FIFA World Cup 2018: Shocking Surprises

The curse of the World Cup winners continues. A “shocked” Germany became the third straight reigning champion to be knocked out in the group stage at the next World Cup — following Italy and Spain — after losing 2-0 to South Korea in Group F on Wednesday, June 27th.

In an embarrassingly poor performance Germany went behind in the game’s closing stages when Kim Young-gwon scored following a video review, with Son Heung-min then breaking away — German keeper Manuel Neuer was by this stage in the South Korean half — to add the second.

Other nations that were pushed out of the world cup included Argentina and Portugal, both of them were knocked out of the FIFA World Cup 2018 on Saturday.

Of the six sides most fancied before the World Cup began (Brazil, Germany, Spain, Argentina, Belgium and France), only Belgium and France have had passages in to the knockout stages that were not fraught with tension, vulnerability, moments of being on the very edge of the precipice and hauling themselves back from it.

World soccer stars, Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo were knocked out of the World Cup on the same day as Argentina and Portugal came unstuck and the illustrious pair failed to break their knockout-stage goal droughts.

Argentina’s 4-3 defeat to France left Messi without a goal in 756 minutes of World Cup knockout football, while Ronaldo failed to find the net as Portugal lost 2-1 to Uruguay, extending his goalless streak outside the group stage to 514 minutes.

Messi provided two assists as Argentina were beaten in a thrilling match in Kazan but he has now appeared in the knockout stages of four World Cups and failed to score in any of them.

Ronaldo was every bit as frustrated as his Barcelona rival after his fruitless attempts to penetrate Uruguay’s defense left him without a World Cup knockout stage goal in his career as he prepared to go home from his fourth World Cup at the age of 33.

Till the 95th minute of Germany’s group game against Sweden, the score remained 1-1. Which meant that the defending champions would be eliminated before the World Cup entered the knockout stage. Germany, one of the favorites, who have won the tournament four times, and have never fallen before the semi final in this century, were on the brink. They had been stunned by Mexico in their first game. And now they were being held 1-1 by Sweden.

Then, of course, Germany did what Germany do best: escapology. Toni Kroos was their Houdini on the night. The champions won 2-1.

But there would be no second Houdini act. In Germany’s final group game against South Korea, the score stayed goalless for 91 minutes. Then South Korea did to Germany what Germany do so often to others. They scored in the dying minutes. Twice. For the first time in 80 years, Germany had been knocked out in the first round of a World Cup.

Two-time champions Argentina, having drawn with Iceland and been thumped by Croatia, were four minutes away from being knocked out till salvation arrived in the form of a Marcos Rojo goal.

Spain, champions in 2010, and a frontrunner for this year’s title, scraped through against Iran and were held 2-2 by Morocco en route to qualifying for the next stage.

Russia shocked Spain in a down-to-the-wire finish by outlasting them in penalty kicks, ousting one the World Cup favorites in the Round of 16. The 1-1 draw (4-3 in PKs) marks the first time Russia has reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup since 1970, when it was known as the Soviet Union.

Spain, which was a favorite to win the tournament, came out strong with a goal off Russia’s Sergei Ignashevish’s foot, but then evened the match with a goal of his own.

After the match went back and forth into extra time, Russian goalie Igor Akinfeev came up huge with two saves in penalties, denying Spain its chance to another World Cup title.

A series of shock upsets have rocked the 2018 World Cup to its core and Japan looked like adding another to the tally as it went up 2-0 early in the second half against Belgium. But Belgium launched a stunning comeback that culminated in Nacer Chadli scoring the winner with the last kick of the game to win 3-2.

Neymar, voted man-of-the-match, was stopped by Tite afterwards as he was about to reply to reporters’ demands to clarify the incident.

Tite was adamant: “They stepped on him. I saw it on the screen.” Neymar attempted to play down the incident.

“Look, I think it’s more an attempt to undermine me than anything else,” said the Brazilian. “I don’t care much for criticism, or praise, because this can influence your attitude.

“In the last two matches I didn’t talk to the press because I don’t want to I just have to play, help my teammates, help my team.

“I’m here to win. I can always improve. Today I feel much better and I’m very happy for this win.”

Belgium came back from two goals down to win an extraordinary game, and a place in the quarter-finals, with two seconds of stoppage time to play on a thriller on July 2nd. Similarly, favorites Mexico went down to Brazil by losing by 2:00 in the knock out round held on July 2nd.

Neymar’s strike and a late second from Roberto Firmino saw a strangely low-key Brazil edge past Mexico 2-0 to book a spot in the World Cup quarter-finals.

Tite’s men are yet to hit full stride at Russia 2018, and on this evidence they still have more to come, but Neymar’s 51st-minute goal and Firmino’s tap-in after coming off the bench means the tournament favourites progressed with relative comfort in the end,and avoided the early exit that has already befallen the likes of Spain, Germany and Argentina.

Mexico were the dominant force in the opening 20 minutes in Samara, but they were unable to make their superiority count and eventually allowed their muted opponents to scrap their way into the game.

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