The month fútbol is in full swing and there has been no shortage of action since Sunday, when Qatar and Ecuador kicked off the 2022 World Cup. While some of the favorites looked as expected, other teams managed to shock us. Now that each country has played their first game, it’s a perfect time to take a look at what happened when the second round of group matches begins on Friday.
Thursday’s Group H game between Portugal and Ghana was a wild ride. The first half not so much, but the second half had a little bit of everything. Cristiano Ronaldo received a soft penalty and became the first male player to score in five consecutive World Cups. Ghana equalized and Portugal responded quickly with two goals thanks to crucial assists from Bruno Fernandes. Osman Bukari then scored for Ghana in the 89th minute and crowned it with Ronaldo’s popular Siu celebration. The best moment came in stoppage time, which almost resulted in a devastating blow for Portugal.
The Portuguese instead managed to cling to the 3-2 win, but this was only filled with entertainment from two sides ready to attack without regret. Ghana were also 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 skip sleep and stay up to watch Lionel Messi in action… Congratulations. In the end he scored his goal just 10 minutes later by burying a penalty. But Saudi Arabia turned up the heat in the second half and created what could go down as the most memorable moment in the country’s football history. It wasn’t just about beating Argentina 2-1, it was about dealing a massive blow to a side who were unbeaten in 36 games. It was set to be Argentina’s easiest Group C game and instead resulted in their first defeat since July 3, 2019. The occasion was so momentous that Saudi Arabia’s King Salman declared Wednesday a public holiday to celebrate the surprise. That’s what the World Cup is about. Regardless of what happens for the rest of the tournament, the Saudis will keep that memory forever… as will the Argentines, who now need to win a game against Mexico to stay alive.
Which team looked the best
The correct answer here could be France (more on that later), but anytime a Soccer team places a touchdown on the board, it’s hard to ignore. Spain, albeit against a very weak Costa Rica side, sent the world a brief reminder that they’re still damn good. Goals fell from all directions as six goalscorers contributed to the 7-0 win. Just imagine, when Spain won the World Cup in 2010, they scored eight goals throughout the tournament. They’re just one of those away from the opener and head coach Luis Enrique must be very comfortable with his chances. Having a teenager, Gavi, lead this epic performance speaks volumes La Roja could achieve in Qatar. Marco Asensio and Ferran Torres were also very solid. Their next game is against a desperate Germany and will really tell us if this is a side destined to make a run or if the win over Costa Rica just took advantage of an underdog.
The most surprising team
For those of us who followed CONCACAF qualifying closely, Canada’s energy wasn’t very surprising. But we also have to admit that they certainly exceeded expectations in the 1-0 defeat by Belgium. From the start it was clear that John Herdman was telling his side to give it a try. Sit back and let the world No. 2 dictate the game? nope Instead, Canada was in command while Alphonso Davies, Tajon Buchanan and Richie Laryea helped keep the pressure up. It paid off when they were awarded a penalty but unfortunately Davies faced a world-class goalkeeper in Thibaut Courtois. what could have been. Canada ended up with an amazing 22 shots, which tells you everything you need to know about how they approached this time around. Only three of those were on target and those missed chances turned into a goal conceded that made all the difference in the end. Still, that performance was a testament to how Canada reached the country’s first World Cup since 1986 – and don’t intend this as a quick trip to Qatar.
Kylian Mbappé is the best player in the world. He has been for a while. The beauty of the World Cup is that everyone can spot new and emerging talent. As nostalgic sports fans, we like to cling to the past and to greats like Messi and Ronaldo. And that’s fine because they’re both in Qatar and should get their credit. But that baton was passed on. In Russia 2018, Mbappé proved it to the world and he seems poised to do it again in Qatar. When Mbappé is on the field, he’s just faster and more dynamic than everyone else, especially the weak defenders trying to slow him down. As he often did, he literally slid past the Australians, applying constant pressure and orchestrating a relentless French attack. He ended with a goal and an assist, which could easily have been more given a few missed chances. There has been so much talk about the reigning champions’ various notable injuries, but Mbappé and company made it seem like no problem, picking up right where they left off. It will definitely be more difficult for them Les Bleus progress, but with a player like that on your team, you’ll always be the favorite. Oh, and he’s only 23 years old.
Golazo of the week
Whenever Brazil enters the field, there is a chance that something spectacular will happen. It took them a while to break through Serbia’s solid defense, but when they did… man. Richarlison took matters into his own hands in the last game of the opening round of the group stage and has already made his goal of the tournament bid.
But an honorable mention must go to Salem Al-Dawsari of Saudi Arabia, who unleashed some magic with a dirty move and an upset finish against Argentina. It’s a goal and result that we’ll be talking about throughout the tournament and beyond.