It’s the World Cup of surprises.
After all, Argentina – the two-time champs from 1978 and 1986 – lost their second game to Croatia, then pulled off a highly dramatic late 2-1 victory against Nigeria to earn a place in the second round.
Leading into Russia 2018 many surprises occurred including Panama getting to the World Cup over their more talented CONCACAF neighbors, Honduras and the United States. Holland, a very good side, didn’t qualify out of Europe. Italy – the four-time champs – didn’t qualify either. And then, low and behold, the best team from South America for the past few years, the 2015 and 2016 Copa America champs, Chile, did not qualify! And, btw, Argentina almost joined them as they barely qualified for the 2018 World Cup.
And, the Argentineans, along with other teams in Russia, who, to this point, have made for an extremely exciting World Cup, might offer up a few more surprises before it’s all said and done.
As for Germany, they’ll have time to regroup and set a strong course for World Cup 2022. Possibly, with the absence of reliable leaders including Schweinsteiger, Lahm and Klose, the Germans were destined for this result. Possibly, they finally submitted to the pressure, while for so long they've seemed to embrace it, and play above the grand stage. After all, they were expected to dominate the tournament, and to reach the finals yet again. Lahm always provided guidance, skill and a creative spark from his place on outside defense. Schweinsteiger provided wisdom and a steady hand, along with great confidence from the middle, and Klose, the all-time leading World Cup scorer, was always a threat around goal. Then, a few other names were unavailable, including Podolski and Schurrle. The weird thing is, despite completely outplaying South Korea during their inevitable 2-0 loss, the Germans just couldn’t get through the human wall that became their opponent’s best defense.
For now, the Germans, the defending champs, the grand old party of soccer, will return from Russia empty-handed, and a new champion will soon take their place.