The World Cup is now underway, and the first set of matches have been completed. This has been one of the most riveting finals in a long time, but there are some key takeaways from it this year.
1. VAR is a blessing, but can also be the double-edged sword it was expected to be.
It is only a curse insofar as referees are still capable of making mistakes with it (France's penalty vs. Australia is definitely one of the most controversial moments so far). There are other instances where VAR could have been used at the referee's discretion (England vs. Tunisia, Korea vs. Sweden, etc.). Overall? Great addition. Clear penalty for Peru against Denmark. Sweden as well. VAR has saved so many teams so far. Great addition.
2. The big boys will not win easily.
Germany struggled. France struggled. England did for a bit as well. Even Spain could only muster up a draw against Portugal. This is not even mentioning Brazil and Argentina! This could be the year of the underdog. Who knows who? Maybe Iceland will have a run? Senegal? Switzerland? Maybe one of the newly established powers in Belgium or Croatia could make a run. This year will be fun.
3. Mexico IS better than everyone thought.
Come on. Mexico is consistently slept on. Yeah, there's a bit of chaos, upheaval, and disorder, but Mexico is talented. Layun, Lozano, Chicharito? We saw them all play quite well against the world champions. They showed up, and did well despite the Germans placing pressure on them consistently. I'm not saying campeones yet, but Mexico has the ability to go far. Osorio has put together a good team.
4. Brazil has the same problems from 2014.
NO. DEFENSE. That is the exact same issue as last time! There was SO MUCH SPACE! They did not bother to close any gaps. No wonder Switzerland equalized. Brazil put together a shambolic, lackluster display on the defensive end, and significant effort could have compensated for the attacking malaise of Brazil after Coutinho's goal. Unfortunately, Brazil did not do enough, and losing Neymar may do them in.
5. Russia has not been as bad of a host as once thought.
Environmentally speaking, it has not seemed as bad. Sure, there were the abhorrent comments made by politicians and representatives in Russia, and the Russian's checkered history with racism made things a bit concerning, but from the sound of things, there has been either little to no reporting of any issues regarding racial tensions in Russia (note, there could be issues that simply have not been reported, and there have been other issues with hooliganism, which was also a concern, but there have not been upticks in incidents). The national team has also put on a show, with Golovin being a standout.
Overall, a fun first week. Let's wait until the end of the next set of games before other projections can be made, as well as other observations.