Big guns fire blanks in World Cup week one

Misfire: Lionel Messi missed a penalty as Argentina drew against lowly Iceland. © Getty

Can a new team win the World Cup? Germany lost; Brazil and Argentina drew — the minnows are in with a fighting chance. Here are five things you may have missed from the matches so far.

1/ Lazy Leo? He has won five Ballon d’Ors, but after the opening matches one stat ranked Lionel Messi dead last: out of all outfield players, he ran the shortest distance. Laziness? Perhaps not. He often preserves energy to make attacking dribbles. He must play well for his country to stand a chance.

2/ Home advantage. Unlike the Argentine wonder, the Russians take a different approach. The hosts have run further than all other teams in both of their matches so far. Some point to the encouragement given by passionate home supporters.

3/ One man team. In two games Cristiano Ronaldo has already broken several records. He became the first player to score three goals against Spain in a World Cup and the oldest hat-trick hero in the tournament’s history. Portugal have never won the World Cup — can he change that?

4/ Set piece soccer. A mighty 53% of goals scored in the first round of group games came from set pieces (corners, free kicks and penalties). In recent World Cups, the average was 28%. Why the change? Video assistant referees (VAR) let referees penalise fouls that may have otherwise been ignored.

5/ A continent expects. Senegal, Egypt, Morocco, Tunisia, Nigeria: the five African nations in this year’s tournament. But Senegal were the only one to win their first match. Manager Aliou Cisse is “convinced” an African team will win the World Cup one day.

Will a new team win the World Cup?

Going for glory

The old guard’s time is over, some argue. The quality of world football is rising, and the hubris of big teams can lead to downfalls. Belgium and Portugal are the best hope for a first-time winner, but we must not rule out others.

Quality will shine through, others respond. Brazil, Argentina, Germany — true champions of the game who turn it on when things get serious.

You Decide

  1. Who will win the World Cup?

Activities

  1. Watch the highlights of the Spain vs Portugal match by following the link in Become An Expert. It was an eventful match with plenty of goals and talking points. Based on the video, write a match report that communicates all the excitement of the game. Use as much descriptive language as you can.

Some People Say...

“Winning — that’s the most important to me. It’s as simple as that.”

Cristiano Ronaldo

What do you think?

Q & A

What do we know?
In the initial round of group games there were 38 goals scored in total. That works out as just under 2.4 goals per game. This is lower than the average number of goals scored during Brazil’s 2014 World Cup.
What do we not know?
Who will win the World Cup. Despite drawing their opening match, Brazil still remains the favourite to win (according to Odds Checker).

Word Watch

Shortest distance
Messi only covered 1.42 kilometres while not in possession during Argentina’s match against Iceland. Opponent Gylfi Sigurdsson managed 6.67 kilometres.
Both
Russia beat Saudi Arabia 5-0 in their opening game, and defeated Egypt 3-1 in their second match.
Old guard’s
Only eight teams have won the World Cup: Brazil, Germany, Italy, Argentina, Uruguay, England, France and Spain.

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