Ranked! Every World Cup 2018 team based on their performances so far
El Tri came flying out of el traps, Hirving ‘Chucky’ Lozano and his team-mates making child’s play of slicing open Germany. Mexico should actually have scored more than once as they rampaged forward in the first half, while they later risked a late equaliser as they held on for 1-0. But upsetting the reigning world champions in your opening game: it gets no better than that.
Billed as one of the weakest host nations ever, it was a surprise that Russia stormed out the biggest winners of round one with a 5-0 triumph. Admittedly Saudi Arabia being hapless helped, but Denis Cheryshev and Aleksandr Golovin scored a couple of beauties in front of a glad-handing Vladimir Putin. A 3-1 win against Egypt confirmed it: this Russia side boats a classier, more diverse attacking threat than many expected.
The highest ranked team not to win their opener, because snatching a draw with Spain in a top-quality 3-3 thriller is about as good as a point gets. A hat-trick from you-know-who grabbed the headlines, but manager Fernando Santos has cleverly built a side that gets the best from his outstanding star player rather than plonking a superstar in a team (cough, Argentina).
David de Gea’s error and Cristiano Ronaldo’s late free-kick showed Spain are far from flawless, but they still played some exceptional stuff at times, with Isco shining and Andres Iniesta showing he still has some magic left. One bonus was Diego Costa – whose place in the starting XI was questioned pre-tournament – bulldozing his way to an impressive brace.
Never. In Doubt. Right? A tricky night started superbly, as England flew out of the blocks, cut open a limited Tunisia side and then – having been pegged back – showed dogged determination to force Harry Kane’s late winner. Yet they toiled after Tunisia’s penalty equaliser – not helped by a suspect display from referee Wilmar Roldan and his VARs – and the defence will suffer tougher tests. All in all, some good; some bad – but a win pulled out of the fire always feels sweet.
Sure, they were a missed Leo Messi penalty away from defeat against Argentina. But Iceland were good value for their point against their illustrious opponents; they had chances before Alfred Finnbogason’s goal and defended valiantly afterwards. A deserved 1-1 draw, and the fairytale keeps on going like an extended Disney epic (probably Frozen, we suppose).
A point against Brazil is a superb result for a Swiss side that looked set for a thrashing early on. Yet while we have to praise Switzerland’s resilience in equalising through Steven Zuber, then holding on for 1-1 (while fouling Neymar 10 times), this was perhaps as much a story of Brazil not clicking in the second half as it is Swiss brilliance. A great point but only a solid display.
The Belgians didn’t look set for this lofty perch when they were 0-0 at half-time with Panama. Yet with the favourites Brazil, Spain and Germany all failing to win their openers, Belgium’s display – 3-0 with a Dries Mertens wonderstrike, Romelu Lukaku brace, plus that delicious Kevin De Bruyne assist – suddenly looks tasty, even if Roberto Martinez’s set-up still doesn’t fully convince.