World Cup 2018 – Groups A to D – Final Verdicts
Russia 2018 has reached its halfway stage, with the group stages gradually drawing to a close.
How has each nation performed when put up against pre-tournament expectations?
We’ve given each nation a grade for their group stage efforts…
1st – Uruguay
Verdict: There’s always one side that get off to a sluggish start but grow into the competition – could Uruguay fill that role in 2018? This is a side that looks like it is clicking into gear at just the right time – and with Portugal stumbling, Óscar Tabárez’s side may fancy going on a run in this tournament.
2nd – Russia
Verdict: The 3-0 defeat to Uruguay was something of a reality check for the hosts, but after being written off by almost everyone two weeks ago, they will be delighted just to be extending their stay. Spain will be an acid test as to how far this team has come in a short space of time – can they take advantage of the 2010 winners’ chaotic start to the tournament?
3rd – Saudi Arabia
Verdict: A side that deserve credit for restoring some much-needed pride after a 5-0 humbling in the opening game effectively killed their chances stone dead. The 2-1 win against Egypt was their first at a World Cup since 1994, so they now have something to build upon as they look to 2022.
4th – Egypt
Verdict: Even putting the Mo Salah saga to one side, fourth place and no points represents a very disappointing return for the Egyptians and they have still failed to register that elusive World Cup victory the nation has been waiting for. They have a lot of work to do to ensure the squad can give their star man a real chance to shine in 2022.
1st – Spain
Verdict: The Spanish managed to put their pre-tournament meltdown behind them to reach the knockout stages – but they certainly made heavy work of it. They deserve credit for serving up an all-time group stage classic in their 3-3 draw with Portugal but have shown far little to suggest they deserve to be up there in terms of top billing at this tournament.
2nd – Portugal
Verdict: Where would the Portuguese be without their star man? Probably on the first flight back to Lisbon right now, but any side that has a player as talented and single-minded as Ronaldo in their ranks will always stand a chance of going deep into the competition. A Round of 16 clash with Uruguay looks fascinating – purely for the VAR farce that could ensure when Pepe and Suarez go head-to-head as the clock ticks down.
3rd – Iran
Verdict: A breath of fresh air at this World Cup, helping to add far more tension to Group B than anybody had been anticipating – and if anything, it was Morocco most were expecting to mount a leftfield challenge. Pushing both Portugal and Spain close, Carlos Queiroz can look back on a job well done whilst also reflecting on what might have been.
Verdict: Hervé Renard’s were tipped to cause a stir at World Cup 2018 but never quite recovered from their gut-wrenching last minute 1-0 loss to Iran in their opening game. The Atlas Lions didn’t disgrace themselves across all three games but looked far too blunt in attack to realistically ever look like securing a longer stay in Russia.
1st – France
Verdict: in the end, the French have glided relatively easily through Group C but for a team fit to bursting with talent, so far we’ve seen very little to suggest they are living up to their billing as one of the pre-tournament favourites. Tougher tests will lie ahead for Didier Deschamps, who still looks tactically deficient at times.
2nd – Denmark
Verdict: About level par from what we’ve come to expect from Danes in a major tournament. With an organised spine and a world-class star in Eriksen, they always looked well-placed to escape the group stages and have comfortably achieved that objective. Not a team anyone will fancy facing in the last 16 by any means.
3rd – Peru
Verdict: Sadly, it was too little too late for Peru, who despite falling short, have really lit up this tournament with some energetic performances and a hugely enthusiastic fanbase. After 36 years away, they finally tasted World Cup victory against Australia, although after elimination had already been confirmed. Let’s hope they don’t leave it so long next time.
Verdict: Luck hasn’t been on Australia’s side in Russia, and an eventual fourth place finish looks harsh for a team brimming with industry but sadly lacking in real attacking quality. For all their limitations, the Aussies always seem to acquit themselves well on the biggest stage but the Socceroos need to uncover some firepower if they want to make progress ahead of Qatar.
1st – Croatia
Verdict: Hotly tipped as dark horses by many pre-tournament, the Croatians are certainly living up to the hype in taking maximum points from their three group games, and at the halfway stage arguably deserve to be considered the best team so far in this tournament. With plenty of elite talent in their ranks, could we be seeing an unlikely winner emerging? They have shown no sign of slipping up so far and will be a team all the big guns will be hoping to avoid.
2nd – Argentina
Verdict: A lucky, lucky escape for the Argentines who survived plenty of late scares against Nigeria before snatching the goal they needed to sneak through. With Messi finally rediscovering his magic, it would be foolish to completely write off Argentina’s chances of overcoming a France side who have so far been sleepwalking through the competition, but it looks as if they will still need to find another gear entirely to mount a realistic challenge.
3rd – Nigeria
Verdict: Mostly admired for their kit rather than football team prior to the tournament starting, the Super Eagles can hold their heads eye after giving this World Cup a real go in the wake of a disappointing opener against eventual group winners Croatia. This is not one of the more talented Nigeria sides to grace a World Cup, but we’ve seen plenty of heart, and if Ighalo had shown a little more composure under pressure against Argentina, they could have even exceeded expectations.
4th – Iceland
Verdict: After the blockbuster epic that was Euro 2016, it was the disappointing sequel for Iceland as they slipped to the bottom of the group after opening their campaign with promise against Argentina. As with 2016, they showed plenty of Viking spirit, but this tournament proved well-drilled, disciplined performances can only get you so far – on the world stage, you need a sprinkling of stardust too. Still, their fans are a welcome addition to any World Cup, so many will be hoping this was a trial run for an improved performance in 2022.
All image sources from PA Images.
Read our Groups E-H verdicts.
Follow us and tweet at Marathonbet.