This has been a world cup of upsets. If there were any lingering doubts, the results of Thursday night have all but cleared them for good. The first jolt came in Argentina suffering a stunning 1-2 defeat at the hands of Saudi Arabia with Japan setting the tournament alive by beating heavyweights Germany and Spain to progress to the next round.
European Powerhouses Shut Shop
Belgium Bite The Dust
Belgium, the world’s second-ranked side and a team that finished third during the previous edition of the world cup, has been eliminated in the first round itself. They started their tournament on a drab note with a scrappy 1-0 win against Canada. But soon that turned into a happy memory as Morocco stunned them handing a 2-0 defeat that left their hopes hanging by a string. A win over Croatia was needed but an entertaining (wasteful from their perspective) goalless draw followed and they were knocked out.
Germany’s Horror Show
For the second time in a row, Germany have failed to advance beyond the group stage. They started by falling to a spirited Japan (1-2) and then were held to a 1-1 draw by Spain. A win over Costa Rica was needed but also a defeat for Japan against Spain. One of them happened - Germany winning 4-2 but Japan punched their ticket with a shocking 2-1 win.
Interestingly, four teams in the top-15 of FIFA rankings have exited the showpiece event in the group stage itself (a fifth team (Italy) didn’t qualify for the tournament). And two more [Uruguay (14th) and Switzerland (15)] are still battling to advance ahead.
Rise of The Asian Challenge
The spark that Saudi Arabia ignited was turned into a raging wildfire by Japan. The Lionel Messi-led Albicelestes were forced to summon their best against the Saudis, a team they were expected to roll over. But it wasn’t the case. Argentina suffered a 1-2 defeat and taking a cue, another Asian challenger took it to a different level. Japan humbled Germany and Spain and in between suffered a narrow defeat to Costa Rica. The two wins propelled them to the round-of-16.
Qualified Teams So Far: France, Brazil, Portugal, Netherlands, Senegal, England, United States, Australia, Argentina, Poland, Croatia, Morocco, Japan and Spain
Eliminated Teams So Far: Qatar, Canada, Ecuador, Iran, Wales, Denmark, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia, Mexico, Belgium, Germany and Costa Rica
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