We are only just into the second week of the 2018 World Cup and we already have our first heavyweight on the ropes. After the defeat to Croatia, Argentina have just a solitary point from their first two games and are now reliant on other results going their way. The likeliest scenario is that Lionel Messi and company will be packing their bags.
Argentina may not be the only powerhouse heading for the exit either. The Germans have some serious work to do while Brazil could yet miss out in a feisty Group E.
Here are a few other thoughts on what has transpired in Russia over the past few days.
Croatia look poised for a deep run
This World Cup has provided several reminders that masterful midfields remain the biggest trump card. Look no further than Croatia, who shoved Argentina closer to a humbling group stage exit with an emphatic 3-0 win on Thursday. Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic oozed class throughout that game. Both scored key goals in the second half and set the tone throughout.
The knockout rounds are shaping up nicely for Croatia. At this point, a second round clash with Denmark looks to be on the cards, with that side of the bracket appearing increasingly inviting. There is a real chance that Spain, France, Brazil, Germany and Belgium all end up on the opposite side of the draw.
France and Uruguay winning ugly
Both of these teams will be relieved to have six points under their belts but uneasy about the manner in which they have been gained. Despite their array of stars, the French have struggled in the final third, Antoine Griezmann has been substituted in both games and they could easily be sitting on two draws thus far.
Meanwhile, Uruguay followed up an unconvincing 1-0 win over Egypt with the same scoreline against Saudi Arabia. Defensively, the Uruguayans look solid but there is little spark going forward, despite Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani leading the line. Still, results outweigh performances. That said, both teams will be hoping to carry better form into the knockout rounds.
No sign of the free-flowing Brazil who qualified in style
Brazil’s struggles against Switzerland and Costa Rica are hard to explain. While both opponents were well organized and gave Neymar no room to operate, the quality of the Brazilians’ performances has raised some doubts over their ability to go the distance in Russia. Group E is going to go to the wire. Brazil are in a decent position but a loss to Serbia in their final group game would likely mean elimination. But for the late goals on Friday, things would look a lot worse.
Attention now turns to Germany, who have a must-win clash with Sweden on Saturday. The defending champions need a vastly improved performance to get back on track in Group F.