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Top 5: Goals and Matches from the opening round of World Cup 2018

Top 5 Group Stage Goals of the 2018 World Cup

For the opening stages of the World Cup in Russia, we had long range screamers, terrific team goals, free kicks, and game winners galore. Let’s just hope the knockout rounds are as exciting. Here are the top 5 goals thus far.

5. Ahmed Musa vs. Iceland

An exquisite mid air touch by Musa, who then fired home to give Nigeria a vital opening goal vs. Iceland.

4. Cristiano Ronaldo vs. Spain

Of all the goals of the Group Stage, this will be the one best remembered– Ronaldo’s incredibly precise free kick, right at the end, to cap off one of the better group stage matches of all time.

3. Dries Mertens vs. Panama

Belgium struggled to break Panama down in the first half of this match, but Dries Mertens insane volley gave them the opening goal they needed.

2. Nacho Fernandez vs. Portugal

SCREAMER. Nacho, who started for the injured Dani Carvajal, made amends for giving away a penalty in the first half by absolutely smashing this ball from outside the box, onto the post, and in, to give Spain the lead after they had trailed twice vs. Portugal.

1. Granit Xhaka vs. Serbia

A criminally underrated goal– no score in the group stage made by jaw drop more than this. Xhaka smashes this home from outside the 18 with such ease, and unerring accuracy, that it was worthy of the top spot. While it is not unusual to see Xhaka score from so far away, the stage and the importance of the goal (equalized in the second half of a vital group match) make it my early contender for goal of the tournament.

Top five Group Stage Matches of the 2018 World Cup

Each team has played three matches. For 16 nations, the journey ended on Matchday Three. For 16 more, the journey into the knockout stages is just beginning. As of this point, its do or die; win or go home.

While the stakes are ramped up, that doesn’t mean there weren’t some heart stopping moments during the Group Stages of the 2018 World Cup. Let’s take a look at the ten matches that stood out amongst the rest during the opening round of the World Cup.

Honorable Mention: Russia 5, Saudi Arabia 0– As far as openers go, this one certainly had flare. While there wasn’t the drama of Tshabalala’s magical opener in 2010, or Marcelo’s own goal in 2014, there were plenty of standout performances and moments, as the hosts Russia thrashed Saudi Arabia 5-0. Aleksander Golovin had 2 assists and an inch perfect free kick, and Denis Cheryshev scored twice to give Russia a commanding 5-0 victory. Russia would go on to advance to the Round of 16 as Group A’s runner-up.

5. Germany 2, Sweden 1

Ah, the Germans again. They’ll be a recurring theme. They needed at least a draw, but definitely a win, to keep their hopes of qualifying for the knockout stages alive. They fell behind, however, in the first half, as Sweden’s Ola Toivenen dinked a delightful chip over Manuel Neuer to give Sweden the lead.

Germany would equalize through Marco Reus, but knew they needed a victory to put qualification into their own hands. Up stepped Toni Kroos in minute 93, curling an inch perfect free kick into the upper 90 to steal a point (remarkable considering Germany played the last 10 minutes with 10 men, courtesy of a Jerome Boateng red card).

4. Croatia 3, Argentina 0

All the prematch talk was about Messi, and how he would respond to his missed penalty, and Ronaldo scoring 4 goals in the first two matches.

But the match was never about Messi. After a stagnant, foul filled first half, Croatia made the second half their own. Argentine keeper Willy Caballero’s howling error allowed Ante Rebic to open the scoring, before superstar midfielders Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic each scored in the last ten minutes to finish off a truly remarkable performance.

Croatia were superior in every way, and put even more pressure on Messi and co. to get a result in the final match.

3. Group F’s Final Day

The narrative was straightforward– Mexico and Germany would take care of business and advance to the Last 16. Except, not really.

Sweden, first and foremost, thrashed Mexico 3-0, with three second half goals. The Swedes showed incredible resilience, after getting their hearts broken by Germany in the last match. Their performance sealed top spot in Group F for Sweden.

Mexico began to anxiously watch the scoreboard, knowing if Germany won, then they would be out– unprecedented for a team that won their opening two matches at the tournament.

But South Korea had other ideas, scoring twice in stoppage time to stun the world and sent Germany crashing out of the World Cup. Mexican fans became South Korean fans, as the Asian side secured Mexico’s passage into the Round of 16, and helped make Germany the third straight defending champion to fail to qualify from the Group Stage.

2. Argentina 2, Nigeria 1

Despite two poor performances, Argentina knew victory against Nigeria would surely secure passage to the knockout stages.

Messi came out firing, taking a lovely over the top pass from Ever Banega off his thigh before finishing to give Argentina a 1-0 lead.

But it was never going to be that easy. Victor Moses equalized from the spot to put Nigeria back in the drivers seat. Argentina would need another goal.

Enter Marcos Rojo. The Manchester United defenders last World Cup goal came in the third match of the 2014 Group Stage, a game winner against… Nigeria.

History repeated. Rojo scored, in the third match of the group stage, a game winner, against Nigeria. It was a strikers finish from the left back, and it rescued Argentina from a fate similar to Germany’s. What a moment.

1. Spain 3, Portugal 3

Often times, these clash of the titans don’t live up to the hype. But my GOODNESS, did this match ever live up to the hype. It had everything. Drama, goals, memorable moments, tension– and it was all on Day Two. Here’s what went down:

  • Real Madrid right back Nacho, starting in place of injured Dani Carvajal, fouls his club teammate Cristiano Ronaldo in the box. Ronaldo scores from the spot to give Portugal the lead.
  • Spain equalized, as Diego Costa outmuscled the entire Portuguese defense (and probably fouled Pepe in the process) to score his first career World Cup goal.
  • Portugal retook the lead on the stroke of half time, as all world keeper David de Gea inexplicably let a Ronaldo shot through his hands and into the back of the net.
  • Spain equalized again, through Costa, again.
  • Nacho made up for his penalty miss by scoring one of the goals of the tournament, a screamer from outside the box that hit off the post and flew in to give Spain the lead for the first time.
  • And of course, the free kick. Ronaldo’s face looked like that of a cold blooded assassin– you just knew he would score. And score he did, completing his hat trick and tying the game. This will go down as one of the more iconic group stage goals of all time, and this match should be remembered in the same light.
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