The third round of the group stage of the World Cup 2018 has begun. Is your favorite team ready to head into elimination, or packing up for the flight back home?
Argentina was unexpectedly challenged and the Polish national team was ousted, while the Iberian brothers (Portugal and Spain) are both advancing into the next phase...In the past two weeks, a lot has happened on the pitch and I can't wait to share with you some of the interesting phenomena in this year's World Cup (fans on the roof, come down cuz you got a Weixin message)
Stable Full of Dark Horses
This World Cup is noted for missing the two notable traditional powerhouses of Italy and the Netherlands, while outcomes in the group stage have taken the globe with surprises on quite a few occasions. In particular, the round one of the group stage seemed to have been a wake-up call for the behemoths.
Many big-name teams only won by slim margin, barely squeezed out a tie or even outright lost the first game, forcing many fans to "climb to the roof (and jump off in hopelessness)". Meanwhile, the second-tier teams did not find anyone to bully either, as everyone appeared to firmly believe they would be the next giant-toppling dark horses.
Argentina, the runner-up team of the last World Cup, is one of these troubled titans, which was first stunned in a 1-1 draw against World Cup "newbie" Iceland, and then got annihilated in a 0-3 loss against Croatia. Now Argentina's hope for the knock-out stage hangs by a thread.
The Penalty Cup?
On June 23, 2018, in the match between Mexico and South Korea, Mexican forward Carlos Vela scored the 14th penalty kick in this edition of the World Cup, a figure that already surpassed the total number of penalty decisions in all 64 games of the last World Cup in Brazil (13 PKs).
On June 26, in the fixture between Portugal and Iran, after receiving aids from the Video Assistant Referee, the chief ref on the field gave team Portugal a shot from the spot, which was the 19th penalty kick awarded in this year's tournament, a record-setting number (previously as 18 penalty kicks held by the 2002 World Cup). Russian media have projected that at this rate of one penalty call every two games, the 2018 World Cup is slated to see a total of 32 penalty shots.
The so-called "happy football" can perhaps be credited to Bora Milutinović who proposed as a "philosophical concept" when he was the head coach of the Chinese men's national football team back in 2001. Milutinović said that football ought to be happy and free of overbearing burden, and he even "gamified" his training to enable his players to genuinely enjoy the sport with no strings attached.
In this year's World Cup, quite a few qualified teams exhibited to the world what it meant to play "happy football". Now let me show you a few "happy footballers"~
Player One: Team England
No surprise here, first off is the English team, which Chinese football fans have long cherished for their authentically "happy" and "self-releasing" style.
Two penalties plus an unexpected opportunity served on a silver platter bestowed Harry Kane his hat trick. Yeah, the guy can probably score even by lying down on the pitch.
Player Two: Team Panama
Though stuffed with six goals by England, the World Cup newcomer team Panama also scored their first ever World Cup goal. Panamanian fans were so happy that they even celebrated with English fans nearby (English fans were like: Huh???).
Player Three: Team Senegal
On June 20, 2018, in a fixture of group H, Senegal came out as the better team as they won 2-1 against Poland, which was spearheaded by Europe's top-scorer Robert Lewandowski in the World Cup qualifiers. After the final whistle was blown, the Senegal players were so happy that they gathered and performed a dance much like the popular "plaza dancing" among Chinese "dancing grannies".
What other interesting highlights did you see in the 2018 World Cup? Let us know.