The World Cup this year has been exciting, to say the least. With many countries just needing a chance to get in to show what they can do, quite a few ran with the opportunity they were given. Teams like Japan, Canada, and Saudi Arabia are making things harder for the likes of Mexico, Argentina, and Germany. With the group stage ending, let’s look back at some of the amazing matches and unexpected upsets thus far in Qatar. Is this the year of the underdogs?
The Worlds Stage
The World Cup may have kicked off with Ecuador defeating host Qatar 2-0. The most unexpected result came from Saudi Arabia when they beat Argentina 2-1 on November 22. In a match that was expected to be an easy win for Lionel Messi and the Argentina side, Saudi Arabia battled back from 1-0 down at halftime to get the upset win. The back line of Saudi Arabia did everything necessary to keep Argentina from being able to make their runs to the goal. Catching Argentina offside 10 times in the match. Argentina would rebound the rest of the way through the group stage to win their group and move on to the round of 16.
The very next day saw Japan manage a 2-1 victory over Germany. Just like with Argentina, Germany was expected to walk away with three points fairly easily. Despite outplaying the Japanese side, Germany was held at bay and walked away from that match with no points. Germany owned the match in terms of almost every statistical category except the result. Germany is joining Spain as the countries heading into the round of 16 from group E.
Year of the Underdogs
The last surprising match we will touch on here happened in group B, between Iran and Wales. Coming off his MLS Cup victory, Gareth Bale looked to carry Wales through to the round of 16. It was a bit of a tall task in a group with the US and England. On November 25, Wales faced Iran. Looking to get some ground after a 1-1 draw with the US, Wales played a tight match against a surprising Iran side. A red card in the 86th minute spelled disaster for Wales. Iran would net 2 goals in added time at the end of the match. They secure the points and put Wales at the bottom of the Group standings. Unfortunately for both sides, neither would make it through the group stage as England and United States moved on to the round of 16.
With the round of 16 beginning on Saturday, there is still plenty of action to go. All the potential favorites to win it all are still in the hunt. This is barring another upset like we’ve seen so far in the group-stage play. Moving into the round of 16, every country must bring their best or be prepared to go home.