Last Saturday in my first World Cup-related post, I expressed my fear that given our recent record in international competitions, England could well face humiliation at the hands of Panama, who were enjoying their first-ever World Cup. In the end, England absolutely battered Panama, winning 6-1 in a game that saw both Harry Kane and John Stones bag a brace (=score two goals). Of course, what all this means here in England is that the national team are suddenly carrying the hopes of the nation on their shoulders. As always happens whenever we win a game or two, hopes have rocketed, and expectations have gone through the roof . . . and suddenly the pressure is on again.
This week saw the last of the games in the group stages and we now know who’s staying on in Russia – and who’s going home. The biggest shock of the week was obviously the holders Germany getting knocked out. The Germans are usually one of the most consistently excellent performers on the international stage and in the last five competitions they’ve entered, they’ve got to at least the semis (=the semi-finals) every time. After Toni Kroos smashed home his last-gasp winner against Sweden on Saturday night, most people here were expecting them to push on and claim their place in the second round. This made their two-nil defeat to South Korea all the more humiliating. And, of course, entertaining (from an English point of view!). At least it means we won’t get knocked out by the Germans this time around. I’ve already seen England lose to Germany on penalties quite enough times for one lifetime. It’s nice to see them humiliated for a change.
Elsewhere on Sunday, Poland were sent packing by an excellent Colombian team who sliced them open at will with some excellent, incisive passing (=passing that cut through the defence, that cut the team open). Veteran Japanese player Keisuke Honda came off the bench (=came on as a substitute) to rescue a point (=to make sure his team drew, rather than lost) for Japan against Senegal.
On Monday, Uruguay eased to a three-nil victory over hosts Russia, while Mo Salah’s Egypt ended their campaign without a single point following a 2-1 defeat by Saudi Arabia. Both the Group B games held that evening were mired in controversy. Portugal Iran was an ill-tempered affair with plenty of play acting and diving, as well as some really nasty challenges. Ronaldo was lucky not to get sent off, and Iran were lucky to be awarded a penalty right near the end of the game. Having seen the replays on the VAR (the Video Assistant Referee system), most people concluded it was never a penalty. However, the ref disagreed and gave it, allowing Iran to level the score (=to equalize). It just goes to show that even with technological assistant, many decisions in football are still down to human judgement – and humans are prone to make mistakes. The other game that night was also a draw, with Spain being given a late goal that most people think should’ve been disallowed as Aspas was clearly half a yard offside.
Tuesday saw the tournament’s first nil-nil draw – a game between Denmark and France that is best described as shit on a stick (=a very, very boring match)! Peru, who were already out, managed a consolation win, beating Australia two-nil, and Croatia went marching on, finishing top of their group after a two-one win over Iceland, who were England’s nemesis two years ago in the European Championship. Oh, and Argentina somehow managed to snatch victory from the jaws of defeat (=win when it was looking very likely they’d lose) with a late, late winner against Nigeria.
On Wednesday, Brazil cruised to an easy two-nil win against Serbia, looking like they’d barely got out of first gear. Switzerland scraped through to the second round because of the fair play rule, despite finishing level on points with Costa Rica, and Sweden ended up topping their group after they hammered Mexico three-nil. Oh, and of course, there was the Germany game.
The final group stage games were on Thursday and there was high drama in Group H as Japan limped into the second round, despite losing to Poland through, while Senegal crashed out, because they had a worse fair play record. Oh, and in Group G, the already eliminated Tunisia salvaged some pride by beating Panama 2-1 and England were brought back down to earth with a bump by Belgium, though this may prove to be a blessing in disguise as it means that if we beat Colombia next week, either Sweden or Switzerland await us in the quarter finals, both teams I’d fancy England to beat.
So that’s it for now.
We now move on to the real excitement: the knock-out stages of the tournament, where the stakes are high in every game and games are won or lost on the smallest of margins.
Come on England!
- Can you think of any times when your national team has been humiliated? Why by? What happened?
- Can you think of any games where one team has absolutely thrashed / hammered / battered the other? What was the score?
- Can you think of other times when someone might be brought back down to earth with a bump?
- Can you think of any games where a team has snatched victory from the jaws of defeat?
- Can you think of any political figures / events that are mired in controversy?