Group A produced a predictable result with the heavy favourite in the group, Uruguay winning all three matches without conceding and that is largely to do with the immense Diego Godin at the back who dominated all three games and was a class above the rest. Luis Suarez started poorly against Egypt but found the net twice in his last two group games.
Russia with the power of the nation emphatically won their first two matches against Saudi Arabia (5-0) and Egypt (3-1) which gave the hosts a qualified birth into the knockout rounds, as predicted they came in 2nd and fell to an experienced Uruguay in the final game.
Surprisingly Saudi Arabia edged out a poor Egypt side in the final group game to claim third place after two defeats. I predicted that Egypt would have given Russia a close run for second place but the injury to Mohammed Salah in the Champions League final certainly restricted his impact and Egypt’s chances suffered as a result of it.
Prediction – Result
1. Uruguay – Uruguay
2. Russia – Russia
3. Egypt – Saudi Arabia
4. Saudi Arabia – Egypt
Spain started their group with the ‘game of the tournament’ against Portugal in a 3-3 draw, which saw Spain play well but moments of brilliance from Cristiano Ronaldo and a blunder from David De Gea only restricted them to a point. It seemed more that Portugal had won the game after the clutch free-kick from Ronaldo 2 minutes from time and celebrations occurred after the final whistle.
Supposedly the other two teams in the group Iran and Morocco would be push overs after Iran edged a 1-0 victory in matchday 1. However both sides then gave the European sides tough games but the experience showed as the European sides edged them 1-0 in matchday 2, therefore eliminating Morocco.
The final group game could have ended Ronaldo’s wonderful tournament who had 4 goals in 2 games, if Iran won however Portugal just about…survived the scare against Iran and Spain dramatically moved above Portugal and topped the group, with a 2-2 draw against Morocco. However, what I find disgusting is the decision to give Iran a penalty after a horrific VAR call, which ends up dislodging Portugal from the number 1 spot and moves them significantly into the harder bracket! Obviously if Ronaldo has scored the penalty to put them 2-0 up, it would have locked up the number one spot in group B. Ronaldo should be praised for his great two performances but criticised for his poor last game whereby he also risked also being sent off, out of stupidity.
Prediction – Result
1. Spain – Spain
2. Portugal – Portugal
3. Morocco – Iran
4. Iran – Morocco
France have gone about their business and scraped 2 wins and a mind numbing draw against Denmark. France initially edged out an energetic Australia 2-1, whilst Denmark edged Peru 1-0. France once again edged Peru 1-0, but made it 2/2 win in group C. Paul Pogba and N’golo Kante put in great performances but the frontline of Griezmann, Mbappe, Dembele have failed to grab all the headlines and France look certainly better with Giroud up top and that seemed to suit Griezmann better, due to his club system wehreby he usually is the supporting striker beside a taller more focal point of the attack so leading the line by himself does not suit his strengths. Therefore it is no surprise that he thrives in the system Atletico Madrid system.
Peru were unlucky to fall to Denmark and then France, however beat Australia in their final group game which included a goal from captain Paolo Guerrero, who was only able to play in the tournament after a tribunal overturned a 14-month drug ban. Peru although were eliminated after matchday 2, will be pleased to have at least one win to their name and finish 3rd in group C.
Australia started well in games 1 and 2, but looked flat in-game 3 whereby they still had a chance at qualification. Australia seemed to lack that prominent talent in attack that could for example have one shot and one goal, that sort of telnet could have seen them into the latter stages in this tournament.
Denmark have gone about their business quietly and went into the final group game with 4 points after edging Peru 1-0 and drawing 1-1 with Australia to then play out a bore draw against the French. Not a lot of quality on show but anything attacking wise comes through Christian Eriksen who I highlighted in my group C preview. He will have to standout in the latter stages of this tournament for Denmark to shock a few people and advance in the knockout rounds.
Prediction – Result
1. France – France
2. Denmark – Denmark
3. Australia – Peru
4. Peru – Australia
Group D produced it’s fair share of excitement and shocks. Argentina struggled and only just progressed whilst Croatia dominated and swept all opponents. Argentina initially struggled against Iceland and drew 1-1, which included a poor Lionel Messi who missed a penalty and failed to score in his 12 attempts on goal and seemed reluctant to share possession of the ball. Croatia defeated Nigeria with a solid 2-0 win, which included a Luka Modric penalty.
Croatia vs Argentina was the standout game in the group D and Croatia demonstrated a professional performance which made Argentina look very poor, Modric and Rakitic ran the show while Messi and co, looked on in shock. The 3-0 victory, which easily could have been more, demonstrated that Croatia should be taken seriously at all costs and sent Argentina into turmoil. Funnily enough earlier in the day I predicted that Croatia could easily ‘do a job’ on Argentina as the South American outfit looked poor and disjointed previously, it seems as if Messi is now the manager as Jorge Sampaoli has well and truly lost the dressing room! Nigeria then beat Iceland 2-0 to close out matchday 2.
Argentina sat bottom of the group and needed to beat Nigeria in their final group game, finally Lionel Messi entered the World Cup and scored a sublime goal to put the Argentinian’s a goal to the good until Victor Moses levelled from the penalty spot and Argentina were once again heading out but the unlikely hero that is Manchester United’s Marcos Rojo strike sent Argentina 2-1 in the 83rd minute. Ighalo missed two great chances for Nigeria and Higiuan who has history with missing important chances (World Cup Final 2014) missed a sitter as Argentina scraped through in dramatic circumstances. Messi was quiet in the second half but they finally found their goal to send a disappointed Nigeria home in dramatic fashion, in group D. Meanwhile Iceland fell to a much rotated Croatia side 2-1, meaning that Croatia and Argentina progress to the last 16.
Prediction – Result
1. Argentina – Croatia
2. Croatia – Argentina
3. Iceland – Nigeria
4. Nigeria – Iceland