The wait is finally over. After four years of anticipation, the 2018 World Cup is underway. And already, there are plenty of storylines. Whether it be surprises, upsets, or great performances, this World Cup is already producing scintilating entertainment. After the first five days, here are the top storylines.
Liftoff For the Hosts
The two lowest ranked teams in the tournament, Russia and Saudi Arabia, faced off on opening day. As the hosts, all eyes are on Russia to play well and advance to the knockout stage. To do so, they had to beat Saudi Arabia to gain momentum going into games against much tougher opposition, including Egypt and Uruguay. And the hosts responded. After seven winless matches going in, Russia blew Saudi Arabia off the park, winning 5-0 in front of 80,000 fans in Moscow. Although Saudi Arabia are the worst team in the tournament, Russia have the momentum, and their home fans behind them, to keep it up and make it to the knockout stage.
Grab Your Popcorn
Ever since the schedule was released for the World Cup, the game that everyone circled was Portugal versus Spain. The European champions, featuring international superstar, Cristiano Ronaldo, against the 2010 World Cup champions. And after months of hype, the match lived up to expectations. Portugal took the lead twice through goals by Ronaldo, only to see Spain equalize twice, until a stunning right footed volley from Real Madrid defender, Nacho, made it 3-2 to the Spanish. But that would not be all. Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up yet again, scoring from a free kick to put Portugal on level terms with Spain, ending the match 3-3. Frankly, this game may have been the greatest World Cup game of the twenty-first century. Hopefully, it is not the last time Portugal and Spain meet in this World Cup.
Bad Day at the Office
Many of the tournament favorites heading into the World Cup have stumbled out of the gate. Argentina, led by five-time Ballon d’Or winner, Lionel Messi, were neutralized by World Cup debutants, Iceland. Yes, a country with a population of just over 330,000 people tied the two-time winners, Argentina. Brazil tied as well, with the pedestrian Switzerland. The most glamorous team in the tournament, and the favorite to win their sixth World Cup, were held 1-1 by Switzerland, shocking many. However, the greatest of them all came on Sunday afternoon, when the title holders fell. Germany, winners of the 2014 edition, lost to Mexico 1-0, in a game they were completely outplayed. For the big teams in the World Cup, it was quite the underwhelming weekend, considering the expectations they have set for themselves.