Mon | Jul 16, 2018

Hubert Lawrence | A week in the World Cup

Published:Thursday | June 21, 2018 | 12:00 AM
Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo takes a free kick during the Group B match between Portugal and Morocco at the 2018 World Cup yesterday.

It's been a remarkable week in the World Cup. Russia, the host team, are riding high with two big wins from two starts. Germany, the defending champions, lost to an enterprising Mexico, with Brazil and Argentina suffering milder setbacks. There's been a litany of missed chances and a sending-off that have made results intriguing.

Emerging from the turmoil with his reputation intact is Cristiano Ronaldo. As this is written, his Portugal team just secured three more points, and the man known as CR7 has embellished his place among the game's best-ever with four goals so far. His precise last-minute free kick saved his team against Spain and his winner yesterday sank Morocco.

If the World Cup ended at this point, the Real Madrid star would be the tournament MVP.

Germany are probably happy that there is a long way to go. The Mexico loss will likely re-route the Germans to an area in the knockout round that will

be populated with tough opposition. Yet, German resolve is known to be well-suited to tournament play, and counting the four-time champions out would be foolhardy.

 

History of winners

 

World Cup history lists just eight winners, with Brazil on top with five wins. After a resilient performance against the 2014 winners and good prospects in the remaining Group F games against Sweden and South Korea, Mexico might fancy a chance to add to the list. Solid in defence, speedy on the counter and with proven striker Javier Hernandez up front, Mexico could be a team to watch.

Of those eight World Cup champions, Uruguay, Argentina, England, France and Germany all won on home soil. In like manner, the Russians might just be starting to dream of football's biggest prize. They have a long way to go, too. The titans of Argentina, Brazil, France and Germany could get into high gear in week two of the tournament, but Russians will be thinking, 'Why not?'

One thing is clear. As teams like Senegal, Serbia and Switzerland have shown, the world football playing field is more level than ever. The FIFA rankings mean nothing, and honour can only be defended on the pitch. That's how it should be.

- Hubert Lawerence watched Brazil win the 1970 World Cup on black and white television.