Soccer

World Cup 2018: What we’ve learned so far

It's been an interesting 10 days in Russia. Here's what we've learned so far...

Predicting a World Cup is never easy. There are far too many potential mishaps, injuries, upsets, choking incidents or poor performances to call. The village idiot can predict the World Cup as well as the expert. Indeed, I wrote three pieces about it and I am a combination of both. Point is, World Cups are always full of surprises. With that said, it’s time for me to swallow my pride and admit to the numerous things I have learned- about the competitors and myself- over the first week.

Russia means business

Worst host nation ever, they said. No chance of advancing to the knockout stages, they said. The Russians took that criticism like a shot of vodka, brushing it aside as nothing and remain focused. Here they are, 2-0, leading the tournament in goals scored, and, like a Russian after four vodka tonic shots, utterly fearless. Their competitors haven’t been the best, but they lead the tournament in goals, all of which have been a pleasure to watch.

Zidane was right

This is hard for me to do. The date May 26th, 2018 shall live in infamy for years to come. I cannot stand Real Madrid *breathes in deeply*. However, *again* credit where it is due. Zinedine Zidane is a genius. I didn’t hate him because he was good or immaculately dressed or because he deprived Liverpool legend Djibril Cisse of a World Cup in 2006. No, I hated Zidane because he benched Gareth Bale consistently throughout what was likely his last season for Los Blancos. Lest we forget, he did this.

Zidane often sat that beautiful and incredibly talented man in favor of a little Spaniard named Isco. After watching Spain play twice, I’d like to formally apologize to Zidane. My gosh, he is good. He doesn’t have a goal or assist to his name, but what he’s done with the ball is magical. The man is a joy to watch.

Ronaldo, I guess

Four goals, two games. Not bad. One was a dive, another was potentially offside, the third was a stupid foul, and the fourth was a wide open header. I’ve seen better.

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Messi can’t do it alone

The award for the saddest story of the World Cup goes to a little Argentine. Little Leo has been missing in the streets of Moscow for 10 days and only Nigeria can help revive him. Seriously though, Messi hasn’t stepped up, and those other 10 guys haven’t exactly done either. Argentina’s defense has been laughable, they don’t play with a fluidity you’d expect from such a talented squad, and their manager has no idea what’s going on. For the first time, Leo looks human.

France can win ugly

Let’s face it, the French play in what is probably the easiest group of any contender. Australia are boring and bad, Peru play like they haven’t been on the stage since 1982, and Denmark are a nice story unlikely to do any serious damage. Thus, many tipped Les Bleus to play beautiful football, shredding teams to pieces with the sheer attacking talent. It hasn’t quite turned out that way, as they’ve had to grind out two one goal victories. That’s not necessarily a problem though. To win it all, you’ve got to prepare for the fact that Olivier Giroud’s hair may not be so perfect (weird, but effective metaphor).

Neymar can still walk, somehow

For how many years have we said that Neymar should carry Brazil to a major title now? To date, the Brazilian hasn’t delivered. Olympics absolutely do not count and injuries are an issue, but it’s supposed to finally be his time. Enter Switzerland. They fouled the star man 10 times in last week’s match and salvaged a 1-1 draw. To compound the extreme bruising, he picked up a knock in training before their game against Costa Rica. Somehow, he still inspired a dominant- if rather belated- 2-0 win. Nice job, Ney. You’re doing great, sweetie. No need for tears, though.

England, maybe!

I was throwing things around my house last Monday. Classic England. Playing well for 20 minutes before falling victim to an embarrassing defeat against an underwhelming team. It was almost too predictable. Dominating possession, but often clueless in attack. I ranted, paced and cursed the name of every player (except Jordan Henderson – big fan). Then that uncomfortably large-chinned man did it. Harry Kane delivered in England’s hour of need with a remarkably open net tap in. Can’t complain how you get ‘em.

Today was a different story. Sheer domination, ball movement, beautiful goals, beautiful scoreline. It was 6-1 but could have been 9-1. My increasing love aside, my favorite part about this was not the England victory. Rather, it was the fact that this group of aged, oft-fouling, bottom of the MLS lost and found bin qualified for the World Cup ahead of the United States. It’s a shame England won really, I really wanted Panama to make a run.

Seriously though, England to win it all!

The World Cup is actually back

Let’s be honest, 2014’s World Cup was thoroughly underwhelming. Neymar got injured, Spain got embarrassed and current favorites were too young to make a threat. Germany waltzed through.

This time, we’re back! There’s been some incredible goals, better dives and even a bit of VAR controversy. Here’s to more shenanigans for the next three weeks (or until England crash out of the tournament.)

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