The World Cup may be fast hurtling towards the knockout stages, but there has still been a lot for fans to sink their teeth into. Although there has been a spate of goalless draws, there has also been some standout performances.
France and Brazil have got into the groove early on, and they have justified their statuses as being among the most fancied teams to lift the World Cup.
But like in any other edition of the World Cup, the group stage has also dished up many shock results which have made us sit up and take notice.
With that in mind, let’s recap on four of the most surprising games of the World Cup in Qatar so far.
Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia
Sometimes too much is made of the FIFA rankings. On paper, it seemed to be a complete mismatch as Argentina, who are ranked third, took on Saudi Arabia (51st), who were supposed to be the minnows of their group in their opening game.
But Argentina came a cropper and produced a performance that we haven’t been accustomed to seeing. Lionel Messi, who is participating in his final World Cup, gave his side the lead from the penalty spot in the 10th minute, but Saudi Arabia were back on level terms through Saleh Al-Shehri three minutes after the restart, before Salem Aldawsari grabbed the winner five minutes later to send the stadium into pandemonium.
Argentina is widely considered a powerhouse on the global stage, and as you might expect, they usually attract a lot of attention in the run-up to, and during World Cups at sportsbooks. Those who are seeking value with their betting lines will usually find an array of offers for the outright markets at reputable operators where gamblers can bet with PayPal. Among our recommended options, includes Unibet, which will constantly update its odds throughout the tournament. Despite some shaky appearances in the group stages, Argentina is trading at 27/5 with this operator to win the World Cup.
Germany 1-2 Japan
Organisation and intensity are usually two words that you associate with Germany. Despite taking the lead through Ilkay Gundogan in the first half, and peppering Japan’s goal with 14 attempts, Germany faded, and they came unstuck in the second 45 minutes.
Well, they contributed to their own downfall and capitulated in eight second-half minutes. First, Ritsu Doan — one of eight German-based players in the Japanese squad — tapped home the equaliser after Takumi Minamino’s initial effort was parried by Manuel Neuer.
And then, seven minutes from the end Takuma Asano blasted home into the roof of the net, although perhaps Neuer could have done better by guarding his near post better. What was more surprising was that Japan clinched three points having managed just 26.1% possession. It was also the first World Cup match since 1966 where a team lost having surpassed three XG (expected goals).
Belgium 0-2 Morocco
Belgium’s supposed ‘golden generation’ produce a rather limp and flat performance against the Atlas Lions. Roberto Martinez’s men lacked pace and fluidity in the final third, and they were made to pay the price.
Morocco claimed a big scalp when late goals from Abdelhamid Sabiri and Zakaria Aboukhlal sparked wild celebrations inside the Al Thumama Stadium.
Perhaps this result was on the cards given Belgium’s stuttering display in their 1-0 win over Canada in their previous group game, and the Red Devils were rather ordinary on that day.
Tunisia 1-0 France
Arguably the biggest surprise of the World Cup to date, Tunisia stunned France in their final group game when Wahbi Khazri fired home the matchwinner.
Les Bleus brought on Kylian Mbappe and Antoine Griezmann late on in a bid to force an equaliser, and Griezmann thought he had snatched a point with a volley but he was to be denied by VAR deep in stoppage time. Ultimately, it didn’t matter too much to Didier Deschamps’ as they had already rubber stamped their progress to the Round of 16, but for Tunisia, they bowed out.
The wait for Tunisia to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup continues, but this was a result that sent shockwaves through the football community.