Rankings go for a toss: Underdogs rule in Russia

The opening round of the 2018 FIFA World Cup has seen the traditional favourites take a beating with the underdogs coming to the fore.

Hirving Lozano (L) celebrates his winner against Germany. Sverrir Ingason (R) of Iceland poses with a fan after the match against Argentina,   -  Getty Images

 

Rankings in any sport, in someways, tend to give us an idea of who will come out on top. But, results from match day one of the FIFA World Cup have seen inferior-ranked opponents holding their own against the traditional favourites.

Germany 0-1 Mexico

The biggest upset, so far, has been Mexico's win over defending champion Germany, the No. 1 ranked team in the world. The Germans looked below their best as the Mexicans relentlessly hit them on the counter-attack led by the pacy Hirving Lozano.

The defeat, also, ensured a continuing trend where the defending champion start the tournament on a wrong foot. Spain lost its opening encounter 5-1 to the Netherlands in 2014, while Italy was held to a 1-1 draw by Paraguay (2010).

RankTeamResultTeamRank
1Germany0-1Mexico15
5Argentina1-1Iceland22
2Brazil1-1Switzerland6
16Colombia1-2Japan61
70Russia5-0Saudi Arabia67
8Poland1-2Senegal27

 

With fewer league matches and a long winter break in its domestic season, the German players were supposed to show off their swift, flowing football, however, it was the Mexicans who ran the opposition ragged.

Argentina 1-1 Iceland

Lionel Messi was kept subdued by a debutant Iceland side, who had also bottled down the Argentine's archrival Cristiano Ronaldo during EURO 2016. Both Messi and Ronaldo tried their luck, firing as many as 11 shots each, but Iceland held its own. Messi had the golden opportunity to win it for his team in the 64 minute, but his weak penalty was saved by Hannes Halldorsson, also a film-maker.

Hannes Halldorsson of Iceland saves a penalty from Lionel Messi of Argentina   -  Getty Images

Brazil 1-1 Switzerland

Tite's Brazil was expected to bring back the free-flowing attacking football of past generations in Russia. Gambling on the fitness of star striker Neymar, the Selecao took an early lead through a moment of magic from Philippe Coutinho. The second half saw the Swiss regroup and hit back with a super punch of its own from a set piece.

Below the radar of the super-power nations, Switzerland has quitely moved up the ranks and is now ranked No. 6 in the world. In 10 matches in the World Cup group stage qualifiers, Vladimir Petkovic's side lost just once (to Portugal) winning the rest. It finished second in the group on goal difference before going on to defeat Northern Ireland in the playoffs.

Colombia 1-2 Japan

Colombia's downfall was hastened by Carlos Sanchez's third minute red card, the second fastest in World Cup history. Japan seized on the early advantage to punish Jose Peckerman's side. While the other three Asian nations have faltered, Japan is leading the way in Group H with three points. The Blue Samurai is the first Asian team to beat a South American nation in the World Cup.

Yuya Osako's 73rd-minute header proved the difference on Tuesday, as Japan edged out 10-man Colombia 2-1 at Mordovia Arena.   -  AP

 

Poland 1-2 Senegal

Poland and Colombia were the favourites to progress from Group H. Not many would have given the Aliou Cissé-coached Senegal a chance to get a point on board, but it did one better by humbling the Poles. Senegal, which is playing in its second finals after 2002, hit two goals in each half to move level on points with Japan.

Senegal players celebrate their win over Poland.   -  Getty Images

 

Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia

The host had everything riding on the outcome of the opening match. Statistically, Russia is the lowest ranked side in history to stage a World Cup. Former players called the Class of 2018 as the worst side in their nation's history.

Up against a side, which came into the tournament on an equally poor footing, Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0 to kickstart the carnival.

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