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Surprises at the World Cup so far

This World Cup has been truly crazy. In just the round of 16, three games have gone all the way to penalties. We have seen giants eliminated by underdogs and even a crazy comeback by Belgium. Here are some of the many surprises we have seen at this years FIFA World Cup.

Germany is eliminated in the group stage

Despite looking like a quality team, Germany was eliminated because they lacked touch and accuracy in the final third. This meant that they had to press too far forward trying to score a goal which left them vulnerable on the back end. However, Germany still failed to score enough and were exposed on the counter-attack multiple times. To fix their performance, Germany needs to work to get into better areas to take more shots and to put those shots on frame. In addition, they must figure out a way to beat teams that devote their whole strategy to defense and counterattacking play. I wouldn’t worry too much about this squad, they’ll be back.

Argentina barely escapes the group stage just to lose

After drawing with Iceland and being thoroughly beaten by Croatia, it looked like Argentina could be making a surprising early exit from the World Cup. They then beat Nigeria and squeaked into the round of 16. Then all was looking up when they went up 2-1 on France. They ended up falling 4-3 and were eliminated despite all of the talent on the team.

Spain is eliminated by Russia in the first elimination game
World Cup
Russia beats Spain in penalty shootout. Photo by REUTERS/Maxim Shemetov

Spain dominated vast majorities of this game just to lose in penalties. Spain had 25 shots with nine on goal compared to Russia’s six shots with one on goal. In addition, Spain had 74% of the possession. All of this would usually point toward a win for Spain. However, like Germany, Spain just could not score when it mattered and Russia took the game to penalties.

Uruguay, Belgium, and Croatia are undefeated to the quarterfinals

All these teams could make a run for the World Cup if they perform. Belgium could be quite dominant if the lineup gains more chemistry. Lukaku and Hazard are certainly in form. However, more could be seen from Mertens and De Bruyne who have performed slightly worse than usual. Uruguay has an excellent two-pronged attack up front with Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani that can keep them in any game. Finally, Croatia has looked excellent with their golden generation living up to the hype. If any of these teams won, perhaps excluding Belgium, it would be a crazy surprise.

Sweden is in the quarterfinals
World Cup
Swedish National Team celebrating. Photo by beIN Sports.

What a surprise Sweden has been. They do have some strong players, but this World Cup they have been playing so tactically sound and executing in nearly all the opportunities given to them. It still seems unlikely that Sweden could win the World Cup, but after this tournament so far, nothing can be ruled out.

 

Featured image by Sports Illustrated

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