Category Archives: World Cup 2018

Portugal Fails to Advance After Loss to Uruguay

Shae Beaudoin - Orlando City SC/mlsfemale
Official Orlando City Reporter

By Shae Beaudoin // @ShaeEliz

For all of us Portugal fans, our 2018 FIFA World Cup chances are over. After finishing second in the Group stages, Portugal faced Uruguay in the second match of the Round of 16. Unfortunately, once we hit Round of 16, there are no second chances. A win sends you forward and a loss sends you home.

This was definitely a rough game. We Portugal fans had to start worrying just 7 minutes in when Edinson Cavani put Uruguay on the score board. Yeah, I was a little worried at this point, but I also know our team, and I knew that Portugal wasn’t out of the running just because they were trailing by one goal.

This was overall a pretty fair game. The referee didn’t pull out yellow cards like they were trick-or-treats on Halloween. In fact, the card only left his pocket once during the whole match. Considering how the rest of the matches have gone so far in this World Cup, I’m counting that as an improvement.

Other than that first goal, there isn’t too much to share about the first half. These teams both played well and most importantly, the match was extremely even. It could have gone either way at any point in time.

Second half is when Portugal seemed to get their heads in the game.

In the 55th minute, Pepe tied things up and breathed new life into the Portugal fans. We could breathe a little easier. Ten minutes, at least, before Cavani made his second goal. Before he could go for his hat trick, Cavani ended up injured and came off the field.

If you weren’t able to tune in for this game, we really need to highlight this for a second because of the extremely touching moment between Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo and Edinson Cavani. As Cavani limped off the field, Ronaldo came over and lended the striker a shoulder to lean on and helped him off the field.

That is the A+ sportsmanship I love to see. Even though this man is the reason Portugal was about to go home, Ronaldo didn’t let that stop him from being a good person. Whether it was for the spotlight or not you have to commend him. If I was in that situation, with my whole nation’s chances of advancing on my shoulders, I highly doubt I would have even thought about helping the other team out in any capacity.

But back to the match. Closing out second half, the score stood Uruguay 2, Portugal 1. And then the fourth official gifted us with six whole minutes of added stress time. I don’t think I’ve ever wished so hard for an equalizer in my life. (Though, spoiler alert, after the stress of Sunday’s Spain/Russian tiebreaker shootout, I realize that maybe it’s better I didn’t get my wish.)

Of course, you’ve read this far, you know Portugal didn’t get the equalizer and they are in fact, eliminated from the competition. It’s been a rough weekend for me. Three L’s with all the teams I support and the only solace is that Argentina and Lionel Messi were also eliminated on Saturday, thanks to the French.

That wraps up my coverage of the 2018 World Cup now that both my teams have been eliminated. I haven’t decided who I’m rooting for next. France? Brazil? I guess we’ll see. Who do you still have in the competition?

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @ShaeEliz

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

Here’s to our World Cup hosts, Russia

Sylvana Budesheim - NY Red Bulls/mlsfemale
Official NY Red Bulls Reporter, Russia Correspondent

By Sylvana Budesheim // @WhiteZinWench

Okay, quick disclaimer: I don’t get to watch much of the World Cup. This is the first year I’ve had a job that runs through the summer. I fondly remember my first (and only) year teaching at an inner city high school and watching the 2014 tournament with a lot of Portuguese-American students. This year, I’ve had my phone streaming games at my cubicle, and have been able to watch at least one half of a given game on the TV at my job. (Don’t worry– the productivity hasn’t suffered.)

But I will tell you I watched last summer’s Confederations Cup. And I hope you don’t mind when I say… Russia was a total snoozefest. I was not really looking forward to seeing them in Group A. It was the ultimate, ‘you own the pool, so we’ll come to your party’ kind of moment. The world would smile and nod, let the team have their time in the group stage, and then we’d all watch the Germanys and the Portugals and the Argentinas take the real stage.

Well… it would seem the Russian FA said, “hold my vodka” and put together one heck of a product.

Opening Day: Russia 5, Saudi Arabia 0

Sure. This is cool. They trounced the 67th-ranked team (Russia is ranked 70th). But they did so with fourteen shots altogether, and half of them on target. And here’s the kicker (so to speak): Russia only had 38% possession. This is not a team that was desperate to keep the ball. They were content to capitalize on chances and did so convincingly. FIFA president Gianni Infantino looked on alongside Russian president Vladimir Putin and Saudi King Salman. Maybe… just maybe… Russia was going to give the world a show.

Group A Matchday 2: Russia 3, Egypt 1

Whoa. The Pharaohs. Mohammad Salah. Group A favorites (alongside Uruguay, obviously). Ranked 45th in the world by FIFA. Not so fast. Much more even in shots and possession, this was a real exercise for the host nation. Salah was neutralized in the attacking end of the field, held to a penalty kick (73′). And while the Own Goal spectre was the first scorer (and definitely on track to get the Golden Boot this year), Denis Cheryshev (59′) and Artem Dzyuba (62′) sewed up the game.

Group A Matchday 3: Uruguay 3, Russia 0

It wasn’t hard to imagine Uruguay (ranked 14th) topping the group. Despite three of their five group stage goals coming from this game alone, they dominated Group A overall. They didn’t drop a point. Add to that Russia being down a man for the majority of the game (Igor Smolnikov, straight red 36′), and the result is another day at the office. But it was enough for Russia to finish the group stage in second place. On to the Knockout Round.

Round of 16: Spain 1, Russia 1 (3-4 PK shootout)

As I used to say in high school: Ish about to get real here. Spain is ranked TENTH. They have won the freaking World Cup. They have some of the greatest players in the world today. Ain’t no shame in this game if Russia bows out now. This is the furthest they’ve ever gone*.

And of course Spain scores first. Well… kinda.

Like it or not, the ball was inside the net after a set piece. Russia was down, but not out. Then came the other error. The one that would ultimately shift the momentum of the game.

I don’t claim to know everything about soccer, but I do know this: put your daggone arms down. Dzyuba stepped up to the spot and converted the penalty kick to level the game.

We were then treated to the most boring second half of the tournament thus far. I guess both teams were content to wear each other out. But they could have tried to get something going in Added Extra Time. But no Golden Goal meant they could just keep trudging and send the game to the penalty shootout. That’s where anything could happen.

Even this:

And so it is Russia who advances. They will face Croatia in the Quarterfinals. The Germanys, the Portugals, and the Argentinas will watch from home. I don’t know about you, but I’m going to keep enjoying this ride, however long it lasts.

* Russia advanced to the World Cup Quarterfinals in 1970, when they were the Soviet Union.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @WhiteZinWench

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo (trans bg)

Brazil Snap, Crackle, and Pop into the Round of 16

Michelle Huitink - LA Galaxy/mlsfemale
Official LA Galaxy Reporter

By Michelle Huitink // @mchuitink

June 29, 2018: World Cup

Brazil did Brazil things to break out of the group stage even though they didn’t look as threatening as their reputation implied.

The Squad:

Neymar da Silva Santos Jr – forward
Philippe Coutinho – midfielder
Marcelo Viera – defender
Alisson Becker – goalkeeper
José Paulo Bezerra Maciel Jr known as Paulinho – midfielder
Gabriel Jesus – forward
Thiago Silva – defender
Willian Borges la Silva commonly known as Willian – forward
Roberto Firmino – forward
Douglas Costa – midfielder
João Miranda de Souza Filho better known as Miranda – defender
Carlos Henrique Casemiro – midfielder
Filipe Luís – defender
Frederico Chaves Guedes aka Fred – midfielder
Fagner Conserva Lemos – defender

Saturday, June 17th

Brazil faced off against Switzerland in their World Cup Opener. The squad didn’t seem prepared for Switzerland’s defense and ended with a 1-1 draw. Neymar da Silva Santos Jr was fouled 10 times, the most of any player in the last 20 years. Brazil’s only goal was from Philippe Coutinho.

Friday, June 22

Brazil’s next opponent was Costa Rica. They didn’t get too CONCACAFed as they won 2-0. Brazil didn’t look like they were going to draw again despite outshooting the Ticos, but the ball just didn’t want to go into the net. The two late goals were finally scored by Philippe Coutinho and Neymar Jr in extra time.

Wednesday, June 27

Their last opponent in Group E was Serbia. In this scenario, Brazil needed to win and goal differential could’ve put them in second place, but since Switzerland drew with Costa Rica, they came out on top of their group. Serbia put up a good fight with several shots with a final score of 2-0. Both had a chance to advance. Goals were scored by Paulinho and Thiago Silva.

The next match is July 2nd versus Mexico. Kickoff is at 7AM PST. My bet would be on Brazil to win because Mexico didn’t look strong after their major finish defeating Germany in their opening match.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @mchuitink

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x


Moving on: Round of 16 for Denmark

Liz Panucci - Co-Founder/mlsfemale

By Liz Panucci // @PanucciLiz

They’ve done it! Denmark has advanced to the Round of 16 in the World Cup!!

Their best FIFA World Cup result to date was achieved in 1998, where they narrowly lost 3–2 in a quarter-final against Brazil. Denmark also made the second round in 2002. Check out these amazing stats comparing then and now…hmmmmm, makes you wonder.

Advancing to this next round was not clinched until the final day of Group C games on June 26th. France was already set to move on and that’s who the opponent was for Denmark. Australia was hosting Peru at the same time. With a Denmark loss and an Australia win, both teams would be tied at 4 points each. Tournament rules would then go into effect.

As the tweet below states, there was lots of huffing and puffing but not lots of scoring. The match with France ended in a scoreless draw. Kudos to keeper Kasper Schmeichel once again. Peru defeated Australia 0-2 in an exciting match to clinch it for Denmark.

France and Denmark were tops in Group C and both moved on to the knockout phase – Round of 16.

June 29th was a day of rest for the World Cup in Russia. Teams who did not advance packed up their bags, collected their memories and hopped a plane home. It will be another four years before they can try again.

Round of 16

France kicked it off versus the favored Argentina. Many say it was the match of all matches, and almost everyone agrees it was exciting to watch, even for new fans of soccer. The final score was 4-3, for France. Uruguay knocked out Portugal with a score of 2 -1. Sunday, July 1 has Spain and Russia playing the early game.

In the later game, Croatia and Denmark play. Croatia was in a competitive group with Argentina, Iceland and Nigeria who all played well during tournament play. They are coming in strong. Here is a quote from Crotia midfielder Filip Bradaric as we look forward to the match:

Denmark has some similar features to Iceland. Croatia will be well-prepared for this encounter.

Competitors in the football (soccer) world know Denmark to be a solid competitor. It will be an exciting match between these two intense teams as this is a win-or-go-home situation. Here’s what Denmark’s official team reporter for 2018 FIFA World Cup had to say:

See you there!

Croatia v Denmark. Sunday, July 1. #CRODEN

Update: Denmark was defeated in the knockout match against Croatia. It was a very exciting game, going into shootout penalty kicks, with the eventual loss. Kudos to all the Danish players on a successful World Cup!

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on twitter // @PanucciLiz

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo (trans bg)

LAFC’s Carlos Vela plays vital role in final stages of El Tri’s group run

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

Despite dropping their last match to Sweden, Mexico advances to the Round of the 16 with the help of a former opponent.

Mexico won back-to-back matches at the 2018 World Cup following a 2-1 victory over South Korea marking the first time since winning their first two matches at the 2002 World Cup. However, El Tri fell short of making history after falling 3-0 to Sweden for their final group match.

It’s been an emotional tournament for Carlos Vela after his grandfather passed away following their opening match win over Germany, nevertheless, he remained focused on the task at hand. Vela has been a key player in all three matches as he continuously created dangerous plays. As well, becoming LAFC’s first player to score a goal in the World Cup when he converted a penalty breaking a scoreless drought during their scuffle with South Korea on June 23.

Javier “Chicharito” Hernandez added to the score in the 66th minute when he drilled a clipped ball from Lozano into the right corner past South Korea’s keeper becoming the first player to score 50 goals for Mexico. After going scoreless for 180 minutes in the tournament, South Korea’s Son Heung-min found the net during stoppage time with a screamer from 20 yards. Mexico rushed into action to prevent the Tigers from leveling the match for the remaining time securing their 2-1 victory.

The Swedish match was a whole different story. After getting hit by a multitude of controversial calls – and receiving nightmarish penalty call flashbacks – El Tri fought hard looking for their third-straight victory. But despite all efforts, they ultimately fell 3-0. Mexico was given hope after South Korea defeated Germany in a shocking 2-0 victory eliminating the reigning World Cup champions.

El Tri will go on to face Brazil in the Round of 16 on Monday, July 2. Kickoff is set for 9 a.m. CT.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

Nigeria’s win over Iceland 2-0 keeps Argentina alive

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Group D: kickoff June 22nd

Nigeria is back! With a strong build-up of a quick aggressive offense, the Super Eagles stomped all over the World Cup dreams of beloved underdog Iceland.

Minutes before kickoff,  I ran into a young Nigerian-American family friend who would be nervously watching the game on his phone. We parted ways, crossing hopeful fingers that the young team would get their act together.

After a first half lacking solid goal-scoring chances, the Super Eagles came out in force in the second.  When Ahmed Musa, familiar to local Russian fans for his time as a striker for CSKA Moscow, scored in the 49th minute, I was out of my seat jumping up and down. (No offense, Iceland).  And then Musa did it again in the 75th, his brace pushing the lead to 2-0. They were doing it. Nigeria was keeping its hopes alive and I was riding that high from New York.

My 12-year-old son was having none of it. An ardent Cristiano Ronaldo fan, he can’t stand Lionel Messi and was relishing the downward spiral of his soccer icon nemesis (or “neMessis”?) and in turn, Argentina’s seemingly negative prognosis in this World Cup.

(Aside #1- I don’t condone the Messi hate but it started when he was quite young and there were some jerky Messi-obsessed classmates so I understand.) (Aside #2- He’s a Man City fan who likes Aguero so some of this passionate dissent makes no sense.) Now he loudly wailed “Argentina is still in thanks to Nigeria! Why couldn’t they just tie Iceland?”

When the United States failed to qualify for the World Cup, I embraced the chance to watch each game for the beauty of it versus worrying and strategizing about who the US should/would/could play next. When you don’t have a team that you die-hard root for, it can be liberating once you get past the disappointment.

Clearly, many fans including my son have alternative strategies for watching the games depending on their connection to a team or country or passionate disdain for another.   For now, nothing is settled in Group D.


We will have more clarity one way or another on Tuesday, June 26th when Iceland faces Croatia and Nigeria faces Argentina at 2 pm EST. Matches play simultaneously, which stinks for fans who want to watch both games.  I’ll be watching the rematch of the 1994 World Cup duel between Argentina and Nigeria that hooked me into the Super Eagles’ football style. It’ll be a real feat if Nigeria can put a nail in Argentina’s 2018 coffin.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

Los Ticos Troubled World Cup Run

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Group E:  June 17th vs Serbia & June 22nd vs Brazil

Seriously who doesn’t love Costa Rica?  I want to know.

Fun facts about Costa Rica:

  • The Republic of Costa Rica abolished their military in 1949.
  • The nation is listed in various happiness indexes as having one of the most content populations on earth as well as being one of the most environmentally sustainable.
  • They are the source of beautifully delicious coffee enjoyed worldwide.
  • The country has 6 active volcanos.
  • The nickname for a person from Costa Rica is a Tico or Tica. Rooted in the Costa Rican Spanish diminutive “-ico” in contrast to other Spanish speaking countries’ use of “-ito”. The term indicates fondness or affection.

Los Ticos boast 5 players* on their current men’s national team from MLS and one HUGELY famous keeper for Real Madrid:

  • Francisco Calvo, Defender, Minnesota United
  • David Guzman, Midfielder, Portland Timbers
  • Marco Ureña, Forward, LAFC
  • Rodney Wallace, Midfielder, NYCFC
  • Kendall Waston, Defender, Vancouver Whitecaps
  • *Ronald Matarrita Defender, NYCFC was injured in training and replaced by Kenner Gutierrez
  • Keylor Navas, Goalkeeper, Real Madrid

So in other words, the players have soccer hermaniticos across the US, Europe and Latin America.

Costa Rica defeated the United States Men’s National Team in a 2018 World Cup qualifier making them partially responsible for the absence of the US team in this tournament.  Okay, well if you’re going to throw shade at them for any reason, that’s the only acceptable one.

A sea of Ticos flags in New Jersey
A sea of Costa Rican flags pre-gaming the USMNT vs Costa Rica World Cup qualifier in 2017.

However, Los Ticos’ first match of the World Cup versus Serbia ended as a 0-1 loss. Sadly the team failed to gain any solid attacking momentum against Serbia, who are a strong team who fly under the radar.

Yet, the result that hurt my heart much more deeply is the 0-2 loss to Brazil because they held them to a 0-0 draw until injury time.  Keylor Navas still has my vote for MVP of his group, if not the tournament thus-far, for his 90 minutes of denying Brazil’s offense.

Yes, he ended up letting in 2 goals in the end but most of the match felt like Navas against the entire Brazil team.  Costa Rica had about 3 counter-attack chances that fizzled out but most of the game was about defending and having one of the best keepers in the world as your last defense.

What a horrible way to lose and have all your World Cup dreams dashed.  To hold Brazil to nil-nil until 91 minutes and then lose.  I have to say that this one hurt and Neymar’s diving and whining was the salt in the wound.

As of now the group looks like this:

Keira Smith - Costa Rica/mlsfemale

Now Costa Rica will play their last match of the tournament Wednesday, June 27th against Switzerland in a match that can’t save their World Cup dreams but may affect the results in the group.  If Costa Rica gets a win against Switzerland and if Serbia defeats Brazil, Switzerland could be out of the tournament.  Chocolate and coffee do go well together…

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x



Mexico upsets defending World Cup Champions in historic win

Michelle and Araceli - LA teams/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter – Araceli, Official LA Galaxy Reporter – Michelle

Co-written by Araceli Villanueva and Michelle Huitink

June 17, 2018

The stadium in Moscow could’ve been taken for Estadio Azteca. Not just from the number of Mexican fans in attendance, but the sheer volume of the supporters.

Back in Mexico City, seismic activity was registered due to all the celebrations, but that wasn’t the only shakeup.

Mexico made a historic win in a 1-0 victory over Germany in Luzhniki Stadium. Defying all odds, El Tri defeated the defending 2014 World Cup champions winning their fifth opening match at the World Cup. Hirving Lozano – otherwise known as Chucky – broke through the machine’s defense to slide in the winning goal in the 35th minute.

With only 13 shots and 33% possession of the ball, El Tri made every play count.

“Chucky” made the early goal in the 35th minute giving Mexico the lead. This is the first World Cup appearance for the 22-year-old, additionally scoring his eighth career goal since joining the senior team in 2016.

Even though Los Angeles Football Club’s Carlos Vela only saw 60 minutes of action during this remarkable match, he played a crucial role in El Tri’s counterattack, so it was a questionable tactical substitution. Starting in a central attacking role behind Javier Hernández (better known as “Chicharito”), Vela orchestrated multiple dangerous counterattacks from Mexico. Vela came close to adding to Mexico’s score in the 56th minute when he missed a perfect chance off a cross due to some sloppy footwork from Chicharito in a 2v1 advantage. With this style of play and Osorio’s praises, I predict we will see Vela starting for the other two remaining group matches.

El Tri created several chances to add to their score throughout the second half, but despite all efforts and coming on strong, they couldn’t do so.

Rafael Márquez even made his fifth World Cup appearance when he was subbed in the 74th minute for Andrés Guardado.

Mexican goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa recorded seven saves, the most he has ever made in a World Cup game.

The LA Galaxy’s Giovani and Jonathan Dos Santos brothers remained on the bench.

Mexico’s next match is against South Korea Saturday, June 23 8AM PST.

One Football App Game Summary

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with Araceli on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Follow and chat with Michelle on Twitter // @mchuitink

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

World Cup Update: LAFC players shine in the first round of Group Stage

Araceli Villanueva - LAFC/mlsfemale
Official LAFC Reporter

By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1

The first round of the group stage for the 2018 World Cup has come to a close. Three LAFC players are currently participating in the 2018 World Cup in Russia: Carlos Vella, Marco Ureña, and Omar Gaber. While, Laurent Ciman is set to return to LA after returning to Belgium from Russia.

Mexico upsets Germany in historic match

Mexico makes a historic win in a 1-0 victory over Germany in Luzhniki Stadium. Defying all odds, El Tri defeated the defending 2014 World Cup champions winning their fifth opening match at the World Cup. Hiring Lozano – otherwise known as Chucky – broke through the machine’s defense to slide in the winning goal in the 35th minute.

Even though Carlos Vela only saw 60 minutes of action during this remarkable match – he played a crucial role in El Tri’s counterattack. Starting in a central attacking role behind Chicharito, Vela orchestrated multiple dangerous counterattacks from Mexico. Vela came close to adding to Mexico’s score in the 56th minute when he missed a perfect chance off a cross due to some sloppy footwork from Chicharito in a 2v1 advantage. With this style of play and Osorio’s praises, I predict we will see Vela starting for the other two remaining group matches.

El Tri will face South Korea on Saturday, June 23.

Costa Rica falls to Serbia 1-0

Marco Ureña received his first World Cup start and became the first player in LAFC history to participate in a World Cup. Unfortunately, Costa Rica dropped its opener 1-0.

The Ticos was close to creating the best opening before break when Ureña sent a left footed shot from outside the box, however, it flew over the bar in the 39th minute. Moments later, Francisco Calvo‘s attempt misses to the left of the goal going into halftime scoreless. Ureña played 67 minutes before being substituted off for Joel Campbell.

Aleksandar Kolorav finally broke the deadlock when he sent a free-kick into the top corner in the 56th minute giving Serbia the lead. The Ticos quickly searched for an equalizer but despite all efforts couldn’t do so resulting in their first loss of the tournament.

Costa Rica will continue to fight for points as they go up against Brazil in their next match. Nevertheless, Brazil tied with Switzerland on Sunday, so I don’t think it will be too much of a problem.

Egypt falls without Gaber

Egypt fell to the Uruguay 1-0 for their opening match and first appearance since 1990.

The match remained a stalemate until the 89th minute when José Giménez headed in the last minute goal off a free-kick from Carlos Sanchez securing Uruguay’s three points.

Omar Gaber shared the bench with famed player Mohamed “Mo” Salah as a substitute for the opener.

Ciman on standby

Laurent Ciman was put on standby ahead of Sunday’s match against Panama – in case of an injury. Ultimately, the LAFC captain left Russia and returned to Belgium.

It is unclear if Ciman will be able to help the black and gold advance to the next round of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup when they host Sacramento Republic FC on Wednesday, June 20. But if he is not back nor available for that match, he’ll likely return to LA just in time for next Saturday’s game against Columbus Crew SC.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @Aracelv1

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x

Super Eagles fail to take flight: Nigeria fall to Croatia 0-2

Keira Smith - NYCFC/mlsfemale
Official NYCFC Reporter

By Keira Smith // @keiramunsmith

Group D: June 16th Kickoff

I was excited to cover the Nigerian team for this World Cup, in many ways for sentimental reasons.  In 1994, my first live World Cup match was Nigeria vs Argentina in Foxborough stadium.  A young soccer player myself, I was in awe of the contrast of styles of the two teams and was won over by the strong, fast, physical style of the Super Eagles. Everyone was swooning over Diego Maradona but I was entranced by Rashidi Yekini and Jay-Jay Okocha.  Argentina ended up taking that match 2-1 but Nigeria took the group in overall points.

Keira Smith - Nigeria World Cup/mlsfemale
Drawing by @Lawyartist on Twitter. Used with permission.

This squad is a relatively young one led by Chelsea FC forward Victor Moses and the ageless Captain John Obi Mikel, formerly of Chelsea and who currently plays for Tianjin TEDA in China.  Looking at the players’ “day jobs” it shows a combination of experience in highly regarded European Leagues and lesser known and still-developing leagues in Asia.

The average age of the Nigerian player is 25, as compared to Croatia, who has a mean age of 27.  Nigeria’s range of caps is from 2 to 85 and their starting goalkeeper Francis Uzoho is 19 years old.  Coming into this Cup, Nigeria has the challenge of how to create team chemistry with the extreme differences in experiences and styles of play.

In this first match against Croatia, the lack of cohesion was evident rather quickly.  Croatia applied pressure, gained possession and built momentum while Nigeria seemed to lack a game plan, rarely moving the ball in a strategic and meaningful way.  There was a lot of pinball possession leaving the Eagles to scramble back to attempt to diffuse the Croatian attack.

Their speed and strength allowed them to largely keep up with Croatia, holding to 2 goals, with an unlucky own goal which ricocheted off the foot of Oghenekaro Etebo and the obvious holding in the box of Croatia’s Mario Mandzukic by Nigeria’s William Ekong which led to Modric converting on the PK.   High notes were a few brilliant attacks by Moses and some fantastic saves by Uzoho.

Croatia is a strong team lead by Captain and Real Madrid midfielder Luka Modric. “The Vatreni” (The Fiery Ones), come with a range of 1-106 caps and the majority of the players plying their trade in the premier European leagues.  They arrive at this World Cup with the cohesion of style, work ethic, and experience, which paid off in their opener.  I expect that Croatia will get even better and have the potential to go deep into this tournament, especially with the unexpected 1-1 draw in the other group match featuring Argentina and Iceland.

The Super Eagles will face Iceland on Friday at 11 am EST.  Iceland was very successful in its previous match defending against a powerhouse such as Argentina.  Nigeria will need to bring mental toughness, physicality, speed and an offensive game plan if they want to stay relevant in this tournament.

Featured image: mlsfemale

Follow and chat with me on Twitter // @keiramunsmith

Check us out on Instagram @mlsfemale

MLSFemale logo trans 100x