The quarter finals are over, and with just 4 teams left in contention, there has been no shortage of drama. Diving, VAR controversies and shock exits aplenty. Arguably, the tournament was shocking before even a ball had been kicked – great sides like Italy and Holland missed qualification. Here are some of the biggest surprises so far!
1. The Big Teams Go Home
In what's probably the most shocking event of the group stages, Germany failed to qualify from Group F, finishing last. The four-time World Cup champions were, initially, seen as the side to beat, with a great chance of at least reaching the Final. But it wasn’t to be.
Argentina are out too. After coming second in Group D, which many people thought they’d win, they staggered into the Round of 16 by the skin of their teeth. They gave it their best shot, but ultimately ousted by France.
Tournament hosts Russia knocked Spain out in a nervy penalty shoot-out, winning 4-3. De Gea did manage to get a touch on 3 of the 4 spot-kicks but couldn’t keep any out. Sadly, for Andres Iniesta, it was his last game in a Spain shirt, and according to him “the saddest day of my career”.
2. Surprising Performances
By most people’s standards, Russia exceeded expectations. Not just because they got into the Quarter-finals, but the fashion in which they achieved it. Given that the hosts went into the competition as the lowest-ranked side, the fact they managed to beat Spain, champions eight years ago, makes them giant-killers.
England’s 6-1 result against Panama was another surprise performance. England came out on top and smashed their record for the most goals scored in a World Cup match. 2 goals from John Stones, 1 from Jesse Lingard and 3 from Harry Kane made a real statement about England’s intentions.
3. VAR And Controversy
So far, there has been a great deal of controversy in this year’s tournament. If it’s not Diego Maradona’s profanity and hand gesture filled outburst, it’s the disgusting lack of sportsmanship shown by teams like Tunisia and Colombia. During their win over Germany, Mexico supporters brought their nation into disrepute, when they sang a homophobic chant at Neuer. The chant includes a homophobic slang term for a male sex worker, and as a result, FIFA has opened a disciplinary procedure against them.
Probably the most controversial introduction to this tournament is VAR. Although it is a welcome addition, it has also been the subject of some fierce criticism, largely to do with the fact it isn’t being used consistently.
An incident in the England match against Colombia is just one example where the technology was not properly utilized. Wilmar Barrios head-butted Jordan Henderson’s chest and chin, and despite the VAR being used, Barrios only received a yellow. He should have had another yellow and been sent off for violent conduct when he went for Jordan’s chin. VAR awarded Tunisia a soft penalty in the match against England, yet Kane was denied 2 clear penalty shouts for grappling in the box. Croatia were awarded a penalty against Nigeria, for the very same infraction.
4. But It’s Not All Bad
Nigeria and Japan fans decided to clean up their act – literally. Footage emerged of them tidying their sections of each stadium their team played in. Really refreshing to see, at a time when football supporters are branded feckless thugs! Senegal also injected some positivity and joy into the tournament, with their light-hearted dancing during training.
Belgium’s Michy Batshuayi also provided some comic relief, when his celebration after team mate Januzaj’s goal against England resulted in the ball accidentally smacking him in the face. He took to twitter to cringe at himself.
It wouldn’t be the World Cup without drama, upsets and South American players rolling around on the floor after a light shoulder barge. We expectantly wait to see what the remainder brings!