By: Marvin Azrak
The World Cup has been spectacular and brought out the best of juggernauts like France, Brazil, and Portugal. Still, we’ve also seen the unpredictability this tournament produces every four years, as upsets by Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Japan have sent shockwaves around the sports world. Unless you’re an avid soccer fan, this tournament is hard to follow because it’s constantly changing. Many of you reading know there’s much more to it than just how the USA is doing, but are probably only limited to their whereabouts in this global phenomenon. Well, fear no more, for today I’m going to take you inside each group and where everything stands ahead of the upcoming playoffs, which begin next week.
Netherlands and Senegal through, Ecuador and Qatar were eliminated:
This group was widely known for possessing the host nation Qatar, who promptly became the first to lose all three matches, only scoring one goal in the process. Ecuador(2-0), Senegal(3-1), and Netherlands(3-0) outclassed them like the pretenders they were, as Qatar received an automatic bid into the tournament, being they were hosts, which is understandable. It ultimately came down to Ecuador Vs. Senegal finale for the final playoff spot in the group, with a tie benefiting Ecuador, who were coming off a 1-1 draw against the Dutch. After the teams traded early goals, Kalidou Koulibay gave Senegal the lead for good in the 69th minute, sending them onto the knockout stage with a 2-1 victory.
The Netherlands won the group with a 3-0-1 record, scoring six goals(3 Vs. Qatar, 2 Vs. Senegal, and one Vs Ecuador) and only conceding Qatar’s lone World Cup tally.
England and the USA are through. Not so surprised about the English, for they’re one of the favorites to win this thing ultimately, but the Americans have to our delight, come out of nowhere. The group tied Wales at one and surprisingly drew England to nil, putting them in a win-or-go-home situation against Iran, who knocked off Wales after getting railroaded by England 6-2 in their opener. Before the Iran-USA match was completed, England defeated Wales 3-0 to book their ticket and a date w Senegal officially. The Iran-USA bout was as intense as you would expect, with the difference being a header by American captain Christian Pulisic and a perfect Matt Turner in goal, propelling them to the last 16 against the Netherlands on Saturday. The triumph is a big step for the program after failing to qualify for the World Cup in 2018.
Poland 4 Points (2 wins, one draw, 0 losses) (+2)
Argentina 3 points (1 win, one loss) (+1)
Saudi Arabia(1 win 1 loss) (-1)
Mexico (0 wins, one loss, one draw) (-2)
This group was turned upside down when Saudi Arabia beat the 22,000 odds last Tuesday and stunned Lionel Messi and the mighty Argentinians 2-1. The greatest soccer player of our generation did his part with an early penalty kick goal. Still, two strikes by the green machine’s Saleh-Al Sheri and Salem-Al Dawsari sent Saudi Arabia fans into a frenzy as they celebrated their first-ever World Cup win. The victory wasn’t lost on the government back home, as the next day was declared a national holiday, with private and public sectors and schools closed in celebration. Upon returning home, each player would receive a free Rolls Royce. Even Israeli prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu reached out to them, congratulating them on their triumph, saying, “Messi is a great soccer player, and Argentina is a great soccer power which makes Saudi Arabia’s victory all the more impressive. Well done”.
The party was short-lived, however, because three days later, they were shutout by Poland 2-0, as the goals of Piotr Zielinksi and Robert Lewandowski and a perfect defense were enough to deny Saudi Arabia clinching a spot in the knockout stage. It was a much-needed win for Poland, who was coming off a scoreless draw with Mexico in the opener, and now control their destiny heading into the final round of group play.
Meanwhile, Argentina had suffered one of the most shocking losses in World Cup history, but rather than let sulk, and the team picked up a vital 2-0 win over Mexico, where Messi once again was front and center with the go-ahead tally. The result sets up a chaotic final day where all four teams have a shot at advancing, but as you know, only two will do so.
Poland will face off against Argentina, with the winner advancing to the knockout stage. The loser would have to hope Mexico ties Saudi Arabia and their goal differential holds up in the process, which isn’t something you should want to rely on since none of these recent contests have been blowouts hampering much on that end. From the latter team’s perspective, it wins, and you’re in; that’s all there is to it unless Poland and Argentina draw, meaning Mexico would have to beat Saudi Arabia by multiple goals to get in.