World Cup day 7: Favorites getting their crucial win

A week into World Cup, and it has been more than entertaining. Day seven of the World Cup were filled with matches with determining factor to the result of the Group Stage. The highly entertaining Group C and D provided a banquet of attacking football. Let’s look back at some of the monumental moments of the day.

Australia edged out Tunisia.

Mitchell Duke with the winning header for Australia. Photo Credit: Sporting News

The Socceroos were no match for the power of France in the opening game. Meanwhile, a powerful performance by Tunisia salvaged a point for them against Denmark. The fans expected a toe-to-toe, push-and-pull match between the two teams.

Australia came out of the gate attacking as they did against France. And for the second match in a row, their effort paid off. From a deflected pass from the wing, Mitchell Duke, with a reverse header, beat the goalkeeper to open the scoreline. A beautiful goal to give Australia the advantage. Tunisia had no other way but to push on the attack. An intelligent one-two on the wing sent Jebali into space. The cross from the striker found his counterpart Msakni, but his shot went off target. That was the last highlight of the first half.

As Australia played defensive, Tunisia kept the pressure on the defensive line in the second half. Ten total shots from the African side but none of them troubled Matthew Ryan. A disappointing display saw them failing to score any goals. Tunisia might have dug a hole for themselves, as now they will have to face France. 

Poland solved the Saudi Arabia mystery.

Robert Lewandowski's first World Cup goal
Robert Lewandowski was emotional after his first World Cup goal. Photo Credit: The Telegraph

Poland’s attacking game against Mexico was abysmal despite having a world-class striker in Lewandowski. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia came off one of the most surprising upsets in reason history. The form difference questioned the teams’ approach to this game.

Continuing their flying form, Saudi Arabia stamped authority on the game. The Polish let their opposition dominate the possession game while they stood true to their counter-attack strategy. And from one of those counterplays, Lewandowski’s cross found Piotr Zielinski, and the Napoli player smashed it into the top of the goal. 

Drama arose in the last minutes of the first half. Saleh Al-Shehri was fouled inside the box, and a penalty was awarded. Salem Al-Dawsari stepped up to the spot. And it was saved by Szczesny. And then the rebound. Saved again by the former Arsenal keeper. 

The second half was the same plotline: Saudi Arabia attacked, and Poland waited for Saudi Arabia’s mistake. But it was no use on a day when Szczesny turned into Spider-man. Even worse, Robert Lewandowski capitalized on an error from the backline and sealed it 2-0. RL9’s first-ever goal in the World Cup put his country in a prime position to advance.

France broke the Champion curse.

Mbappe in the World Cup
Mbappe’s brace sent France to the next round. Photo Credit: Sporting News

France and Denmark faced off in another World Cup. Denmark went out on top both times in the previous two match-ups in the Nations League. But their start to the World Cup was drastically different. While Les Blues showed their strength in a 4-1 victory, Denmark failed to get three points against an inferior Tunisia.

Both teams showed a conservative approach to this match. The French knew how dangerous Denmark could be with their counter, and the Danish knew the star power of France could strike anytime. No big chances were created in the first half, and the teams headed into the tunnel.

The second half was different, as Denmark and France soared on the attack. The Frenchmen struck first. It was that left flank again. A give-and-go-and-give-back from Mbappe to Hernandez to Mbappe created a beautiful goal for France. The play showed how great the chemistry between number 10 and number 22 was. Denmark answered minutes later. Andreas Christensen headed in from an Eriksen corner from close range to level the score.

A back-and-forth game in the next few minutes. A moment of stardom is in dire need. Antoine Griezmann delivered a superb ball, and Mbappe, out of nowhere, tapped the ball in and brought victory home for France.

The win means France is now through to the Round of 16. The previous three champions all failed to do so. And Denmark must get three points against Australia in order to advance.

Argentina’s hopes are alive.

Lionel Messi carries the hope of a nation. Photo Credit: Sporting News

Argentina and Mexico need a win to nurture their hopes of advancing. Argentina was shellshocked by Saudi Arabia, while Mexico’s poor finishing left them with only a point against Poland.

Mexico had an apparent defensive attitude on its mind entering the game. The low block made it difficult for Argentina to piledrive through. The first half showed La Albiceleste‘s vulnerability. Their over-reliance on Messi and di Maria was diffused by a disciplined Mexican defense. The midfield did not help the case either. An offensively atrocious performance from De Paul furthered Argentina’s struggle this game.

Scaloni needed to make some quick adjustments mentally for the players, and Argentina needed a moment of genius from their playmakers. And it came. Lionel Messi, at the edge of the box, with defenders in front, sunk the ball into the bottom corner. Even World Cup Ochoa could not do anything. The stadium, the fans at home, and the players erupted. That goal pulled the South American champion from the mud back into daylight, fueling the players. And just minutes later, Enzo Fernandes curled the ball in past Ochoa to make it two. Another stunning finish sealed the scoreline in this game.

Thanks to a moment of magic from Lionel Messi, Argentina now has the power to determine its own destiny. And hopes are back with the Argentina faithful.

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