The World Cup hosts, Russia, kicked off a summer of football by demolishing Saudi Arabia 5-0 on the 14th June. Since then, a further 47 games have been played and a further 117 goals have been scored. There have been twists and turns, shocks and surprises, and now that the group stage has come to a close, we get down to the nitty gritty.
We’ve taken a look at our predictions for the winner of each group and which team managed to come out triumphant. Check out the best odds on World Cup 2018 to see how the remaining teams stack up against each other.
Group A Prediction- Uruguay
Group A looked to be a relatively tight group, with only two-time winners Uruguay possessing any major tournament pedigree.
The Uruguay squad may be top-heavy, possessing Ligue 1 top-scorer Edinson Cavani and Barcelona star Luis Suarez, but they have proven so far to have the best defence, having finished the group stage as the only nation who is yet to concede a goal.
Manager Oscar Tabarez tweaked his side in order to be more comfortable retaining possession, particularly with the inclusion of Matias Vecino and Federico Valverde in midfield, and oversaw a very promising qualifying campaign that saw them come second only to runaway Brazil in South America.
Despite being less than impressive in attack in their first two games, winning 1-0 against both Egypt and Saudi Arabia, they finally turned on the talent in their final group match against the hosts, Russia, defeating them 3-0 to finish as group winners.
Group A Result: Uruguay
Group B Prediction: Spain
The opening round of matches in group B saw a stunning 3-3 draw between Spain and Portugal. Ronaldo was the man of the match after scoring a phenomenal hat-trick to keep his team in with a hope of finishing top.
Spain and Portugal followed their draw up with 1-0 wins against Iran and Morocco respectively, leaving it until the last round for the group to be decided.
Spain have done well considering they sacked manager Julen Lopetegui two days before the tournament began, replacing him with Fernando Hierro. Diego Costa has found his rhythm so far, netting three times in three games.
Group B Result: Spain
Group C Prediction: France/Denmark
While Les Bleu were favourites to finish top of group C, they were not convincing in any of their group games.
Their opening match against Australia saw them claim a 2-1 win, thanks to a controversial penalty that was awarded by VAR. Their second match wasn’t much better, as they once again scraped a victory by defeating Peru 1-0.
With Denmark and France having almost certainly qualified heading into their final match against one another, they played out a drab 0-0 draw, the first of the tournament.
The draw secured top spot for France, although they face a much tougher task in the next round and could find themselves paying the price for failing to fulfil their potential.
Group C Result: France
Group D Prediction: Argentina
Argentina possess one of the most envied front-lines in world football, featuring Sergio Aguero, Gonzalo Higuain, Angel DiMaria, Paulo Dybala and, of course, Lionel Messi.
The situation behind these forwards, however, is less inspiring. First choice keeper Sergio Romero was ruled out of the tournament, and the hopes of defensive solidity lie with Marcos Rojo and Nicolas Otamendi, both of whom are prone to silly errors.
Argentina should have dominated their group games, however, they were far from impressive. They struggled to unlock Iceland’s defence and had to settle for a point in a 1-1 draw.
It was against Croatia where their defensive frailties really showed as Rebic, Modric and Rakitic all scored to give the Eastern Europeans a 3-0 win and put Argentina on the brink of elimination.
A lucky win against Nigeria in the final group game saw them through, but they were well off group winners Croatia, who finished with nine points, while Argentina finished with four.
Group D Result: Croatia
Group E Prediction: Brazil
After being drubbed 7-1 at the hands of Germany four years ago, Brazil were itching to set the record straight.
Their opening game was against Switzerland, the team ranked 6th in the world. It was always going to be tough match against a team with such a solid defence. The game finished 1-1 and Brazil didn’t look like the team everyone expected them to be, while Switzerland produced a good performance which surprised many.
Costa Rica were the next to take on Brazil, but in the end struggled to find their feet in the match and Brazil left it late to win, scoring two goals in time added on to secure a 2-0 win.
That win put Brazil in a strong position to qualify, but they would have to navigate their way past Serbia and hope Switzerland failed to beat Costa Rica in order to finish as group winners. They defeated Serbia 2-0 while Switzerland drew 2-2 with Costa Rica thanks to an unfortunate own goal from a penalty.
Group E Result: Brazil
Group F Prediction: Germany
Winning the World Cup is one thing, retaining it is another thing. This feat has only been achieved once, by Brazil in 1958 and 1962.
Although their group wasn’t the easiest, with Sweden, South Korea and Mexico being drawn as their opponents in group F, with the squad Germany took to the World Cup, they had enough to finish as group winners.
They started their title defence terribly, losing 1-0 to Mexico thanks to a goal from Hirving Lozano. The situation could have been worse for the defending champions, who looked lost at sea in both defence and attack.
Timo Werner failed to shine, while their defenders were nowhere to be seen whenever the opposition were on the counter. They were fortunate to beat Sweden, but it gave them hope of progressing to the second round.
All they had to do was beat South Korea, who had already lost to both Sweden and Mexico. Sweden defeated Mexico 3-0 to secure their place in the second round, creating the chance for Germany to knock out Mexico with a win over Korea.
Once again though, the team was highly disjointed and the defence were caught out not once, but twice, giving South Korea a 2-0 win and sending Germany bottom of group F. Germany were the latest in a long line of winners to be knocked out at the group stage at the following World Cup.
Group F Result: Sweden
Group G Prediction: Belgium
Belgium have long been considered dark horses in international tournaments, with their array of talent always looking fantastic on paper. Their on-field performances have been somewhat lacking in quality.
Drawn against Tunisia, Panama and England, the Red Devils were confident of qualifying and knew that if they could beat England, they would finish top of the group.
They disposed of Panama 3-0 in their first group game, although it took until the second half to break the Central Americans down.
Their next game against Tunisia saw a much more positive performance up front, with Belgium managing to score five goals. Unfortunately, they did concede two goals, leaving them on six points with +6 goal difference, the same as England, however, their European opponents sat above them in the table prior to the final game having picked up fewer yellow cards.
When the England-Belgium match kicked off, both teams had qualified. There was only the matter of determining who would finish top and who would finish in second.
The only truly memorable moment was the goal from Adnan Januzaj, who gave Belgium the lead and secured top spot in the group. Are Hazard, Lukaku and de Bruyne finally finding their rhythm?
Group G Result: Belgium
Group H Prediction: Senegal
Group H looked set to be one of the weakest groups, with all the teams seemingly playing at a similar standard. It is arguable that Poland and Colombia were the strongest two, but as Germany found out, that counts for nothing at the World Cup.
It was Senegal and Japan who started off with maximum points, having both beaten their group H opponents 2-1 in the first round of matches.
Senegal and Japan faced off in the second match, battling it out to a 2-2 draw to leave both on four points heading into the final round.
When Senegal faced off against Colombia in the final round of group H matches, they knew that just a point would secure their passage into the round of 16. With Japan losing 1-0 against Poland, both Colombia and Senegal were through and could relax.
Unfortunately for Senegal, Colombia had other ideas. After winning a corner Colombia centre back Yerry Mina headed the South Americans into the lead.
Despite their best efforts, Senegal were unable to come back and were knocked out on yellow cards. Colombia progressed as group winners while Japan finished as the runners-up.
Group H Result: Colombia