Every minute counts in football and this couldn’t be truer at this World Cup! So far there have been 20 goals scored after the 90th minute, more than the last 3 tournaments combined! Germany know this all too well, Toni Kroos scoring a wonderful strike against Sweden 5 minutes into injury time to give them hope of getting past the group stage only to be undone by two late South Korean goals in their final game to leave them bottom of the group.
The Germans became the third straight reigning champions to fail to navigate out of the group stage following in the footsteps of Italy and Spain before them, meaning this is the first time in their history they have failed to progress to the knock out stages! A shock loss to Mexico you would think would kickstart their campaign, however after riding their luck against Sweden all they needed was a win against already an eliminated South Korea, instead slumping to a 2-0 defeat to finish bottom of the group.
VAR – hit or miss
Generally, VAR has been a success. It showed its benefits by awarding South Korea their first goal after it was initially disallowed for offside and has also correctly caught out Neymar after he was accused of diving to win a penalty for Brazil.
There have been plenty of occasions where it could have been used more, a good example being the penalty claims for Harry Kane in England’s game against Tunisia
So who wins? Can England (7/2) finally end 52 years of hurt? Brazil are currently favourites @ 3/1, followed closely by France (7/2). Don’t rule out either Belgium (11/2) or Croatia (13/2) causing an upset and making it all the way to the final!
For top goal scorer it’s hard to see anyone stopping Harry Kane (2/7) from taking the Golden Boot home with him, however Lukaku (10/1) is only 2 behind with Frances talented youngster Kylian Mbappe (10/1) a further goal back!
Knocked out by the finest of margins
This has been a World Cup where a team’s progression to the next round has come down to the finest of margins! Senegal and Japan being the perfect example. The two teams finished level on points, goal difference, goals scored and head to head. Japan ultimately going through based on the number of yellow cards accumulated during the group games.
Russia have surprised everyone by making it out of the group stages and what they lack in skill and technique they certainly make up with hard work and determination! They were brought back down to earth against Uruguay, outlining the gulf in class between them and the big guns
Japan are another team who have surpassed all expectations picking up a great win over Columbia and by showing real determination to come from behind twice to draw with Senegal to reach the last 16.
And finally to England…..Gareth Southgate’s men have made a good showing of themselves on the pitch in their games against Tunisia and Panama, Captain Kane leading by example plundering 5 goals to top the scoring charts. The ‘second string’ made a good account of themselves in the dead rubber against Belgium and as much as Southgate said he wanted to win all the group games he has to be secretly happy with the result, giving The Three Lions the ‘easier’ path to the final!
There seems to be peace and harmony within the squad, with the fans and the media which can only be a positive going forward.
Can they go all the way, is football finally coming home? Will Harry Kane be holding the World Cup trophy high above his head come 15th July….we can only wait and see!