First round – World in Sports

25 November 2022 11:17 (UK time)

The World Cup is well and truly underway, and with a collection of exciting first-round matches, we’re taking a look at every first-round group stage game.

Group A:

Qatar 0:2 Ecuador

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Qatar became the first host nation to lose their World Cup opener and were completely outclassed by an Ecuadorian side who could have had more if they wanted to. Ecuador controlled most of the game and blocked several long-range efforts, while Qatar never threatened Ecuador’s goal.

Enner Valencia thought he had opened the scoring in the third minute before being ruled offside by VAR, but Valencia scored both goals to earn him man of the match.

A lackluster display from the hosts of the tournament leaves us no more in our exploration of what standard Ecuador are at and will likely reveal in their next game.

Senegal 0-2 Netherlands

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In a close encounter between two sides desperate for three points, the Netherlands took the lead with two late goals to secure victory.

Both sides were without their key men in this match as Sadio Mane of Senegal and Memphis Depay of Holland were unavailable to start this game.

The Senegalese’s resistance was strong, but a lack of forwardness cost them in this game as they failed to take advantage of the Dutch’s sloppy performance.

Group B:

England 6-2 Iran

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England manager Gareth Southgate decided to switch to a front four against Iran and, to the surprise of many fans, England made a long start at the World Cup.

Iran looked timid in this game and offered little throughout the game, allowing England to play at their own pace and take them with ease. However, England’s performance was not due to Iran’s lackluster performance, as the attacking fluidity with which the English played at times was something to behold.

Iran, however, responded late in the game, with Taremi clawing back two goals for his national team. A soft penalty and a scintillating finish showed signs of defensive errors for England that will need to be rectified as the tournament progresses.

USA 1-1 Wales

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The USA had Wales on the ropes for large parts of the first half in what was a two-half game decider. Wales struggled to gain any possession and deservedly trailed 1-0 at half-time after sitting too deep and allowing the USA to set up in their own half.

But at half-time, Welsh manager Robert Page brought on Keither Moore for Daniel James and it completely changed the game. Having their centre-forwards up top and giving the Welsh side clear instructions to move up the pitch paid dividends for them.

Wales overwhelmed the USA in the second half and won a deserved penalty, which Gareth Bale stepped up to finish with class. After successive efforts, both sides ended up with a point, a point they could both use to build on.

Group C:

Argentina 1:2 Saudi Arabia

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Argentina went into this game as one of the favorites to win the tournament and many thought normal service had begun as Lionel Messi sent home a spot-kick in the 10th minute.

Saudi Arabia built boldly with a very high defensive line, limiting the spaces Messi could operate in, trying to minimize his creative threat. A risk that was almost punished several times in the first half as Argentina kept getting caught offside trying to use the high line.

Early in the second half, Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari made history with inch-perfect strikes to put Saudi Arabia ahead. A bravely fought lead until the final whistle earned the nation a well-deserved three points in the group and a national holiday to celebrate.

Mexico 0:0 Poland

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The second goalless draw of the tournament resulted in a match between two sides lacking the quality to create chances.

The highlight of this game was Poland star Robert Lewandowski’s shock penalty save as Guilhermo Ochoa saved a poor penalty from the Polish striker.

A point for either side seemed a fair assessment of the match, even after Lewandowski’s dismissal, with both sets of supporters expecting more if they were to qualify for the group stages.

Group D:

Denmark 0:0 Tunisia

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The first goalless draw of the World Cup was played in this match and although it was a goalless game, the game was not lacking in entertainment.

Tunisia started the brighter of the two sides, surprising Denmark by pressing and turning the ball. Struggling for any meaningful possession and missing chances in the first half, many believed the Tunisians had a goal for their efforts.

Without goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel, Tunisia would have got their goal as the Danish keeper pulled off a stunning save to deny Issam Jebali sending the Tunisians ahead. Although they waited for all three points before kicking off, they likely won a point that will take everything into consideration.

France 4:1 Australia

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Australia enjoyed a successful opening 15 minutes against the defending world champions, causing trouble for the French and even taking a ninth-minute lead through Craig Goodwin.

However, after the goal, the Australians began to lose possession as well, allowing France to get into wide areas and exploit their tight formation.

The width, pace and guile of Ousmane Dembele and Kylian Mbappe gave the Socceroos’ backs nightmares, running past them with ease. The star of the show, however, was Olivier Giroud, who equaled Thierry Henry’s French record with two goals.

Group E:

Germany 1:2 Japan

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The Germans looked brilliant in the first half of this game, going a goal ahead from a penalty calmly dispatched by Ilkay Gundogan, with Kai Havertz having a second shot disallowed by VAR for offside.

The second half also started promisingly for the Germans as they created chances that pointed to a second goal. But the second goal of the match went against the grain of the game as substitute Ritsu Doan equalized in the 75th minute.

Takuma Asano then scored just eight minutes later to give Japan the lead and shock the Germans. A win against the series for Japan now leaves Germany in a precarious position, flirting with a group stage exit from the World Cup.

Spain 7:0 Costa Rica

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To rub salt in the German wound, Spain took charge of a poor Costa Rican side and dominated from start to finish.

The Spaniards faced little resistance as Costa Rica had just 18% possession.

However, regardless of the opposition, the rhythm and consistency of the Spanish pass was outstanding and with the goals distributed around the whole squad, confidence will be high for the rest of the tournament.

Group F:

Morocco 0:0 Croatia

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This match featured a lack of quality in attacking areas as both sides canceled each other out with just two shots on target for either side.

Croatia had the better of the chances in the first half, with Ivan Perisic and Luka Modric having their shots over the bar, while Nikola Vlasic forced Moroccan goalkeeper Yassine Bounu into a save.

Croatian goalkeeper Dominik Livakovic was forced to make some remarkable saves, but Morocco main man Ahrif Hakimi’s long-range effort and Bayern Munich defender Noussair Mazraoui’s header were also saved.

Belgium 1:0 Canada

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Despite winning their first game, Belgium’s performance against Canada was not one to inspire the nation for the rest of their World Cup campaign.

The Canadians started brightly and continued to dominate a disjointed Belgium side that struggled for possession. Canada were the better side this trip but were unproductive when given the chance, with Alphonso Davies missing a spot-kick and Jonathan David missing key chances.

However, Michy Batshuayi was prolific, slotting home convincingly to rescue his side from a poor start to the group stage.

Group G:

Switzerland 1:0 Cameroon

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In a contest where both sides had chances, Switzerland edged ahead of a Cameroon side who failed to take advantage of their opportunities in the final third.

Switzerland’s creative shop in Xherdan Shaqiri refused to celebrate against the nation of his birth and put the ball on a plate for Breel Embolo, who scored the only goal of the game.

Overall, Switzerland were the better side on both sides and more than deserved the important three points they got.

Brazil 2:0 Serbia

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Serbia came across as a determined and compact side, which prevented Brazil from playing with their usual freedom and creativity.

Despite many people’s favorites in the competition, a scoreless draw saw Serbia’s compact form, Richarlison, strike effortlessly in the box to score the game’s opening goal. Richarlison then emerged again with a sensational improvised finish when he acrobatically slotted home Brazil’s second after a deft touch.

While Brazil didn’t win the game in the devastating fashion many expected, they showed impressive control of the game that will leave teams throughout the tournament hoping to avoid them for as long as possible.

Group H:

Uruguay 0:0 South Korea

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A fixture that will be admired by defenders from all over the world, with both sides making most of their impressive plays in their defensive zones.

Chances were few and far between in this game as just one shot on target between the two sides in the entire match covered a relatively poor attacking display from both sides.

Chances abounded for both sides as Federico Valverde and Heung Min Son both failed to capitalize on the opportunities that arose.

Portugal 3:2 Ghana

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In a game where Portugal had to take advantage of points dropped by Uruguay and South Korea, they took the game to Ghana but were level at half-time.

After a controversial penalty against the Ghanaians, Cristiano Ronaldo stepped up to take the spot-kick. The Ghanaians did not lack fighting spirit as they equalized soon after.

Double-doubles from Joao Felix and Rafael Leao put the game seemingly out of reach, but the Ghanaians didn’t sleep again, equalizing late on and agonizingly missing a late chance. A game where Portugal showed their quality in attacking areas, but their leaky defense will need to be sorted as the tournament progresses.