World Cup 2018 Review: Week 1

Week one of the World Cup 2018 was exciting and full of surprises to say the least. All of the teams have now played their first game and this has led to some very interesting results. Let’s take a look each day’s play and how it went in our world Cup 2018 review for week 1…

Day 1: Thursday 14th June

Match 1: Russia v Saudi Arabia

Today was all about the host nation – as we saw Russia go head to head with Saudi Arabia. The opening ceremony led way to the first game of the tournament and all eyes were on Russia.

The game was very one sided. The strong Russian team walked over Saudi Arabia who seemed to have no answer to the Russian attack. The first goal came within the 12th minute by the impressive Yuri Gazinkskiy. Alan Dzaegov was taken off due to a hamstring injury and replaced by Denis Cheryshev – who netted the second goal just before half time.

The second half saw the Russians come out even stronger. Midway through the second half, Dzyuba scored the third for the hosts and to add insult to injury, another two goals were scored in injury time by Cheryshev and Golovin.

This was a fine start to the tournament for the hosts – but a disaster for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Score:  5 – 0 to Russia

Day 2: Friday 15th June

Match 1 – 13:00: Egypt v Uruguay

The first match was at 1pm when Egypt faced off against Uruguay – without their main man – Salah. The fact that Salah was missing seemed to affect both sides – demotivating the Egyptians and motivating the Uruguayans. The lack of a strong striker was evident; despite making some good pushes forward, the team could not finish it off and were unable to put the ball in the back of the net.

However, Uruguay’s form was also questionable – with their main men: Cavani and Suarez, looking unimpressive. However, the stalemate finally came to an end in the 88th minute when Giminez managed to get a free kick in the box – which he converted to the only goal of the match. Uruguay have kept their hopes alive for qualification and Egypt need to dig deep in the next two games.

Score: 1 – 0 to Uruguay

Match 2 – 16:00: Morocco v Iran

This was an interesting match that saw Iran step away as victors. However, it was because of a heart-breaking own goal by Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz that Iran could celebrate victory. The Iranians were never supposed to win the game – in fact their qualification was a surprise to all. However, these underdogs were stubborn and managed to hold their defence against Morocco, who never looked too threatening. Morocco started off stronger and pushed forward – with long spells of play in the Iranian penalty box. Unfortunately, Morocco couldn’t get the ball in the net – and they were punished. Morocco eventually lost belief and fell back, whilst the Iranians pushed forward and had a decent chance.

The deciding goal came with less than a minute to go in stoppage time when Iran got a free kick… which was unfortunately headed into the Moroccan goal by Bouhaddouz – there was no time to recover and Morocco was defeated. This left a very interesting result as Iran – the underdogs were sitting at the top of the table with three points.

Result: 1 – 0 to Iran

Match 3 – 19:00: Spain v Portugal

This was the first heavyweight match of the tournament and excitement surrounded both teams in this Iberian derby. Spain considered themselves top dogs – although they had the disruption of losing their manager. Portugal, however, has deadly weapon Ronaldo… who proved to be the team’s saviour.

Much to everyone’s surprise, the first goal was scored in the 4th minute of the game, when Nacho gave away a penalty. Ronaldo stepped up and did what he always does – put the ball to bed. However, twenty minutes later, Diego Costa won the ball against Pepe, sent the defenders in the wrong direction and equalised by putting the ball in the bottom left hand corner of the net.

Just as half-time approached, Ronaldo worked his magic again and took his team into the lead when he scored from dead centre – with De Gea unable to block the one-hopper. Portugal went into half time ahead, but just ten minutes into the second half, Costa scored number two for Spain and drew them back level again. Just three minutes later, Nacho knocked another one in, and in the space of 5 minutes, Portugal went from being 1 goal up to 1 goal down. As the clock ticked away, a Spain win looked more and more likely. However, Portugal pull out their secret weapon again… and in the 87th minute Ronaldo converted a free kick into a goal… giving Ronaldo a hat-trick and Portugal a well-earned point. This was the game everyone wanted – and it didn’t disappoint.

Result: 3 – 3 draw

Day 3: Saturday 16th June

Match 1 – 11.00: France v Australia

On paper, this looked like a pretty straightforward game with a pretty obvious outcome. However… this is football. Although the outcome was as expected, the route wasn’t as smooth as Les Bleus were hoping.

Play was pretty even at the beginning of the match, and Ausralia even came close to taking the lead in the 17th minute, but the French Goalkeeper, Lloris, prevented and own goal and kept the team on an even keel. The first half ended in a disappointing 0 – 0 draw for the French.

Although the French were making hard work of it, they eventually got a break in the 58th minute when Antoine Griezmann was brought down. The ref decided to use the VAR and awarded France a penalty – which was converted into a goal. The first goal of the tournament courtesy of VAR.  However, just minutes later, the use of VAR awarded another penalty… this time to Australia. Australia managed to get an equaliser and it was back to deadlock. Both sides continued to push, but the deadlock wasn’t broken until the 81st minute when Behich sent the ball looping over his own goalie to give France a very lucky lead. It was a cruel defeat for Australia and a lucky win for France.

Result: 2 – 1 to France

Match 2 – 14.00: Argentina v Iceland

Again, what seemed like a pretty easy game for turned out to be a bit of a shocker. On paper, Argentina should have been all over this as one of the favourite teams… but Iceland (the smallest nation in the World Cup) gave an ice cold performance and kept their cool to muster up a draw.

This underdog of a team had to face the wonder of Messi, Aguero and his compatriots, but the players didn’t let the occasion overwhelm them. With Cristiano Ronaldo getting a hat-trick, all eyes were on Messi’s response – and well, it was a messy response!

Iceland started off surprisingly strong and had a very early chance – however a bad miss saw the team lose an opportunity, which was even more annoying when Aguero took his chance to score in the 19th minute and took Argentina into the lead. The Ice cold players kept their heads though and kept on playing well and soon after Sigurdsson sent in a great cross that Argentina couldn’t deal with and Finnbogason sent it into the net. The crowds went wild and the first half ended 1-1.

In the second half both teams worked hard. The best opportunity to break the deadlock was in the 63rd minute where Pavon was awarded a penalty. The world’s top striker, Messi, stepped up to take it and… missed! Iceland were thrilled and managed to keep the Argies at bay for the rest of the match. They had managed an historic draw against Argentina.

Result: 1 – 1 draw

Match 3 – 17.00: Peru v Denmark

This was a game that could have gone Peru’s way if they had managed to capitalise on all of the chances they had… but alas. Peru certainly kept Schmeichel busy, but nothing ever went in.

In the 44th minute, Peruvian Christian Cueva was awarded a penalty via VAR – however, his attempted saw the ball fly over the top into the crowds, wasting a very important opportunity. It was in the 59th minute that the first game of the goal was scored when Yussuf Flores beat the goalie. Peru had two more decent chances but again, failed to capitalise. Despite it looking a little scary for Denmark after the goal, they managed to cling on to the lead and walk away with the three points.

Result: 1 – 0 to Denmark

Match 4 – 19.00: Croatia v Nigeria

Undoubtedly it was the Croats that were the favourites to take the match… and they did, but not as convincingly as we’d expect. Undoubtedly, the Croatian team started out strong, and had plenty of play in the Nigerian penalty area – and a good chance by Perisic in the 14th minute that was missed. It wasn’t until the 32nd minute that they put their ball into the back of the Nigerian net. A header by Mandzukic was deflected by Nigerian defender Etebo, into the back of his own net. This was followed by another good attempt by Kramaric in the 39th minute.

It wasn’t until the second half when Croatia got its next chance – and its next goal. In the 70th minute, Mandzukic  was brought down during a corner and was awarded a penalty, which he placed with easy – leading his team to a convincing 2 nil victory.

Result: 2 – 0 to Croatia

Day 4: Sunday 17th June

Match 1 – 13.00: Costa Rica v Serbia

This is a game that could have gone either way as both teams have their strengths and weaknesses, but today saw the Europeans conquer the Latin Americans. Costa Rica had a great chance in the 3rd minute when players left Gonzalez unmarked in the Serbian box .Somehow he managed to fire his shot over the crossbar.

The next chance was Serbian, when Mitrovic was given a great chance by Milinkovic-Sacic, but only managed a weak shot straight at the Costa Rican goal keeper. However, six minutes later they managed to get a well-earned goal from Kolarov’s free kick. There was another chance for Serbia to make it 2 in the 76th minute when the ball landed at Kostic’s feet in front of the goal, but miraculously the ball bounced off his shin and away from the open goal. However, that missed chance didn’t matter in the end because they only needed the one goal to secure victory and put them at the top if the table.

Result: 1 – 0 to Serbia

Match 2 – 16.00: Germany v Mexico

No one really wants to have their first World Cup game against Germany – but that was the situation that Mexico faced … ouch! Having said that, Germany typically start off slow and build up pace as the tournament goes on – and let’s hope for Germany’s sake that this is the case this year. They are still one of the favourite teams after all.

The first half saw Germany a little shell shocked as the Mexican’s weren’t letting them have it their way. In fact, the German’s were very much on the back foot. With a lot of tooing and froing , with shots from Herrera and near own goals from Salcedo, things looked a little shaky both ends. However, in the 35th minute Hirving Lovano kept his composure in the goal and the Mexican’s survived a German attack. Vela and Hernandez played a lovely one-two , squared the ball to Lozano who managed to put it in the back of the net. Germany was behind.

They looked close to equalising  just three minutes later, with the Mexican goalie nudging a Kroos free kick onto the crossbar. However, with nothing else up their sleeve, Germany couldn’t find any way back and lost the first match. I’m sure it’s just a stall… they’ll be back.

Result: 1 – 0 to Mexico

Match 3 – 19.00: Brazil v Switzerland

If there’s any team you want to face less than the Germans in your opening match, then it has to be Brazil right? Well, this was the dilemma of the Swiss team on Sunday. However, what should have been another straight forward result didn’t go quite the way it was expected. Switzerland managed to recover from going behind and nick a point.

With all the talent upfront, scoring shouldn’t be a problem for Brazil, yet they had trouble. Paulinho came close in the 11th minute, but scuffed a shot from just 2 yards out. However, the Samba boys took the lead in the 20th minute  when Coutinho placed the ball into the far corner of the goal. Switzerland couldn’t respond for the first half and Brazil went into half-time the leaders.

However, Switzerland came out strong in the second half and in the 50th minute, Zuber smashed a header into the Brazilian goal from a great corner. Despite Firmino, Miranda and Neymar all have great opportunities to pull ahead, Sommer managed to clear them all and the game ended with a surprising draw.

Result: 1 – 1 draw