Messi misses a penalty kick.

A review of the weekend’s action shows that some sides have already exceeded expectations, while most of the big hitters head into gameweek two with work to do.

Tournament favourites on the back foot

Brazil started the tournament as outright favourites, followed by defending champions Germany, 2010 winners Spain, France, and Argentina. Yet of the big five, only one managed a victory, and France’s win against Australia was far from comprehensive. Germany’s defeat to Mexico was a major shock, but so was Lionel Messi’s penalty miss in Argentina’s draw against Iceland. The relative poor performance of the tournament favourites bodes well for fans, though, as most of them will have to come out guns blazing in their next fixtures.

Mexico make a statement  

Mexico are one of the World Cup’s most storied nations, having featured at 17 of the 20 tournaments. Juan Carlos Osorio selected a well-balanced team against Germany, and his 4-2-3-1 formation proved both difficult to break down and dangerous on the counter-attack. Attackers Carlos Vela and Javier Hernandez are in their peak years and Osorio also has a wealth of experience to call upon. Former Barcelona star Rafael Marquez, for example, could reach 150 international caps if Mexico go deep into the tournament.



Can Croatia emulate the class of 98?

Belgium are often known as the “hipster” team due to the talent at their disposal, which makes them one for neutrals to support. Croatia are another team worth following. The Croats boast a star-studded midfield in Real Madrid’s Luka Modric and Barcelona’s Ivan Rakitic, while Juventus striker Mario Mandzukic is a persistent goal threat. This squad will be eager to emulate the 1998 team, which reached the semi-finals on the country’s World Cup debut.


African sides bring colour but no magic … yet


Nigeria may have the best kit at the tournament, yet the 2-0 defeat to Croatia showed that a talented albeit young squad has yet to figure out how to get their football to match the world’s best. The North African contingent hasn’t fared much better so far. Morocco sit bottom of their group after conceding a late own goal to Iran, while Egypt lost to a late goal against Uruguay. Tunisia are in action against England today and Senegal get their campaign underway against Poland tomorrow. Both sides face more-fancied opposition, but on the evidence of this weekend’s results they will be backing their chances.

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