It has a been a whirlwind 15 days so far at the 2018 World Cup in Russia. The group stage has now concluded, and half the teams are going home. The sixteen that remain now prepare for the knockout round, as we are two weeks away from crowning a champion. The group stage was filled with late-game drama, big upsets, superstar players, and of course lots of goals. Now having a day off to reflect before the tension rises for the round of sixteen, there is a chance to look back at the best and worst of the group stage.
World Cup 2018; Best of the Group Stage
Best Game; Portugal vs Spain
We didn’t have to wait long for this breathtaking game. On the second day of the tournament, these two Iberian rivals put on a show, in a back and forth 3-3 draw. Cristiano Ronaldo was of course in the middle of much of the action. The Ballon d’Or winner scored a hat-trick in his World Cup opener. Spain’s mercurial goal scorer was also influential. Diego Costa scored a brace before right back Nacho gave Spain its first lead at 3-2 with a brilliant strike. It was then on Ronaldo to shine, and he did. Down a goal in the 88′ minute, he scored his third of the game with a sublime curling free-kick to split the points.
Luka Modric – Midfielder – Croatia
The Real Madrid star has been in top form at the World Cup. He led Croatia to three consecutive wins to top Group D. Modric scored two goals and was pulling the strings in each game from his midfield position. Combined with Ivan Rakitic, the midfield tandem has taken their country from knockout round hopefuls to title contenders.
Phillipe Couthino – Midfielder – Brazil
While most eyes are on superstar teammate Neymar, Couthino has been Brazil’s best player in Russia. He scored a peach of a goal with his curling effort from outside the box against Switzerland. The Barcelona man also scored the winner against Costa Rica and had an assist versus Serbia. His speed and skill make him a handful for defences, and he has already proven he can find the back of the net from a long way out.
Kasper Schmeichel – Goalkeeper – Denmark
The former Premiere league champion has put up a wall in the Danish goal. Schmeichel has 14 saves through three games. The Leicester City goalkeeper has only allowed one goal on a penalty to Australia. He is second in both saves and save percentage. Denmark now advance to the knockout round where they will face Croatia. The Danes only have two goals in three games so they will need their keeper to stay at the top of his game.
The goals have been flowing in Russia. So far in the group stage, there have been two and a half goals per contest. A dull affair between France and Denmark in the third group stage game has been the only scoreless match. The have been 25 goals scored after the 80th minute. Late drama has been a theme since the second day of play. England’s Harry Kane leads the Golden Boot race with five. Ronaldo and Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku are close behind with four each. All three have a round of sixteen match to add to their tally coming up over the next few days.
Goal of The Group Stage
There have been plenty of top-class goals scored so far in this World Cup, including the aforementioned plethora of late game goals. Considering both brilliance and situation, Toni Kroos has the best of the bunch so far. His 95th-minute curler was a thing of beauty. At the time it kept the defending champs with a chance to advance. He passed his free-kick just a few feet over where Marco Rues stopped the ball, then Kroos unleashed a brilliant strike from the left side of the box. It curled perfectly past the Swedish keeper and Germany won in the closing seconds.
The round of sixteen starts this weekend. There are enticing match-ups on both sides of the bracket, highlighted by France v Argentina and England v Colombia. The defending champs have already been eliminated, and many of the other favorites have struggled to find top form. Anything can happen from here on out, and with this World Cup’s pension for late-game drama, the intensity will be heavy until the final whistle.
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