World Cup 2018: Heading into Second Round of Group Games, Host Russia on Verge of Qualifying, While Early Upsets Continue with Losses by Colombia & Poland

Japan fan celebrates opening win — TASS

All of Russia celebrates…almost!

Japan 2–1 Colombia: Group favorite Colombia, who reached the QF in 2014, were reduced to 10-men and lost to Japan. Shinji Kagawa scored the resultant PK to set Japan on their way.

Senegal 2–1 Poland: Poland, another group fave, was beaten by Senegal, the first win by an African team at this World Cup. And, where would this tournament be without some controversy? The second goal by Senegal’s The Lions of Teranga involved an injured player coming back on to intercept a backpass to Poland’s goalie and then tap it into an empty net.

Joyful Senegal players celebrate— AP

Russia 3–1 Egypt: Russia’s win puts them on the verge of qualifying for the next round for the first time since 1986 when it was the USSR. Two subs in the first game, who came on to score, made an impression. Denis Cheryshev’s third overall goal, which ties him with Ronaldo for the early Golden Boot lead, and big striker Artem Dzyuba’s very savvy, route one goal sent home fans into delirium in St Petersburg. A happy Dzyuba said: “I don’t remember it very well, but the most important thing was to score and win. Everyone fought to the end and we were able to contain Salah.”

Denis Cheryshev’s third overall goal, which ties him with Ronaldo
Artem Dzyuba’s goal sent home fans into delirium
Looks like Premier League star Salah’s Egypt is heading home early

Russia will qualify for the last 16 and Egypt will be eliminated if, as seems likely, Saudi Arabia fails to beat Uruguay on Wednesday. As for Salah’s Egypt, they look to be going home early which is disappointing. Salah, who scored 44 goals for Liverpool during the 2017–18 season, was voted Player of the year in England. But a shoulder injury suffered during Liverpool’s Champions League final loss to Real Madrid in late May, hurt his efforts.

Heading into the second round of group play, there are some underdogs leading their individual groups for now, including: Group B — Iran (not Portugal and Spain); Group E — Serbia (not Brazil); Group H — Japan (not Colombia). But things could change quickly.

Some interesting facts:

-Seven (Germany, Brazil, Portugal, Argentina, Switzerland, Poland, Spain) of the top ten FIFA ranked teams failed to get a win in opening games.

-There’ve been 5 own goals. And, almost half, 19 of 42 goals, have come from set pieces. Wow!

-The first red card was given to Colombia’s defender Carlos Sanchez.

-Russian manager Stanislav Cherchesov got a phone call from president Vladimir Putin. Of course, US president Donald Trump won’t be calling the American manager or “disinviting” the team to the White House as Team USA failed to qualify.

-So far, there’ve been 10 penalties awarded, three from VAR review, with eight being scored — including a crazy day-three, when five PKs were awarded during four games.

  • Cristiano Ronaldo for Portugal vs Spain (scored)
  • Antoine Griezmann for France vs Australia after VAR review (scored)
  • Miles Jedinak for Australia vs France (scored)
  • Lionel Messi for Argentina vs Iceland (missed)
  • Christian Cueva for Peru vs Denmark after VAR review (missed)
  • Luka Modric for Croatia vs Nigeria (scored)
  • Andras Granqvist for Sweden vs South Korea after VAR review (scored)
  • Ferjani Sassi for Tunisia vs England (scored)
  • Shinji Kagawa for Japan (scored)
  • Mohamed Salah for Egypt (scored)

Let’s just hope that not many knock out games or even the final is decided by PKs.

Download a terrific World Cup 2018 Guide at TotumSport.

Award-winning journalist-author-blogger for Playboy, TO Star, Movie Entertainment, HuffPost, Hello Canada & my novel REJEX (Pulp Hero Press) is on Amazon.