Columbia - Japan 1-2 (Quintero '39 - Kagawa pen '6, Osako '73)
Poland Senegal 1-2 (Krychowiak '86 - Cionek og '37, Niang '60)
Russia - Egypt 3-1 (Fathi og '47, Cheryshev '59, Dzyuba '62 - Salah pen '73)
Oh wow, who saw that coming? With the underdogs winning in both games, Group H is turning out to be one of the most interesting ones.
Columbia was really unlucky to start the game with a huge handicap, being one goal and one man down after 4 minutes. I find it hard to blame poor Sanchez, his hand did stop a goal, though in hindsight his team would have been better off one goal down but playing 11 v 11. Even with 10 men, Columbia did great and was the better team, which makes it really unfair for them to have lost. But they do seem to be the best team in the group, and there's still time to make amends. Japan rode their luck a little bit and that never holds too long, so even with the win I don't really see them qualifying.
Poland was really poor and a real disappointment. Boasting the best generation in 40 years and some of the big stars in Europe, the Poles were unable to control the game or create any chances of note until it was too late. The second Senegalese goal was a very weird one, and should not have counted, what with Niang being off the pitch with the ball still in play. The fourth ref should have kept him on the side until the ball was out of play, though even so, Poland has very little reason to complain. There is of course a difference between a point and no points, but sometimes you have to put in the work to get anything from the game. Senegal was the most practical team and they deserved to win, though the manner it happen is indeed a shame. But the odd blunder is always meant to happen at the World Cup, and good teams shouldn't let that stop them. Hell, even England didn't let a few refereeing mistakes stop them! You want to prove your worth, Poland? Just beat Colombia.
Right, so a week ago I was very vocal against what I thought would be the Russian methods. But actually, an hour into their second game, Cherchesov's boys flipped a switch within me. Russia has actually played good football. They were by far the better team against Egypt, and they are worthy of the praise heaped upon them. They still have the toughest game in the group coming up, against Uruguay but, if Los Celestes beat the Saudis today, as they're expected to, both teams will be happy to squeeze out a boring uncomplicated draw in the last game. Or Russia could win for their public, you won't hear the Uruguayans complaining. They'll get either Spain or Portugal, so it's really not that big a difference between finishing first or second in Group A.
And with the first round of games gone, it's time to reassess my predictions from before the start of the tournament:
- got Group A bang on in terms of outcome, not really in terms of style though. Still, yes on Group A;
- yeah, easy one. Bar a huge blunder from Spain against Iran, it'll be Spain and Portugal, doesn't matter in which order;
- funnily enough, got Group C right too, although I take back the praise for Denmark. They were lucky to have won against Peru and if they go through it will be undeserved;
- everyone is still discounting Iceland, and I was hoping Nigeria would put on some sort of display. But now everything's still in the air in that group. Nigeria will probably go home, but they still have potential to cause trouble to the other teams. Croatia was actually really lucky to have played the first game against them. They'll be warned about Iceland now;
- my hopes for Costa Rica have come to naught. I'm saying Brazil and Serbia now, even after the Swiss' miraculous getaway with a point from Neymar & co;
- not as straightforward as I though in Group F, but it's still Germany and Mexico. In reverse order;
- bang on about Belgium and England, but it's an easy one, really;
- ha! Group H. Tricky, isn't it? I'm calling it for Columbia and Senegal.