Traditionally the opening match on the World Cup is by the defending champion as they and the host will be qualified automatically for the tournament. The defending champion will be potted in the first group. However, since 2002, the thing had changed as FIFA had abolished the defending champion privilege of qualifying automatically and had decided that they still need to qualify for the tournament hence the opening match of the World Cup will be started by the host since 2006. The opening match is quite an important match as for the defending champion it will be able to show they still a force and for the host to prove that they are able to compete admirably well in the tournament.
I will start to form the World Cup 1990 as the opening match impact had been seen from this tournament onwards. In 1990, the opening game is between the defending champion Argentina and Cameroon. It is expected to be an easy match for the Argentina where the mesmeric Diego Maradona is still in the team added with Claudio Cannigia one of the best strikers for Argentina. However, a rough play by the Cameron and a howler by the Argentinian goalkeeper had led to a shocking win for Cameroon. This win had given them a positive momentum as they had been ecstatic form this win and with the evergreen striker Roger Milla who had become the oldest player to compete in the World Cup, they had seen eliminated Colombia in the second round helped by the childish howler by their goalkeeper Rene Higuita and nearly knocking out England in quarterfinal before 2 penalties by Gary Lineker had turned the tie to the favour of England. With this, Cameron had become the first African team to reach the quarter-final of the World Cup, a feat that had become an inspiration for the subsequent African team as Nigeria in 1994, Senegal in 2002, and Ghana in 2010 had emulated this feat. FIFA had acknowledged this and had decided to add more place to Africa team in the subsequent World Cup. Now Africa had 5 teams in World Cup
In 1994, the unified German team playing in the first tournament since the fall of the Berlin Wall where before they are playing under the name of West Germany had opened the World Cup with a convincing win against Bolivia. They had proved they are still the force and it is expected to be a better team as player form the East German too like Matthias Sammer is playing for them, however, Bulgaria the underdog had knocked out then in the quarter-final with a shocking 2-1 win. Subsequently in 1998, against they had been knocked out by an underdog team in the form of Croatia with a devastating 3-0 defeat.
In the next World Cup in France 1998, Brazil had opened their game against Scotland with the striker Ronaldo is expected to light the tournament. However, the sad thing for Brazil they are unable to include Romario in the team as he had injured and unable to join the team in the final tournament. Brazil although with Romario had been able to reach the final again in 1998 before Ronaldo controversy had totally shattered their performance against a good France side in this year and they had been defeated convincingly with a 3-0 scoreline. Ronaldo will get his redemption in 2002.
An Africa debutant in the form of Senegal had emulated the feat of Cameron in 2002, where they had beaten the defending champion France in the opening game. Positive momentum form this one had been worked in favor of Senegal as they had reached the quarter-final only to be knocked out by Turkey via a golden goal. In the World Cup full of shock where the favorites like Portugal, France, Argentina, and Italy had been knocked out earlier, it is basically a tournament of the underdog that had a football superpower final where Brazil had to meet German for the first time in World Cup with Brazil had been victorious hence making them the 5 time FIFA World Cup champion.
Meanwhile, as per the FIFA rules, the host German had kicked started the tournament. For the first time in the football history, German had not been a favorite in the World Cup tournament with the disastrous Euro 2004 in the mind as they had been knocked out in the first round. However, under the management of the former player Jurgen Klinsmann, German had performed beyond expectation and reached the semi-final only to be knocked out by eventual champion Italy. In the following World Cup in 2010, German again reached the semi-final and again knocked by the eventual champion Spain in 2010. However, in 2014, they had been able to reach the final and winning the World Cup as a unified German team for the first and their 4th trophy altogether.
South Africa in 2010 had opened the game but they had made an unwanted record as they had become the first host team to be knocked out in the group stage. Usually, the worst performance by a host will be knocked out in the second round and the best performance usually they had become champion like Uruguay in 1930, West Germany in 1974, Argentina in 1978, and France in 1998. South Africa football team did not make any impact either in the subsequent tournament as they had failed to qualify for the next two tournaments.
Brazil in 2014 had opened their World Cup against Croatia. The player and the manager had been put in the enormous pressure as they had expected to banish the demon of 1950 however, they had performance below average and their star player Neymar is the saving grace. But with Neymar in injured in the quarter-final, Brazil had been weakened severely and with the enormous pressure, they had totally crumbled in the semi-final as they had been beaten 7-1 by the eventual champion German in the semi-final.
The host of the 2018 Russia had started their campaign with a 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia and let’s see the momentum of their win will do for them.