The 2018 World Cup certainly hasn’t been short of surprises so far, with only France and Belgium of the pre-tournament favourites winning their opening games.
The biggest surprise so far was Mexico’s stunning defeat of reigning World Champions Germany. Mexico were brilliant throughout the game and the Germans couldn’t handle the pace and energy of Mexico’s attacking play.
The German centre backs weren’t helped by the rest of the team’s complete disinterest in helping out in defence, which was perhaps typified by right back Joshua Kimmich attempting bicycle kicks in the Mexican box.
You know things are going badly when Mesut Özil feels the need to track back and it was his… let’s say attempted tackle that Mexico’s Hirving Lozano avoided before smashing the ball past Neuer.
The result obviously went down a storm in Mexico, or should that be earthquake!? Such was the exuberance of the celebrations in Mexico City after Lozano’s goal earthquake detectors were set off!
The other shock on Day 4 was Brazil’s rather tame draw against Switzerland. Big things are expected of Brazil at this tournament, with the side rejuvenated under manager Tite and with Neymar back from injury.
They do look like they have a better balance of defence and attack than four years ago but they are going to have to show a lot more going forward to prove a threat in this tournament.
One of the teams that I was most looking forward to watching during the World Cup is Belgium. It’s the classic combination of a golden generation of brilliant players, led by a manager who has no clue how to get the best out of them.
You have to commend Martinez for trying to pack every one of their superstars into the starting 11, even if it means playing people in positions they aren’t very effective in.
Kevin De Bruyne is perhaps the best example of this. De Bruyne has publicly stated his disapproval with the way Martinez sets up the team in the past, and it does seem strange to have one of the best creative midfielders in the world playing so deep that he can’t affect the game.
Of course, De Bruyne dealt with this frustration in the manner you’d expect from football’s baby faced petulant beetroot, throwing the toys out of the pram and ensuring that pretty much every pass he played from deep was terrible.
He does have a point though, as when he got forward, his beautiful pass with the outside of the boot for Romelu Lukaku to score Belgium’s second showed us all what Belgium were missing for much of the game.
Belgium did eventually run out comfortable winners but they made much harder work of it than they perhaps should have.
Speaking of which… England also got their tournament underway on Day 5 and what do you know? They actually started the game like a confident team that believed in the system and in each other.
They should have been several goals ahead before Tunisia got their soft penalty and while England laboured in the second half, that winning goal from Harry Kane should only reinforce the players’ belief in what Southgate is trying to do.
This England team doesn’t look anywhere near good enough to actually win the whole tournament but with the favourites labouring, this might just be a year when the surprises keep on coming.