed win from a crowded Group E. Costa Rica defended with 10 men behind the ball most of the game, and the Brazilians figured out that Neymar doesn’t have to be the first one to touch the ball in every attack, leading to Costa Rica eventually breaking down. Getting out of the group is hardly in question for Tite and his men anymore as the Selecao are back to favorites to win it all.
It was a shut out performance against Argentina that started with an exquisite strike from Ante Rebić off of a Willy Caballero unforgivable mistake. That was quickly followed up a moment of class and will-power by Luka Modrić, faking left and right before firing with his right outside the box an into the bottom corner. Zlatko Dalic has this Croatian side playing with the guile and cohesiveness that was absent from their side in Euro 2016 and World Cup 2014. It is not far fetched to starting thinking about the Vatreni as dark horses to advance far into the Cup, maybe even challenging for the whole thing.
The Spanish lasted against Iran by less than a thread, getting the lucky break the Iranians were begging to get all game. Fernando Hierro’s backline is still not convince though, having more than a few scares on set pieces and counters. Spain perform on confidence, looking uptight and less effective until they see the back of the net bulge. If they can get an early goal or two for the rest of the tournament, there is no doubt we will see them in the finals.