In my first article published on The Scarlett Panel, “Russian Rampage”, I mentioned that Russia would not be able to dominate Egypt and Uruguay as they did against Saudi Arabia. Well, it turns out that I was horribly wrong. Round 2 of the group stage matches arrived and Russia continued their impressive World Cup campaign with a convincing 3-1 victory against Egypt, virtually sending them through to the Round of 16. Who would’ve thought it? Definitely not me after their extremely poor build-up to the tournament. The host nation are shocking their country and the rest of the world with their performances so far, and could very well end up topping Group A at the conclusion of the group stage.
Russia haven’t conceded a goal thus far, and with goalkeeper Akinfeev having very little to do, I call their outfield players the “Ten Plagues” after their deadly rout in their opening game. Each of those ten players have given themselves the notion of being deadly and detrimental to opposing teams in this World Cup tournament, proportionally just as dangerous as the Ten Plagues documented in the Bible. They all have their respective ways of hurting teams and making them suffer. Collectively, they’re a well-oiled machine ready to take on whatever task its given. Watch out, Uruguay.
Egypt were given a boost of hope when star man, Mohammed Salah, was declared fit to play after missing out against Uruguay in their opening game. But Liverpool’s treasure didn’t look like his usual self, struggling to make a real impact in the game. Russia’s defence looked strong once again, as well as their men up front, and the hosts deservedly went in front in the 47th minute when Ahmed Fathi put the ball in his own net from 8 yards out after wildly swiping at a poor cross. The Pharaohs seemed to have been dented from that point on as Russia completely dominated the game. Salah was unable to get a sniff of the ball near the Russian penalty area.
Cheryshev doubled Russia’s lead in the 59′ with his third goal of the tournament, drawing him level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the Golden Boot race; and Dzyuba followed up his first goal in the opening game with another to make it 3-0 just three minutes later. Russia were rioting again! I’m pretty sure that the FIFA Fan Fest, pubs across the nation, and people at home were all in total ecstasy like the Russians fans in the stadium. Their country was on its way to the knockout round with unopposed ease.
VAR reared its head again to spoil the Russian party a bit, though, when they had to clear up a situation of whether Salah was fouled in the area or not in the 72nd minute. The verdict was a penalty and Salah himself blasted it home (like if there was any doubt), scoring his first ever World Cup goal. But it wasn’t enough as Egypt’s fate was already decided: they’d be taking an early plane home after their last group fixture against the Saudis.
Russia, however, well I’m still in shock. This is one of the worst Russian teams I’ve ever seen, be it in friendlies or major tournaments, and they’re stamping their authority in their home tournament. They’re definitely proving their doubters and critics wrong; justifying that they are plagues to be taken seriously. Maybe we should take them seriously. They’ve already given us something to believe. How far could they take themselves? If Uruguay earn a point against Saudi Arabia tomorrow, Russia will be officially through to the Round of 16. I guess we can never underestimate the power of home advantage, huh? No World Cup host in history failed to advance past the group stages, besides South Africa in 2010. Theoretically speaking, they could find themselves against Spain or Portugal in the next round. But, this is the World Cup and we never know if Iran or Morocco may be hiding any upsets of their own. Let’s not try to defy the magic of the tournament.
In the conclusion of Round 1 matches today, the Group H teams made their first appearance at Russia 2018. Japan got their first ever win against a South American team after beating 10-man Colombia 2-1, with Dortmund’s Shinji Kagawa scoring a penalty and a headed winner from Yuya Osako. Carlos Sanchez was sent off for a ridiculous handball in the 3rd minute; leaving his team a man down for the majority of the game. On the other side of the coin, Senegal won their second opening game in as many World Cups after (somewhat, comfortably) defeating Poland 2-1. A Cionek own-goal and a controversial second from Mbaye Niang ensured that the 2002 African heroes continued their good World Cup form.
Image Credit: FIFA™