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The Financial Express

The World Cup of underdogs

| Updated: November 29, 2022 15:22:41


The World Cup of underdogs

The 2022 Qatar World Cup was marred with several questions before even a ball was kicked. But since it was, everything has changed as the first World Cup in the middle east has produced some excellent action for the fans of the game to date.

But the biggest shock that this World Cup has produced is the performance of the so-called 'underdogs,' the less favoured ones, who have taken the tournament by storm and given the big teams a headache now and there.

It was expected considering the tactical evolution of the game in the last decade, which has seen teams use technology to exploit every bit of weakness in a team, something unforeseen in the history of the game.

The first upset of the tournament was when Saudi Arabia stunned supposed favourites Argentina in their opening game 2-1. The tactical aspect was seen immediately as the Saudis knew about Argentina's lack of pace in attack and used that in their favour by playing a high line.
They also bottlenecked Lionel Messi by stopping him in the middle of the pitch by narrowing the passing lanes, meaning Messi had to drop deep, and then the Saudis pressed him to recover the ball.
Saudi only had two shots on target, which was enough as they expertly used Argentina's weakness to thwart them in front of the goal.

The next upset came when Japan downed Germany. It's not expected of Germany to lose out on speed, but their three-man defence was run ragged as Japan used their agility to find two late goals and three points courtesy of a 2-1 win.

Once again, the Japanese used the little half-spaces left by the Germans in the outside channel, something that has happened due to the technological revolution in the game.

Canada were unlucky to miss out on getting points against Belgium as they ran the Belgian golden generation ragged, but a penalty miss from star man Alphonso Davies and some poor finishing saw them defeated.

But that aged golden greats of Belgium received their due against Morocco as the African side used their intensity and grit to down them 2-0, a result which was the product of a brilliant performance from the Moroccans that made the Belgium side look nowhere close to the big names they have stacked together.

Ecuador, after their easy 2-0 win over hosts Qatar in the World Cup, rattled the Dutch in their second game and found a point, and some can argue that they deserved all three. The South Americans' energy was too much for Netherlands, meaning they were probably relieved that they came out of the clash without defeat.

And then, in the England vs USA clash, dubbed as the battle between football and soccer, the USA completely harried tournament favourites England, who could not beat the Americans' intricate tactical setup.
The English midfield of Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, and Mason Mount could not find solutions to the continuous haggling of Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah, who ensured that the USA always had the ball in the attacking third.

So far in the World Cup, despite all the stars and spangles, the limelight has gone to the underdogs. And for the tournament to continue as an enigmatic masterpiece, it must continue this way.

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