the month of football is in full swing, and since Sunday when Qatar and Ecuador started the World Cup 2022, there has been no lack of action. While some of the favorites have shown up as expected, other teams have managed to surprise us. Every country has already played their first game, so it’s the perfect time to take a look at what’s in store when the second round of group stage matches kick off on Friday.
The best game
Thursday’s Group H game between Portugal and Ghana was a wild ride. The first part not so much, but the second part had a bit of everything. Cristiano Ronaldo was awarded a soft penalty and became the first male player to score in five consecutive World Cups. Ghana equalized and then Portugal quickly responded with a pair of goals thanks to crucial assists from Bruno Fernandes. Osman Bukari then found the back of the net for Ghana in the 89th minute and capped it off with Ronaldo’s popular Siu celebration. The best moment came in stoppage time, almost resulting in a devastating blow for Portugal.
Instead, the Portuguese were able to hold on for a 3-2 win, but this one was packed with entertainment from two sides willing to attack without remorse. Ghana also became the first African nation to score at this World Cup and will surely make life difficult for Uruguay and Korea in Group H.
This one is a no-brainer. Whether you set that early alarm or decided to forget about sleep and stay up to see Lionel Messi in action… congratulations. Yes, he ended up getting his goal, in the 10th minute by burying a penalty. But Saudi Arabia appeared in the second half and pulled off what could be the most memorable moment in the country’s soccer history.. It wasn’t just about beating Argentina 2-1, it was dealing a heavy blow to a team that was riding a 36-game unbeaten streak. This was supposed to be the easiest Group C match for Argentina and instead resulted in their first loss since July 3, 2019. The occasion was so momentous that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman declared Wednesday a public holiday for celebrate defeat. That’s what the World Cup is all about. Regardless of what happens in the rest of the tournament, the Saudis will have that memory forever… as will the Argentines, who now face a must-match against Mexico to stay alive.
which team looked better
The correct answer here might be France (more on that later), but whenever a football team puts a touchdown on the board, it’s hard to look past that. Spain, albeit against a very weak Costa Rica team, sent the world a quick reminder that they are still pretty good. Goals flowed from all directions as six scorers contributed to a 7-0 rout. Get this: When Spain won the World Cup in 2010, they scored eight goals in the entire tournament. They’re within one of that mark after Game 1, and head coach Luis Enrique must feel pretty good about his options. Having a teenager, Gavi, lead this epic performance says a lot about what The Red could achieve in Qatar. Marco Asensio and Ferran Torres were also very solid. Their next game is against a desperate Germany and it will really show us if this is a team destined to make a run for it or if the win over Costa Rica was simply taking advantage of an inferior team.
most amazing team
For those of us who watched CONCACAF qualifying up close, the energy from Canada was not very surprising. But we also have to admit that they certainly exceeded expectations in the 1-0 loss to Belgium. From the opening whistle it was clear that John Herdman told his squad to do it. Sit back and let the world ranked number 2 team dictate the game? No. Instead, Canada were the team in command, as Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Richie Laryea helped keep the pressure up. It paid off when they received a penalty, but unfortunately Davies ran into a world-class goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois. What could have been. Canada finished with a staggering 22 shots, which tells you all you need to know about how they tackled this one. However, only three of them hit the mark, and those missed chances turned into conceding a goal that ended up being the difference. Still, this performance was a showcase of Canada reaching the country’s first World Cup since 1986, and they’re not intending this to be a quick trip to Qatar.
Kylian Mbappé is the best player in the world. He’s been that for a while. The fun thing about the World Cup is that it allows everyone to take notice of new talent. As sports nostalgics, we love to cling to the past and to greats like Messi and Ronaldo. And that’s okay because they’re both in Qatar and should get their praise. But that baton has been passed. Russia 2018 was when Mbappé showed it to the world, and he looks set to return to racing in Qatar. When Mbappé is on the field, he is simply faster and more dynamic than everyone, especially the poor defenders tasked with trying to stop him. As he has often done, he literally slipped past the Australians creating constant pressure and orchestrating a relentless French attack. He finished with a goal and an assist, which could easily have been more considering some of the missed opportunities. Much was made of the various notable injuries to the reigning champions, but Mbappé and company made that seem like a non-issue by picking up right where they left off. No doubt things will get a little more difficult for The Blues moving forward, but with a player like that on your team, you’ll always be a favourite. Oh yeah, and he’s only 23 years old.
goals of the week
Every time Brazil steps on the pitch, there’s a chance something spectacular will happen. It took a while for them to break through Serbia’s solid defense, but when they did… man. Richarlison took matters into his own hands in the final game of the opening group stage and already made his bid for the Goal of the Tournament.
But an honorable mention must go to Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al-Dawsari, who pulled off some magic with a dirty move and ended up stunning Argentina. It is a goal and a result that we will talk about throughout the tournament and beyond.