In the World Cup, a spate of upsets

Upsets are the very essence of sport. It is precisely this aspect that makes watching sports so much fun. The 2022 Fifa World Cup has served up another reminder of that — in spades. Saudi Arabia, ranked 51st in the world according to the Fifa rankings, beat Lionel Messi’s Argentina, two-time champions and ranked 3rd, in a tight contest, 2-1. Japan, ranked 24th in the world, stunned perennial powerhouses Germany, four-time world champions and world No 11, with a similar scoreline. Canada, ranked 41, had Belgium, world No 2, on the ropes but failed to land the knockout punch. Each World Cup sees its share of upsets, but this time around it feels a little different; not so much a flash in the pan as the reinforcement of a trend that began several tournaments back.

There are unique aspects as well: Perhaps, the mid-season World Cup has caught some of the bigger teams out; or maybe the weather conditions prevalent in Qatar are playing a role. Still, the reality is that both teams are dealt the same card. The one that has adapted well has gotten off to a better start. And at the moment, that is just what it is, a better start. The upsets would have shaken the bigger teams to their core, but neither Argentina nor Germany is a stranger to such results in the initial stages of a World Cup (and they have gone on to do well). It won’t be easy, but Argentina and Germany have the class to pull through the group stage. But for Saudi Arabia and Japan, the next few days will be a test of their resolve and ambition. Many think they have already played their World Cup, but to be honest, their World Cup too, is just beginning. The upsets present a chance for them to go far deeper — and perhaps make this even more of an Asian World Cup than Seoul in 2018.