World Cup thoughts and observations
THE EDITOR: The group stage of the 2022 World Cup concluded on Friday and the knockout rounds began on Saturday. So here are my thoughts and observations after the first round.
1. Qatar is officially the worst World Cup host in terms of performance after finishing bottom-last in Group A with no points, losing all three group games.
2. With the failure of Mexico, Canada and Costa Rica to progress from their respective groups, the US was the only team to represent the Concacaf region well, though losing to the Netherlands on Saturday in the knockout rounds.
3. Argentina's surprise 2-1 loss to Saudi Arabia in its opening match was the wake-up call the team needed to kickstart Messi's last quest for that elusive World Cup title.
4. The French have avoided the "champion's curse" which befell previous winners Germany in 2018, Spain in 2014 and Italy in 2010 by winning Group D despite losing to Tunisia in their last group match.
5. Group A runner-up Senegal and Group F winner Morocco represented the African zone proudly with their impressive performances in the group stage.
6. Unlikely Group E winner Japan and the runners-up in Groups D and H, Australia and South Korea respectively, did a similar thing representing the Asian Zone.
7. Belgium and Germany were the biggest casualties after the completion of the group games.
8. Croatia, runner-up four years ago, has made it out the group stages for two consecutive World Cups for the first time in its relatively short World Cup history and third time overall.
9. Sadly, its former compatriots from Serbia are yet to advance to a World Cup knockout round.
10. Although losing its last group game 1-0 to Cameroon, Brazil is still the heavy favourite to win the World Cup.
"World Cup thoughts and observations"