There was a truly frightening moment during yesterday’s 2018 King’s Cup Final (an annual international tournament in Bangkok) between Slovakia and Thailand when Slovak captain Martin Skrtel went down in the 28th minute after being struck in the face by the ball.
The 33-year-old Fenerbahce defender was immediately knocked unconscious by the impact, and a quick-thinking teammate did the right thing by ensuring that Skrtel hadn’t swallowed his tongue, an action which could potentially be fatal because of the resulting airway obstruction.
Since the turn of the 21st century, it’s happened without fail: every World Cup, three nations that began the tournament ranked in FIFA’s top 20 have been unceremoniously dumped from the competition at the group stage. In fact, in two of the four World Cups this century, three of the world’s top 10 ranked sides have capitulated before the knockout rounds.
Here’s a rundown of the three highest ranked sides to fall at the first hurdle in the last four tournaments:
Here’s an argument against the Video Assistant Referee: having assistant referees that are 100% infallible. During Uruguay’s friendly against the Czech Republic today (it’s technically the China Cup), Edinson Cavani scored an absolute banger that, when watching live, looked miles offside.
We never give assistant referees enough credit when they greatly contribute to positive, attacking football, but the linesman absolutely nailed one of the most difficult calls in the game here, and now we have a memorable goal that stands to show for it.
Imagine this: it’s July 15, 2018. It’s the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow. 81,000 spectators are collectively holding their breath while more than one billion are tuned in across the planet. After 120 minutes of action in the 2018 FIFA World Cup Final, we’re all square between Argentina and Germany. It's penalties.
Argentina now has a chance to lift the trophy with their fifth and final spot kick. It’s Lionel Messi — the perennial international runner-up — approaching the spot with German No. 1 Manuel Neuer staring him down.