Russia 2018: A World Cup of upsets
Lionel Messi (Getty Images)
Cape Town - The 2018 Soccer World Cup kicked off last week and so far there has been a number of upsets of the so-called ‘favourites’ for the tournament.
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Nobody would’ve imagined that these ‘favourites’ would lose out to the nations who were expected to be knocked out in the group stages, but that’s football for you!
The first of those upsets came when Argentina were held by Iceland who are taking part in their first ever World Cup.
Argentina were on the brink of not qualifying for the tournament, but their little maestro, Lionel Messi, saved them from disaster. Messi, arguably the greatest player that ever lived, couldn’t replicate that form however against the nation of just over 330 000 people.
Many believe that the Argentines won’t be winning a World Cup any time soon, although they did come close in 2014 when they finished as runners-up to the Germans, and with Messi hinting at this being his last World Cup, there won’t be any real 'all stars' left in this Argentine team when he departs.
Angel Di Maria, Sergio Aguero and Gonzalo Higuaín are some players you’d back to step up and fill the maestro's boots, but only time will tell.
Another major upset came when Mexico defeated world champions Germany. Germany are one of the favourites to win the tournament, but after Mexico’s win some will be eating their words, or 'taking it back' as they say.
Germany still have what it takes to win the tournament, as they have an array of stars. Manuel Neuer is on the comeback trail having been sidelined for nearly six months, and with Mats Hummels and youngster Joshua Kimmich, their defence seems stable.
With Mesut Ozil, Marco Reus, Thomas Muller, Toni Kroos and Timo Werner leading the attack for the Germans, they have to still be among the favourites to lift the trophy come July 15.
Mexico are said to have their best ever team, with their young star, Hirving Lozano, netting the winner against the best team in the world - according to the FIFA rankings at least.
Mexico are a team who everybody should be looking at. They have influential players in the middle of the park right up to the front line.
Furthermore, Brazil were stunned when Switzerland held them for 90 minutes with Neymar almost setting a new record having been fouled 10 times in the match, but that record still stands behind Alan Shearer's name with his 11 fouls against Tunisia.
You cannot read too much into the first match of a World Cup, because, as we saw in 2014, Switzerland beat Germany who then went on to be crowned champions.
The odds still favour Brazil to win this World Cup, although they did get thrashed 7-1 by Germany in the last edition, but this time around they have fresh minds and legs in Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Roberto Firmino, Willian and Philippe Coutinho in particular.
Portugal v Spain has to have been the outstanding match so far of the tournament, ending 3-3 on the night. Cristiano Ronaldo bagged a hat-trick as Spain were held by their near neighbours.
Portugal, although they did win Euro 2016, don’t have the necessary resources to win the tournament as, like Argentina for example, they rely too heavily on one man, in the form of Ronaldo.
Spain on the other hand are one of the favourites to walk away winners with all their superstars, but they need to step it up a bit in their final group match against Morocco. They have numerous technicians all across the field and they will surely use them to unlock defences as they progress through the playoffs.
Les Bleus are another of the favourites to win as they have stars throughout their squad. They’ve come a long way since the last World Cup and even the 2010 tournament, considering they lost to South Africa, who were unable to qualify for this year's edition.
Runners-up in Euro 2016, France can win it with their squad with the likes of Antoine Griezmann, Paul Pogba, Kylian Mbappe, Olivier Giroud and Ousmane Dembele to name a few, but for them the key is consistency.
They have instrumental players who can change a match in a blink of eye, but they need to keep that level of form up throughout the tournament, which will be a difficult ask, but with this French squad, anything is possible.
The Three Lions last won it in 1966 and only a few have any belief that they’ll be lifting the trophy come July 15. It’s said World Cup after World Cup that England will win it, but they’ve disappointed constantly with many labelling them 'chokers' when they reach the knock-out stages.
There are a few new faces this time around, such as Harry Kane, Marcus Rashford, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard who are young and bring energy into the team, which makes the English set-up a happy camp. England, on paper, look good, but all too often they’ve disappointed on the field.
England are the only team in the World Cup to have all their players playing in the same league, which should be an added bonus as they know each other and their style of play, better than all.
There are some worthy African nations this year with the likes of Tunisia and Senegal trying to get into the knock-out stages of the tournament.
Tunisia are the top team in Africa, but the others are not far behind. Many people have written off the African teams, but the quality is different this time around. These teams should focus more on their defence as some are thought to be very rigid at the back.