Month football is well underway and there has been no shortage of action since the 2022 FIFA World Cup kicked off in Qatar and Ecuador on Sunday. While some of the favorites looked to be expected, other teams managed to shock us. Each country has already played its first game so now is a good time to take a look at what has happened as the second round of group stage matches is due to kick off on Friday.
Thursday’s Group H matchup between Portugal and Ghana was a wild ride. Not much in the first half, but a little bit of everything in the second. Cristiano Ronaldo received a soft penalty and became the first male player to score in five consecutive World Cups. Ghana equalized and then Portugal responded quickly with a pair of goals thanks to decisive passes from Bruno Fernandes. Osman Boukari then found Ghana’s gate in the 89th minute and completed it with a popular Ronaldo Sioux celebration. The best moment came in stoppage time, which almost resulted in a crushing blow for Portugal.
Instead, the Portuguese were able to hold on to a 3-2 victory, but this victory was just full of entertainment from both sides, ready to attack without remorse. Ghana also became the first African country to score in this World Cup and will certainly make life difficult for Uruguay and Korea in Group H.
The biggest upset
It’s not a problem. Whether you set an early alarm or decided to stay up and stay awake to see Lionel Messi in action… congratulations. He ended up scoring his goal just 10 minutes later, scoring a penalty. But Saudi Arabia emerged in the second half and achieved what could be called the most memorable moment in the history of the country’s football. It wasn’t just about beating Argentina 2-1, it was about delivering a powerful blow to a team that had a 36-game unbeaten streak. It was supposed to be the easiest Group C game for Argentina, but instead it resulted in their first defeat since 3 July 2019. The occasion was so significant that King Salman of Saudi Arabia declared Wednesday a public holiday in honor of the disorder. This is what concerns the World Cup. Regardless of what happens before the end of the tournament, the Saudis will have that memory forever…as will the Argentines, who will now have to play Mexico in order to stay alive.
Which team looked better
The correct answer here might be France (more on that later), but anytime football the team scores a touchdown on the board, it’s hard to watch. Spain, albeit against a very weak team from Costa Rica, sent the world a quick reminder that they are still pretty darn good. Goals poured in from all sides as six scorers contributed to a 7-0 rout. Get it: When Spain won the World Cup in 2010, they scored eight goals in the entire tournament. After the first match, they lack that mark and head coach Luis Enrique must be very happy with his options. The fact that a teenager named Gavi was at the forefront of this epic performance speaks volumes. Red might be able to perform in Qatar. Marco Asensio and Ferran Torres were also very good. Their next game against a desperate Germany will really show us if this is the team destined to make a breakthrough, or if the victory over Costa Rica was just exploiting a weak side.
Most amazing team
For us, who have followed the CONCACAF qualifiers closely, Canada’s energy was not particularly unexpected. But we also have to admit that they definitely exceeded expectations in a 1-0 loss to Belgium. It was clear at the first whistle that John Herdman had ordered his team to act. Sit back and let the world No. 2 team dictate the game? Nope. Instead, Canada was the team side as Alphonso Davis, Tajon Buchanan and Richie Larriea helped keep the pressure high. It paid off when they were awarded a penalty, but unfortunately Davies ran into world class goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois. What could be. Canada ended up with an astounding 22 shots that tell you everything you need to know about how they approached this. However, only three of them hit the target, and those missed opportunities turned into the conceded goal that ended up being the difference. However, this performance was a showcase for how Canada achieved the country’s first World Cup since 1986, and doesn’t mean it will be a quick trip to Qatar.
The best player
Kylian Mbappe is the best player in the world. He has been like this for some time. The most interesting thing about the World Cup is that it allows everyone to spot new and upcoming talent. We nostalgic sports fans love to cling to the past and great people like Messi and Ronaldo. And that’s okay, because they are both in Qatar and deserve praise. But this baton has been passed. Russia 2018 was when Mbappe proved it to the world, and he looks ready to show it again in Qatar. When Mbappe is on the pitch, he is simply faster and more dynamic than anyone, especially the poor defenders who are tasked with trying to slow him down. As he often did, he literally slid past the Australians, creating constant pressure and organizing a relentless French attack. He finished with a goal and an assist, which could easily have been more given some missed chances. So much has been said about the reigning champions’ various notable injuries, but Mbappe & Co. made it seem like a problem by picking up where they left off. Things will definitely get a little harder for Blues move forward, but with such a player in the team, you will always be the favorite. Oh yeah, and he’s only 23.
Golazo of the week
Whenever Brazil takes the field, there is a chance something exciting could happen. It took them a while to break through Serbia’s solid defenses, but when they did… God. Richarlison took matters into his own hands in the final game of the opening game of the group stage and has already placed his bet on the goal of the tournament.
But an honorable mention deserves Saudi Arabia’s Salem Al-Dawsari, who showed magic with his dirty move to finish in an upset match against Argentina. This is the goal and outcome that we will be talking about throughout the tournament and beyond.