As time comes closer to the biggest sporting event in the world, the World Cup, the last week has been key for predictions on how international teams will do in the most watched sporting event in the world. In this worldwide event, that only happens once every four years, the world had the chance to cheer on their country on two separate occasions since the end of world cup qualifiers.
This one-week international break began on Mar. 21 2018, when Asian and African teams played against each other. The highlights of this fixture day were when the World Cup hosts eight years ago, South Africa took on Angola and resulted in a 1-1 tie.
On the second fixture day, Asian and European teams played friendlies as well.
The stand out games on Mar. 22 were Wales free scoring on China, which resulted in a 6-0 win that featured a hat trick from Gareth Bale. The second stand out match was between world cup qualified teams Den- mark and Panama. The main actions in this match took place between the 60th and 70th minute. Celta Vigo forward Pione Sisto scored the decisive goal on the 69th minute. This result was in influenced by the 66th minute red card shown to the Panamanian player Blas Pérez.
On Mar. 23, some historic matches took place. All of the South American countries beat their European rivals. Uruguay beat Czech Republic in a 2-0 shutout. Brazil cruised past Russia in a 3-0 victory. A ‘Messi-less’ Argentina defeated a recovering Italy in a 2-0 match. Colombia battled their way past European heavy- weights France in an away 3-2 result, which ended in an unprecedented Colombian victory. Peru also saw as Luka Modric led Croatia in a 2-0 victory. To resume the central and South American dominated day, El Tri (Mexico) defeated an uninspired Iceland 3-0.
Aside from these games, the two most recent World Cup winners Spain and Germany battled to the end, which ended in a 1-1 draw with goals from Thomas Muller and Rodrigo. Other notable games included Netherlands vs. England and Portugal vs. Egypt. The Dutch and English game resulted in a narrow English victory with a strike from the Manchester United man Jesse Lingard. The dramatic Portugal vs. Egypt game was an even and entertaining match from the very beginning. The two superstars on each team displayed their skill and dominance through goals. Mohamed Salah, the cur- rent premier league top scorer, scored in the 56th minute in a solo effort but the over-time ballon d’or winner Cristiano Ronaldo stole the spotlight in the 92nd and 94th minute when he scored two goals back to back giving the home side the victory. On Mar. 24, more fixtures took place with the outstanding one being Chile vs. Sweden, resulting in the South American regional champions victory in a 2-1 result.
The day after, on the Mar. 25, more matches took place in which the Nicaragua vs. Cuba game took the spotlight in a back and forth 3-3 draw.
On the Mar. 26, more import- ant matches were played. The day began with a 4-1 win from Czech Republic to China. The friendly stage overall was not good for the Chinese. Next was a 1-0 win for Uruguay against Wales. Paris Saint-Germain Striker Edison Cavani who is in form for club and country scored the sole goal. Following this match was an upset between an inspired Nether- lands and an underwhelming Portugal.
The result ended up being 3-0 in favor of the Dutch.
On the final friendly fixture day on Mar. 27, Russia played at home against France, and ended up losing 3-1 with a great performance from Paul Pogba who is out of favor in Manchester. Unfortunately, Panama was mercilessly scored against again, this time by Switzerland in a 6-0 game. In a game between Greece and a ‘Salah-less’ Egypt both teams showed very little creativity. In the following match, Belgium showed off their golden generation in their 4-0 win against Saudi Arabia in which their superstars scored for their team, which include Romelu Lukaku, Michy Batshuayi, and Kevin De Bruyne.
In a revenge match versus Germany in Germany, Brazil showed little mercy after their 7-1 loss four years ago that shook the soccer world. Brazil without Neymar showed determination and got one past the current world champions with a goal from a young player that was cleaning the streets of Rio just four years ago in the last World Cup, Gabriel Jesus.
This now world-recognized striker shows that Brazil is the hub of futbol. Italy and England battled in a controversial game with fouls and missed calls that resulted in a 1-1 draw. Argentina got a battering in the form of a 6-1 away loss in Spain where the Spanish showed why they should not be excluded from potential cup winners. Without Messi, Aguero, Di Maria, and Icardi, Argentina showed a helpless team that could not find any chances against the solid and merciless recent champion. Team USA played their first and only friendly game against Paraguay resulting in a narrow 1-0 win. This game displayed a lot of hotheaded players committing fouls left and right. The USA did not show a promising side as their only goal was from a penalty kick. Peru vs. Iceland resulted in another Peruvian win, 3-1. With Peru winning these two friendlies against talented European sides, Peru might prove difficult for France, Denmark, and Australia in Group C.
With around 70 days to the World Cup we can only hope our favorite teams maintain their good form or improve on their display over the last week. All one can say now is that the World Cup might have a couple of upsets.