By Paul Giblin MOSCOW Russia (Xinhua)
-- The end of the group stage on
Thursday left World Cup statisticians with a few numbers to
ponder on the first day without a match since the tournament
kicked off in Moscow on June 14. Since the whistle blew at the
start of Russia’s 5-0 win over Saudi Arabia, there have been 48
Those 48 games have
produced a total of 122 goals at an average of 2.54 goals per
game, with England’s 6-2 win over Panama and Belgium’s 5-2
victory against Tunisia, the two highest scoring games to date.
striker Harry Kane topping the race for the Golden Boot with
five goals, Belgium are the top scoring side so far in Russia
with nine goals (five against Tunisia, three against Panama and
one against England).
defeats to England, Belgium and Tunisia, means they go home with
the worst defensive record in the World Cup, after conceding 11
goals in three games. The South Koreans were the most
ill-disciplined team in the group stage, committing 63 fouls for
which they were shown 10 yellow cards.
Panama however, had
the worst disciplinary record with their robust display earning
them 11 yellow cards in three games.
At the other end of
the scale Spain, Uruguay and Saudi Arabia were the
‘goodie-goodies’ of the group stage with just one yellow card
each from their three games. The Spanish committed just 29
fouls, which is actually one more than the Japanese who conceded
just 28 but who have picked up four bookings in the process.
Meanwhile the first
48 matches were watched by a total of 2,178,894 people at an
average of 45,394 fans per game.
The best and worst
of the World Cup group stage
By sportswriter Michael Place MOSCOW
Russia (Xinhua) -- A look at the
highlights and lowlights of the World Cup group stage in Russia.
Russia winger Denis
Cheryshev started the first match against Saudi Arabia on the
bench but was introduced in the 24th minute after an
injury to Alan Dzagoev. He made his presence felt almost
immediately and struck two superbly taken goals as the hosts
romped to a 5-0 victory in Moscow. The Villarreal player scored
again in Russia’s 3-1 win over Egypt.
the World Cup champions’ curse by becoming the third successive
holders to bow out in the group stage. Even in their only
victory against Sweden - which came courtesy of a brilliant Toni
Kroos free-kick routine - Joachim Loew’s men looked a shadow of
their former selves. Questions will be asked about the
international future of several players while Loew has also said
he will take time to consider his position.
again showed his ability to deliver when it matters most by
single-handedly keeping Portugal in the game in their opener
against Spain. Ultimately his three goals - including a dipping
late free-kick - were not enough to hand his team victory over
the 2010 champions.
Most consistent player
Brazil have failed
to impress overall but one player to shine for the Selecao is
Philippe Coutinho, the team’s best player in each of their three
matches to date. Deployed in a deeper midfield role, the
26-year-old has by some distance completed more passes than any
other Brazil player (200). He has also scored two goals and
provided a sublime assist for Paulinho in Brazil’s 2-0 win over
Harry Kane is the
World Cup’s top scorer so far with five goals despite being
rested for England’s last group match against Belgium on
Thursday. The Tottenham striker is aiming to become his
country’s first Golden Boot winner since Gary Lineker in 1986.
Senegal can consider
themselves desperately unfortunate not to advance to the round
of 16. The African team defeated Poland in their opening match
and looked the better side for long periods in a 2-2 draw with
Japan. They paid the price for not capitalizing on their early
dominance against Colombia on Thursday, losing 1-0. Despite
finishing level with Japan on points, goals for and goals
conceded, the Lions of Teranga were eliminated for having picked
up more yellow cards.
defence has at times been dire in this tournament, but that
should take nothing away from Luka Modric’s spectacular goal for
Croatia against the Albiceleste in Nizhny Novgorod. The Real
Madrid midfielder dummied onto his left side before daintily
shifting back to the right and curling a 30-yard strike into the
top right corner, all but securing his team a place in the next
Most dubious tactics
The tactics used by
Japan in the closing minutes against Poland were questionable to
say the least. Japanese coach Akira Nishino admitted his team
wasted time to guarantee a berth in the knockout stage.
Ironically, Japan advanced by virtue of FIFA’s fair play rule,
which rewards teams that have received fewer yellow cards.
Spain and Portugal
sent the World Cup off to a thrilling start with their 3-3 draw
on the second day of the tournament in Sochi. Spain came from
behind to take the lead via Nacho’s superb long-range effort
before Ronaldo’s dramatic free-kick squared the ledger two
minutes from time.