Hirving Lozano shocked Germany (Picture source: Antonio Calanni/Associated Press)
Senegal’s 2-1 victory over Poland on day six meant all teams have now played one game in the 2018 World Cup – so who has come out the best from those fixtures?
Undoubtedly Mexico produced the most eye-catching result, deservedly defeating holders Germany 1-0 thanks to Hirving Lozano’s well-taken first-half strike. Of course, readers of our ‘Five To Watch’ article posted ahead of the tournament will already have been aware of the PSV Eindhoven forward…!
Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, produced the standout one-man show so far, his hat-trick earning a 3-3 draw against a Spain side who impressed in patches, seemingly little hindered by the dismissal of coach Julen Lopetegui days before the tournament kicked off.
What of favourites Brazil? A 1-1 draw with a determined Switzerland will have done little to encourage their followers, with star man Neymar easily snuffed out, perhaps an indication that he is nowhere near 100% fit after injury?
Lionel Messi failed to live up to the example set by Ronaldo as he missed a penalty in Argentina’s 1-1 draw with debutants Iceland. They could also struggle in their next game as Croatia impressed in patches as they eased home against a disappointing Nigeria side 2-0.
As expected, VAR has dominated the narrative in the first days of the tournament, although decisions have proved beyond dispute in most instances, when used. However, England weren’t helped in their 2-1 victory over Tunisia – incidentally only the third time the Three Lions have won their first match of a World Cup. Two-goal Harry Kane was the hero, although there were a couple of clear examples when he was wrestled to the ground in the penalty area – was VAR meant to help spot such blatant examples of foul play to help the referee?
Those goals from the Tottenham man, the second in injury-time, were both from set-plays and they have proved key so far. There have been the most penalties per game and the highest percentage of goals scored from set-pieces of any World Cup at this stage of the competition since 1966.
Of the other contenders, France flattered to deceive in their 2-1 victory over Australia, Belgium stepped up a gear in the second half to defeat Panama 3-0 while Uruguay, for whom Luis Suarez looked a little out-of-sorts, left it late in defeating Egypt 1-0. Colombia were expected to see off Japan but an early dismissal for Carlos Sanchez – the first of the tournament – for handball proved a key factor in a 2-1 defeat.
Hosts Russia overwhelmed Saudi Arabia 5-0 in the opening game and the defeated side looked well out of their depth – as did Panama of the other sides in the competition.
The second round of fixtures are when the better teams are really expected to get into their stride but the pressure will be on those sides who failed to register three points, with Argentina looking the most vulnerable…