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Opinion: World Cup set for frantic, intense finish

Rick Olivares - Philstar.com
Opinion: World Cup set for frantic, intense finish
In this file photo taken on Dec. 1, 2022 Japan's forward #09 Kaoru Mitoma (L) crosses the ball for his team's second goal during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group E football match between Japan and Spain at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.
AFP / Giuseppe Cacace

MANILA, Philippines — For the first time and the last time in FIFA World Cup history in a field of 32 national teams (the next staging will add more teams), no squad that advanced past the group stages was immaculate — meaning claiming all nine points from three group stages matches.

Nation Group Maximum Points
Netherlands A 7 (2-1-0)
England B 7 (2-1-0)
Argentina C 6 (2-0-1)
France D 6 (2-0-1)
Japan E 6 (2-0-1)
Morocco F 7 (2-1-0)
Brazil G 6 (2-0-1)
Portugal H 6 (2-0-1)

In the six previous World Cups with a 32-nation format, some teams got past the group stage with three wins: France and Argentina in 1998, Spain and Brazil in 2002, Germany, Portugal, Brazil, and Spain in 2006, Argentina and Netherlands in 2010, Netherlands, Colombia, Argentina, and Belgium in 2014, and Uruguay, Croatia and Belgium in 2018.

By looking great in the group stage, did any of those teams win it all or at least go to the World Cup Finals?

France won it in 1998. Undefeated. Brazil won it in 2002. Undefeated. Italy won it in 2006. They were not defeated at all. They had one draw in the group stage.

Spain won it in 2010. Incredibly, they lost their first group stage match, 1-nil to Switzerland.

Germany won it in 2014. They had one draw in the group stage, 2-2 with Ghana, but were undefeated.

France won it in 2018. Les Bleus had a scoreless draw with Denmark in the group stages. Another undefeated team.

So who are the undefeated teams going into the knockout stages?

Netherlands, England, United States of America, and Morocco. 

Let’s see how they fare all the way because in the last six World Cup, the only eventual champion to have tasted defeat is Spain. 

This 2022 World Cup in Qatar is shaping up to be one of the best, if not the best. This edition is also the first time that Japan and Morocco have topped their group. 

France, one of the favorites to win it all and to become the first repeat winner since Brazil turned the trick in 1958 and 1962 (Italy also achieved that in 1934 and 1938), could have gone undefeated as they left nine of their starters on the bench in their final group stage match. 

It resulted in a disjointed game by their bench and a loss.

In this author's opinion, this is a wide open World Cup. Seventeen of the group stages games were decided in the final 20 minutes. Twenty matches were decided by one goal. 

The last statement is probably an indication of how competitive the tournament has gotten.

Let’s look at the number of matches decided by one goal in the group stages since 1998: 17 in 1998, 17 in 2002, 15 in 2006, 21 in 2010, 21 in 2014, 24 in 2018, 21 in 2002.

This Qatar World Cup is the fourth consecutive tournament where there were more than 20 group stage matches decided by one goal.

If anything, the knockout stages will certainly be more hotly contested.

The 2022 FIFA Qatar World Cup matches can be viewed on World Cup TV on Skycable as well as the TapGo TV streaming application.

FIFA

WORLD CUP

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