Today, in Qatar’s 2022 World Cup Group G play, Brazil defeated Serbia 2-0, but Neymar left the pitch with a rolled swollen ankle. Switzerland defeated Cameroon 1-0 to lay claim to second place in the group. In Group H, favorites Portugal defeated Ghana 3-2 but Cristiano Ronaldo missed two goals and yet scored (a penalty) in his fifth World Cup, a record. Uruguay and South Korea fought to a thrilling 0-0 draw with Diego Godin hitting the post off a header and Frederico Valverde hitting a post off a great long shot. Meanwhile, Son Yeung-min had a good game for his first appearance in three weeks and his team played well producing all of the game’s better chances save Godin’s and Fede’s.
The lives of a striker and a keeper can be rewarding and cruel. A keeper can play a decent game and then forget to look behind himself in the latter moments of a match his team leads by a single goal, and almost gift the opposition the draw in one misguided gaff. Such was the case with Diogo Costa, Portugal’s keeper. A striker can find himself out of sorts with his team’s entire offensive effort and then in two glorious moments can be the first to snag a rebound goal and then the one to score a sublime scissors kick goal, all within an eleven-minute span of a match that took nearly 100 minutes to conclude. So was Brazilian striker Richarlison’s charmed evening tonight.
Ronaldo did not impress, Neymar did, as did Son, Valverde, Darwin Nunez, Joao Felix, Rafael Leao, Casemiro, and, yes, Godin. Portugal looked like they could jell into a contender if Santos could put the right players on the pitch. Brazil, assuming Neymar heals, are the class of the tourney so far. Uruguay, Ghana, Serbia, Switzerland, and South Korea, looked like potential tough teams to beat in the coming rounds.
All teams have played their opening matches and though the majority of group games remain to be played in what has been a cup of upsets, the groups are beginning to form into a potential picture for progression. Group A looks like Ecuador and Holland. Group B looks like England and USA. Group C looks like anyone’s guess but with Saudi Arabia on the inside track. Group D looks like France and Denmark. Group E looks like Japan and someone else—with the potential for either Spain or Germany to be knocked out. Group F looks like Belgium and who knows what other team. Group G looks like Brazil and a European team. And finally, Group H looks like Portugal and either of the two contestants who drew today.
It would not be a World Cup without controversy and surprises but unfortunately, despite the excitement of the well-played upsets, it looks like refereeing and injuries are also going to play a role in the tournament. The Spanish fouling, the officiating that allowed Neymar to again be injured in a cup, and the continued use of FIFA officials who are not at the global level of the players they are asked to mind throughout matches, are all still issues that must be addressed for this cup to reach it potential.
Here is hoping FIFA does its part to make their money-maker a fair and well-played tourney.