Oh, what could have been. After Kroos scored a beautiful free kick to lift Germany over Sweden in their second game, things were looking up. Of course, they quickly fell.
But for one fleeting moment, Germany was on top of the soccer world once again.
Toni Kroos' goal for Germany is the best of this <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WorldCup?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WorldCup</a> thus far! DONE! <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/DieMannschaft?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#DieMannschaft</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GERSWE?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GERSWE</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/GER?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#GER</a> <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SWE?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SWE</a> <a href="https://t.co/HNs9E3K4As">pic.twitter.com/HNs9E3K4As</a>
The (arguably) best match of the World Cup so far happened on Day 2. Powerhouses Portugal and Spain squared off in a back-and-forth thriller.
In the second half, Spain pulled ahead 3-2 and controlled play. But as Spanish coach Fernando Hierro said after the game: "It's very fortunate for whatever team has Cristiano Ronaldo."
And in the 88th minute, Ronaldo dazzled with a free kick goal to secure a hat trick for himself and a tie for Portugal.
🗣 “It’s a joke with Quaresma. I started shaving and I left this part so we made a bet that if I scored against Spain, I’ll keep it for the whole tournament. He was lucky I scored and he won the bet. I also scored today so let’s see.”<br><br>- Cristiano Ronaldo on his goatee. 🇵🇹 <a href="https://t.co/tf8gIIfUjU">pic.twitter.com/tf8gIIfUjU</a>
The Video Assistant Referee has taken centre stage at the World Cup, as every possible call has been subjected to video review.
The good news is that, unlike the NFL (and NBA…and NHL… and MLB), the reviews have been fast and the game hasn't been slowed down.
The bad news is that VAR isn't always correct, like when Ronaldo got away with just a yellow after elbowing an Iranian player in the face, or when Argentina's Marcos Rojo headed the ball off his own arm.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/beINExpress?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#beINExpress</a> Can somebody explain the difference between Cedric's hand ball which lead to Iran's last minute penalty & Marcos Rojo's handball? What is the use of the VAR? <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/NGAARG?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#NGAARG</a> <a href="https://t.co/2r3BEIx2xX">pic.twitter.com/2r3BEIx2xX</a>
After the Golden State Warriors swept the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals, we thought the Greatest Of All Time (GOAT) debate was over.
Finally, we could stop hearing about Jordan vs. LeBron. And we did. But then the World Cup introduced an even hotter debate: Messi vs. Ronaldo.
Of course, no one can agree. Ronaldo stated his case early with a hat trick and brought his total goals to four through the games. Messi trails with just one, but it was a crucial one in Argentina's final match to secure a spot in the knockout stage.
The pendulum will surely continue to swing.
🐐 Career goals + assists… <br><br>- Messi: 867 <br><br>- Ronaldo: 866 <br><br>Oh and Messi has played 149 games less <br><br>GOAT. <a href="https://t.co/UKawSOnK6C">pic.twitter.com/UKawSOnK6C</a>
During Argentina's crucial 2-1 win against Nigeria, Maradona — one of the best soccer players ever — wasn't slow to show his emotions.
At varying points, he was dancing with fans, taking his shirt off and flipping double birds at no one in particular.
Diego Maradona makes gestures during Argentina's win over Nigeria in the group stage of the World Cup. The Argentinian legend's antics has become a story on its own in Russia. (Getty Images/CBC Sports)
After the game, rumours flew that the Argentinian legend had been hospitalized. Those were false, but Maradona was treated by medics in the stadium for what he called "a strong pain in the back on [his] neck."
Maradona, who has suffered from addiction since retiring, also said he was drinking white wine during the game with everyone else in his box. He topped it all off by announcing he was fine — in third person: "Diego will still be there for a while!"
"I want to tell everyone that i am fine, my neck hurt a lot and I suffered a decompensation (Organ failure). I was checked by a doctor and he recommended me to go home before the second half, but I wanted to stay. How could I leave that game? Thanks for the support!" – Maradona <a href="https://t.co/Og6y7mTayu">pic.twitter.com/Og6y7mTayu</a>
After three games, Senegal and Japan were tied with four points apiece in Group H. They were tied in goal differential and goals for, and tied their head-to-head matchup at two.
That meant the tiebreaker to determine who moved on to the knockout stage was fair play points. And Senegal had accrued two more yellow cards than Japan, so they were eliminated.
The rule was introduced in 2014 as a measure to avoid a drawing of the lots to determine a winner, which would've been next on the list.
Japan understood the fair play tiebreaker, and after going down 1-0 to Poland knowing Senegal was simultaneously losing 1-0 to Colombia, made the decision to sit back and not press for the win. The game was ugly, and the outcome might've been even uglier.
<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/JPN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#JPN</a> 4🔶<a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/SEN?src=hash&ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#SEN</a> 6🔶<br><br>Coach Aliou Cissé:"It's the law of football, the law of fair play, and we had less points in that aspect & we have to accept it.<br><br>"In any case, these are the rules of the game & we have to respect them, but we would’ve preferred to be eliminated in another way" <a href="https://t.co/mLprqy36zx">pic.twitter.com/mLprqy36zx</a>
We'll end where we began, with the stunning demise of Germany. As the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Germany was expected to ease through the group stage and reach the semifinals at a minimum.
After all, they beat Brazil 7-1 in 2014. Instead, an ugly loss to South Korea at the end of the group stage sent the Germans packing.
Of course, this entry is only ugly for Germany.
Dear fans, we feel just as disappointed as you. The World Cup only comes around every four years and we expected so much more from us. We're sorry for not playing like world champions, and as painful as it is, we deserve to be out…