Russia has been a sensation host nation as the Group stages come to an end in the biggest sporting spectacle on earth.
The final Group stage fixtures are all played at the same time to add to the excitement of which 2 teams out of 4 advance to the next stage and the drama has been as exciting as always all across the Russian host cities.
In Group C – Our Australian boys did our country proud but fell short at the final hurdle – going down 2-0 to Peru in a match we simply had to win to stand any chance of progressing. The jury is out on our Dutch coach who has come under serious criticism for not utilizing our attacking options and being too conservative at times we simply had to go out and win matches.
However in a country where football is not as strong as other continents, Australia punched well above their weight with a strong performance in a 2-1 defeat by France and an extremely good result – drawing 1-1 with the highly fancied Danes.
Four years is a long time to wait, but Graham Arnold (new coach) was in the stands as he takes over the reins of the national team and looks to build for the Asian Cup in two years and the next World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
Group A saw holders Russia storm to the round of 16 with 2 big early wins, however Uruguay haltered there run with a 3-0 win to top the group. Russia now take on the might of Spain who topped their group with a late goal to Top group B which will see Uruguay face Ronaldo’s Portugal in the round of 16.
Group C and D also concluded with France and Denmark progressing. The surprise of Group D was Argentina needing a last grasp goal to see Nigeria miss out on a historic World Cup place.
Argentine started the group games with a draw and a loss to the highly rated Croatia, which left them needing a win and the South American giants delivered meaning they set up a mouth-watering round of 16 fixture with France. Croatia will meet Denmark to round out the first 4 groups of the Cup.
The festival of football continues tonight as we get close to the business side of the cup, with 16 teams going home after the group stages and 16 progressing. Eyes are now all moving to the knockout stages beginning this weekend.
Wesley Tronson is an award winning sport writer who spent 7 years in England in soccer and banking. He is now a senior regional manager in banking in Queensland