World Cup Group Stage: Five Key Takeaways

All three rounds of the 2022 FIFA World Cup group stage have been completed. Here are five conclusions to take away from the group stage:

World Cup of shocks

This World Cup has had no shortage of surprises. In Group E, Japan finished top after beating both Spain and Germany 2-1. Spain finished above Germany on goal difference thanks to their emphatic 7-0 win over Costa Rica.

Belgium failed to qualify in a group containing Morocco, Croatia and Canada. Australia finished second in a group containing France, Tunisia and Denmark in large part due to their 1-0 win over Denmark in matchday 3.

Uruguay failed to progress in a group consisting of South Korea and Ghana. This was despite the 2-0 win over Ghana in matchday 3. No team won all three group games.

Hosts were terrible

Qatar did not impose themselves in their own tournament, losing all three of their group games. All of their games were lost by a two-goal margin. You could give them the benefit of the doubt for the game against Netherlands. However, they should really be doing better against Ecuador and Senegal as hosts. It does not come as a surprise because Qatar is not a football crazy nation and barely had the infrastructure in place in time for the tournament.

Cody Gakpo is making a name for himself

Gakpo is on a lot of clubs’ radar. Coming into this World Cup his numbers were quite good. For PSV he had 13 goals and 17 assists in 24 games. In the group stage he had 3 goals in as many games. Manchester United, who is heavily linked to the player, is wishing Netherlands go out in the last 16 so his price doesn’t keep going up. He would be good for Manchester United after the Red Devils decided to terminate Ronaldo’s contract with immediate effect. He is also ideal as both him and coach Erik ten Hag have the same agent and are from the same country.

Goalless draws were a recurring theme

In the group stage their were six 0-0 games, which is already more than the last edition. This is not good for the neutrals who would have loved to have seen goals. Teams want to be hard to beat this World Cup, particularly the less favoured teams, as they don’t want to be on the end of a hiding. As a result of this games often became cagey.

It is evident that many of the countries did not want to get knocked out straight away. Even some of the pre-tournament favourites struggled in their opening games.

VAR controversy

In Portugal vs Uruguay, Jose Gimenez was penalized for a handball, leading to a penalty. It was controversial as he wasn not able to move his hand out of the way. The referee went to VAR before awarding a penalty to Portugal. VAR also wrongly ruled out Antoine Griezmann’s late equalizer for France vs Tunisia for offside.

The most controversial decision was Japan’s second goal against Spain as it appeared that the ball went out of play. Viewers at home were not given the image that the referee had seen that led to him giving the goal.

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