The debuts were done when Poland and Senegal became the final teams to begin their 2018 World Cups, kicking off today at 8:00 a.m. PT. Now, with every team having one result under their belts, we have to start worrying about one of the most tedious parts of the tournament: The knockout-round scenarios.
That was the subtext to Egypt’s loss in Saint Petersburg to Russia, who, with their 3-1 win, ran their record to 2-0-0 with an impressive plus-seven goal difference. They’re practically into the knockout round, just like Egypt (0-2-0) are practically eliminated, with both teams' almost-there scenarios leaving out language highly impractical.
That’s the reality of this competition format, where there are so few scenarios that can truly eliminate a team after two rounds. Take Egypt, for example. They’ve lost two games, meaning they can max out with only three points. Russia already has them beat, with Uruguay’s win on Friday putting La Celeste right at that mark. The only way Egypt advances if is
- Saudi Arabia beats the Uruguayans tomorrow,
- Russia beats Uruguay next week, and
- Egypt finishes group play by defeating Saudi Arabia.
Even in that scenario, one that would leave every team but Russia on three points, Egypt would have to win the tiebreakers over Saudi Arabia and Uruguay, the first of which would be is goal difference.
After reading all that, be honest: How bored are you, right now? Rate it on a scale of annotating tax code to caffeine overload. You’re pretty much at the lowest point, right? That’s what the next week will be about.
Some teams will truly be eliminated after two games, but most of the time? "Well, if [team] win their last game, three other teams cooperate, Tony Stark doesn’t intervene, and parallel universes aligns and Cate Blanchett gives Fredo the golden ticket, then yes, the point-less team that has no realistic hope of playing a fourth game could, perhaps, make the next round."
The alternative, here: Just don’t worry about it. Remember yesterday, when it was amazing to see two teams you rarely watch going at each other in the biggest event in sports? It can still be that, if you want! Feel free to stay clear of all these banal tiebreaker scenarios, because you know somewhere, there's somebody figuring it all out for you.
1. As we alluded to, above, Russia closed the day with another impressive victory, following their 5-0 drubbing of Saudi Arabia to open the tournament with a 3-1 win over Mohamed Salah and Egypt. At six points, they’re practically into the second round, with only [insert drawn-out scenario, here; or, don’t’] keeping them from advancing out of their group.
2. Let’s go back of the start of the day, where an early red card of Colombia’s Carlos Sánchez paved the way for a 2-1 win for Japan, with one of Group H’s favorites handed a surprise, opening match loss.
3. Perhaps equally surprising (in that it may not have been that surprising at all), Senegal joined Japan at the top of their group with a 2-1 win of their own.
1. A truly scary moment was revealed yesterday, as the Saudi Arabian team was en route to their tournament’s second game, in Rostov-on-Don. On their descent, the plane's right wing caught fire, and although the Saudi federation quickly confirmed there were no injuries, this was certainly one of the tournament’s closest of calls:
2. Back on the pitch, Senegal’s victory over Poland was aided by a moment of controversy, with the central official having waved on M’Baye Niang in time for him to disrupt Poland’s backpass and create the game’s winning goal. Should the official have not waved Niang on? Or, should Poland have been more aware of the Senegalese players on the field?
3. Oh, about that Senegal victory? It certainly set off some celebrations back home:
4. I didn’t know this was a tradition among Japanese fans, but it seems obvious enough, and (as the original poster notes) the type of thing that’s exciting to see spread from one fanbase to another:
5. One thing I do know? This Aliou Cissé GIF is going to live on. The Senegal head coach is the youngest in his position at the tournament, and he's also the only black head coach at Russia 2018. He was also on the field for the most famous victory in Senegalese soccer history, their group-stage win over defending champions France at Japan/South Korea 2002.
So what's your reaction, Aliou, at getting your second stab at history?
6. And finally, a note for Walter Bahr, who passed away yesterday. The U.S. soccer world has been remembering the legend, the last living link to one of the men’s national team’s most renown triumphs.
Guzmán and Polo
Another day, another 24 hours passed until the biggest games of Peru and Costa Rica’s tournaments, something that means slightly different routines for the two countries Timbers fans are following most.
For Peru, that meant a travel day, being only two days out from their match against France. La Blanquirroja flew to Yekaterinburg on Tuesday, where they will train at Central Stadium, tomorrow, before their 8:00 a.m. PT, Thursday kickoff against the group favorites. Peru could still advance to the Round of 16 with a draw, but unless they beat France, their knockout round path will be out of their control.
It’s the same situation for Costa Rica, who have Brazil on Friday at Krestovsky Stadium in Saint Petersburg, meaning they have another day of training in Samara before their long trip to the northwest. The 884-mile voyage will occupy the bulk to los Ticos’ time on Wednesday, giving them a day on site before a near-must-win match with the Seleçao.
The first full day of game twos kicks off at 5:00 a.m. PT (FOX Sports 1), with Portugal (0-0-1) looking for their tournament’s first victory against Group B’s current cellar dwellers, Morocco (0-1-0). Likewise, Spain (0-0-1), who drew with Portugal on Friday, will hope for three points against group-leading Iran (1-0-0) at 11:00 a.m. PT (FOX).
In between, Saudi Arabia (0-1-0) will look to bounce back from Thursday’s tournament-opening, 5-0 loss against Uruguay, who will vault themselves as well as Russia into the knockout round with a victory in Rostov-on-Don.