Day 4 of the 2018 World Cup was an eye-opener in more ways than one. In fact, it was a stunning day, in particular, if you were Mexican, or German for that matter.
Costa Rica 0-1 Serbia
The opening game of the day was more exciting than the result suggests, with Serbia running out deserved winners thanks to a 25-yard screamer from former Manchester City defender Aleksandar Kolarov.
The Serbs were dominant overall. Yes, the Costa Ricans did enjoy the occasional period of attacking football, but overall Serbia controlled it. They were first to the ball for the most part, were far more fluent going forward and, with better finishing, could have won by more than the single goal.
The Costa Ricans did themselves credit, but their limitations were exposed and it is hard to see them progressing from the group stages. Serbia, on the other hand, must now be joint-favourites to reach the last 16.
Mexico 1-0 Germany
The biggest shock of the tournament so far, the result was certainly not undeserved.
The Germans were poor, that has to be said, and in fact, they could have lost by a wider margin given the number of counter-attacks Mexico enjoyed. How Mexico did not add to their tally is something of a mystery.
Almost to a man, the Germans were a huge letdown. Maybe it was complacency or arrogance, but they had no idea how to break the Mexican defence down and, when they did get a shot on goal, Mexico keeper Guillermo Ochoa was on hand to comfortably deal with whatever the Germans threw at him.
Also surprising was Germany’s lack of imagination. Mexico was the side with the flair while the World Champions looked simply bereft of ideas. Their passing was poor and their final ball was more Sunday league than World Cup.
The chances are Germany will bounce back, but a massive improvement is required. Anything less and their defence of the World Cup may well go the way of Spain’s four years ago.
As for Mexico, if they can repeat this sort of performance, they could go much further than expected.
Switzerland 1-1 Brazil
This was a tale of two Brazils. The Seleção started in imperious fashion and Philippe Coutinho’s beauty on 20 minutes was fully deserved, but thereafter, they just fizzled out.
Switzerland outdid Brazil for grit and determination. They were largely first to the ball, and by the end of the game were holding on comfortably. The lack of flair from the Brazilians was shocking. It was in evidence early on but, for some inexplicable reason, vanished as soon as they went 1-0 up. It would take 57 minutes from the opening goal before they had their next shot on target,
While the Swiss equaliser was contentious – it did look like a push from scorer Steven Zuber, but VAR decided it was legit – the fact that opinions were so divided on social media proves that it was not a clear error from the referee to allow it.
The Swiss equaliser seemed to stun Brazil but, at the end of the day, they have only themselves to blame. The fact is that they were poor up front, were unimaginative in midfield and were fragile in defence, while the Swiss played to their strengths. They frustrated Brazil’s maestros and achieved their aim of not losing their opening game against one of the best teams on the planet.
A job well done for Switzerland and a poor overall performance from Brazil sums this game up.