WORLD CUP 2018 – RUSSIA
GROUP A: Nigeria, Uruguay, Russia, Macedonia
Nigeria: 2 (Ideye, Okoronkwo)
Uruguay: 3 (Cavani (2), Coates)
Nigeria: 1 (Adefemi)
Russia: 4 (Irkhin, Mamaev, Ponedelnik)
Nigeria: 3 (Ujah, Okoronkwo, Aceski O.G.)
Uruguay: 6 (Hernandez, Pereyra, Saurez, Calzada, Cavani, Irkhin O.G.)
Russia: 1 (Parshivlyuk)
Overview: Matchday One started off favorably for Nigeria and Uruguay, who convincingly defeated the hosts, Russia, and Macedonia, respectively. Edison Cavani, who broke the Premier League scoring record by hitting in 40 goals this season, scored a brace for Uruguay.
Nigeria continued their strong showing, winning their second match on Matchday Two against Uruguay, who were considered to have one of the most potent offensive lines in the World Cup this year. However, the Africans impressively defeated them 2-0, denying the Uruguayan strikers all game long. The hosts made things right with their home fans after defeating Macedonia 4-0, with Anatoly Irkhin scoring a brace. This left Nigeria topping the group with six points heading into Matchday Three, and with Russia and Uruguay set to play each other in their final match to see who would advance, the Africans were assured of qualification to the Second Round.
If anyone was doubting the much hyped Uruguayan attack after the loss to Nigeria, there was no more of that after they annihilated the hosts Russia 6-1 on Matchday Three as they qualified to the Second Round in the most impressive of fashions. Each of the goals came from a different goal scorer, proving just how many dangerous players they had – the Russians could have asked for a worst exit to the competition, losing by such a result in front of their home fans. In the other game, Nigeria made it three wins from three games, defeating a timid Macedonian side 3-0 to top Group A.
GROUP B: Belgium, Mexico, Czech Republic, UAE
Belgium: 1 (Vossen)
Mexico: 5 (Vela, Hernandez, Guardado, dos Santos, Kladrubsky O.G.)
Czech Republic: 0
Belgium: 3 (Chadli (2), Lukaku)
Mexico: 1 (Vela)
Czech Republic: 3 (Kadlec, Krejci, Mohammed O.G.)
Belgium: 6 (Imbula (2), Lukaku, Vossen, Hazard, Fellaini)
Czech Republic: 0
UAE: 1 (Al-Kamali)
Mexico: 1 (Hernandez)
Overview: Mexico gave quite a show during Matchday One, defeating the Czech Republic 5-0 in a dominant display of attacking football – the fourth game played in the World Cup was one the world was hoping was a sign of things to come. Earlier, the Euro 2016 Finalists Belgium defeated the UAE 1-0 in a tightly contested match.
Matchday Two saw Belgium go top of Group B after defeating the Mexicans 3-1, with Sevilla’s Nacer Chadli scoring a brace – this was surprising after the Mexico looked so impressive in their 5-0 defeat of the Czech Republic in their first match. The Czechs, meanwhile, bounced back to defeat the UAE 3-0, bringing them even on points with Mexico, while Belgium went top of Group B with six points. Atletico Madrid’s Carlos Vela had been one of the most impressive players in the World Cup to this point, scoring 2 goals and handing out 2 assists.
The Mexicans needed to defeat the UAE on Matchday Three to guarantee their qualification, but they failed to that, instead drawing 1-1 in an underwhelming performance. However, it was Belgium who did them a huge favor, running the Czech Republic to the ground and beating them 6-0. It was a disaster for the Czechs, who conceded 11 goals in three games, 5 to Mexico and 6 to Belgium. The Belgians topped the group after a very impressive round, and they were joined by a Mexican team that had not shown good form since their 5-0 victory over the Czechs.
GROUP C: Brazil, Iran, Sweden, USA
Sweden: 3 (Jonsson, Pekalski, Armenteros)
Iran: 3 (Ansarifard (2), Moradi)
Brazil: 1 (Neymar)
Sweden: 3 (Nilsson, Granqvist, Larsson)
USA: 1 (Bruin)
Iran: 1 (Moradi)
USA: 1 (Bruin)
Iran: 1 (Rahmani)
Brazil: 3 (Neymar, Pato, Damiao)
Sweden: 1 (Neto O.G.)
Overview: Led by 23 year old Manchester City striker Ahmad Ansarifard’s brace, Iran battled out to an entertaining 3-3 draw with Sweden on Matchday One, while the defending champions Brazil could only muster up a 1-0 victory against heavy underdogs, the USA.
In one of the most shocking upsets in World Cup history, Iran defeated the defending champions, and heavy favorites to win the competition, Brazil 1-0 in an historic match that had the most dramatic of endings. After holding out to constant attacking pressure by the Brazilians, Iran scored in the dying seconds of the match off a rebound from a free kick, throwing the entire footballing world out of sync and leaving Brazil with only three points and one goal scored from its first two matches. Novara’s GK Yousif Al-Sahli won the MotM for denying the Brazilian attack for ninety minutes after they came at him with a continuous onslaught on his goal. In the other Matchday Two result, Sweden joined Iran at the top of Group C with four points after defeating a meek American team 3-1. Brazil had to win against Sweden in Matchday Three to ensure qualification, while Iran needed only a draw against the USA to do so.
Both results happened, as Brazil looked the team that won the World Cup in 2014 and defeated the Swedes convincingly 3-1, with the Swedish goal coming from an own goal by GK Neto. Iran drew against rivals the USA 1-1, and thus ensured their qualification to the Second Round, although they did so as the second place team. Sweden were thoroughly disappointed with their elimination, as they had looked like the second best team in the group throughout, but the draw against Iran ended up haunting them.
GROUP D: Germany,Honduras, D.R.Congo, Turkey
D.R.Congo: 1 (N’Silu)
Germany: 2 (Schieber (2) )
Turkey: 1 (Karacan)
Honduras: 1 (Soto)
D.R.Congo: 2 (Nduti, N’Silu)
Germany: 3 (Schieber (3) )
Honduras: 3 (Soto (2), Muba O.G.)
Overview: In a surprisingly even match, Germany could only squeak by the Democratic Republic of Congo 2-1, with Julian Schieber scoring a brace to help see them off. In the other match, Turkey were held by underdogs Honduras in a 1-1 draw, starting their World Cup campaign in a disappointing fashion.
The D.R.Congo continued their impressive performance on Matchday Two, defeating Turkey 2-0 in a match they were widely expected to lose. The Germans disappointingly could only draw 0-0 with Honduras, who surprisingly had not lost in their first two encounters in this World Cup.
Going into Matchday Three, Germany were not looking like world beaters, but they certainly went ways to amend that outlook with an impressive 3-0 victory over Turkey. Schieber again played the hero, this time scoring a hat-trick and bringing his goal tally to a tournament leading 5 goals. In the other match, the D.R.Congo left a prime opportunity, losing 3-0 to Honduras and getting knocked out in favor of the Central American nation. Their star striker, Elmir Soto, scored a fantastic brace, sending Honduras to their first ever Second Round in their history. Turkey were hugely disappointing – initially thought to have been favorites to qualify alongside the Germans in pre-tournament previews, they instead finished last in what should have been an easy group for them to navigate through.
GROUP E: Argentina, Ukraine, Algeria, Saudi Arabia
Algeria: 1 (Bella)
Ukraine: 2 (Garmash, Vitsenets)
Argentina: 1 (Otamendi)
Saudi Arabia: 1 (Al-Subaini)
Algeria: 1 (Boudebouz)
Argentina: 2 (Pastore, Messi)
Ukraine: 1 (Seleznyov)
Saudi Arabia: 0
Argentina: 2 (Higuan, Misacchio)
Ukraine: 1 (Yarmolenko)
Algeria: 1 (Courgnaud)
Saudi Arabia: 0
Overview: Argentina were desperate to avoid the disastrous start they had in the World Cup 2014, where they were knocked out in the Group Stages, but again they failed to impress, drawing 1-1 with Saudi Arabia, a team many considered one of the weakest in the tournament. To add insult to injury, one of their most important players, Sergio Aguero, was injured and ruled out of the remainder of the World Cup. In the other Matchday One game, Ukraine had just enough in them to defeat Algeria 2-1.
The Argentines got it right, albeit just barely, against Algeria, winning 2-1 and putting themselves second in the group behind the Ukraine, who defeated Saudi Arabia 1-0. That set up a Matchday Three showdown between the two top teams, with both Arabic teams hoping for a win and an Argentinean loss to ensure qualification to the Second Round.
In Matchday Three, Argentina got the job done against the Ukraine, defeating them 2-1 and qualifying top of the group. The Ukraine, despite the loss, joined them as they finished in second place, while Algeria finished third. Despite losing Sergio Aguero to injury, Argentina remained one of the favorites simply because they possessed the genius called Lionel Messi in their ranks.
GROUP F: England, Spain, Australia, Mali
England: 2 (Jones, Spiranovic O.G.)
Spain: 1 (Llorente)
England: 3 (Rooney (2), Wickham)
Spain: 1 (J. Martinez)
England: 2 (Olayinka, Rooney)
Spain: 3 (Bojan, Botia, Muniain)
Overview: England started their campaign off well with a 2-0 victory over Australia, although it was not especially convincing, it was the start required after failing to qualify for the last World Cup. The 2014 Finalists and 2010 winners Spain just got by Mali 1-0, with Fernando Llorente, one of the most prolific strikers in the Spanish La Liga in recent times, scoring the only goal of the game.
In one of the most anticipated matches of the Group Stages, England faced off against Spain and won 3-1, with Wayne Rooney, the captain of the squad, grabbing a brace. This left England top of the group with six points, and since Australia and Mali drew 0-0, it ensured them of qualification to the Second Round. Spain were second in the group, but still needed at least a draw against Australia to ensure their own qualification.
England looked like one of the most impressive teams in the Group Stages, as they rounded out Matchday Three with a 2-0 victory over Mali, with Rooney taking his tally to 3 goals in the tournament. Spain also got the job done against Australia, defeating them 3-0 and joining England in the Second Round after initially looking unimpressive in their first two games. Mali, who had advanced to the Second Round in the World Cup 2014 after defeating Germany 5-4 in the group stages, looked nothing like the team that was one of the most exciting in the tournament four years ago.
GROUP G: Belarus,Italy, South Korea, Senegal
Belarus: 1 (Skavysh)
Italy: 1 (Bum-Young O.G.)
South Korea: 0
South Korea: 0
Belarus: 1 (Niakhaichyk)
Senegal: 1 (Sow)
South Korea: 3 (Min-Suk, Min-Hyuk, Sane O.G.)
Overview: Italy, Semi-Finalists in the World Cup 2014, barely defeated South Korea, and only did so thanks to an own goal. The other Matchday One result in the group saw Belarus record their first ever World Cup victory, defeating Senegal 1-0.
On Matchday Two, Italy continued their underwhelming forming, drawing 0-0 with an equally uninspired Senegalese team of which more was expected from, while Belarus went top of the group with a 1-0 victory over South Korea. Unbelievably, they had taken six points from their first two matches – prior to the tournament, they were widely expected to be one of the worst teams in the World Cup.
Belarus kept up their shocking World Cup debut form with a draw against Italy, finishing top of their group and relegating Italy to qualifying as the second place team. South Korea defeated a Senegalese team that was in terrible form throughout the Group Stages 3-1. For their part, Italy were disappointed at their form during the Group Stages, and were looking to up their intensity in the knockout stages.
GROUP H: Croatia, Colombia, Costa Rica, Slovakia
Costa Rica: 1 (Borges)
Slovakia: 1 (Jendrisek)
Croatia: 2 (Komorski, Ivancic)
Costa Rica: 0
Colombia: 2 (Moreno, Ibarbo)
Croatia: 4 (Ivancic, Komorski, Modric, Kalinic)
Costa Rica: 1 (Rodriguez)
Overview: In what was dubbed the weakest group in the World Cup, Croatia got off to a winning start by defeating Colombia 2-0, while Costa Rica surprised everyone as they held a much favored Slovakian team to a 1-1 draw.
Colombia made up for their loss in Matchday Two, defeating Costa Rica 2-0 in an easy game for them. In the other match, Croatia and Slovakia drew 0-0, which left the former topping the group and the latter needing a win against Colombia to ensure qualification to the Second Round - the Colombians, however, only needed a draw.
Croatia came away with a huge result against Costa Rica in Matchday Three, defeating them 4-1 to go top of the group. The Colombians could only muster up a draw against Slovakia, but that was all they needed to advance to the Second Round, knocking Slovakia out of the tournament. Both the Costa Ricans and the Slovakians were expected to be the teams to be knocked out, and they did not prove the masses wrong.