BY LEO BENNETT

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is in full swing, after opening in Russia on the fifteenth of last month. Teams from nations across the world are competing for the cup, first awarded in 1930 to the then-host nation Uruguay. This year’s tournament has seen highs, lows and a mass of unexpected results from the minnows, right up to the high-flying teams, and we are nowhere near done yet. New Maverick Leo Bennett brings you up to date with the latest.

It started with the opening match between hosts Russia against Saudi Arabia; only the fifth time they have ever qualified to participate in the tournament. Russia hammered them 5-0, the highest winning margin the tournament so far, alongside England’s 6-1 win against Panama. Then came another Pool A clash between Uruguay and Egypt, although Egypt fought hard, they were no match for Uruguay without their star striker Mohamed Salah. In Pool B, Morocco’s first pool game ended with a heart-breaking own goal in stoppage time which gifted Iran victory. Pool B’s most anticipated game between Spain and Portugal followed and Portugal’s prodigy Cristiano Ronaldo did all he could, scoring a hat-trick, however Spain managed to stay in the game scoring three goals of their own, ending the dramatic match in a draw.

Although every game up until this point ended as expected, when Argentina and Iceland matched up no one could have predicted the result. Despite having 27 shots Argentina only managed to score one goal, this game was to end 1-1. Brazil also did not dominate as they were expected to in their opening match against the Swiss, only managing a 1-1 draw. Yet, the biggest upset came from Pool F when underdogs Mexico managed to beat Germany 1-0. Germany had prior been favourites to win the Cup again, just like they did in 2014. Thus, bringing to a close match day 1.

Despite the thrilling opening games, this tournament, as with others in the past, has been marred with controversy and politics. Allegations of corruption have ripped FIFA apart for decades, and this cup was no different. After former FIFA president Sepp Blatter resigned in 2015 because of allegations of corruption after awarding Russia with the 2018 cup and Qatar with the 2022 cup, Russian President Vladimir Putin still invited Blatter to the opening game regardless, which some saw as a ‘thank you’ for awarding the games to Russia.

It didn’t seem to worry Spain in their game against Iran though. Being the underdogs did not seem affect how Iran played, and although they lost 1-0, the way they played was impressive and showed the strength of their team. Argentina did not live up to their expectations once again, when playing Croatia at Nizhny Novgorod Stadium. Croatia’s world class midfield managed to outplay 5 time Ballon D’or winner Lionel Messi, and Croatia went on to win 3-0. This was Croatia’s first ever win against a South American side in the World Cup after losing their past four matchups, making the win even more impressive.

Brazil seemed to find their stride again against Costa Rica winning 2-0, both goals coming in stoppage time. Pool F gifted us 14 goals in two games with Harry Kane’s hat trick leading England to a 6-1 win over Panama as mentioned above, and 2 goals from both Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku helping Belgium beat Tunisia 5-2. This meant the winner of England and Belgium in their match day 3 game would top the pool. The pressure was on. Germany also managed a win against Sweden with Toni Kroos scoring off of a free kick in the 94th minute. This put pressure on Germany to beat South Korea if they wanted to keep their hopes of winning the tournament alive.

Saudi Arabia managed their first win in the World Cup since their 1-0 win over Belgium in 1994 when they beat Egypt 2-1. Uruguay beat hosts Russia 3-0 to solidify their position at the top of Pool A. Pool B ended in a somewhat underwhelming fashion with a 2-2 draw between Spain and Morocco and a 1-1 draw between Portugal and Iran. The first 0-0 draw occured when France and Denmark matched up in Pool C.

Pool F once again held many surprises when Mexico and Sweden played a thrilling match, which would end in a 3-0 Sweden victory. South Korea had not yet managed to win a game during this cup but in the 93rd minute scored a shock goal from a corner to put them 1-0 ahead, they went on to win this game 2-0 ending Germany’s 2018 World Cup campaign.

The Round of 16 has now begun and there have not been any boring matches as of yet, France beat Messi’s Argentina in a thrilling 4-3 victory and Uruguay beat Ronaldo’s Portugal 2-1. Russia pulled off a shock victory in a penalty shootout against Spain allowing them to move forward to the Quarter Finals, and Denmark were overcome by Croatia in the same fashion.

The 2018 World Cup has been full of twists, turns and surprises, and the next rounds look to be just as thrilling as the last. If you are not already following the World Cup it is not too late to miss the action as the Quarter Finals are set to begin on Saturday. Stay tuned to TEARAWAY for all your World Cup action.

 

LEO BENNETT  loves politics and whitewater kayaking. Don’t get him started on football, you won’t get a word in edge-ways. Wants to be Harry Potter.

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