The final group games of the first round of the World Cup begin today so it is a good time to recap what has occurred so far. What teams are in pole position to top their groups? What teams need some help? What teams need a miracle to advance? And what teams World Cup dream ended almost as fast as it began?
The following is a recap of each group after 2 games. It won’t be a breakdown of every single scenario needed to advance but a look at each teams prospects and failures so far. If you are the average hardworking American who HASN’T forgone work to stream games this should catch you up.
Week Two World Cup Recap
The overachieving Russians are the story of this group. While it should not shock that the hosts have done well against a plum group served up by FIFA, they were incredibly unfavored going into this tournament. A 5-0 shellacking of Saudi Arabia followed by a 3-1 drubbing of Egypt had them in position to win their group. A 3-0 drubbing by Uruguay will give Russia pause but they have given home fans plenty to cheer about.
Uruguay won Group A by adding two narrow 1-0 victories to their victory against Russia leaving the Saudis and Egypt to despair. Especially disappointed will be Egypt. Having qualified for the first time in a generation, they were never able to get off the mark. Star Mohamed Salah missing the first game due to injury hurt them and they never really recovered. A last-minute loss to Saudi Arabia today left Egypt winless and pointless in their return to the World Stage.
Headliners Spain and Portugal served up one of the best games of the tournament early on with a back and forth 3-3 draw. They followed that up with narrow wins against Iran and Morocco respectively to head the group going into the final round of games.
The surprise here has been Iran’s late, late win against Morocco. The win doomed the North Africans while making today’s games far more interesting. Morocco, with only pride to play for, nearly beat Spain and Iran salvaged a draw against Portugal. Alas, it was not enough as Spain won the group on goals scored over Portugal. In the Round of 16, Spain will play Russia and Portugal will play Uruguay.
This group has been defined by narrow French success and an enthralling but ultimately disappointing return to World Cup action for Peru. France managed wins against Australia and Peru to advance but now face Denmark to try and win the group. Australia has a shot but only by dooming Peru to a winless (and potentially goalless) World Cup.
Everyone is alive in this surprising and exciting group. The headliners are, per usual, the Argentines, but for all the wrong reasons. Tying lowly newcomers Iceland and then losing badly to Croatia has them hanging by a thread to advance. Star Lionel Messi missed a penalty kick in the first game and remains goalless. The runners-up of 2014 remain a melancholy side. A win versus Nigeria would give them a shot to advance but is hardly a give in.
Croatia has been the high-flyer of this group with convincing wins over the Argentines and Nigeria. Already having advanced, a win secures first place. Plucky Iceland held on for an exciting point versus Argentina but will need to beat the Croatians to have a shot at going to the Round of 16.
This group has had much to discuss from Brazil’s relative struggles to politics between Serbia and Switzerland, via Kosovo. Brazil and the Swiss lead the group but need to produce results in the final match day to move forward. Brazil drew Switzerland in their first game and left it extremely late to down Costa Rica, who are now eliminated.
Switzerland got a huge last minute win over Serbia in the second game but it was overshadowed by other concerns. The Swiss goal scorers in that contest both happened to be refugees from Kosovo, a former province of Serbia that declared independence a decade ago. Granit Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri further complicated matters by flashing an eagle sign when they celebrated. This is believed to represent the Eagle in the Albanian flag and offends many Serbs. Facing a possible suspension, FIFA ultimately decided to levy a fine against the two players. The group remains wide open.
This group started with a bang as Mexico upset Germany 1-0. El Tri followed that up with a convincing win over South Korea, leaving them on the cusp of advancing. Defending champion Germany has made it extremely difficult for themselves while sitting on the edge of elimination. A stunning free-kick goal on the last play of the game saved blushes against Sweden has them poised to beat South Korea and advance in their last game. Sweden has done well but will need to overcome their setback against Germany and beat high flying Mexico to move on.
This group has proven to be the most unbalanced so far. Belgium and England have both advanced while Panama and Tunisia will both go home. Belgium remains a dark horse to win the tournament. England left it late against Tunisia but decimating Panama 6-1 has restored confidence. Panama, in their first finals appearance, has proven to be overmatched but have their first goal to celebrate deservedly.
Tabbed to be a wide open group before the tournament it has proven to be true. Japan and Senegal surprisingly beat Colombia and Poland in their first games and have the advantage after drawing each other in their second game. Colombia beat Poland in their second game to eliminate them. The Poles will be sorely disappointed with this World Cup outing but the other teams have all to play for on their final match day.