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A World Cup Of Upsets: Could this be the year of the underdog

by Ron Poblete

THE list of perennial winners, former champions and top ranked teams defeated in the hands of countries with lesser pedigree continues to grow in Qatar. Added to this roster of upsets consisting of Argentina and Germany is Belgium, the No. 2  ranked team in the world. They were defeated Sunday night, by the No. 22 team, Morocco who have kept their World Cup hopes alive with a scintillating performance.

Photo Courtesy FIFA

Belgium arguably has the best midfielder on the planet in Kevin De Bruyne who has the luxury  of playing for a stacked line up albeit a much older one. Armchair football commentators and even some from the media have piled on with the criticisms and questions about the competitiveness of the team.

Questioned by the media for their poor performance, defender Jan Vertonghen, one of the veteran players getting the brunt, answered back with a wry reply: ” I guess we attack badly because we are also too old up front.”. Perhaps alluding to the fact that players like their star player, De Brunye is not old by the media’s standards and yet fell short in their performance.

Photo courtesy AP

They are so far the highest ranking team to have fallen in this very exciting first round of games. Morocco are no pushovers though on paper. They have English Club–Chelsea star player Hakim Ziyech back with the national team after leaving previously due to a dispute with a former manager. 

He’s been making up for lost time and playing like a man possessed. He was all over the pitch. Dribbling past the Belgian backline, using a full arsenal of his footballing skills to dictate tempo and create chances. With the win, Morocco is currently number 2 in the standings in Group F with Croatia number 1 at the moment and Belgium number 3 with one more game to play in the first round. 

Photo courtesy FIFA

The last Group F team, Canada, with all the excitement from their very exciting, high energy game against Belgium in the opener, were humbled by a veteran Croatia, the runner-up in last year’s Covid pandemic delayed European Championships. 

They have been eliminated in the competition after a promising start. Scoring first and using their phenomenal individual talents and athleticism, pinned down the Croats. But like most games in football, momentum shifted and Croatia’s experience and guile picked the Canadians apart the rest of the way with a 4-1 shellacking. 

Photo courtesy AP

Crowd favorites Japan after beating Germany, were defeated by Costa Rica. Costa Rica prior to this game got a record beating by Spain in a 7-nil defeat, so winning this match against Japan came as a huge surprise. It makes it even worse that they won with their only attempt on goal from a very weak shot that looped awkwardly over the Japanese keeper who was caught wrong footed and lost all timing with his attempted save.

Photo Courtesy FIFA

South Korea was also defeated in a hard fought match against Ghana,  a cellar dweller before this match. 

There is no telling what is going to happen in this World Cup. So much drama and sleep lost over these games. 

This is only going to get more intense so make sure to lay off those fingernails and ready the blood pressure medicine. It’s going to be fire in the desert.



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