Saudi Arabia’s victory over Argentina was a worldwide sensation. The success of Japan against Germany and Spain – too, but of a different kind. They immediately set the condition that the favorites would be beaten. The Japanese themselves lost to the Costa Ricans, to whom the Spaniards shipped seven balls. Luis Enrique almost flew out after Flick, his fate depended on the outcome of the parallel match. Belgium flew into Morocco. France did not bounce back against Tunisia. South Korea beat Portugal. Brazil lost by one goal to Cameroon, although the last two results came with the favorites who advanced to the playoffs. No one took three victories, this happened for the first time since the 1994 World Cup. The victory of Morocco in the group with winners of the former World Cup, the struggle of Costa Ricans for access to the playoffs in the last round. The successes of Japan and South Korea are also a kind of sensation, initially they were not bet on in difficult groups.
Mexican boxer Saul Alvarez, one of the richest and most famous athletes in the world, threatened to kill Messi. Lionel got carried away performing a song about himself – and also about Diego, Maradona’s mother, and the war between Argentina and Great Britain, and accidentally touched the Mexico national team shirt with his foot. Guardado had to intervene to keep Lionel’s jaw intact. Onana left the location of the Cameroon national team due to disagreements with the coach. The Belgians quarreled among themselves. Hercule Pauro – Thibaut Courtois, looking for a “rat”. There were also scandals with refereeing, although not massive, which pleases. Uruguay pounced on the referee. To the credit of their coach, he suggests not looking for third-party excuses, but at least one of the episodes is scandalous. Also, Canada’s mentor planned to “fuck” Croatia, to which the Slavs responded with a rout. And the Qatari channel summarized the action of the German national team – they closed their mouths with their palms after the Germans left the tournament. We give credit to the local authorities that they were smart enough not to arrest the beauties who come to matches in open tops.
This word has a negative meaning, but here we are talking about pleasant surprises. A decent game between Asian and African teams is a pleasant surprise of the tournament. In part, it can be explained by the fact that the Europeans were not given enough time to prepare, but the Japanese from the German clubs did not live a month at the training camp either. Some teams took advantage of the time – Saudi Arabia prepared for attacking football, others performed worse – Qatar prepared for a long time, but became the first host without points after the group round. I was pleasantly surprised by non-named mentors, or coaches without success in European club football, like Luis Enrique or van Gaal. The USA, Japan, Saudi Arabia, and Morocco have good coaches. If the failure of the defensive lines is a club trend, then a pleasant surprise is the willingness of some goalkeepers, like Szczesna, to resist the bad game of their own team. The Japanese and Senegalese goalkeepers also performed better than expected.
Where without them, dear ones? Belgium is No. 1 because it’s hard to play so horribly with such a great line-up. Poor Lukaku will not soon forgive himself for the last-round fight. Failure awaited Canada – a team that had the potential to perform much better than Davis had scored a penalty against Belgium, and in the last round played Morocco for a result that had not been relegated before. Qatar failed completely, although it was expected. It is clear that cities and stadiums, football academies, and clubs were built in the desert. Inside such a boiler, it may seem that you are already equal to the Ecuadorians and Senegalese. But the practice has shown that Qatar is much weaker. It’s been a long time since there was such a bad team at the World Cup. Also, Wales, which knows how to do otherwise, turned out to be no. Disappointed Tunisia, despite the victory over France. The teams of Denmark and Serbia have definitely failed. It’s a shame to fly out like this to Uruguay, although they have more drama than a classic failure, like the Mexicans. And Germany is on this list as the most powerful loser – the champions of the group stage in terms of the quality of moments.
The most important trend is that no one can repeat his strong game yet. Spain, France, and England played magnificently in the first round, and weaker in the second. Brazil is perhaps the most stable. But no one trumped the stability of the results, neither Tite’s team nor the van Gaal team in the weakest of the groups – and this is taking into account that there are no claims against Senegal and Ecuador, they are great. It’s great that victories are difficult, like Argentina. It’s also cool that the 2022 World Cup has kept the trend of the previous tournament – they scored 120 goals in the group stage, only two less than in Russia. Another trend, but hardly with a plus sign, is a record stoppage time. We outplayed more than six full matches in the group stage, but this is unlikely to have been useful because the statistics show that the net playing time has not changed.
People who are absorbed in football cannot be surprised by the goals of Gakpo, Kudus, or the cool game of Guardiol. But there is no need to measure the world by itself, for hundreds of millions of World Cup viewers, even Theo Hernandez’s class can be a revelation. And if you dig deeper, they opened the Cameroonian defender Castelletti with his interceptions. The German Raum was appreciated, not the most hyped left back in the world, he opened up from a new side. This is important for such tournaments. Szczesny gave out steep and weak runs for Juventus, but his steely confidence opened up the goalkeeper to the world in a new way. Arshavin called the opening of the group-stage midfielder from Australia – Jackson Irwin. We agree, but we will also add Levi from Melbourne City and the Australian national team to the list. You can praise McAllister from Argentina and Brighton. The Ghanaian Sarr is unlikely to stay at Watford for long. The discovery was the form of veterans of Valencia and Abubakar – handsome men, who dragged Ecuador and Cameroon as best they could. Goalkeeper Noppert was introduced to the world thanks to van Gaal. Also of note is Tyler Adams of Team USA, a brilliant young midfielder, though not a complete revelation to anyone who has seen him with Leeds. But he played better in the national team.
The results of the group stage form the bracket of the tournament, and here is a classic showdown between contenders and champions. If the Croats do not miss the moment of turning a Japanese schoolgirl into a mercenary with swords, then in the top eight we can get some favorites. Netherlands – Argentina, Croatia – Brazil, England – France, Spain – Portugal. On the other hand, do not rush to bury the USA, Japan, Senegal, Morocco, and Switzerland. After all, the tournament teaches that everything is possible, and one match is a separate play, where the leading actor can forget the text, as it happened more than once. The Croats are the current world vice-champions, don’t forget. It is unlikely that we are waiting for the quarterfinals of the USA against Australia, Japan against South Korea, Senegal against Poland, and Morocco against Switzerland. Such an outcome of the first round of the playoffs would become a worldwide sensation, while simultaneously collapsing the broadcast ratings of the next rounds because the people need the success of their favorites – Messi, Ronaldo, Neymar, and Mbappe.
Only one will remain, but so far even artificial intelligence is compiling a series of possible endings with almost the same probability. It is cruel that 31 teams will lose, not every relegation is deserved, but those are the rules of the game.