England, Germany, Ronaldo: Five days at the World Cup

The 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia is most definitely underway with exciting last minute goals from England, surprising draws between Spain and Portugal and unexpected struggles from Germany, Argentina and Brazil all happening in the first week. As we look ahead to the upcoming games, Maryam Naz has all you need to know to wrap up the first week of the FIFA World Cup.

Memorable mentions:

* Russia v Saudi Arabia: The hosts took apart Juan Pizzi’s men in a 5-0 thrashing, with Aleksandr Golovin as their star player

* Brazil v Switzerland: The Brazilians were held to a draw, despite a brilliant Phillipe Coutinho goal, and no amount of Neymar trickery could help them steal all three points

* England v Tunisia: Harry Kane scored twice to win the match for Gareth Southgate in extra time.

Argentina v Iceland:

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A mammoth Icelandic defence…

Hordur Magnussen and Aron Gunnarson thrived in their roles in the Icelandic defence and even stopped Lionel Messi from operating at peak efficiency. By moving side to side as a unit, they were able to crowd him out, leaving no space for the him or Angel Di Maria to run into. They successfully used this ploy when defending free-kicks too, ensuring inbound deliveries were headed away, thanks to the physical presence the Icelandic defenders had in the box.

Perennial underperformers?

Despite boasting an offensive lineup of Messi, Kun Aguero, and Di Maria, Argentina have struggled to impose themselves on the international stage. Aguero’s opener against the Icelandic defence was stunning, but their attack petered out from that moment onwards. This has been a hallmark of their recent international campaigns. Moving forward, they must prove that there is more to their offence than Messi if they are to progress to the latter stages of the tournament.

Portugal v Spain:

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The ‘Cristiano Ronaldo’ effect

The Real Madrid striker earned his 51st international hattrick against Fernando Hierro’s men.

When Portugal appeared to be struggling to suppress the Spanish attack, Ronaldo came up with the goods on three occasions. He converted from the penalty spot, profited from a rare David De Gea howler, and dazzled the crowd with a magical, curling freekick effort at the death.

Let’s face it: there’s no stopping him, and other than going all out to stop him from making the headlines (a tall order in itself) – we must applaud him for his consistent form.

Spanish grit…

It would be foolish to think that Spain’s draw against Portugal meant that they will struggle in their upcoming games. They came back from the dead when all evidence seemed to suggest they would lose to Portugal’s one-man offence. Hierro’s side impressed all over the pitch. They had strength up front in the form of Diego Costa, experience in their defence through Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique and attacking flair in the centre of the pitch with Andres Iniesta and Isco. Yet, they also started the 2010 World Cup without a win, and they went on to win it in South Africa.

Germany v Mexico:

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A recipe for disaster

Germany played into Mexico’s hands by encouraging their fullbacks to join the attack, leaving themselves vulnerable to the counter. With Mexico leaving their front three up the pitch, this meant that on several occasions, Joshua Kimmich and Marvin Plattenhardt were unable to return to a defending position, costing them the game. Their attacking players showed that they would not assist the back three in tracking back, which may be a risk for Joachim Low’s side moving forward.

The Mexican wave…of attack!

Mexico’s front three hounded the German players, through collective pressing that forced them to give away possession in dangerous places. This occurred in the buildup to Hirving Lozano’s goal, where Javier Hernandez stole possession off Toni Kroos. Lozano, cut in on his right foot, put Kimmich on his backside and drilled the ball into Manuel Neuer’s goal. This gegenpressing did not sit well with the German midfielders, who struggled to make forward passes thanks to the efforts of Chicharito and co.

Follow Maryam on Twitter @mnaz98

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