The 2018 World Cup is officially well underway in Russia, and the first round of fixtures are complete. As the hosts kick off round two of the group stage matches against Egypt, we take a look back on some of the best bits of the first few days…
Russia hasn’t disappointed, delivering daily drama and shock results setting up a beautifully poised second round of group games over the rest of the week.
Most would agree that the World Cup hadn’t properly arrived until the six-goal thriller on Friday night. European champions against the tikka-taka giants who had just undergone a leadership crisis, but Fernando Hierro advertised his credentials by provoking a spirited and at times classy performance from Spain.
Trailing not once but twice, the second even more hard-hitting with a fumble from David De Gea, but it was vintage Spain in response. Diego Costa led the line impeccably with a brace which preceded a thunderous strike from Nacho Fernandez, but they were met by the irrepressible force that is Cristiano Ronaldo.
If you’ve watched most games so far, you’ll probably be associating the regular VAR analysis with forbidden things such as Katie Hopkins, Piers Morgan and Mark Lawrenson’s commentary. Look, it does usually lead to the right decision, but in games like France vs Australia and Argentina vs Iceland it become the key talking point. But as Slaven Bilic said, “we don’t care”, so we’ll only touch on it briefly at the end and focus on the outstanding goals, heroic underdog displays and how ‘football is coming home’, for now.
Whilst we’re on that, wasn’t it refreshing for England to win late rather than plunge to a depressing slumping draw in the latter moments. If we needed proof of Harry Kane’s calibre, it was his lack of involvement in the game against Tunisia, starved of great service but involved in good interplay, he had two shots and scored both. A world class spearhead supported by youthful, determined side-kicks, could this year be a special one?
Elsewhere, away from the aesthetic stadia, the coverage from BBC and ITV has been enjoyable. Fresh faces on punditry have enriched our screens with well needed new opinions, Cesc Fabregas, Eni Aluko and Frank Lampard in particular have shone. The pleasant return of Ally McCoist has reignited ITV commentary alongside John Champion, can we just get Peter Drury now to call the rest of the tournament and we’ll be sweet.
As for the goals, we’ve had a batch of stellar free kicks, over and under the wall. Nacho’s sweet strike to Dries Mertens’ outrageous volley. Philipe Coutinho did what he does best, finish from 20 yards and a special mention to the goal which caused the result of the round, Hirving Lozano finishing a sweeping counter to take down Germany.
Find out who’s shone and who’s disappointed on the next page.