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Favourites Argentina, Brazil, Germany, Spain fail to win their WC openers

June 19, 2018 00:00:00

Germany's Mesut Ozil, Brazil's Neymar, Argentina's Messi and Spain's David de Gea pictured on a frustrating night for their countries as they performed below expectations — Internet

FE Sport Desk

The bookmakers thought Brazil would walk this World Cup but they drew with Switzerland. Germany, the second favourites, lost to Mexico while Argentina were held by Iceland.

This is the first time those three nations failed to win their opening game of the same World Cup, summing up the unpredictability in Russia so far. Spain have had a rough week too following the sacking of their manager. Conceding a free-kick to Portugal superstar Cristiano Ronaldo in stoppage time hurt.

The record five-time champions Brazil were the latest contender to perform under expectations, being held 1-1 by Switzerland, just a few hours after the defending and four-time champions from Germany crashed to a 1-0 loss against Mexico.

Earlier, Spain had to swallow a late 3-3 equaliser against Portugal. Argentine ace Lionel Messi missed a penalty in a modest 1-1 draw with newcomers Iceland. France needed some help from the video referee and goalline technology to edge Australia 2-1.

"Nobody is scaring anyone in Russia. The opposite, the favourites have all started and don't look like eating anyone up," Spanish sports paper Marca said.

"This World Cup has begun with the 'middle class' of teams aiming very high and dreaming of being able to cause a surprise on July 15" - referring to the World Cup final at Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow.

The big guns in general and Germany in particular will probably not want to take a closer look at World Cup history in this respect.

Only three teams have managed to lift the trophy after failing to win their opening match in the past 20 editions of the tournament: England in 1966, Italy in 1982 and Spain in 2010.

Brazil, Germany and Argentina, who share 11 world titles, collectively failed to win their opening games for the first time in tournament history.

Germany's defeat means it is the sixth time a title-holder has begun their next World Cup by losing. It follows Italy in 1950, Argentina in 1982 and 1990, France in 2002 and Spain, who in 2014 were beaten 5-1 by the Netherlands. In none of those cases could the reigning world champions recover to defend their title.

In addition, three of the past four world champions have gone out in the group stage the next time around: France in 2002, Italy in 2010 and Spain in 2014. All opponents of the big teams played in a 4-2-3-1 formation, with Iceland arguably showing the most defensive version of it with only the odd foray up front and a mere 28 per cent possession.

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