The first game of the 2018 World Cup saw the hosts Russia comfortably thrash Saudi Arabia 5-0 in what was not really that surprising result given that Russia were the hosts and expected to do well, and Saudi Arabia who have had a patchy time at the world cup finals not winning a game since 1994, when they beat Belgium 1-0 in Washington finishing second in the group and finishing with the same points as Belgium and the Netherlands.
Saudi Arabia barely made a mark in the whole game and Russia were worthy victors with the first three points of the competition which was the best start they could have hoped for.
The second match of group A saw Egypt take on Uruguay which was quite tame by the standards of the first game with the winning goal coming in the 89th minute, and not from Luis Suarez, who was rather ineffective throughout the game.
Salah didn’t even get on the pitch, but it is debatable as to whether his presence would have made a great deal of difference to the final score, as it looked more likely to end with a no score draw than anything else before Uruguay nicked it at the last, and also had the better of the shots.
So in the end a Uruguay win did seem fair on the balance of play. but it was a pity that we didn’t see Salah. even if it might not have made a difference on the final score.
In group B Morocco and Iran played the first game and this game was rather slow and only a had a few moments in the first half with both Morocco and Iran threatening to score the first goal, with neither managing to hit the target.
The second half was much similar to the first half with not a great deal happening and Iran getting lucky winner courtesy of an own goal, meaning that Morocco were very unlucky to come out of the game with nothing, and can feel rather robbed, not that Iran will feel the same of course.
The second game in group B was completely different and was end to end from the first moments to the final moments. Portugal took the lead with a very soft penalty awarded to Portugal when Ronaldo virtually threw himself to the floor in typical Ronaldo fashion. Diego Costa equalised for Spain only for David De Gea to let a simple Ronaldo shot slip through his gloves. Costa then equalised again just after half time and it wasn’t long before Nacho scored the goal of the tournament so far with giving Spain the lead.
If it wasn’t for Pique tacking Ronaldo just outside the box near the end of the game Spain might have got all three points, but, of course, Ronaldo struck again, making a hat trick of goals, all of which were preventable from Spain’s point of view, but Ronaldo always finds a way to score so in the end it was probably inevitable.
Group C saw France take on Australia and Peru take on Denmark. Australia gave a good account of themselves and can be said to count themselves unlucky as the first France goal was a penalty given by VAR after the ref had said no penalty. In this case the ref was right as it wasn’t a penalty at all, but it was given all the same. Griezman did take a good penalty though.
Australia got a penalty soon after when the France defender Umtiti blatantly handled the ball in the box and Jedinak smashed home the penalty which gave Lloris no chance. Unlike the first penalty this was a stonewall penalty.
France finally won the game with a goal which was also awarded by VAR after Pogba’s lob hit the bar and landed on the right side of the goal line and it was rightly given, unlike Lampard’s effort against the USA years ago.
Group D saw Argentina take on Iceland and Croatia take on Nigeria and produced a truly remarkable result with Iceland holding Argentina to a score draw even with the might of Lionel Messi, who was not quite his fluent best in this game.
Yes, he did manage to have a few shots on goal but few of them on target, and even missed a penalty but the game was really all about Iceland and how they defended and defended and defended.
My favourite fact of this game was that the Iceland goal keeper Halldórsson was also a film maker and was responsible for the video of the Icelandic entry into Eurovision 2012, , which is a fact and a half, if you ask me.
Once again Iceland proved all the doubters wrong and got a well earned point. Argentina really should have done much better but Iceland stopped them and damn well earned the point.
Croatia took the lead with an own goal after a corner; Nigeria didn’t really do that much and a penalty was awarded to Croatia twenty minutes before the end which Modric converted. This penalty unlike some of the others was a correctly awarded penalty, and in the end Nigeria didn’t really do a great deal and Croatia were worthy winners in the end with far more of the possesession and the action.
Group E consisted of Brazil, Switzerland, Costa Rica and Serbia. Costa Rica and Serbia contested the first game which was a rather dull affair for me with the best moment was the free kick that Kolarov scored which gave Serbia the win.
Costa Rica had a few moments but were not able to make anything count for anything, but to be honest if it wasn’t for the free kick then it might well have finished goalless.
I am not sure that Serbia were necessarily the best team but they made the most of their chances.
Brazil were dazzling in the first half of their game against Switzerland and probably should have been more than 1-0 in the lead at the break and Switzerland looked like a beaten team with Coutiniho dazzling and the Brazilians showing why they are usually the favourites to win the competition every four years.
In the second half it was very different story with Switzerland giving Brazil and game and even managing to level the tie. Quite how Brazil didn’t win this game is beyond me the amount of chances they had, but conversely Switzerland, who were the better team in the second half gave them a run for their money, and had their own chances to nick the game themselves, and in the end it was a fair result.
Group F saw Germany take on Mexico and Sweden take on South Korea. Mexico got the result of the tournament so far quite easily beating a lacklustre German side by one goal to nil, and could probably have had more.
Germany were just not at it at all in this game and deserved to go away with nothing as Mexico were by far the better team and fully deserved the three points.
Sweden v South Korea saw the Korean goalkeeper Cho Huyn-woo keep his side in the game for most of it before VAR awarded a penalty which Granqvist slotted away. The fact that South Korea did not have one shot on target tells you what the game was like and Sweden should probably have scored more.
Group G saw Belgium outclass Panama 3-0 in what was probably a rather easy game for them and was not surprising at all.
England took on Tunisia in a rather scrappy game which they managed to win by 2-1. The score didn’t really reflect the match as England were on top for much of the first half and deserved the lead before Kyle Walker caught Tunisian player with his arm saw the African side equalise with a well taken penalty.
That knocked the stuffing out of England who then struggled for much of the rest of the game before Harry Kane scored his second goal right at the end to win the match.
To be honest if England hadn’t won it would not have been very fair as they had at least three stonewall penalties which the VAR panel totally missed.
That leaves Colombia and Japan and Poland and Senegal to finish off the first round of matches for this world cup.
After the first round of results the next wave of games will be interesting as some of the favourites might be out of the picture by this time next week.