World Cup Hot and Cold: A stuttering start for Germany
Who’s hot, who’s cold after a frenetic opening few days of World Cup 2018?
World Cup 2018
If the tournament continues churning out classic match-ups at its current rate, it’s no exaggeration to think World Cup 2018 will have a very strong case to the title of greatest World Cup of all time.
With big teams underperforming, underdogs showing tactical nous, and fans embracing the tournament, Russia 2018 has got off to the best possible start. Let’s hope the feel-good factor continues.
One looks as if it has been coming for days, but the World Cup has finally delivered its first major shock, as a lively Mexico side exposed Germany’s complacency.
Reigning champions seem to have developed a habit in recent tournaments of making a stuttering start, and that trend continued at the Luzhniki Stadium on Sunday. Could the Germans make a shock early exit? They should still have enough to get through, but a tantalising Brazil v Germany clash in the Round of 16 is now a real possibility.
Love it or hate it, it looks as if VAR is here to stay, and it’s already creating plenty of controversy at this World Cup as referees, players and fans adapt to the new normal.
Will it play a decisive role when it comes to the crunch in the knockout stages?
It’s 1-0 to the Portuguese sensation in the perennial debate over whether he or Messi is currently the front-runner to be named ‘Greatest of All Time’.
A talismanic display against Spain, capped off by an exquisite free-kick suggests the 33-year-old is determined to end the debate once and for all as he looks to add World Cup honours to his Euro 2016 trophy. And wouldn’t it have been great to be a fly on the wall as he watched Argentina’s display the following afternoon…
The Iceland fairy-tale
The Viking thunder clap shows no signs of being silenced any time soon, as a gritty, disciplined display from the smallest nation ever to qualify for the World Cup harvested a precious point in one of the World Cup’s toughest groups.
The big guns
Germany, Brazil and Argentina have all started the tournament slowly, and France hardly impressed in a lethargic display against Australia. Will they manage to bounce back with the pressure cranked up going into their second set of games?
Many questioned the wisdom of Löw carrying on with the German national team instead of bowing out at the top in 2014, and the 58-year-old may just be regretting not walking off in to sunset after an opening group game setback against Mexico.
It’s always dangerous to write off the Germans, but Löw can expect to face another grilling from the media about his shock omission of Leroy Sané.
Messi looks like a man carrying the weight of the nation on his shoulders following a turbulent start to his World Cup campaign. Following in Ronaldo’s footsteps from the night before was never going to be easy for the Argentinian but he cut a forlorn figure in missing a penalty against Iceland.
Argentina need to find a way to satisfy their main man without allowing him to call all the shots.
The surprise package of 2014 after reaching the Quarter-Finals, Costa Rica don’t look set for a repeat performance at this year’s tournament after a lacklustre 1-0 defeat to an organised Serbia side in their opening game. With a frustrated Brazil to face next, it could be an earlier flight home for Óscar Ramírez’s side in 2018.
The French defender showed an unorthodox approach to defending in giving away a penalty in France’s nervy 2-1 victory against Australia. His moment of madness in effectively catching the ball nearly cost his side dear as Didier Deschamps’ side laboured to victory.
Umtiti has laughed off the incident, but his teammates may not be so forgiving should the French come up against more clinical opposition.