Folks, this little tournament of ours has not disappointed. Another great slew of matches from Sunday to Tuesday marked one of the best set of Matchday 1 matches in the history of the World Cup. Here’s how the matches played out in Groups E-H!
Costa Rica (0) Serbia (1). Costa Rica? Bad. Serbia? Just not as bad as Costa Rica.
Germany (0) Mexico (1). Mexico get the historic win they were looking for and looked really convincing while the reigning champions looked lost and not prepared. The curse of the reigning champions lives on. As much as it sucked for me to watch and admit, Mexico looked really good.
Brazil (1) Switzerland (1). Brazil looked somewhat pedestrian overall until the end where they created tons of chances and Switzerland look hard to beat especially at the back. If Germany comes in 2nd in Group F and Brazil come in 1st in Group E, they would face each other in the Round of 16.
Sweden (1) South Korea (0). Sweden just looked better the whole match.
Belgium (3) Panama (0). Yes, it’s just Panama but Belgium looked great and may have played the best top to bottom soccer out of any favorite in the tournament so far.
Tunisia (1) England (2). A Harry Kane brace including his 91st minute winner propelled England to the start that they deserpately needed. This is their first win in an opening match of the World Cup since 2006 and they could catch fire with the confidence they have right now.
Colombia (1) Japan (2). A Colombia 3rd minute red card made it tough for them to get a result against the Japanese, making an already tricky group even trickier.
Poland (1) Senegal (2). The door has been opened for Senegal as a win against Japan this upcoming Sunday will put them through to the Round of 16 and depending on the result of Colombia Poland, could almost lock up the group for the Senegalese. As I said in my preview, they are sneaky good.
Russia (3) Egypt (1). Russia’s goalscoring tear continues as they all but end Egypt’s hopes of getting out of the group. They’d need a miracle now.
LINK TO GROUP STANDINGS: https://www.fifa.com/worldcup/groups/
The picks record hasn’t been what I wanted but I would say I survived the toughest part of the tournament. I sit with a negative record in the tournament, uncharted territory for your boy, but I’m confident this is where I turn it around. Each squad has had a game under their belt and as the matches have bigger group implications, it may make things a little easier to analyze.
All-Time Record: 240-218-62
World Cup Record: 7-8-2
Wednesday, June 20th
8:00 am EST
Portugal v Morocco – Portugal come into their second match with confidence after a Cristiano Ronaldo hat trick and a 3-3 draw against world powerhouse Spain. They matched up well with the giants, but almost let the match slip away from themselves after conceding 3 straight. The question is can they break through Morocco’s stingy defense? Although they sit bottom of Group B, Morocco actually played really well against Iran with 64% possession, more shots on goal, double Iran’s passes and only lost due to a 95th minute own goal. I expect Portugal to have a minor comedown of sorts and they will find it difficult to expose morocco’s defense as they will most likely sit back and absorb the pressure, whereas Spain took it to the Portuguese leaving them vulnerable at the back. If Morocco can stifle the passages to Ronaldo and limit his space going forward, they have a good shot of, at the worst, keeping this a one goal game. Morocco (+1).
11:00 am EST
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia – Sadly, this one isn’t going to be as close as the one above. Saudi Arabia let in 5 (!!) unanswered goals to the Russians in a match where they looked like the outright worst team in the tournament. The Saudis actually won the possession battle and out-passed the Russians, making their 5-0 loss look even worse for their leaky defense. They shockingly only provided an expected goal (xG) count of 0.28 and only had 2 shots inside the box, none of which were on goal. With Suarez and Cavani leading the line, expect them to eat this Saudi defense for god damn breakfast, or dinner I guess out in Russia. Uruguay (-2).
2:00 pm EST
Spain v Iran – The team that beat that stingy Moroccan team, Iran, now has to face a sliiighhttllyyy different squad in the Spanish. And by slightly different I mean it’s like going from driving a 2003 Honda Civic to driving in a brand new Lamborghini. Yes Spain were held to a draw against Portugal in a match where they should have won and Iran cracked Morocco’s ‘code’, but this Spanish team outclassed Portugal in the second half completely. They are still arguably the most dangerous team in the world right now and I truly believe this is the perfect rebound match for them to remind the world who they really are. Spain (-2). **AS OF NOON ET, THE LINE CHANGED TO -1.5**. SPAIN (-1.5).
Thursday June 21st
8:00 am EST
Denmark v Australia – Denmark beat Peru, but statistically it could have gone either way. Peru missed several big and easy chances in the last 10 minutes and Denmark was letting them force the issue. According to expected goals (xG, as model that calculates and combines the quality and quantity of goal scoring chances), Peru had 1.78 to Denmark’s 1.06. This showed just how much of an opportunity Peru had to not only draw, but beat this Denmark team. Australia meanwhile almost wrestled a point away from tournament favorites France but came up short towards the end due to an own goal, losing 2-1. All these signs point to Australia’s underdog spread and as much as I love Denmark in this match, there is value in playing around with the draw. One of my more ballsy picks but you have to risk it to get the biscuit. Australia (+0.5).
11:00 am EST
France v Peru – The one thing outside of those stats I mentioned above that stood out for me about this Peru team is their discord after the match. They had chances to pull out a result but they didn’t take advantage and most of the players were bickering at each other after the final whistle instead of showing support. It sounds stupid to take this into account, but teams that don’t stick together during these tournaments almost always fall apart and this was not a good sign from the Peruvians. You could also make the case that France didn’t look their best, but I trust their ability to bounce back. I don’t love the spread here as we could be looking at a push, but I’ll take that with the prospect of this French teams offense exploding in the second match and putting Group B behind them in the process. France (-1).
2:00 pm EST
Argentina v Croatia – This will surely be the best match on this list as Argentina look to bounce back after their historical draw to Iceland against a hot Croatia team. The Croatians meanwhile beat a youthful Nigeria team to the tune of 2-0 on Saturday in a convincing win. Also on Saturday, the Argentinians drew 1-1 to minnows Iceland in a very disappointing match for Messi. His missed penalty drew the headlines, but the play from his teammates both forcing it to him and not defending well let the match get away from them. It comes down to this though; there aren’t many athletes I know better than Messi. There is no way he doesn’t come out in this match and utterly dominate with Ronaldo doing what he’s doing and because of his performance on Saturday. Yes playing around the draw and picking Croatia may be the better play to some, but I dare you to bet against the best player in the history of the game. I dare you. Argentina (-0.5).
Since Group D’s last match (Nigeria v Iceland) trickles into Group E’s first few matches, I will save that for my next preview which is slated to come on Thursday night. I truly hope everyone is enjoying this World Cup so we can forget that we never even qualified (still fun right?!?) and I hope the madness continues through to July 15th.
Thanks for everyone’s support! I hope you can enjoy this half as much as I enjoy writing this for you guys!
Stay Kickin’ It. Peace.