Group Stage Recap: Winners, Losers, Golden Boot Leaders

A recap of the Group Stage at Russia 2018


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Mexico also did well to advance from a difficult group.

Part of our 2018 FIFA World Cup Hub

Now that the Group Stage is over, it’s time once again to look back at the top 3 losers, top 3 winners, and top 3 leaders for the Golden Boot award.

Top Losers

3rd Place: Senegal

After beating Poland, Senegal were in prime position to progress from Group H. They might have underestimated Japan, but has strong chances to progress. They became the first nation to be eliminated from the World Cup on yellow cards. It will be interesting to see how teams in the future react, if at all, to the newest addition to the Group Stage tiebreaking criteria.

2nd Place: Poland (again)

Poland came in as group seeds, after manipulating their FIFA ranking to avoid having to face a top-7 team. It was not enough to prevent them from being eliminated after just two games, with losses against Senegal and Colombia, conceding multiple goals to both. By securing their early ticket home, they will be one of this tournament’s biggest disappointments. They simply did not have the skill to beat Colombia on a good day, and lost to Senegal because they could not take good enough advantage of their quality players.

In their game against Japan, they completely turned off after taking the lead, happy to escape with a 1-0 victory over a Japan side that most people before the tournament would have expected to lose to Poland by multiple goals.

1st Place: Germany

Title holders Germany become the 3rd consecutive world champions to crash out in the following Group Stage. They never really showed up to play, and even though a 1-0 victory over Korea would have prevented their early exit, certain players (like Ozil) were working hard to squander every opportunity possible. It was easily Germany’s worst performance since Euro 2000.

Top Winners

3rd Place: Switzerland

Switzerland’s place in the last 16 was far from certain, with Serbia looking like the strongest contender. They have a strong chance to match their previous best performance (for the first time in 64 years) by beating Sweden and reaching the quarterfinals.

2nd Place: Sweden

Sweden was not expected to advance, let alone as group winners. Despite losing to Germany, Germany’s collapse allowed them to claim top spot and avoid Brazil. They will be happy to play for a quarterfinal spot against Switzerland. They have not reached the quarterfinals since USA 1994, when they also took advantage of absences from a lot of traditionally strong teams.

1st Place: Japan

Japan are the biggest surprises in the Round of 16. On paper, they looked to be the weakest team in an already weak group. They took good advantage of that group and become the first nation to advance on having fewer yellow cards. They will walk into their next game against England with low expectations to meet, and a chance to create a shock upset by reaching the quarterfinals for the first time in their history.

Golden Boot

After 3 of 7 games, the top three contenders remain unchanged.

Gold: Harry Kane

5 goals (2 against Tunisia, 3 against Panama), 0 assists.

Silver: Romelu Lukaku

4 goals (2 against Panama, 2 against Tunisia), 0 assists, played fewer minutes than Ronaldo.

Silver: Cristiano Ronaldo

4 goals (3 against Spain, 1 against Morocco), 0 assists, played more minutes than Lukaku.

Biggest Upset

This Round: South Korea 2-0 Germany

Group Stage: South Korea 2-0 Germany

This match is now the 4th biggest upset in World Cup history, and 7th biggest upset in international football history.

Team Grades

A+: Brazil

A: Δ Belgium, Δ France, Spain

A-: Argentina, Colombia, Δ Croatia, England, Portugal, Δ Switzerland, Δ Uruguay

B+: Denmark, Mexico, Δ Sweden

B: Δ Japan

B-: Russia

C+: (e.g. Egypt, Panama, Saudi Arabia)

C: (e.g. Armenia, Guinea, Zambia)

C-: (e.g. Botswana, Latvia, Luxembourg)

D+: (e.g. Angola, Fiji, Sudan)

D: (e.g. Afghanistan, Barbados, Liechtenstein)

D-: (e.g. Malaysia, Singapore, South Sudan)

F: (e.g. Maldives, Pakistan, Seychelles)


Mika Ryu

Law student at Western University, and UofT graduate in economics and linguistics. Remember that your version of the world is always too simple.

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