The 2018 FIFA World Cup has been one of the most enthralling and surprising tournaments in recent memory. That includes good surprises, like underdogs who weren’t expected to do much and players who are breaking out on the international stage. There are also bad surprises, which is inevitable when so many favorites crash out of the tournament early.
Here are the ten biggest surprises, both positive and negative, of this year’s World Cup.
A definite disappointment, Argentina never looked like a team likely of getting out of their group, much less winning the World Cup. They did so on a late goal against Nigeria, and they did lead France at one point in what was ultimately one of the tournament’s most entertaining games. Still, we expected much more from an Argentina side that still possessed a lot of attacking talent. Unfortunately, Jorge Sampaoli seemed to lose the team and didn’t get the best out of any of their players.
Neymar is having a tough time coping with Brazil’s World Cup defeat.
The pre-tournament favorites were eliminated on Friday in a 2-1 loss to Belgium, and Neymar said in his first public comments that he was experiencing the “saddest moment” of his career and that he would find it a struggle to play soccer again.
Posso dizer que é o momento mais triste da minha carreira, a dor é muito grande porque sabíamos que poderíamos chegar, sabíamos que tínhamos condições de irmos mais além, de fazer história .. mas não foi dessa vez. Difícil encontrar forças pra querer voltar a jogar futebol, mas tenho certeza que Deus me dará força suficiente pra enfrentar qualquer coisa, por isso nunca deixarei de te agradecer Deus, até mesmo na derrota… porque eu sei que o teu caminho é muito melhor do que o meu Muito feliz em fazer parte desse time, estou orgulhoso de todos, interromperam nosso sonho mas não tiraram da nossa cabeça e nem dos nossos corações . . . @nogueirafoto
A post shared by Nj ???????? neymarjr (@neymarjr) on
“I can say that it is the saddest moment of my career,” Neymar wrote, as translated by Spanish outlet AS. “The pain is very great because we knew we could get there, we knew we had the conditions to go further, to make history, but it was not this time. Difficult to find the strength to want to play football again, but I’m sure God will give me enough strength to face anything, so I’ll never stop thanking God, even in defeat, because I know that your way is much better than mine.
“Very happy to be part of this team, I am proud of all, interrupted our dream but they did not get out of our head and neither of our hearts.”
Neymar had a tough World Cup. He scored twice in five matches, and he responded defiantly to huge amounts of criticism about his diving and other theatrics. After coming back from a serious injury to play in the World Cup, this was not how he wanted it to end.
England and Sweden will face off in the World Cup quarterfinal on Saturday, and Sweden’s most iconic soccer player wants to raise the stakes.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic wants to get England legend David Beckham in on a bet — and there’s an IKEA purchase on the line if Sweden win the game.
— Zlatan Ibrahimović (@Ibra_official) July 6, 2018
Zlatan is not known for his modesty. He is, without a doubt, ready and expecting to win this bet. He has to get Beckham to agree to it first, though, which has yet to occur.
Neymar has faced a ton of criticism during the World Cup for his diving antics, but a large group of Belgium fans have decided to take the high road. Well, if you want to call it that.
If the Facebook group is any indication, thousands of fans on Friday took part in a drinking game centered around how often Neymar takes a dive. The name of the group, which is written in Dutch, translates to “Bottoms up when Neymar falls.” The description is quite simple:
“Every time Neymar falls to the ground you have to drink.”
Belgium and Brazil did battle in a World Cup quarterfinal match on Friday, and 10,000 fans had responded that they were “going” to the Neymar drinking game Facebook event with another 27,000 saying they were “interested.” While there’s no actual event to attend, you can bet there were plenty of Belgium fans taking part in bars and elsewhere.
Neymar has already been roasted on Twitter for some of the dives he has taken, so it’s no surprise Belgium fans got in on the fun. Kudos to them for putting a unique spin on it.
H/T VICE Sports
Neymar is defiant in the face of criticisms over his style of play, particularly accusations that he oversells contact on fouls.
The Brazilian star was criticized in many quarters for his reaction to being stepped on during his side’s 2-0 victory over Mexico. Neymar didn’t respond directly to the accusations, dismissing them as “an attempt to undermine me.”
“I think it’s more an attempt to undermine me than anything else,” Neymar said, via Jonathan Wilson of the Guardian. “I don’t much care for criticism, not even for praise because this can influence in a way the athlete’s attitude. In the last two matches I didn’t talk to the press because there are too many people talking, getting excited. I don’t know if they’re showing off. I am here to win with my teammates.”
In other words, Neymar thinks the critics are full of nonsense. Ultimately it’s up to the referee to decide what actions are acceptable or not acceptable. The opposing manager isn’t happy about anything that transpired, but Neymar won and he got the decisions as well. Nobody should expect him to apologize.
Uruguay badly needs Edinson Cavani fit to give themselves a better chance against France in the World Cup quarterfinal, but they got some decent news on that front Monday.
In a statement released by the Uruguayan Football Association, it was confirmed that Cavani did not have a calf tear, but was dealing with significant swelling. That said, the lack of a tear means he at least has a chance to play Friday against France.
“The player remains in pain. He will continue to do individual work and rehabilitation. His evolution is being monitored,” the statement read, via Adriana Garcia of ESPN. “The rest of the squad is fine.”
Cavani scored both of Uruguay’s goals in their 2-1 win over Portugal in the Round of 16. Luis Suarez will have a lot on his shoulders if Cavani cannot suit up.
Mexico was knocked out of the FIFA World Cup with a 2-0 loss to Brazil on Monday, but their manager thinks there was more than meets the eye to the result.
Manager Juan Carlos Osorio blasted both Neymar and Italian referee Gianluca Rocchi, feeling that “fake fouls” were a factor in disrupting the game.
“We played quite well and had 53% possession so I think we did control the game mostly,” Osorio said, via Steve Bates of the Mirror. “Unfortunately it’s a shame we wasted so much time for one player. It’s a shame for football. The referee gave too many fake fouls. I am entitled to give my opinion but I didn’t mention him by name. There was very little contact and every single time the referee stops the game.
“We lost our style due to the referee giving too much stoppage time. My players got more and more tired because of that situation. Once, the game was stopped for four minutes and that’s very negative for the game of football and children around the world who are playing the game. It’s a man’s sport and there shouldn’t be so much acting. That had an impact on our pace.”
Neymar was widely criticized for his play-acting on Twitter, and the criticism was deserved. That said, linking it to the result may be a stretch. Brazil created more chances and played well enough to win with their superior talent, so while frustrating, Neymar’s theatrics don’t really hold water as an excuse.