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World Cup: What we’ve learned

The World Cup has thrown up a few surprises

The World Cup is really starting to get interesting, the knockout stages are here but what have we learned so far?

Uruguay look good value for money

Oscar Tabarez‘s side were at 33/1 to win the competition before a ball was kicked. For those that read our World Cup previews, you will know that we fancied La Celeste to reach the last four. Nothing has changed. Uruguay won all of their group games without conceding a goal. Diego Godin looks solid at the back. Luis Suarez is scoring goals at the other end and Carlos Sánchez is among seven players with two assists.

Croatia are playing with confidence

Three wins and seven goals put Zlatko Dalic’s side top of the group. Croatia look like they’re really up for the challenge. Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitić and Ivan Perisic have all been outstanding in the centre of the park.  Iceland looked like the only side to trouble The Blazers. Nigeria were brushed aside by Croatia and Argentina simply capitulated against a far superior team led by Modric.

Argentina look like a team with problems

Lionel Messi is arguably the best player in the world but Argentina look anything but potential World Cup winners. La Albiceleste qualified for the knockout stages with a negative goal difference. Argentinian pundits and journalists held a minute’s silence after the defeat to Croatia, yes the performance was that bad. Argentina’s high came courtesy of two brilliant goals from Messi and Marco Rojo in the 2-1 against Nigeria. Nicolás Otamendi looks suspect at the back, the ageing Javier Mascherano looks like a player playing in a poor league! It doesn’t look good for the two-time World Cup winners.

England need their skipper

England’s final group game was an anti-climax. Gareth Southgate made several changes for the game against Belguim but England never looked like scoring. Jamie Vardy isn’t at the level of Harry Kane. The Spurs striker is arguably England’s only World-Class player. If England are to progress in the competition Southgate will need his skipper to play for every minute.

Belgium look to have clicked

The reward for three wins is a Round-of-16 tie against Japan. It was no secret that the Red Devils had plenty of quality throughout their squad. They proved that their second-string was better than England’s. Belgium are the competition’s top scorers after the group states (nine goals) they’ve also had the third most attempts on goal (53). Roman Lukaku looks like he’s enjoying life spearheading an impressive Belgian attack.

France are playing lemonade football

The French have given the world a demonstration of how not to approach the game. The 0-0 draw against Denmark literally sums up their performances in the group stages, dull. Three goals scored and one conceded was enough to top the least inspiring group in the competition.

High tempo football often wins games

Mexico’s shock 1-0 victory over Germany is proof that if you don’t give teams time and space they can struggle. Colombia have also played with plenty of energy at a good tempo. Both sides have been rewarded for their efforts with second-round ties against Brazil and England respectively.

Neymar hasn’t shaken off the ugly side to his game

Neymar Jr. persistence to go to ground is quite simply embarrassing. Brazil are much better than that. We’ve seen it all before with Rivaldo in 2002, enough said.

We all know Neymar. It’s not up to me or us to judge, but the referees and FIFA. Now they have VAR [Video Assistant Referees], they have to watch his style of play and the referee needs to be on top of it because we know he likes to exaggerate fouls, he likes to drop to the floor a lot. But I repeat, it is his style of play and those who have to judge and in a way put an end to it are the officials, not us. Andres Guardado, Mexico captain via espn.fc

Germany were superb garbage

We almost forgot about the World Champions who head home after firing on two cylinders. Joachim Löw’s side looked below average and got what they deserved, an early return ticket. Germany had the most attempts on goal in the group stages (67) but it’s the goals that count.

Featured image by Wild Child – wiki commons

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