The first round of group matches at the 2022 FIFA World Cup is now behind us and there is much one could say about it. There were plenty of beautiful things, a number of disappointments and there were historic upsets. There were plenty of off the field distractions as well. There was Ronaldo’s dive and Richaldson’s wonder strike, a goal some might say only a Brazilian would even have the audacity to even attempt to score.
Too Much Added Time
One thing that was a great annoyance to many fans and spectators alike was the outrageous amount of time added at the end of most halves of play. While it’s easy to understand FIFA’s reasoning behind it, which is that they want to eliminate time discrepancies and make the net game time more exactly ninety minutes. But a World Cup is not the proper place to experiment with such things. Football’s governing body should have tested this beforehand, perhaps at a Club World Cup or a youth tournament. It’s where they first tested goal line technology and the VAR system. The World Cup is too important to be used for experiments. There is nothing necessarily wrong with new ideas for the game, the World Cup may just be the wrong place to test them.
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One cannot write a worthy review of the first round of group matches at this tournament without praising the accomplishments of Saudi Arabia and Japan who have beaten true giants of the Beautiful Game in Argentina and Germany respectively. Both have done so while coming from behind in the second half. The Word Cup needs these upsets, these triumphs of the Davids over the Goliaths. They show that the sport truly is the World’s Game and that this is its tournament, the greatest show on Earth.
This immediately brings us to our next point. The Germans in particular seem to have forgotten that the role of footballers is to play football, not to make political points by looking for fights with FIFA and/or the host nation. Had Hansi Flick’s players focused on Japan as much as they focused on these side issues, they surely have come out on top against the Blue Samurai. But as things stand, they are looking at a repeat of the national embarrassment that was the Germans’ performance at the 2018 World Cup, a group stage exit.
Meanwhile, Croatia a team that would love to come close to its spectacular 2018 performance, disappointed with lackluster play in their tournament opener against a strong Moroccan side. But all is not lost for Zlatko Dalić’s men with that scoreless draw in their first match. With a win against Canada on Sunday, they would give themselves a good chance of progressing to the Round of 16.
Another thing that has stood out was the unusually high number of 0-0 scores. There were four of those in these first round of group play alone. Yet, it is understandable that teams do not want to go all out and risk everything from the first whistle and it is sure to improve as the tournament progresses. The scoreless marches were similar in that the teams involved preferred to avoid losing over winning at all costs.
Speaking broadly, there is much to look forward to in the rest of the tournament. What fans want to see is more of the good, less of the bad and if possible an end to all of the ugliness. Beyond that, we want to see great performances from the greatest players like in past World Cups.