The group stage said a lot about any confederation under the FIFA umbrella. Some saw embarrassment as only one team advanced from the area. Others set records for the number of teams reaching the round of 16.
The group stage of the 2022 World Cup was wild. Within minutes, a few teams were safe to advance. Then they were out of the World Cup. As a result, Germany, Uruguay, Denmark, Mexico and Belgium have all been eliminated from the World Cup. Looking back at the experts’ predictions, all but one of Denmark, Germany and Belgium had advanced.
Those three teams all come from UEFA, which is widely regarded as the strongest and deepest confederation for FIFA. To be fair, each of those countries still had a strong European team in their group. Denmark had the defending World Cup champions, Germany drew with Spain on matchday two and Belgium did the same with Croatia in the final group stage match.
For reference, this is the first World Cup since 1994 in which no team has won all three group stage matches. Therefore, parity is rife throughout the table. On the one hand, teams welcome the wild nature of the tournament. On the other hand, some teams lost their certainty of consistency when reaching the knockout stage.
So, what does a ‘confederation table’ look like after all 32 teams have completed their group stage matches at the World Cup? Well, Asia looks strong, appropriately because it’s an Asian World Cup.
Breaking down any confederation after the group stage of the World Cup
|England – Q||2||1||0||7||+7|
|The Netherlands – Q||2||1||0||7||+4|
|France – Q||2||0||1||6||+3|
|Portugal – Q||2||0||1||6||+2|
|Switzerland – Q||2||0||1||6||+1|
|Croatia – Q||1||2||0||5||+3|
|Spain – Q||1||1||1||4||+6|
|Poland – Q||1||1||1||4||0|
OVERALL RECORD: 11/15/13 (56 points, +16)
Half of the teams in the last 16 come from UEFA. That’s not overly surprising. On top of the quality that comes from the continent, UEFA fielded more teams than any other at the World Cup.
That said, as a continent this tournament has quite a disappointment. As said, Denmark, Belgium and Germany all should have qualified from their respective groups. Sure, part of that credit goes to teams like Australia, Morocco and Japan, who took those places.
Germany and Belgium, both eliminated from the competition, drew with their European counterparts in their pool, Spain and Croatia. Asian teams, as would turn out to be the case for a number of opponents, struggled. Spain and Germany both lost to Japan. South Korea defeated Portugal and drew with Uruguay. Iran dramatically defeated Wales. These are games these teams expected to win. However, they proved crucial in the elimination.
|Argentina – Q||2||0||1||6||+3|
|Brazil – Q||2||0||1||6||+3|
OVERALL RECORD: 6-3-3 (21 points, +7)
There was a good chance to enter the last day of the group stage that all CONMEBOL teams could have reached. Brazil had already secured a spot, Argentina and Ecuador just couldn’t lose, and Uruguay needed a win over Ghana and a draw or loss against South Korea. Only Argentina delivered. Both Ecuador and Uruguay recorded heartbreaking results to exit the competition early.
The South American teams did stand up for themselves. Uruguay was the only team to lose to a European opponent, a 2-0 defeat to Portugal. Argentina defeated Poland, Brazil defeated both of its European enemies and Ecuador recorded a strong result by drawing against the Netherlands.
Frankly, Brazil deserved to finish on top. With its fate all but assured as group winners, Brazil massively changed its line-up against Cameroon. That was Brazil’s only defeat in the group stage.
|Morocco – Q||2||1||0||7||+3|
OVERALL RECORD: 7-3-5 (24 points, +2)
This is a great show from Africa. The highlight of this is certainly Morocco, which topped a volatile group with Belgium, Croatia and Canada. Morocco looked strong in both games. In fact, it heavily beat Belgium in its 2-0 win over the third team in 2018.
Senegal also looked like a team for the challenge of a World Cup. Taking into account that Senegal are without Sadio Mane, and their only defeat was against the Netherlands with two late goals, Senegal is a deserved second place team.
Ghana, FIFA’s lowest-ranked team at the World Cup, still did reasonably well. Sure, the two losses don’t help. But two close games against South Korea and Portugal, who both advanced, is reasonable. In the end, the talent on the other side was simply too great to handle.
Also respect for Cameroon, who defeated Brazil and left the tournament with their heads held high, even if they failed to break out of the group.
|United States – Q||1||2||0||5||+1|
OVERALL RECORD: 3-3-6 (12 points, -13)
This is a nasty display from North America. The three wins were not overly surprising. The United States beat Iran, Mexico beat Saudi Arabia, and Costa Rica beat South Korea. The latter is perhaps the biggest surprise. In any case, CONCACAF was the only confederation that managed to find Asian teams in the group stage of the World Cup.
Few could have expected that Costa Rica would come out of the group with Spain, Germany and Costa Rica. Therefore, three points is not all bad. However, the goal difference is. As Alexi Lalas pointed out vehemently, the 7-0 defeat to Spain in the group stage opener is a bad sight for North American football as a whole.
Canada is still waiting for its first point in World Cup play. In just their second World Cup appearance, the Canadians have never done better than a loss in their six games.
The United States is now the confederation’s only hope of success and is up against a Dutch side that has yet to lose at this tournament.
|Japan – Q||2||0||1||6||+1|
|Australia – Q||2||0||1||6||-1|
|South Korea – Q||1||1||1||4||0|
OVERALL RECORD: 5-1-10 (22 points, -11)
Asian Confederation teams had a mixed bag in the group stage. There’s the good thing, three teams from Asia qualifying for the last 16. This is the .
There is also the bad. Qatar is the first host country not to score a point. It is only the second to fail the group stage. The other is South Africa in 2010, and even that team had four points, including a win over France. Qatar is undoubtedly the worst performing host in the competition’s history.
Even Iran and Saudi Arabia, which also did not move, had strong moments. Saudi Arabia stunned Argentina and Lionel Messi. However, it lost the next two games. Iran had a legitimate chance to reach the round of 16. Christian Pulisic’s goal on matchday three broke the hearts of Iranian players.
Still, the performance of Australia, South Korea and Japan is the main talking point for Asian teams. These teams were all in difficult groups. Yet they all found a way out. South Korea recorded a huge victory over Portugal on matchday three to clinch a spot. It also played a draw against Uruguay. Australia stunned Denmark to jump the European side in the group table.
However, the best performer is Japan. Yes, Japan lost to Costa Rica. However, that does not take away from stunning and historic victories over Germany and Spain. Therefore, there are three Asian teams competing in the knockout stage of another World Cup hosted by Asia.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Xinhua
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