Ghana are the worst team in the World Cup, at least according to Fifa. The Black Stars are ranked 61st in the world, well below the 28th spot occupied by South Korea.
Yet on Monday afternoon, the two teams played out the most exciting game of the tournament so far. And Ghana won. So should we add this result to the growing list of big upsets?
Probably not. A quick look at Ghana’s starting line-up helps explain why. Five of the team are regulars in England’s Premier League, two play top-tier football in France, one in Spain and one in Switzerland. Mohammed Kudus, one of the most exciting talents at this World Cup, has been appearing in the Uefa Champions League this season for Dutch champions Ajax.
Only André Ayew, the team captain, plays away from European football. Yet his current stint at Qatari club Al Sadd comes at the tail-end of a career that has included spells at Marseille, West Ham and Swansea City.
So Ghana’s team is full of experienced players plying their trade at the top end of the global game. The Fifa ranking does not reflect that.
The contrast with Qatar is worth noting. Despite being ranked 11 places higher than Ghana, the hosts became the first team to be knocked out of the tournament. The easiest explanation: the entire Qatar squad plays in the domestic league — a far cry from the likes of Ajax, Arsenal and Auxerre.
So when trying to gauge the true gulf between sides, skip Fifa’s league tables and focus on where the individuals play week in, week out.
Tuesday’s one to watch: Southgate’s Lions face the Welsh dragon
England will be eager to avoid embarrassment against Wales, but are effectively guaranteed a spot in the knockout rounds of the World Cup already. Gareth Southgate’s side could even lose by three goals and still go through.
To avoid an old-style derby defeat against Wales, England will want to make use of superior technique, possession and playing a high defensive line. But the real test will come in the knockout stages.
Read Simon Kuper’s guide to Southgate’s strategy for the tournament — and what it will take for England to win it.
Ecuador vs Senegal, 3pm UK time/6pm Doha time
Netherlands vs Qatar, 3pm UK time/6pm Doha time
Wales vs England, 7pm UK time/10pm Doha time
Iran vs USA, 7pm UK time/10pm Doha time
Monday’s highlight: Cameroon thriller produces a moment to savour
Most big tournaments deliver a handful of those moments that stick in World Cup folklore. When Cameroon and Serbia played out a six-goal epic on Monday, we got a contender for the list.
With Serbia leading by three goals to one, Cameroon’s Vincent Aboubakar started the comeback with a forward run, delicious dummy and stunning lob over Vanja Milinković-Savić, a 6ft 7in-tall goalkeeper.
But at 3-2 down, Cameroon’s hopes of qualifying for the last 16 looked to be slipping away. But Aboubakar was not finished, assisting Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting to give their country hope. Roll on Brazil this Friday.
Cameroon 3 Serbia 3
South Korea 2 Ghana 3
Brazil 1 Switzerland 0
Portugal 2 Uruguay 0