With the first round of matches played in each group, some teams are sitting in a much better position than they imagined, and some a much worse. So much can change over the course of one round, but we take a look at which nations are high and mighty and which teams need to turn in around quick.
Big Winners: Russia
In a tournament like the World Cup where there are only three games played in a group stage, goal differential means everything. An emphatic 5-0 win for the hosts over Saudi Arabia in their opening match not only gives them three very crucial points, but also gives them a very favorable cushion in the goal differential tie-breaker should they be tied with another nation as the group progresses.
Big Losers: Egypt
They got the big guns out-of-the-way in Uruguay, but they were so close to earning at least a point against the toughest team in the group. If they didn’t give up that last-minute goal, they would be my big winners, but in an instant they found themselves in a must-win scenario in their next game against Russia.
Big Winners: Iran
In a group with Portugal and Spain, you better win that third match if you have any prayer of advancing to the knockout stage. Iran’s quest to the round of sixteen is far from over, but they handled all they could control in their opening match.
Big Losers: Morocco
For the same reasons that made Iran’s win so important, is why the Moroccan loss is so big. Their hopes of advancing to the knockout stages are done and dusted barring one of the greatest comebacks in sports history.
Big Winners: Denmark
It was thought by many that France had this group locked up, and it would be a question of who joined them out of Denmark and Peru. Well the Danes got their big win over Peru, and have a great chance of clinching a spot in the knockout stages before ever playing France as their next game is against the Australians.
Big Losers: Peru
Peru needs to hope for the very least a draw with their favored opponents France and then a prayer that Denmark slips up against Australia. Any time your chances of advancing are out of your own hands after the first match you are in a dangerous situation.
Big Winners: Croatia
It was a tough call between Croatia and Iceland for the big winners, but I went with the team that currently leads the group. Much like Denmark in Group C, they beat their biggest competitors to the second spot in the knockout stages. All of this is assuming Argentina turn their tournament around, which is by no means a guarantee.
Big Losers: Argentina
In the Group of Death you have to beat your weakest opponent, and Argentina did not do that. Iceland has turned out to be a very formidable team over the past few years, but the talent and skill level only rises in Argentina’s next two games against Croatia and Nigeria. The South American giants did not expect to be in a must win game during their second match.
Big Winners: Switzerland
Among all the European teams that have qualified to this World Cup, Switzerland stands out as a team that is too often over-looked. This squad has every opportunity to make some noise this tournament and a point with Brazil was a fantastic way to kick their campaign off. In a relatively tough group it was great for them to pick up a result against Brazil.
Big Losers: Costa Rica
Without a point against Serbia, Costa Rica now has to play Brazil and Switzerland, two top 10 ranked teams in the world. Costa Rica provided the magic in the 2014 World Cup, and they’ll have to triple that magic to make in through to the knockout stage.
Big Winners: Mexico
After a huge win over defending champions Germany, and a very mediocre showing from both teams in the Sweden vs South Korea matchup, you’d have to pretty much punch Mexico’s ticket into the knockout stage already. All they need is to avoid a catastrophic collapse.
Big Losers: South Korea
The Koreans looked lost in front of net against Sweden, and the defensive pressure will only rise against the likes of Mexico and Germany. I believe they join Morocco as the only two teams I give no chance of advancing after the first wave of games.
Big Winners: England
So many heroic late goals in the opening round of matches, and Harry Kane’s for England was as big as any of them. England snatched three important points and could easily add three more in their next game against a weak Panama side, another example of a team booking their place in the knockout stage without having to deal with the top dogs, in this case Belgium.
Big Losers: Tunisia
Tunisia became the latest nation to feel heartbreak on Monday when the conceded a last-minute winner to England. Next they face a heavily favored Belgian side that dominated in their first game. Tunisia needs at the very least a tie and hope for some sort of slip up from England against Panama.
Big Winners: Japan
In a group with no standout super power, any two of the four teams could advance. While Japan was considered to be the weakest side by many, three points against Colombia will go a long way for qualification to the knockout stages. In a group as close as this, Japan may only require a draw or two to advance if teams beat up on each other.
Big Losers: Colombia
A very unnecessary red card taken by Carlos Sanchez, saving a ball with his hand that likely was going over the net, left Colombia with a 10-men loss to their weakest opponents in group H. Their next match with Poland looks like a must win.