Given the world’s love affair with football, it’s not surprising that the FIFA World Cup is one of the biggest sporting events in the world. This summer’s event attracted around 700 million viewers who witnessed all of the surprises for which the event is known. In the opening matches, some teams who were predicted to be successful in Russia were sent home early. This was true for Germany, the defending champion, who was stunned by a strong Mexican squad. Some teams did better than expected. Take for instance Serbia who were appearing at their second World Cup. Despite being underdogs, they ended up defeating a tough Costa Rica team. Other teams did much better than expected at the 2018 World Cup.
Iceland only made it to the Round of 16. However, they can be proud of their campaign for a range of reasons. After 12 failed attempts, 2018 was the first World Cup for which the national team qualified. During their group, Iceland had some stiff competition from the get go, their first game was against one of the favourites, Argentina. It was Iceland’s match against Argentina that should leave all Icelanders proud of their football team. The odds of Iceland winning were a huge 10/1. Their defence was spot on, limiting Messi, Aguero and co. to just one goal. In the end they managed to gain a valuable point, setting them on the way for qualification.
When your team wins a spot in the World Cup solely based on the fact that your country is the host, there isn’t a lot of confidence in your chances. This was the case for Russia at the 2018 World Cup. A team ranked a dismal 70th in the world, Russia was the lowest ranked team and their squad lacked any household names. While it seemed like the odds were stacked against them, the players tried to restore some national pride. The team played their hearts out with good results, even hammering Saudi Arabia 5-0. In their second match, they also emerged victorious against Egypt. While they may have lost to Uruguay in the Round of 16, the Russian squad already defied expectations.
In Japan’s first match, they defeated Colombia, the strongest team in their group. Early in the match, Colombian Carlos Sanchez was red carded. A break on which Japan capitalized as Colombia failed to do much in the first thirty minutes. Eventually both teams scored leaving them heading for a point a piece, until Japan snatched a winner. Japan moved on to the Round of 16 through the fair play rule, they had two less yellow cards than Senegal. As a result, no teams from the African continent made it to the last 16 and Japan were the only nation representing Asia.