Another round-up from the greatest sporting event in the world including a stunning draw for Switzerland against Brazil, and a surprise loss by the champions against Mexico.
Every single kid who ever walked into a toy shop to buy a Subbuteo team picked Brazil. Ok, maybe Peru. But Brazil, in their golden strip, reminded you of sexy football, free kicks curled into the top of the net, fancy tricks, and central midfield stars who looked like members of the 300 all the while smoking 20 cigarettes a day when the cameras paid attention to something else.
And yet when the pre-tournament favourites, Brazil, squared off against the Swiss, their opponents had only been beaten once in 22 matches, winning 16 of them, resulting in a #6 place in the world rankings.
And it showed.
Brazil, buoyed by the competitive return of Neymar Jr, took an early lead thanks to a thunderbolt from Philippe Coutinho. And when you looked at the Brazilian lineup and saw Neymar, Gabriel Jesus, Willian and Coutinho, why would think the little wizards would turn the Swiss defence into pieces of cheese.
And yet, it wasn’t until the 77th minute that anyone in the Brazil team had a shot on goal, by which time the Swiss had drawn level thanks to a point-blank header from Steven Zuber.
And how does a man as big as Zuber get all that space in the box?
By pushing his defender out of the way.
The Brazilians pleaded with the referee to take a look at the Video Referee Assistant (VAR), but for some strange reason the man couldn’t be arsed, and the goal stood.
Brazil still should have won it after Miranda blasted wide of the mark when it was easier to score in the dying minutes, but a draw was a fair result.
It was the first time Brazil had failed to win an opening game of the World Cup since drawing against the Swedes during the 1978 Championships in Argentina.
In the other Group E game, Serbia beat Costa Rica by a goal to nil thanks to a rocket of a free kick from the skipper Aleksandr Kolarov.
1. Serbia – 3 pts
2. Brazil – 1
3. Switzerland – 1
4. Costa Rica – 0
Germany 0 v 1 Mexico
It has to be something magical that drives to your knees in tears after winning the first match of a World Cup, but that’s what happened when Mexico beat Germany at the Luzhniki Stadium, yesterday.
Before the match, you could have gotten 4/1 on a Mexican win, after the Latin American side had only beaten the reigning champions once in their previous eleven attempts.
To demonstrate the imperviousness of the German machine, defeat by Mexico was their first World Cup loss since the semi-finals in 2010 and their first competitive defeat of any nature since losing to France in the 2016 European Championship Semi-Finals.
They are a team that doesn’t lose.
But they did.
Well, they played poorly, especially in the first half, where the Mexicans played like Brazil; quick, cutting and precise, and they deserved their lead when Hirving Lozano made space in the box to fire home in the 35th minute.
Germany controlled the football in the second half, but Mexico still looked devastating on the break, and despite a Toni Kroos free-kick that struck the bar late in the second half, Germany never looked threatening in and around the goal area.
Cue the tears.
And it could turn out to be a disaster for Joachim Low’s side because if Mexico can top the group, and Brazil do the business in group E, the two pre-tournament favourite could face each other in the Round of 16.
In the other group game, Sweden defeated South Korea by a goal to nil with Andreas Granqvist scoring from the penalty spot in the middle of the second half.
1. Sweden – 3 pts
2. Mexico – 3
3. South Korea – 0
4. Germany -0
What Are The Odds?
Group E Winners
Brazil – 4/7
Switzerland – 7/2
Serbia – 7/2
Costa Rica – 50/1
Group F Winners
Mexico – 8/11
Germany – 7/2
South Korea – 66/1
World Cup Winners