World Cup: The Curious Case of the Juggernauts

Inside the first week of the FIFA World Cup in Russia, a handful of teams have began packing their bags. After two matches, three teams, Saudi Arabia, Morocco, and Peru are eliminated from playoff contention with one game left.

After Thursday’s games, even the likes of Argentina are hanging by a thread. Croatia’s 3-0 demolition of the South American’s in Nizhny Novgorod marked turbulent times for a team not even Lionel Messi can help.

Croatia have world class players like Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic. As a unit, they lack the quantity of big names other squads like Spain or Germany boast. It’s becoming evident though that teams like Croatia appear to play with more connectivity than those with big names.

Messi was able to propel his country to the final in 2014 but this tournament is proving onerous. After failing to impress in a 1-1 draw against Iceland in the first game then falling flat today, it seems the juggernauts are finding it difficult to pry through the meeker squads.

Host team Russia came into the tournament as the squad with the lowest FIFA Ranking. Playing against Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Uruguay we thought they’d have a shot at three points against the Saudi’s, can fight for a tie against the Pharaoh’s, and more than likely fall to Uruguay. Yet the partnership and cooperative organization of the Russian’s clinched them the first ticket into the knockout round.

Another organized side, Mexico, managed the surprise result of the group stage after defeating Germany on Sunday June 18. The unity between the Mexicans trumped the super-star individuality in the German camp. The praise going to the all-out courage displayed all 90 minutes by El Tri’s players.

To me, the patterns are suggesting that at this stage individual talent approach things with bravado but those who get lost in the moment forget they still have to work hard to win a game.

The body language Lionel Messi showed throughout Argentina’s first two matches was disconnect and disinterest. With arguably the best player in the world and numerous world class players, Argentina sit outside of playoffs contention. It’s strange.

In the meantime, Cristiano Ronaldo, challenger to Messi’s throne, has excelled playing with a dull Portugal squad. On the field, Ronaldo has been showing signs of leadership, mentorship, and love for his teammates.

Concurrently, the Russian’s display of unity and grit has harvested respect from the neutral and two wins in two games. The bravery has won audiences over and it’s nice to see this quality flourish.