With most of the heavy-hitters out of the World Cup run, it’s anyone’s guess who’ll progress into the quarter-finals! We take a look at the top winners and losers of last week and, more importantly, who could take the cup.
Messi exits the World Cup. Hours later, so does Ronaldo,” screamed the headline in The New York Times, rounding off the highlights from last week’s 2018 FIFA World Cup matches.
It takes a lot more than a Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo to win a World Cup title. At least, that’s what the world witnessed in the course of six short hours as, in what has to be a dark day – a Black Saturday of sorts – for football fans across the globe, both Argentina and Portugal were sent crashing out of the race for the golden cup.
Fans, can argue that Argentina’s game against France was a cliff-hanger, with seven goals scored in total – some even worthy of a FIFA 2018 highlight reel of best goals scored at this year’s World Cup.
But there can only be one winner…and one loser.
If anything, the two shocking losses, and Spain’s exit late this Sunday [July 1] only throws the doors wide open for up-and-coming teams such as Russia and… well… the young English team.
Though banking on the English team could be considered a tall ask, says Mohsin al Balushi, an Omani resident wearing the English team jersey, during our interaction at the Oman World Cup Festival: “England’s playing great now, and they’re producing good goals – but their loss to Belgium showed a weak spot in the team.
“They need to tighten up their defense a bit, as I noticed they were playing loose against the Belgians. But that could also be due to the overconfidence of the team after their Panama win,” he added.
Football expert and Koooora Wa Bas editor, Fahad al Tamimi, says: “This reminds me of the 2002 FIFA World Cup, when all the big teams went head-to-head and left only Brazil and Germany in the finals.
“This gives smaller teams a hope for the cup but, this time around, Uruguay and Brazil are the favourites. As a matter of fact, this is Uruguay’s last attempt at the World Cup, as their star players Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani are due for retirement.
“So, they’ll give it their all. Brazil are expected to qualify for the semis and the finals, but they’ll have a hard time dealing with the smaller teams that can show their resilience in their defense and midfield,” he adds. “It’ll be like the Germans unable to penetrate the defense of their opponents.”
Speaking of which – World Cup title-holder Germany went floundering out of the competition to a resistant South Korean team.
German fans were left dejected, but the loss only asserted a lesser known fact about FIFA World Cups: This is the fifth time a defending champion has failed to advance out of the group stage. The first nation to be eliminated in this manner was Brazil, back in 1966. However, four of the last five World Cup champions have been cursed with a similar fate (France in 2002, Italy in 2010, and Spain in 2014).
The loss also broke Germany’s streak of 16 consecutive knockout stage appearances.
“This loss is embarrassing,” said Joudeh, a Lebanese expat – and a supporter of Germany, at the Oman World Cup Festival.
“There’s no justifying the performance of the players. Based on their form, they should’ve played better, but they didn’t even stand a chance against South Korea. And when the team that’s ranked first in FIFA loses to a team that is ranked above 50 [57, as per the FIFA], we deserve to know what went wrong,” he added, before walking away, shaking his head.
While Joudeh vented his frustration, several others – mostly supporters of France and Russia – were seen to be in awe, after the respective games at the Oman World Cup Festival.
You too can join the action live and interact with fans at the largest screening of the World Cup games at the Oman World Cup Festival presented by Ooredoo, on now at the Oman Convention and Exhibition Centre (OCEC). The matches are screened in English and Arabic, and you can catch them on seven of the largest screens in the country that present viewers with a 360-degree experience.
Tickets are on-sale online at tickets.virginmegastore.me or on-site at the OCEC and at Virgin Megastore – Seeb City Centre and Oasis by the Sea. For more details, visit www.theagency.co.om/sae-worldcup.
It’s not too late to grab a full-access pass to the World Cup matches for RO50.