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Your Space: Underdogs shine in 2018 Fifa World Cup, say Pune fans

pune Updated: Jun 23, 2018 19:31 IST
Hindustan Times, Pune
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The 2018 FIFA World Cup has thrown up many surprises, shocking city fans and experts alike. With reigning champions Germany losing their opening game to Mexico and Croatia’s 3-0 drubbing of Argentina, there are no clear favourites this year. (SANKET WANKHADE/HT PHOTO)

Brazil to fly Samba flag in Russia

The 2018 World Cup has certainly lived up to my personal expectations. In the very first game of the tournament, hosts Russia thrilled the audience with a 5-0 rout of minnows Saudi Arabia, which set the course for the entire tournament. Until June 20, there hasn’t been a single goalless game in the competition.

As many expected, the tournament is filled with drama and moments that will last for a lifetime. The Lionel Messi penalty miss could forever haunt the Argentine should his country fail to make it out of the group while Cristiano Ronaldo’s immaculate free-kick goal against Spain showed that at 33 he’s still got what it takes to rewrite footballing history.

Pre-tournament favourites Brazil, Germany and Spain failed to win first game and the pressure will be on them going into the final two rounds of the group stages. I expect all three to go through to the round of 16 and looking at the draws, I believe Brazil have what it takes not only to make it to the final, but to also win a record sixth World Cup this time around in Russia.

Praveen Shah

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The underdog story

Football is known to be the most popular sport in the world. Right from the ‘gullies’ of India to the crowd-filled stadiums of Europe, football resides in the hearts of millions across the world. There are a number continental championships, but they come nowhere close to the FIFA World Cup - a celebration of great football that takes place every four years. The run up to the 2018 FIFA world cup saw a gruelling pre-qualification process where 210 teams competed for the coveted 32 spots in the tournament. While it was tears for countries like Ireland, United States and Chile, football powerhouses Netherlands and Italy also failed to make the cut. The favourites who came through were Brazil, Germany, Spain, England, Argentina, Portugal, and France. The surprise qualifiers were Iceland and Panama.

When the draws were announced it appeared that Spain, Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, France, and England, would cruise through to the next round. However, this World Cup has been nothing short of unpredictable.

It began with a 95-minute clash between the Spaniards and the Portuguese which left fans on the edge of their seats - gasping in shock and disbelief as the match ended in a draw. This was followed by a series of unexpected results with Iceland holding Lionel Messi and Argentina to just a goal, ending the game with an even 1-1 score. Then the match that left everyone speechless was when Mexico, propelled by a first-half goal from Hirving Lozano, upset reigning champions Germany.

Switzerland stunned Brazil by restricting them to a draw while Japan has emerged as the dark horse of the tournament.

I have been a fan of the German team for the last 12 years and after witnessing the first round of the group stage, I believe that it will be a close finish between the 2014 world cup champions Germany and the 2010 world cup champions Spain.

Naomi Vase

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Minnows shine

We are nine Days, 23 games and 51 goals into the 2018 World Cup and it has been nothing short of spectacular. Some of the big names - teams and players - have failed to deliver and we have seen some of the so called minnows rise up on the big stage.

What has stood out for me over these past few days has been Argentina not finding the right system to get Messi involved in the game and Japan beating Colombia - the first time an Asian team has defeated a South America team. Germany did not having a plan B against Mexico while England did against minnows Tunisia. Add to this the individual brilliance of Luka Modric against Argentina, and Vahid Amiri nutmegging Gerard Pique. However, what has really impressed me, has been the ability of all the teams participating - especially the Asian and African teams. Except for the first poor game the Saudi’s had, we have seen Iran, Morocco, Japan, Tunisia, and even Saudi come into the game with a plan.

The next few weeks will no doubt have a few more twists in the tale. I for one will be looking forward to see how far Belgium can go and if Brazil lives up to the hype.

Remus D’Cruz

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Germany has dug a hole for themselves

It’s already one of my favourite World Cups! The Spain-Portugal goal feast set the tone perfectly and the following matches have made sure that the groups are left wide open. I predict that France, Spain, Belgium and England will be the four semi-finalists. With Germany losing to Mexico, they have dug themselves a hole which is difficult to climb out of. Also, at some point before the semis, it is likely that Germany, Belgium and Brazil will lock horns. The winner -most likely Belgium - will reach the semis. Everyone wants Belgium to perform well with the squad that they have. The strong attacking midfield, feeding the ball to Romelou Lukaku, has looked dangerous. However, being a Germany fan, I would love to see Germany win all their remaining matches and defend the title.

Athang Patwardhan

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Young France and Brazil on top

I feel France and Brazil, both have a very good chance to win this World Cup. They have young squads, and they do not carry the same pressure and expectations as Argentina or Germany. This gives them the advantage to play a fearless game. We have witnessed stunning wins like Mexico winning over Germany already. Both France and Brazil have the potential to go the end. Fingers crossed.

Aniruddha Kelkar

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Europe on the decline

This World Cup can be termed as the beginning on a new era. If you look at the top European teams, they are struggling, while new unknown powerhouses are emerging. It started from the qualifiers, as former champions Italy and the reputed Netherlands team failed to qualify for the tournament. Then we saw Mexico beating Germany, Croatia beating Argentina and Japan winning against Colombia. Football will no longer be dominated by European and South American teams and this cup is the beginning.

My favourites to win the title is host Russia - they are the dark horse

Nikhil Paranjape

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First Published: Jun 23, 2018 19:29 IST