• We’re halfway through the second round of games in this World Cup and starting to get an idea of how this tournament might play out. The team whose stock has risen the most might be Russia, the tournament’s lowest-ranked team, which won its first two games 5-0 and 3-1. The Russians benefited from being in an easy group, but you can bet that no one will want to play it in the second round, not with the Russian crowd behind it. Belgium is the only other team to look dominant so far.
• At the other end of the rankings, the team whose stock has fallen the most is Argentina, which is winless and has scored ony one goal. Argentina’s results are always viewed as a referendum on Lionel Messi, but with its goalkeeping and defense in shambles and the entire Argentine soccer federation an infighting disaster, it’s hard to see what else Messi could do.
• After Costa Rica reached the quarterfinals in 2014, expectations were sky high, even after it was drawn into a group with Brazil. After two games, though, Los Ticos are out of the tournament and haven’t scored a goal – disappointing for North and Central America’s second-best team.