France vs. Australia (2-1)
Where were all the goals?
France, a tournament favorite, loaded with talent (Pogba, Giroud, Mbappe, Griezmann), could only muster one goal from the run of play against an Australia team that needed a playoff to qualify for World Cup 2018. The referee exerted more offensive prowess, awarding a penalty for each team in the second half. They were both converted by Antoine Griezmann (58′) and Mile Jedinak (62′), respectively.
I did not enjoy watching this game. France looked disjointed, waiting for anyone else to make a play. I expected more, and I think they expected more from themselves. Meanwhile, the Australians seemed to be more worried about not letting France score than do anything to help their own cause. They played an ugly game of soccer, intent on disrupting France with fouls, rather than trying to actually maintain their own possession. If it worked, maybe I’d feel differently, and maybe the rest of the soccer viewing world would, too. However, they executed their terrible game plan and still lost. A late Pogba goal (81′), one that barely cleared the goal line, gives France the three points. France should have won, but anyone who laid money on les Bleus might want to start hedging their bets.
Argentina vs. Iceland (1-1)
Again, where were all the goals?
This is the World Cup. I expect more from the best, and Messi and Argentina disappointed fans all over the world in the most lop-sided statistical game I have ever seen. Iceland, to their credit, played a beautiful defensive game, at times with all 11 men behind the ball. They kept formation, rotated when needed, and played smart, compact soccer. Argentina, for all its flair, couldn’t break them down (despite some nifty play by Angel Di Maria, from whom I’d still like to see more). Also worth mentioning, the biggest name on the Iceland roster (at least before the game), Gylfi Sigurdsson, was practically non-existent. Yes, the free-kick specialist had a hard time making an impact when a team plays as defensively as Iceland. But the best players will find the game and make an impact, and he underwhelmed.
The biggest moment, though, came in the 64th minute. The official awarded a clear penalty to Argentina, and Messi steps up to the spot. Everyone in the world thought it was game over, except for Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson. He guessed right, Messi didn’t place it well, and the man looking for international redemption comes up short again. Meanwhile, Iceland comes away with a point, comes away with confidence, and comes away with the respect of the world. VIKING CLAP!
Today’s later matches feature Peru vs. Denmark and Nigeria vs. Croatia. Not the David and Goliath matchups so far, but maybe they’ll produce some more goals. I wonder if Croatia and Nigeria play a more attacking style, knowing that mighty Argentina currently has 1 point with a 0 goal differential. Enjoy Day 3 of the tournament!