Interesting results to discuss and intriguing matchups directly ahead, so sit back and relax while Barstool’s official sissy sport spirit sherpa hits the high and low notes as far as what we saw on Monday and what we will be seeing on Tuesday.
[Programming note: I’ll include links to the preview blogs for all eight groups and for the podcast – NEXT EPISODE DROPPING WEDNESDAY MORNING (so subscribe, etc, etc) – at the bottom of the post.]
Now let’s get to it…
Recap – June 18
Three more games were played, meaning 28 of the 32 teams have now played a game. Scores for the day were:
After crunching the numbers and parsing the advanced statistics, a world class panel of experts debated for many hours and eventually arrived at this interim Power Rankings among the teams that have played so far:
SWEDEN 1 – 0 GOOD KOREA
CONCLUSION: Not a game to write home to mama about. Sweden had the better of the chances throughout the game, though their goal came on a VAR-awarded penalty. It was the right call, which is all well and good but in no way vindicates the use of the cockamamie system. But at least it got this one right. Good Korea was limited to just one great chance in the dying minutes and totally biffed it. That’s the way the cookie crumbles sometimes.
What did we learn about Sweden?
The Swedes didn’t look great but did create a few chances here and there, and looked fine on defense. Not the kind of performance that is going to make anyone sit up and start taking legitimate notice of them as some sort of darkhose, but one that will give opponents some trouble game in and game out. Solid outing by Emil Forsberg who controlled play and acted as pivot in the midfield. Neither here nor there, but kinda look like a team that could benefit from having a world class finisher.
What did we learn about Good Korea?
This…….. is just not a very good team. Their best player is Son Heung-Min who was afforded zero room to run on the wings and was suffocated by the Swedish defense in the middle of the field. With Son neutralized, the team looked desperately low on Plan B’s, repeatedly settling for abortive counter attacks and slow buildup play that almost always got cut short by needless giveaways. And yet as lackluster as they looked, they still should have drawn level just before the death but somehow Koo Ja-cheol missed a wide open header in stoppage-time. Woof. Perhaps they should have worried less about leveraging casual racism and more about actual X’s and O’s?
BELGIUM (3) – (0) PANAMA
CONCLUSION: You wouldn’t know it from watching most of the World Cup so far, but sometimes when a really talented team plays a far less talented team, the really talented team wipes the floor with its lesser opposition. Strange concept, I know.
What did we learn about Belgium?
Team is stacked. It took a while for them to figure out how to break down Panama’s stubborn defense, but once they got the breakthrough on a beautiful hit from Dres Martens, thus forcing their opponents to come out and play a little bit, the final result was but a foregone conclusion though it was topped off by a beautiful bit of interplay that is particularly notable because it is precisely the kind of goal that United fans will never ever EVER see Romelu Lukaku score unless or until the club is wrested from Jozay’s cold dead hands…
What did we learn about Panama?
That a team made up of a lot of MLS guys isn’t quite as good as a team that is largely EPL guys. “WELL, I NEVER” **clutches pearls**
TUNISIA 1 – 2 ENGLAND
CONCLUSION: England could have scored four and should have scored at least two in the first 10 minutes of the game, which would have changed the entire dynamic of the game, but poor finishing – a repeat of this against better opposition would be bad news – gave Tunisia a lifeline, which the North Africans seized thanks to a stupid play by Kyle Walker conceding a needless penalty (who could’ve guessed playing a speedy but error-prone wing back as a CB would be problematic??? Well I, for one, am shocked!)
What did we learn about Tunisia?
Got overrun early as they tried pressing too high up the field. Eventually settled back into more of a bunker and almost nicked a point… sets an unfortunate example for other teams that know they might not be as skilled as their opponent: play like you’re being coached by Jozay Mourinho – OR ELSE!
What did we learn about England?
That the team is probably going to go only as far as Harry Kane will carry them. No surprise there.
PREVIEW – June 19
Today’s games offer a lot more balances matchups than yesterday, with one particularly intriguing affair and another that is probably the single most unpredictable tilt of the entire tournament.
Reminder: if you want more detailed explanations for my thinking behind the picks, check out the group previews that were the past week – links at the bottom. But here is a quick and dirty run-through and some shot-in-the dark predictions…
Japan is old and has a new coach, which are two HUGE red flags coming into a World Cup. Colombia is sneaky talented (relatively to the true big swinging dicks of the tournament) and has varied enough attack that we should expect at least a couple new coordinated dance routines. Colombia to win 2-0.
Low-key incredibly interesting matchup. Senegal comes into the tournament looking very underrated on paper, though perhaps the bookies are counting on the collection of players continuing to underperform when playing for their national team (as opposed to their club). Poland, like England with a lot more W’s and K’s, can only go as far as Robert Lewandowski carries them. I’ve been big on the Senegalese coming into the World Cup and no reason to start doubting my dumb brain… yet. Senegal to win 2-1.
Not a game to bet on for the faint of heart. Anything could happen in this game, quite literally. Let’s not forget that this is Puty’s World Cup, and if you don’t think that Puty would be willing to go to extreme lengths to try and make Russian soccer look better than it really is, then you clearly don’t know very much about my guy Puty. He oversaw the most systematic doping program in the history of the world, got caught red handed, but instead of being penitent he (I’m guess) just blamed it on Fake News. The big question mark of course is Mo Salah’s shoulder. I gotta admit that I am very, very, VERY nervous that he is not going to be ready at all for this World Cup. But I also know that Russia is not anywhere near as good as the 5-0 scoreline against Saudi Arabian JV squad would suggest, so if you are hoping for good odds on Egypt there is absolutely no better time than right now. A healthy Mo Salah would leave multiple mushroom stamps on Russia’s defense. It’s definitely going out on a limb given his health status, but I’m going for it. Egypt to win 1-0.
So there we have it. Another entertaining day of results behind us, another big day of soccer ahead of us. Do yourself a favor and take a moment to revel in the gloriousness that is the first couple weeks of the World Cup. Three games a day ain’t gonna last forever, do what you can to enjoy it while it does!
In case anybody hasn’t seen them below are the final preview for Group H and links to the podcast, with the next episode dropping (hopefully) WEDNESDAY – which should be a good combination of funny and informative, potentially with a special guest.
iHeart [also available Stitcher and Spotify]