The first round of the World Cup has been full of great moments and fascinating collapses. Breakout stars have begun to mark their stamp on the tournament while icons go for one last ride. In what is an unconventional tournament, there are a few certainties.
No sporting event matches the beauty of the World Cup. That beauty extends to so many aspects of it from the fans to players.
At every tournament, there will always be the good, the bad and the ugly. Just about every match will have a mixture of these three aspects. It could be great fans mixed with ugly cleats and bad reffing.
This first round did bring some great action with awful performances while wearing some ugly kits. Certain teams experienced total euphoria overcoming odds while others failed to deliver. At the same, some of the worst kits have been worn.
THE GOOD- Underdogs
Underdog stories are what draw people to sports. It’s such an important part of storytelling and this World Cup has produced some great underdog moments.
Saudi Arabia is a solid team that has made a few World Cups. They are not the footballing powerhouse that Argentina is. It was always going to be a monumental task for the Saudis to grab any sort of result.
After Messi’s goal put Argentina ahead within the first 10 minutes, it seemed as if it would be a bloodbath for Argentina. However, Saudi Arabia began to pick and chose their moments of attack, hitting Argentina on the counter. The Saudis would eventually get the winner in the 55th and hold off for the win.
Japan is one of Asia’s best teams that has produced excellent players. In a normal group, Japan would be considered a favorite to make it out, but they are not in a normal one. Their first game against Germany was supposed to be a practice run for the 2014 champions.
Much like Saudi Arabia’s game, Germany went up early and failed to put the game away. Japan continued to hit the German backline on the counter. Substitute Takuma Asano would score the winner after Ritsu Doan equalized.
Ecuador wasn’t an underdog in their match against Qatar, but they were not favored to progress to the next round. The youngest team at the tournament showed incredible maturity against Qatar, controlling every aspect of the game.
THE BAD-CONCACAF Teams
Only AFCON and CONCACAF teams have yet to win a game.
The USMNT started the first half against Wales in spectacular form, showcasing their untapped potential. Tyler Adams controlled the midfield, being the perfect metronome for the side. Timothy Weah would put the US ahead after a great ball from Pulisic.
After going up a goal, the US completely turned off and allowed Wales to control the game. Gregg Berhalter failed to get his team going and Bale was able to equalize deep in the second half. This game was there for the US, as Wales is not a dominant side, but they failed to find a way through.
Mexico has Memo Ochoa to thank for their draw. The ageless World Cup icon delivered yet another masterclass, saving Lewandowski’s penalty. To be honest, all the positives for Mexico begin and end with the mercurial keeper.
The Mexican offense is almost nonexistent, as they lack a striker that their talented wingers can feed. Raúl Jiménez likely will never regain that form he had with Wolves before his injury and they lack any other real options up top without him.
Canada has to have had the most disappointing performance of these teams. They should have at last drawn against Belgium. Now they have a tougher path out of their group
Had Alphonso Davies not taken the penalty, perhaps the result would have been different. However, the Canadians squandered chance after chance, allowing Belgium back into the game.
Costa Rica also deserves a shout as their performance against Spain will go down as one of the worst all-time humiliations. The team barely showed up to play and Keylor Navas undid a magnificent career with his performance. Many may point to Qatar as the worst team at the tournament, but Costa Rica has delivered the worst game.
One of the highlights of every World Cup is the jerseys. Every team has a chance to use their jersey to celebrate their culture and identity.
Nike has dropped some of the worst kits the World Cup has ever seen this year. The worst thing that a kit can be is unimaginative and these Nike kits are just that. It’s unfortunate because Nike’s Nigeria kit in 2018 was one of the best kits ever, so they have shown that they can be creative.
Puma has also released some atrocities. Their away kits that resemble a name tag are truly an affront to the sport. These kits are a followup to the jokes that Puma put out for the EUROs which were some of the worst kits ever put out.
To Adidas’ credit, their throwback kits have been some of the best. However there are a few duds, chief among them is the Belgium home kit. Flames on anything are very ugly and make anything seem like the crappiest cars imaginable.
Although this World Cup is unlike any other, there are a few characteristics that are inescapable. This first round has brought a lot to fans, underdog stories, disappointing teams and some ugly kits. With a little less than a month less, there should be plenty of great memories left to be made.
Featured image: AFP