Russia 2018 – 1st Round Of Matches

We’ve had the opening ceremony, tested the VAR and had our chance to run our eyes over every qualified nation at this summer’s World Cup.

We’ve seen drab draws, deserved defeats and a genuine WC classic.

From rampant Russia to the organised Swiss we take a brief look at how each group is shaping up heading into the 2nd week at Russia 2018.

Group A

We all expected the Saudi’s to be making up the numbers in group A and their performance showed that they are still lacking at this level, Russia however surprised even their own. Many articles wrote off the hosts (including ours) but despite the opposition, they did a job on Saudi Arabia and scored some great goals to set the standard for the upcoming matches.

Egypt and Uruguay looked destined for the 0-0 that the Pharaohs arrived for. Leaving most attacking talent on the bench, they wanted to nick a point against Suarez and co. A late header from unlikely centre half Jimenez made Salah’s head drop but ultimately made him feel the pain that his coach’s negative tactics warranted.

Next up – Russia vs Egypt & Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia

Group B

Well well, Iran currently top a group containing the mighty Spain and reigning European Champions Portugal. A draw between the neighbours wasn’t an unsurprising result but Iran sneaking a late win over Morocco certainly was. The Moroccans will have banked on a winning start to give them momentum heading into clashes with the big two.

Spain and Portugal still heavy favourites to progress without incident.

Next Up – Portugal vs Morocco & Iran vs Spain

Group C

It started with France in all of their French ways. A tight 2-1 victory over the battling Aussies aided by both VAR and Goal Line technology, there is more to come from Deschamps men but they’ll need to improve quickly with the dangerous duo of Denmark and Peru to come. Speaking of the latter two, they played out one of the more underrated games we’ve seen. Peru blazed a penalty over the bar at a crucial time and the Danes took their chance when it came. Pardoned captain Guerrero came on to trouble Schmeichel over and over but you got a feeling it just wasn’t their day as the ball trickled past the post and cleared off lines.

Next Up – Denmark vs Australia & France vs Peru

Group D

The mighty Iceland strike again! Fresh from their Euro 2016 heroics, into their 1st World Cup and followed to Eastern Europe by a 10th of their population – they held their nerve better that little Lionel did from 12 yards. Croatia saw off the Nigerian challenge as expected, leaving the door a jar for Iceland to take it to the final game shootout with Croatia.

Next Up – Argentina vs Croatia & Nigeria vs Iceland

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Group E

A Kolarov stunner lit up and otherwise uneventful opener between 2014 surprise package Costa Rica and a potentially dangerous Serbia. Mitrovic spurned a few chances before a wonderful free kick from the skipper captured a crucial 3 points. In the other game, the Brazilian boys were met with Swiss steel. A Coutinho curler was cancelled out by a simple cross / header combination leaving Neymar frustrated and not just with amount of “treatment” he was receiving.

Next Up – Brazil vs Costa Rica & Serbia vs Switzerland

Group F

World Cup shock anyone? Germany 0-1 Mexico

A counter attacking and literally earth moving goal was enough for the Mexicans. A fine solo strike from PSV’s Lozano was enough to spark wild celebration back home, wild enough to register on the Richter scale! Germany huffed and puffed but couldn’t find the elusive equaliser despite 21 attempts and high levels of possession.

The turn up for the books allowed Sweden to take advantage with a narrow victory over South Korea, leaving the World Champions with a lot of work to do and potentially relying on results elsewhere.

Next Up – South Korea vs Mexico & Germany vs Sweden

Group G

Unlike every other group so far this one happened as it was supposed to. Belgium comfortably eased past Panama and Kane scored a double to wrestle 3 points from Tunisia.

This group will go down to the last game to decide top spot with the others fighting it out to go home with some pride.

Next Up – England vs Panama & Belgium vs Tunisia

Group H

We had a fair amount of late drama but this group opened up with plenty. Just 3 minutes in and Columbia were down to 10 men giving Kagawa an easy opportunity to get Japan off and running. A clever free kick deceived all in the wall but even a James-inspired Columbia couldn’t kick on and fell victim to a deadly set piece leaving them deflated and defeated.

Poland have turned themselves into regular qualifiers in the past few championships but you got the feeling they massively underestimated a Senegal squad filled with equally underestimated talent. This game showed that you can have a quality player such a Lewandowski but that can’t match a quality squad such as the Senegalese. They could surprise again just like back in 2002.

Next Up – Japan vs Senegal & Poland vs Columbia

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Russia have already laid a marker with another 3 goals and in turn sending Egypt back to the hotel to start packing.

Roll on the remainder of round 2!

Iceland vs Argentina image sourced from; www.goal.com
Senegal vs Poland image sourced from; www.totalsportek.com

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Russia 2018 – The World is Waiting

The wait is almost over, in just a few days World Cup 2018 will kick off with host nation Russia entertaining Saudi Arabia with the eyes of the other 30 competing countries watching on awaiting their chance to lay down an early marker in the competition.

We’ve looked through the squads, the stats and can provide our tips for the tournament.

Winners

For us it’s proving very difficult to look past Brazil, the 5 time winners boast Neymar, Firmino and Coutinho among their attacking threat. A favourable group draw and their tournament experience will stand them in good stead in Russia.

A tricky qualification was navigated with ease, Tite’s men finished 10, 13 and 14 points ahead of nearest challengers Uruguay, Argentina and Columbia respectively.

Despite them being prone to a big stage wobble in recent times (defeats to France, Holland and the famous 7-1 against Germany) we are backing the South Americans to wrestle back a trophy last won by them in 2002 and end the recent European dominance.

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Dark Horses

It seems like an obvious choice and maybe not even a dark horse shout but the Belgians look in terrifying shape.

A starting XI with a spine of Courtouis, Vertonghen, De Bruyne, Hazard and Lukaku will make any opposition re-evaluate their tactics.

Unbeaten in qualification with 28 points from 30, a record only bettered by current World Champions Germany and scoring a tasty 43 goals over the 10 games proves they are in great form.

A golden generation expected to impress and justify their world ranking of 3.

The only downside for us is the manager. It’s hard to imagine a footballing world where Roberto Martinez can add a Jules Rimet trophy win to his CV.

Belguim-Team

1st Plane Home

Now whilst they may not necessarily need a plane Russia is such a vast country that a lot of players may be taking long trips home after just the 1st week of their own competition.

Injuries mean that CSKA defender Viktor Vasin and key man Zenit St Petersburg’s Aleksandr Kokorin miss out. A late call up for a 39 year old Ignashevich indicate their struggles.

You’d fancy Uruguay to top Group A leaving 2nd place to be fought out by the hosts, an unknown Saudi side and a Salah inspired Egypt. The latter being our picks to sneak into the knockout rounds.

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Surprise Package

Any team that comes through South American qualifying cannot be underestimated. Add into this a victory over the French back in March and you have a side that could surprise and go a long way in this World Cup.

Columbia are the side we are talking about.

Their recently announced squad are littered with players from Munich, Milan and Barca.

James and Falcao will lead Los Cafeteros but will have the likes of Carlos Bacca, Davinson Sanchez and Juan Cuadrado backing them up, not to mention their wild fanbase!

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Top Goalscorer

We feel England could be coming home with a trophy this time around, Harry Kane is in with a great chance of returning with the golden boot to make up for losing his PL crown to Mo Salah.

England should progress through the group with a game to spare and you wouldn’t bet against Kane being on the scoresheet against both Panama and Tunisia.

Goals against the lesser opposition should rid the three lions of any nerves and lead them into the last 16 with a striker bang in form.

Captain Kane could notch 5-7 with relative ease over in Russia.

England v Turkey - International Friendly

Players Destined for the Post Tournament Move

We’ve picked out three to watch throughout the duration of the competition that appear destined for bigger things within the game.

Timo Werner – Germany

The young striker is currently starring for RB Leipzig in the Bundesliga.

In the Germany squad and whilst he may not feature prominently he’ll provide a good option from the bench. A potential replacement for Lewandowski should he leave Bayern as expected.

Leander Dendoncker – Belgium

One of the lesser mentioned Belgian galacticos is the Anderlecht defensive midfielder. Just the 4 caps to his name currently but making the cut ahead of the likes of Nainggolan shows a lot of faith.

Don’t be surprised to see top 10 PL side make a bid in August.

Kahraba – Egypt

Despite the reports Egypt are more than a one man team.

Kahraba is the nickname of 23-year-old winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, who is currently on loan at Saudi Arabia’s Al-Ittihad from Egyptian giants Zamalek. In Arabic, Kahraba means electricity. He is a pacey direct winger and with the groups his nation find themselves in he could prove a vital part in navigating the Egyptians through to the knockout rounds.

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The stadiums are built, the friendlies are over and the stage is well and truly set.

We’re all hoping for a footballing summer to remember from Eastern Europe.

The world is waiting, World Cup 2018, let’s see what you’ve got!

The Brazil 2018 team image is sourced from; www.sportsbible.co.uk/football
The Belguim 2018 team image is sourced from; www.vivaonnews.com
The Russia flag image is sourced from; www.depositphotos.com
The Columbia fans image is sourced from; www.panamericaneworld.com
Harry Kane image is sourced from; www.metro.co.uk
Timo Werner image is sourced from; www.bundesliga.com