Round One Round Up: World Cup 2018
Time flies when you’re having fun, and that’s certainly been the case for this year’s World Cup. The first round of games is already over and it certainly hasn’t disappointed.
This year’s World Cup in Russia has started off with a bang. There hasn’t been a single game that’s ended in a 0-0, and most teams have already registered at least one goal which will give them confidence to push on into the second round of games. We’ve seen a number of strong performances from teams that, even if they don’t play well, have a certain exuberance about them going forward, that will surely lead to more goals. Even teams like Denmark and Peru went out at each other with a hammer and sickle even though it only ended in a 1-0 result for Denmark.
Spain and Portugal kicked us off in a heavyweight clash that saw six fabulous goals, in a game that’s already being tipped as a World Cup classic. It wouldn’t have looked out of place as a match up for the latter stages of the tournament.
Atmosphere that is being garnered from players, travelling fans and locals alike
A total of nine penalties were awarded in the first round of matches alone which is surely on its way to smashing the previous record in any previous World Cup.
There has been a wave of negativity going into this World Cup and it seems to have evaporated almost overnight with an atmosphere that is being garnered from players, travelling fans and locals alike.
Not so hotly tipped hosts
That negativity has been ruthlessly shattered by none other than the hosts themselves, both on and off the pitch. The decision to give this year’s World Cup to Russia has come under fire the closer we’ve got to cutting the ribbon. Many have called into question both the country’s regime that is behind delivering us the tournament, but also the country’s own passion and ability to deliver a positive, safe and seamless World Cup experience.
The feeling around the Russia national team from both home and abroad has been even more soured in recent weeks, with one Russian journalist claiming that they needed a miracle to make it out of their group.
What we are seeing so far is a fantastic tournament
That being said, the feeling abroad hasn’t been too encouraging either, and it’s likely that this could be the most unsupported host nation in World Cup memory, and quite unfairly it has to be said. Scenes from hooligans two years ago when Russia met England in the Euros, as well as Russia’s government’s actions in recent years have unfairly tarnished the country’s image as a whole
But it’s important that fans everywhere lose that negativity or feeling of mistrust, and don’t let it colour their image of the Russian people. What we are seeing so far is a fantastic tournament set in a country many know little about.
A World Cup is better for everyone when the host nation does well
Now that the Russian national team has finally picked up its game and is doing the business it’s important that they are supported well. At both games we’ve seen them play the fans have been nothing short of rapturous. A World Cup is better for everyone when the host nation does well, and it would be in everyone’s interest to get behind them and wish them well.
- Russia's 8 goals in their first two matches is equal to the amount of goals Spain scored to win the World Cup in 2010
- First time Russia have won their first two games since they got to the semis in 1966 as the Soviet Union
- First time a host has won both their opening matches since Italy in 1934
Big boys struggled
Defending champions Germany went down to Mexico in a shock 1-0 win for El Tricolor, in what was definitely the stand out shocker so far. Similarly heavyweights Argentina and Brazil struggled against lesser opposition, both only managing one-all draws in their openers.
There are upsets every World Cup and everyone loves the occasional upset. Fans have to make the difficult choice between enjoying see the big boys go through or whether they want to see them crash out.
History would dictate that they’ll be there at the end despite this hiccup
Having said that, it doesn’t seem likely that any of those big three World Cup staple squads will crash out in the group stages. Although the Germans don’t have as strong a squad as last time round, they do have quality in abundance. History would dictate that they’ll be there at the end despite this hiccup.
Brazil looked impressive going forward against Switzerland but have to find their samba rhythm going into their second match, especially with Neymar looking doubtful. Argentina look arguably the most likely out of the three to go out in the group stage. They struggled to find any answers against Iceland, and with the combination of a weak and unorganised defence and their star man not doing the business it could be worrying. They were poor in qualifying and experience has shown they need Lionel Messi on form to pull them together as a team.
Will VAR be the real star?
FIFA’s decision to bring in VAR for this year’s World Cup was controversial. It hasn’t been fully given the run around or road tested in enough domestic competitions prior to it’s introduction at the World Cup. It is arguably the most revolutionary thing to happen to our beautiful game since the introduction of the red and yellow card system at the 1970 World Cup in Mexico.
It’s important that officials stay on track and don’t allow that faith to be shaken
FIFA backed themselves by saying they wanted to see a ‘fairer’ World Cup for officials, players and fans alike - and for the most part it does seem to working. It has to be said that it’s never going to please everyone, but it does look like players and their technical staff are accepting decisions even when they go against them. It’s important that officials stay on track and don’t allow that faith to be shaken. The level of misplaced passion that has turned to on-pitch petulance has been growing in the game to worrying levels over recent years and so far at the World Cup it’s largely been stamped out due to VAR.
All in all, it’s never going to please everyone but so far teams like France and Sweden have benefited from potentially controversial penalty decisions. But it does need to be 100% correct. Fairer is one thing, but it needs to be totally on the level.
It’s not going anywhere and we’ll all have to get used to it
Previously officials could mask themselves behind simple claims that they didn’t see an incident, or just put it down to human error. Now there is no room for doubt. The referee doesn’t just have technology to help, but also the implementation of additional human checks and balances behind that technology. It still has England captain Harry Kane and his cohort of England fans scratching their heads over a number of decisions it should have fixed. It will get better over time but it has to happen quickly, because from now on it’s not going anywhere and we’ll all have to get used to it.