Copy of 2022-12-02T182324Z_636882847_UP1EIC21F2XF0_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-WORLDCUP-CMR-BRA-REPORT-1670063738638
Brazil fans inside the Lusail Stadium, Lusail, Qatar, before the FIFA World Cup match against Cameroon. The tournament in Qatar has had many shock results and dramatic matches and is proving to be one of the best World Cups ever. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: The group stage of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 has been a helter-skelter affair that had more shock results than ever before. After catching our breath following all the mayhem we now have a clearer picture of how this tournament is unfolding.

It’s safe to say it has been one of the most exciting World Cups of all time. We have seen surprises and stellar performances across the groups and there will be more shocks to come what with the knockout stages next - including the sheer drama of penalties if need be.

But what have we learnt from the opening section of the tournament? That’s easy - no side is safe from a shock result. Sure, the vast majority of the favourites escaped their groups, but it has not been a smooth ride for any of them. In fact no team has won all three matches. Oh, and spare a thought for Belgium, Germany and Uruguay. Many had tipped these three to at least reach the semi-finals. But, they didn’t even get out of their groups.

Big shocks

The very first upset came on the third day of the tournament when 51st ranked Saudi Arabia beat Argentina. Then a day later Japan beat Germany! And then they repeated the trick by seeing off Spain!

Aside from upsets we have also seen the end of the Belgium team and their golden generation. Many thought Kevin de Bruyne, Eden Hazard and Romelu Lukaku would fire the team to the glory but it was clear Roberto Martinez’s side were fading, fast.

Ranked 2nd in the world, the Red Devils limped out of the tournament with a whimper. They were arguably the most disappointing team in the tournament. They looked leggy and lacked creativity in all three of their matches.

But, many of the other big teams have performed and are looking good to mount a serious challenge. For instance, Argentina brushed themselves off after they were humbled and star man Lionel Messi has lit up the tournament since with some exceptional displays.

Portugal are also safely into the knockout stages and you can just sense Cristiano Ronaldo will do something special in his final World Cup.

France have looked like the best team of all and Kylian Mbappe looks to be enjoying every minute. He is playing with a smile while Spain’s youngsters have also impressed. 17-year-old Gavi became the youngest World Cup goalscorer since Brazil legend Pele in their opening 7-0 win over Costa Rica, while Cody Gakpo of the Netherlands has become the first man from a European country to score in all three group games since 2002.

More to come

England’s Jude Bellingham has emerged as a huge star thanks to his all-round displays and there is a feeling there is more to come from him. Coach Gareth Southgate has a wealth of talent in his squad but he must play Phil Foden to give the Three Lions a chance. He is their best player and can win matches with flashes of brilliance.

Brazil are still the favourites even though they lost star man Neymar to injury after their opener against Serbia. He is racing to return to fitness and should be back for the last 16 clash against South Korea on Monday. But Brazil have more than enough quality replacements if the PSG attacker isn’t fit. They have Richarlison, Vinicius Jr, Raphinha, Martinelli and Antony. Their squad depth is enviable and if they don’t get to the final, it would be a huge shock. But in this tournament that just keeps giving, maybe it wouldn’t be...