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10 moments that defined the 2018 WC Group Stage

Ten key moments of the 2018 FIFA World Cup Group Stage

June 28, 2018 By Oscar Rojas
Messi's struggles, Iceland's debut, Germany's elimination and many more facts stood out in the first 48 games of the competition.

The first 48 games of the FIFA World Cup have come to an end, and it's time to look back to those moments that made fans get up from their seats, burst out with laughter and even made them shed a few tears. 

This competition has provided diehard and casual football fans something to talk about, and this article is intended to keep those memories fresh in your mind.

We will exclude those controversial moments that came after the use of the Video Assistant Referee (VAR), since we have a separate list for all of those game-changing moments.

Without further ado, here are the ten defining moments that took place in the Group Stage of the 2018 FIFA World Cup.

10. Panama's goalscoring debut

Los Canaleros are, by far, one of the teams that have developed the most in recent years, and they confirmed that with their debut in this competition. They may have been destroyed by England and Belgium, but they surely made their presence felt with their first goal, courtesy of veteran Felipe Baloy.

9. Bad luck for Peru, Iran and Morocco

These three teams dazzled the world with their excellent display on the pitch, even when they faced football titans such as France, Spain and Portugal. The South American side was praised by their opponents even after they beat them, while Morocco and Iran came close to shocking the world by eliminating La Roja and Porrtugal.

Iran and Morocco forced Spain and Portugal to show their best game, while Paolo Guerrero's (right) struggle to join Perú in the World Cup paid off with his first goal in this competition at 34 years of age.

8. Russia's rise as hosts

Most experts agreed that Russia shouldn't be consider as one of the strongest hosts in World Cup history, but the red-and-white side rose to the challenge and made it to the KO stage on a high note. Facing Spain will not be easy for them, but at least they didn't embarrass themselves in front of their supporters.

7. Uruguay's ironclad defense

La Celeste is considered as one of the most balanced teams in the world, with Luis Suárez and Edinson Cavani leading them up front. But this time, their defensive unit stood out among the rest, as they are yet to concede their first goal of the competition.

Godín (right) has made a name for himself with Atlético Madrid, and he's lived up to his reputation as one of the best center backs in the world.

6. Switzerland's come-from-behind win

The European side were deemed as one of the most threatening sides in Group E, and ended up honoring those predictions by claiming a spot in the Round of 16 stage after Brazil. Their come-from-behind win over Serbia proved key to their World Cup campaign, and curiously, it became the only win of that sort in the Group Stage.

Xherdan Shaqiri will try to lead Switzerland past Sweden in their Round of 16 clash taking place next week.

5. Last-gasp goals

Mainly because stoppage time was increased during most games, there were many game-changing moments during the last minutes of almost every game. Spain, Saudi Arabia, Germany, South Korea and Brazil made the most out of those goals, and caused fans to keep waiting until the final whistle was blown.

4. Croatia, Belgium and Uruguay's perfect record

Only three teams made it to the Round of 16 by winning all their games. Uruguay bossed Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Russia in Group A, Croatia defeated Nigeria, Argentina and Iceland en route to win Group D, and Belgium topped England, Tunisia and Panama in Group G. The Red Devils' feat is quite something, since they did the same four years ago.

Will Croatia finally return to the tournament's semi-finals after 20 years following their impressive display in the first round?

3. Spain vs Portugal

Arguably the best game of the first round. These teams kicked off the competition with a top-caliber game, which had its share of controversy, great individual performances and a last-minute goal by Cristiano Ronaldo, which gave the Portuguese side a well-deserved 3-3 draw.

2. Argentina's last-minute redemption

La Albiceleste looked at the elimination ghosts right in the face, but eventually had a little help from their best footballer when they needed him the most. Lionel Messi and Marcos Rojo scored two crucial goals to help the South Americans reach the next stage, and now their chances to win a third WC title have been given a massive boost.

Rojo's goal for Argentina caused heartbreak for Nigerian fans, who saw their side succumb for a fifth time against the South American giants in World Cup games.

1. Germany's early World Cup exit

Die Mannschaft arrived into Russia with high hopes, and now they have to go back home empty-handed. Their performance in Group F was appalling, especially after losing two games for the first time in history. Mexico and South Korea took advantage of their flaws, and Joachim Löw's side will shockingly step down as World Cup champions on July 15.

The World Champions never fully recovered after losing the first game against Mexico. 



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