Is football coming home?
The 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia has been full of goals, fouls, celebrations, and most importantly, surprises. From England's performance to Germany's short-lived campaign, there are so many shocking things that have happened this summer.
1. Germany eliminated in the group stage.
The 2014 world champions started off their World Cup campaign with a 1-0 loss to Mexico. A 3-2 victory over Sweden only came after a last-gasp 95th minute winner. Most shocking of all was the Germans' performance against South Korea. The Koreans scored two goals in stoppage time to send Germany back home. Germany finished last in their group, while Sweden and Mexico advanced.
2. Spain was knocked out by Russia in the round of 16.
Spain, like Germany, was a favorite to win the tournament. After a series of unconvincing performances against European champions Portugal (3-3 draw), Iran (0-1 win) and Morocco (2-2 draw), Spain crashed out in the first knockout round thanks to hosts Russia and the heroics of Russian goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev. Manchester United and Spain's first-choice goalie, David De Gea, was far from his usual great form, making only 1 save through Spain's entire campaign. World-class stars like Sergio Ramos, Andres Iniesta, and Diego Costa were not enough to keep La Roja's World Cup dreams alive. Russia and Germany ruined my bracket, too.
3. Only one 0-0 draw the entire tournament.
Soccer has its fair share of nil-nil draws, whether it's watching England play in the European Championships or Stoke City and West Brom in the Premier League. Thanks to the introduction of VAR (Video Assistant Referee), the World Cup in Russia has been far from boring. A record number of penalties have been awarded, and there has only been one 0-0 result during the entire World Cup. France played Denmark in a Group C matchup on June 26 with no goals scored.
4. Japan beat Colombia, and (almost) beat Belgium
Japan has showed incredible passion for the game this World Cup. They managed to defeat South American powerhouse Colombia in a Group H match, while going up 2-0 against semifinalists Belgium in the round of 16 (only for Belgium to come back, and make it 2-3 with less than 30 seconds to go). Japanese fans were incredibly respectful as well despite the losses they suffered; they stayed behind and cleaned up the stadium after their matches.
5. England have been playing really well...
If you've ever heard England fans, you know they're used to a vicious cycle of disappointment. They start off with high confidence in the Three Lions, and ultimately, the team is eliminated in an embarrassing fashion (in 2014, they didn't make it past the group, and in the Euros in 2016, underdogs Iceland knocked them out in the first knockout round). In Russia, though, England through to the semi-finals, and possibly the final if they can beat Croatia. Maybe, just maybe, football's coming home, thanks to England's talented young squad that includes Harry Kane, Dele Alli, Marcus Rashford, and Jesse Lingard.
6. ...and England won their first penalty shootout in World Cup history.
England has always had horrible luck when it comes to penalty shootouts. Some fans were pessimistic about the possibility of a shootout in the days leading up to England's round of 16 match against Colombia. In a game filled with foul play, Colombia equalized in the 93rd minute, and sent the game to extra time, and ultimately a penalty shootout. Thanks to some fantastic saves from goalkeeper Jordan Pickford and Eric Dier's game-winning penalty kick, England were able to progress to the quarterfinals and keep their dream alive.
7. No South American teams made it past the quarter finals.
When you think of soccer powerhouses, you typically think of European teams like Germany and Spain, as well as Latin American nations like Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico. 2018 was not a great year for South American soccer teams. Argentina and Colombia lost to France and England, respectively, in the round of 16. Brazil surprisingly lost to Belgium in the quarterfinals, and Uruguay were eliminated by finalists France in the same round. Poor Peru didn't even advance past the group. Back in 2014, Argentina were finalists, while Brazil made it to the semifinals (only to be crushed by Germany 7-1).
8. Argentina barely made it past the group stage.
Argentina was very underwhelming during the tournament, and I'm not quite sure why. A draw with Iceland and a shock 3-0 loss to Croatia left the Argentines desperate for a miracle. Defender Marcos Rojo made that happen for them with a last-minute goal to secure a win against Nigeria and a knockout place. The grand finale? Losing to France.
9. Messi played horribly.Giphy
The Player of the Tournament winner in 2014, Lionel Messi was as uninspiring as his national team in Russia. His penalty against Iceland was saved by goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson, a part-time film director back in his home country. He only scored one goal during the group stage, and basically failed to show up against France. Luckily for him, however, his biggest rival, Cristiano Ronaldo, was sent home by Uruguay in the same round Argentina were out.
10. Senegal were eliminated from the group on fair play.
You have to feel bad for Senegal. They had the same amount of wins and draws as Japan, the same goal difference, and the same number of goals scored. It all came down to fair play - the number of red and yellow cards received by each team. Japan had a better disciplinary record, and went through. Senegal were still better than Germany, though.
11. Italy, USA, Netherlands, and Chile didn’t qualify.
Maybe I'm just a salty USA fan who can't get over that her team didn't qualify because they lost to TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO. But it was also shocking that Italy, Chile, and the Netherlands failed to qualify, seeing as Italy have won four World Cups, the Netherlands were third place runners-up in 2014, and Chile are a strong South American team. But it was nice to see smaller teams like Iceland, Panama, Egypt, and Peru participate.
12. Iceland didn't progress as far as I expected.
Speaking of Iceland...they did worse than I thought they would. They were in a tough group with Nigeria, Croatia, and Argentina, and only managed one draw. I was hoping they would pull an upset like they did against England two years ago, but I was disappointed. But it still is amazing that a country of 300,000 people got to go to their very first World Cup, and that their goalie denied Messi from scoring!
13. Russia has actually been a pretty good host country.
I recently wrote about why Qatar shouldn't host the 2022 World Cup. My term paper that article is based on discussed why Russia could potentially be a bad host country, due to conflicts with Ukraine, anti-LGBT legislation, racism, and violence. From what I've seen, however, soccer fans from all over the world have come together as one in Russia and there has been no violence or racist incidents, as far as I know.
14. And one not-so-shocking thing happened...
Neymar spent a lot of time flopping around.