Review: Mexican wave shakes the World Cup

Amol Gokhale
Wednesday, 20 June 2018

Mexico 1- 0 Germany

Moscow: The celebrations in Mexico City were so wild and jubilant that it triggered earthquake sensors in the city.

It's not just Mexico City where tremors were felt. It sent shock wave through the entire World Cup. It was the biggest upset of the opening round of fixtures so far.

The result possibly has changed the whole complexion of the tournament, unless something unthinkable and improbable happens to get the results back on expected lines. 

After their loss against Mexico, Germany coach Joachim Loew stressed on the fact that they won't suffer the same fate of going out in Group Stage like previous two champions - Italy and Spain. He also accepted that now they might face Brazil in the Round of 16. 

The other implication of that shock result is Belgium and England - when they face each other in their final group game. They would want to finish second rather than first as it might give them a little easier path to progress to the last four, assuming Germany still doesn't top the group, in which case, normalcy would be restored.

Big Guns Fail
If one looks back at previous World Cup records, it would be wise not to call England a big team, but simply 'big name team’. But presently, they are the only side to have made it count when it mattered the most - an injury time winner by captain Harry Kane.

Belgium, with their golden generation, had it easy going past World Cup debutants Panama 3-0, with a brace from Romelu Lukaku.

Rest all have failed to make the mark. Period.

Spain and Portugal played out a thrilling 3-3 draw where Cristiano Ronaldo stole all the limelight including the one on the Spanish side, who had sacked their coach Julen Lopetegui barely 48-hours before the tournament after he agreed to take over reigns of Real Madrid.

Lionel Messi missed a penalty and an opportunity to give Argentina a winning start against another debutant, Iceland, and are in a tricky situation facing Croatia.

Switzerland using their physical superiority frustrated Brazil, hacking Neymar to the ground countless times and earned themselves a 1-1 draw.

Uruguay too struggled to break down Egypt and had to rely on a last minute winner by Jose Gimenez to earn full three points. 

It wasn't any different case with France as they beat Australian 2-1 thanks to VAR and Aziz Behich's own goal.

Russia Impresses
The only team which has impressed so far is none other than Russia, who hammered a sorry Saudi Arabia 5-0 and thumped Egypt 3-1. They stand a chance to be the first team to qualify for the Round of 16 provided the result of the game between Uruguay and Saudi Arabia go their way.

After the criticism that the host had gone through, the two performances that they have delivered, have sent the host into jubilation, specialy after the people of Russia expected that their side might just fail to make it to the next round.

But, the chances are that Russia will make history and make it to the Round of 16 for the first time since the end of the Soviet Union.

The two debutants Iceland and Panama did their best and it was the smallest nation by population to qualify for the World Cup which got the result they expected.

Iran's 1-0 winner over Morocco, made them the first Asian nation to win in this edition of the tournament and Senegal joined them to be the first African nation to win their match when they defeated Poland 2-1. 

Sprinkle Your Stardust
Cristiano Ronaldo did sprinkle his stardust on the biggest stage of global football on only the second day of the tournament, with a spectacular hat-trick against none other than Spain.

While Lionel Messi, a Barcelona man, who's always compared with Real Madrid star, over who is the greatest, had an off day at office at Moscow's Spartak Stadium. Argentina were held to a 1-1 draw against debutants Iceland after Messi missed a penalty.

If there's one player who performed brightly is Russia's Villarreal midfielder Denis Cheryshev. He added one more goal to his brace in the opening game against Egypt.

Apart from that, Croatia captain Luka Modric, Mexico winger Hirving Lozano, Spain's Diego Costa were the outstanding performers in the opening round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, while the big names like Luis Suarez, Neymar, Antoine Griezmann, Mesut Ozil, Robert Lewandowski were quiet.

Germany's Thomas Mueller, who has scored five goals each in last two World Cups, too was nowhere to be seen in the match against Mexico.

Up The Ante
All these big names, who failed to fire so far in the World Cup must up their ante, not just for their reputation, but also because they mean so much more for their teams and fans. They have the ability to change the course of the game with their skills in fraction of a second and one can be sure that they will step up to the challenge sooner than later. 

The pride is at stake, with all to play for.

Baby Steps For VAR
Video Assistant Referee finally made its debut at the World Cup after initial hiccups with the technology and so far, it has been a mixed reception for the technology in Russia.

Three penalty decisions, which were initially not given, were overturned by the team of referees sitting in Moscow and they were correct decisions, to say the least.

But Brazil and England have lodged an official complaint to FIFA about the use of VAR, as in Brazil's case, defender Miranda was pushed from behind by Switzerland's Steven Zuber when he scored the equalising goal. While England felt that VAR should have intervened when the referee had failed to notice the fact that Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground.

These are certainly baby steps for the technology in the game but one thing is for sure that it is here to say and one might feel that team will have a challenge up their sleeve just like cricket or tennis.

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