For a lot of Russian fans, the performance of their team in the yet-to-be-concluded World Cup was satisfactory. The Stanislav Cherchesov’s side, ranked 65 by FIFA, the lowest in the World Cup, was able to prove some bookmakers wrong by reaching the quarterfinals of the tournament, losing 3-4 on penalty to Croatia after playing 3-3 in regulation time.
To show their appreciation and love for the team, thousands of Russian fans were on the streets a day after the loss to honour their heroes.Unlike previous editions of the World Cup, all teams were determined by their October 2017 FIFA World Ranking.
While some teams were able to live up to their rankings, many failed. The defending champions, Germany, ranked number one; five times champions, Brazil, ranked two; Portugal ranked three; 1986 champion, Argentina ranked four and 2010 winner, Spain ranked eight, all fell out at the early stages of the competition.
Two teams that were ranked within the single digit, Belgium (five) and France (seven) lived up to the expectations of their fans by making it to the semifinal with France now in the final. The Three Lions of England were ranked 12, while Croatia ranked 18 won in their semifinal clash on Wednesday in Moscow.
In December 2010, when Russia was handed the right to host the 2018 World Cup, there was criticism, causing many to doubt Russia’s ability to host the event. There were concerns also about the team’s ability to withstand the heat on the field of play.
The host did not only win their opening match, but also with a 5-0 margin against Saudi Arabia, a team ranked 63 above Russia. The team went on to beat former champion, Spain, ranked eight, after penalty to advance to the quarterfinal.
That Russia was able to qualify from Group A was a surprise to some fans. Egypt ranked 30 and with last season’s English Premier League Golden Boot winner, Mohamed Salah, in their fold, was tipped to edge Russia for the second spot, with Uruguay clearly seen as the favourite to clinch the top position in the group.Against the Pharaohs, Russia was able to keep Salah quiet and scored three goals to fly high and build expectations slowly.
By the time Russia lost to Uruguay in their last group match, the host nation had already qualified for the round of 16. Despite losing to Croatia in their quarterfinal match, Russian fans were already satisfied with the team’s fighting spirit and determination throughout the World Cup.Sadly, no African team was able to make it from the group stage in Russia. Tunisia (28), Egypt (30), Senegal (32), Nigeria (41) and Morocco (48) all fell one after the other soon after the commencement of the tournament.