The World Cup has been fantastic. The fewest ever 0-0s. The most of own goals and penalties. VAR controversy. But what are the biggest shocks so far?
Reigning champions Germany finish bottom of their group
Tipped by many to repeat their success from 2014, Germany surprisingly finished bottom of Group F and lost two of their matches. They were lacklustre in the first game, losing 1-0 to Mexico, repeatedly exposed by the Mexican counterattack. They were lucky to beat Sweden 2-1 in their second game, thanks to a wonderful free kick by Toni Kroos, which was virtually the last kick of the game. In their final game, only a victory over South Korea would have guaranteed 2nd place, and again they were unimpressive, losing 2-0, with the second goal scored because Manuel Neuer was in the left wing position rather than his own net.
Spain disappointing and out to the hosts
Spain, another team tipped as one of the favourites were poor throughout their campaign and lost on penalties to Russia. Spain was very slow to move the ball, lacked intensity and struggled to get Asensio and Diego Costa into the game. Spain didn’t improve on their group stage form; a 3-3 draw to Portugal, a tight 1-0 victory against Iran and 2-2 with already eliminated Morocco. The squad was rocked and unsettled when the Spanish FA sacked Julen Lopetegui two days before the start of the tournament, following the announcement he will take over at Real Madrid after the World Cup.
Ronaldo and Messi; great moments but eliminated at the first knock out hurdle
Possibly the two greatest players of all time in their prime couldn’t help their teams get past the first knockout stage. Ronaldo scored a hat-trick against Spain, with the final goal a fantastic free kick in the final few moments. Ronaldo was then quiet for the last two group stage matches but scored against Morocco. Messi rather opposite, not at his best in the first two matches, but then we saw what he could do with a lovely finish after two great touches against Nigeria. The stage was set for them to again light up the World Cup. However, other than the good movement for Pepe’s goal, Ronaldo couldn’t get into the game against Uruguay, which they lost 2-1. Messi, although he had two assists, didn’t produce the magic we’ve seen from him before, and saw his side lose 4-3 to France.
Hosts exceed expectations
The lowest ranked team in the tournament and having only won one of their eight games in the build-up to the World Cup, not many were expecting much from the hosts. They smashed Saudi Arabia side 5-0 and defeated Mo Salah’s Egypt 3-1 in the group stage. Already qualified, a luxury for any team going into their final game, they rested players and lost 3-0 to Uruguay, but many suspected this is what the Russians wanted, meaning their last 16 game would be played against Spain in Moscow. And it paid off. They frustrated an uninspiring Spain side for 120 minutes and beat them 4-3 on penalties, with an excellent save from Igor Akinfeev to deny Koke at the end.