By Richard Wanjohi
29th June 2018 , two weeks and the World Cup’s biggest extravaganza takes it’s first break as it gets to the knock-out round. Funny how time flies fast when you’re having fun. It’s been a flurry of action, emotions, disappointment and triumph depending on where your interests lie.
As promised, we’ll look at the 5 best moments so far from the World Cup action in Russia thus far. Let’s get kickin’;
- Senegal’s 2-1 win over Poland (Group H): Being only their second World Cup, Senegal came into this with a steely determination to prove they are no mere walkovers. In 2002, they started with the famous win over France.
In 2018, Poland was more fancied and at worst, the game was likely to be a draw. The Lions of Teranga had other ideas – even with the contentious second goal that the Polish team bitterly complained about.
- South Korea’s win 2-0 over Germany in Group F: South Korea qualified for the 2018 WC for the 9th consecutive time. They have been one of the hardest working teams with the players showing a rare work rate and runs all over the pitch. As Manuel Neuer of Germany who made the mistake of chasing a goal for Germany only to leave an empty net for Son Heung-Min. That the Koreans were already on their way out but still found the strength to score 2 goals in added/injury time speaks volumes. Germany continued ignominy of defending World Cup champions eliminated in the first round ( joining Spain from 2014, Italy in 2010 and France in 2002).
- Portugal and Spain’s 3-3 draw in Group B: Being among the first games of the championship, there was huge expectation of a tough game for both European foes. With the current European champions Portugal facing the immediate former European champs Spain, it was a goal fest and sight to see. Helped in part by goalkeeping errors and the work ethic of top strikers Diego Costa (Spain) and Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) it did live up to its billing. Spain had just sacked their immediate coach and Fernando Hierro took over a team even before kicking the ball – talk of baptism by fire.
On other hand, Cristiano Ronaldo has won scored many goals and won many trophies , is it his time to pick up the world’s most recognizable one?
- Iceland’s 1-1 draw with Argentina (Group D):
The Nordic state of Iceland qualified for the 2018 World Cup as one of two first-timers for the edifice. Coming up against one of the most formidable teams, favourites and 2014 finalists, Argentina seemed like an overkill for the Icelanders. Argentina’s strike force is any coach’s envy but this did not overawe the smallest state participating. To hold them to a single goal helped keep the folklore of their journey into the championship. They have one of the best fan base and who doesn’t love the viking chant, too bad they left us at the Group stages…
- Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia in Group A: Hosting an event of such magnitude is no mean feat. Coming into the championship as dark, dark horses is also not easy – your own President doesn’t have much hope in your abilities and potent. Opening the games, two substitutes later and voila! Even the loudest of critiques swallow their words. Will they settle for 2nd as Sweden did in 1958 while hosting the event? In 1978 Argentina hosted and won the World Cup. In 1998 France hosted the championships and presto won it for the first time, twenty-years on, is this Russia’s time?
1st of July, the knock-out phase OR Round of 16 starts…may the best team(s) win!