By Amarachi Okpunobi
We have had unpredictable matches whereby the teams considered as favorites are often seen struggling to secure a point and those considered as 'underdogs' are out there excelling against all odds.
“The VAR effect”, is another aspect of this world cup that has gotten the Whole world talking. The argument is whether the VAR's decisions are controversial or not. In the past, there have been some occasions when the fate of a football match has been decided by either an offside goal or a controversial penalty. A popular example is “The Diego Maradona's hand of god” in 1986 World Cup, when he scored the goal that decided the tournament with a hand and the referees couldn't see it. But with the introduction of The VAR such controversies are curtailed to a reasonable extent. The VAR have been used countless times in this year's World Cup, to some it was favorable, to others it have been a nightmare. Nevertheless, the world is changing and it is without doubt carrying everything along with it.
I will give a precise review of the various groups we have in this tournament and how thrilling and surprising the world Cup has been so far;
Group.A: Russia kicked off the World Cup with a 5-0 trashing to Saudi Arabia. This was a group of two ends as Russia and Uruguay was dominant over Egypt and Saudi Arabia. Uruguay topped the table with nine points after defeating Russia with 3-0 to finalize their group stage winning streak. Saudi Arabia and the Pharoahs were eliminated with Egypt failing to register a win in their first World Cup in 28years. Cheryshev of Russia was the top scorer in this group with three goals.
Group-B: The group didn't go as everyone expected, Spain and Portugal that were considered the favorites were seen struggling throughout the matches following their first match that ended a draw where Cristiano Ronaldo produced a one-man-show. Iran and Morocco showed great determination as they made the group quite competitive. However, Spain and Portugal qualified with both teams having just one win and drawing the rest. Meanwhile, Spain topped the group with the most goals scored whereas Iran and Morocco were eliminated. Ronaldo was the highest goal scorer in the group with four goals.
Group-C: This was the first group where the VAR played its role, in the match between France and Australia it awarded France a penalty. The group was tough but in the end France and Denmark qualified with France on top and Australia and Peru eliminated. For me, N'goloKante was the best player of this group for his role in the French midfield.
Group-D: Initially, the world considered Argentina the favorites but as football had it, everything didn't go as expected as Argentina saw their only hope of qualifying in winning Nigeria with enough goals following their poor start of the campaign. However, Argentina still remained unbeaten in a total of five World Cup meetings with Nigeria. Croatia and Argentina qualified with nine points and four points respectively. Nigeria and the World Cup debutants; Iceland, were eliminated. Moses and Modric were the highest goal scorers with two goals and for me Luka Modric was the best player from this group.
Group-E: The group seemed tough and interesting in the beginning followings Brazil's poor start with a draw against Switzerland. However, Coutinho's decisive play in each of the Samba boys' match saw them on top of the group, qualifying alongside Switzerland whereas Costa Rica and Serbia got eliminated.
Group-F: This group is arguably the most interesting group of the competition. Joachim Low's side that was considered the favorites started with a surprising defeat to Mexico and managed to get three points against Sweden with Toni Kross's last seconds strike. Qualification of the group remained open until the final matches. Surprisingly the German Die Manchafts suffered yet another defeat to Republic of korea bringing them to a disgracing bottom of the table with Sweden and Mexico qualifying and the defending Champions eliminated together with Republic of Korea.
Group-G: Just like the first group, it was a group of two ends where the Belgium red devils and the England three lions showed master class over Panama and Tunisia. The fate of the group was decided just after the first two matches. The match between Belgium and England will decide the team to top the group. Tunisia and Panama were eliminated.
Group-H: This was the last group and every team in this group is fighting well, probably, except Lewandowski's Poland that seemed to be under performing after failing to register a point after the first two matches thereby suffering early elimination.
After the group matches were completed, I drafted few statistics from the tournament. There were many statistics but we are going to look at some of them, hence;
-OghenakaroEtebo of Nigeria completed the most take-ons in a single game at the 2018 World Cup after the first four games; he attempted and completed a total of nine take-ons
-Mexico is the only team to beat a European reigning champion of the World Cup in the first match.
-Neymar Jnr is the first player to be fouled more than ten times in a World Cup match since 1998.
-Mexico's Rapheal Marquez is the first player to captain a country at five World Cup tournaments.
- Romelu Lukaku and Harry Keane are the only players to score multiple goals in consecutive World cup matches since Diego Maradona in 1986.
-Luiz Suarez and Chicharito Hernandez have scored their 50th goal for Uruguay and Mexico respectively.
-Lionel Messi is the first and only player to score in his tens', twenty's', and thirty's' in the world cup, he is also the player that have completed the most dribble in FIFA world cup history.
Let us take a preview of the matches to be played and possible outcomes in the upcoming rounds. Well, after a very hectic group encounter that is stocked with surprises and disappointments, the qualified teams are to embark in a very difficult journey to the finals. With what we saw in the group phase it will be difficult to tell which team is favorite or not. That not-withstanding, I will give possible previews and predictions to them.
Uruguay Vs Portugal: Uruguay is considered to be superior to Portugal as long as football is concerned, but Portugal has Ronaldo, so anything can happen.
Spain Vs Russia: If we judge from group phase performances, I will say Russia are the favorites but it will difficult to write Spain off judging from what they have achieved in European and World football.
France Vs Argentina: The French boys have had a successive though unimpressive group phase performance as they managed to produce just three goals from the group matches. Argentina have had a poor start of the competition but with Messi they remain unpredictable.
Brazil Vs Mexico: The Samba boys are without doubt the favorites for me. But Mexico have been doing well in the campaign so far, it will be a tough match. PREDICTION: First half draw but Brazil will win the game.
Croatia Vs Denmark: Croatia has been doing well in this competition, their amazing performance has kept them in the top of the 2018 World Cup rank. Denmark have showed great character too but I will choose Croatia as my favorite. PREDICTION: Over 1.5 and Croatia to win.
Sweden Vs Switzerland: Both teams are in good form. On that day, the nation that plays well will have more winning advantage. PREDICTION: Penalty shootout will decide the game
Nevertheless, the party has just started, I can proudly say that this is the best World Cup I have witnessed. Watching Russia2018 is indeed a 'cannot-do-without' for every football fan. We wish our Super Eagles the best as they head back home. I will advise everyone to choose a new team to support, Personally, I have chosen The Belgian Red Devil’s and The Argentine abceleste.
Keep watching with me…..