Wednesday, September 19, 2018
Sports

World Cup 2018: What we learned from day six

After the first five days of this World Cup it seemed European and South American teams were underlining their status as the strongest sides in the competition.

Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Australia, Peru, Nigeria, South Korea and Tunisia had all been defeated in opening games of varying difficulty before Group H bucked the trend.

Aided by an early red card and penalty, Japan overcame Colombia 2-1 in Saransk to become the first Asian team to ever beat a South American team at a World Cup.

Read more: Kane's brace proves he's the perfect front man for fresh faced England

Senegal then took advantage of a haphazard Poland performance to win by the same scoreline in their first World Cup appearance since 2002.

Together Japan and Senegal were the first non-European or South American sides in 16 matches to take points off a European or South American side at this World Cup.

Group H lives up to its billing as most unpredictable

While the two results went against the prevailing theme of the tournament, they also conformed to the idea that Group H offers the most exciting and hardest to call match-ups.

Although the Fifa world rankings are hardly the perfect measure of sides levels, they do suggest a vague sense of standing. By that gauge todays results went against the form book.

Yuya Osako sealed Japan's 2-1 win over 10-man Colombia (Source: Getty)

Poland, ranked 8th in the world, were the ninth and final member of Fifas top 10 to play and became the seventh not to record a win in their opening match, with Senegal, at 27th, triumphing. Colombia, the 16th best side, lost to Japan, the 61st and second lowest in the entire competition.

If they get through their group, England will play one of the sides from Group H – but which one is anyones guess.

Good touch for a big man

Before the World Cup kicked off Artem Dzyuba could be taken as an embodiment of Russia.

The hosts came into the tournament as the lowest ranked side and without a win in six games. Some supporters were worried about being embarrassed. On paper, Dzyuba, a big, lumbering centre-forward typified the malaise.

But since the first whistle on Thursday the Zenit St Petersburg man has been inspired, scoring twice, holding up the ball stylishly and linking well with star player Aleksandr Golovin.

As a result Russia are on the brink of reaching the last 16 for the first time since 1986.

Set pieces reaping rewards

One very noticeable theme of the World Cup has been the prevalence of set pieces.

While Englands two goals against Tunisia came from corner routines and Juan Quinteros clever pea-roller for Colombia today took the number of free-kicks scored to four, it is penalties that have stood out the most.

Mohamed Salahs consolation from the spot in Egypts 3-1 defeat by Russia was the 10th penalty of the tournament, after just 17 matches.

At this rate the all-time record of 18 spot-kicks, jointly held by the 1990, 1998 and 2002 editions of the tournament, is in danger.

Video assistant referees are certainly having an impact.

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