On the fourth day of the 2018 World Cup, we got more action in Group F and a full matchday of competition in Group E, as pre-tournament favorites continued to underwhelm in their World Cup openers.
Kolarov’s class fires Serbia past Ticos
It took a single moment of class from Aleksandar Kolarov to separate Serbia from Costa Rica in the opening match of Group E. The ex-Manchester City man, who currently plies his trade for Italian side Roma, whipped one of his trademark free kicks into the top corner, out of reach of a diving Keylor Navas, to score a 56th-minute screamer that would settle things at 1-0 for the Serbs.
Mexico hands Germany earthshaking defeat
Defending champion Germany was effectively bowled over by Mexico in a first half that saw the CONCACAF side take the lead in the 35th minute through Hirving “Chucky” Lozano. The fleet-footed PSV winger, whose pace caused problems for Germany from the outset, latched onto a ball from Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez before cutting inside and firing a shot into the bottom left corner of the net. The early goal, along with Mexico’s frenetic pace, shocked the defending champs and it seemed to take a long while for Germany to recover its composure. In the meantime, Jogi Loew’s team was fortunate not to concede more goals, as Mexico continued to mount dangerous counterattacks.
Germany finally got a foothold late in the game and began to pour numbers forward to barrage Memo Ochoa’s goal. But the Teutonic breakthrough never materialized and Mexico hung on to snatch three points. The result was apparently so earthshaking that seismic activity was reported in Mexico City around the same time Lozano scored his goal.
Mighty Brazil held by the clocklike efficiency of the Swiss
Phillipe Coutinho fired Brazil into an early lead with a curling effort from his preferred top corner of the box. But Brazil was unable to build on the Barcelona man’s goal and Switzerland pulled one back five minutes into the second half, when Steven Zuber, unmarked in the box, rose to head in a corner floated in by Xherdan Shaqiri to level things. Brazil kept asking questions and had a good chance late in the game when Willian dropped a cross into the box for Neymar, who blasted his header straight into the arms of Swiss keeper, Yann Sommer. Sommer was called into action again moments later when he denied a close-range header from Roberto Firmino to see out the 1-1 draw.
Why it matters
With three out of the four pre-tournament favorites failing to win their opening games, the Russia World Cup has been thrown into a state of disarray in the early going. Serbia now sits atop Group E with Brazil in second, while Mexico top Group F and Germany sit rock bottom. It’s still early days, and one would expect the big teams to rise to the top as the tournament hits its stride. But it’s making for interesting watching and lending an air of unpredictability to this World Cup that makes you feel like anything is possible.
GIF of the day
Pro tip: Don’t take the ball away from Serbian midfielder, Nemanja Matic. You might make him angry.
— Across the Pond (@ATPradio) June 17, 2018
Tweet of the day
Yeah, this . . .
— Michael Gravesande (@OldBlackHack) June 17, 2018
Goal of the day
Were there technically better goals today? Possibly. But Chucky Lozano’s strike to give Mexico the win against Germany was literally so earthshaking, it apparently upset the Richter scale in Mexico City.
The youngster puts it away!
Chicharito starts the counterattack and Chucky Lozano finishes it to give Mexico the 1-0 lead. pic.twitter.com/Ze5IUJuE3d
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 17, 2018
What happens tomorrow
Sweden vs. South Korea
Sweden knocked off two European soccer heavyweights, Italy and the Netherlands, on its way to qualifying for Russia. What the Swedes will do now that they’re here and can no longer call on talismanic striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic remains to be seen. Drawn into a Group F that also includes Germany and Mexico, Sweden will be looking for a result in its opening game against a South Korean side that, while no longer the force it was when it stormed to the semifinals of the 2002 World Cup, does contain one truly top-class player in Tottenham winger Son Heung-min.
Belgium vs. Panama
Still an outside favorite to win the tournament this summer, Belgium has a chance to get its World Cup off to a strong start with what should be an easy win against CONCACAF minnow, Panama. The Belgians boast one of the most talented teams in the competition. Under manager Roberto Martinez, expectations are high for a team that’s outgrown its “Dark Horse” status and will now be under increasing pressure to capitalize on the potential of its golden generation. Panama meanwhile, making its first appearance at the World Cup finals, can play without the pressure of expectations.
Tunisia vs. England
England’s understated manager, Gareth Southgate, seems to have set just the right tone going into this World Cup. The weight of inflated expectations that typically surround the England camp seems to have been kept at a minimum. And England boasts a squad bristling with exciting young talents like striker Harry Kane, playmaker Dele Alli, defender Trent Alexander-Arnold and goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Will it be enough to finally end the Three Lions’ decades-long run of failure at major tournaments? Probably not, but it should be enough to see England past a Tunisia side ranked 21st in the world by FIFA.
More World Cup on Yahoo Sports:
• Day 4 winners and losers: Juan Carlos Osorio’s vindication
• Time to panic for Germany after Mexico defeat?
• Mexicans celebrate with tears, a marriage proposal and more
• Brazil struggles to break down Swiss, settles for draw