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World Cup Day 2 Review: Ronaldo Stars in Iberian Draw

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June 16, 2018

It’s the second day in and so far we’ve been spared the spectre of VAR. That’s not quite right insofar as that spectre is still hovering but, mercifully, it has yet to descend. Neither, thankfully, have any really contentious refereeing decisions. It’s true that some of the games have been woefully short of quality (when we say “some”, we’re effectively saying half of those played thus far) but still, it’s much easier to make peace with players being useless than it is with the lesser-paid officials.

Most weren’t expecting much from the first match, least of all the host nation, but 5-0 to Russia was the unexpected firecracker that this tournament needed to get us going on the right foot. Granted, Morocco and Iran did their level best to drag us all back into the mire but hope won out by serving up one of the finest matches of recent years in the Battle of Iberia – Portugal v Spain. With that in mind, let’s see how it all went down.

Portugal 3-3 Spain

Whatever about the first three matches, this is the one that most of us had marked as ‘one to watch’ and it’s fair to say that it didn’t disappoint. Both came into this match with close to full strength squads and it didn’t take long for the match to ignite. Ronaldo channelled his younger self, running straight toward the Spanish penalty area via the inside left gulley. It was then that Spain’s right back, Nacho, decided to leave some leg on CR7, which inevitably, and correctly, led to a penalty for Portugal. Four minutes in and Portugal were 1-0 up.

Safe to say that any notion Spain had of easing themselves into the match were shot. The nature of the game shaped itself into an attacking Spanish side against a solid defensive Portuguese one, who were happy to take their chances on the break. Then one of those rare things in life took place – Spain hoofed it long to the big man and scored. Yes, everyone’s favourite fiend, Diego Costa, took the ball by way of flooring Pepe (another gentleman) before turning Portugal’s defenders inside out and inside again then dispatching a wonderful shot low into the net to even the game up.

Drama enough for most games but the first half wasn’t done yet. Drawing from the zeitgeist of 2018, David De Gea, a goalkeeper widely considered to be one of the best in the world, channelled his inner Loris Karius MK: CL2018 and decided to let a Ronaldo shot, albeit a strong one, slide through his lazy hands. Half-time and it’s 2-1 to Portugal; already one of the matches of the tournament was playing out in front of our eyes.

Few imagined the script but all were ready for the next chapter. The second half didn’t so much start as explode – Spain pressing forward with urgency, eager to make things happen but Portugal were steady and composed, never giving an inch that they didn’t need to. Their physicality told against them when Iniesta was dumped to the ground to concede a free 12 yards outside the box. Lofted into the far stick, it was headed back across to Costa who did the needful from spitting distance and the scores were even at two apiece. Spain weren’t finished. A matter of minutes later and the man who gave the penalty away at the start of the day decided that he would settle his debts by giving Spain the lead for the first time in the game with one of the sweetest strikes we’re likely to see this tournament. The ball made its obscure way from the left wing through the Portugal penalty area and over to the inside right channel whereupon Nacho decided to wow the world with a shot of such sweet trajectory and pace that gasps were still being made as the goal was being chalked up.

The pace didn’t let up with substitutes being rushed straight to the front, taking the place of their flagging comrades. Spain bullied, harried and probed. Portugal rolled with the punches and fought back at every opportunity, causing Spain no end of palpitations. It was the match that no-one wanted to end, including Portugal, but the time waits for man nor hope and the end of the road was clearly in sight for Ronaldo and his troops.

Cometh the 87th minute, cometh the foul; the infraction that Gerard Pique visited upon Ronaldo set the great man up for a moment that will surely sit upon one of the grandest thrones in his pantheon, should he ever sit down to order it so. A truism in a world of flux goes something like this – Ronaldo + Free-Kick = “the wall does its job” and yet, here, tonight, with that reality looming present in mind of everyone bar his own, he took aim at the right side of the Spanish wall; the gnarled fortification which contained two of their tallest towers, Pique and Sergio Busquets. With just two minutes left of the 90, Ronaldo did what he does so often, in a manner that he does so rarely, and crafted the game according to his will by way of sweeping the ball into the back of the net from a dead ball spot that wasn’t marked for a penalty. Sweet dreams are made of these and who are we disagree?

Reeling, Spain held themselves together and made a decent fist of looking composed for the remaining minutes but, with the match coming to a close, it was Portugal who had the strut of a victor. In reality, the real winners were those fortunate enough to witness a bona fide World Cup classic.

Portugal and Spain showed their class and both should qualify from the group. Join our best betting sites for great odds, free bets, and offers:

Egypt 0 – 1 Uruguay

He came into this tournament as one of the most talked about player’s in world football but, contrary to the noises coming from the Egypt camp prior to this game, there was to be no appearance for the birthday boy, Mohammed Salah. Unable to shake off his shoulder injury – an early birthday present from Sergio Ramos – Egypt had to take to the field without their talismanic forward.

Not that it seemed to matter all that much. The first half saw them hold onto the ball carefully and move up the pitch whilst keeping compact and in a solid shape anytime that Uruguay attacked. The casual observer could easily have appreciated what a fit Salah would do for them from that defensive position when the ball breaks but they didn’t look cowed in his absence, albeit lacking real threat up front.

The first 45 saw a rather laboured performance by Luis Suarez who seemed somewhat off the pace. Poor touches and poor decisions in possession were best exemplified by his shanked shot when unmarked six yards out and his Ronaldo impression when hitting the wall from a free-kick when a pop into the box would perhaps have been better. A couple of shots from outside the box aside, Edinson Cavani, didn’t show too much either. The forward pair weren’t exactly helped by a misfiring midfield where Matias Vecino was particularly culpable for overly loose play and passing.

It looked like it wasn’t going to be their day until a free-kick from out wide was whipped in and Jose Maria Gimenez rose highest to thunder the ball home in the 90th minute, leaving no chance for the ‘keeper. Five minutes of extra-time were added but Uruguay were able to weather a couple of late scares to grab that precious opening win.

Overall, Egypt can count themselves unlucky that they lost but Uruguay’s extra potency up-front was the telling difference in the end. There’s little doubt that Suarez and co. will have to up their game considerably over the coming games if they are to harbour any ambition of progressing deep in this tournament but this team and manager are experienced in the mechanics of tournament play and will learn from this outing. Egypt, by contrast, have little room left for manoeuvre and will be pinning all their hopes on Salah being fighting fit for their next game. Yes, they feel down now but they will be confident that they can beat both Russia and Saudi Arabia. All is not lost.

Morocco 0-1 Iran

Morocco started this game very well and looked as if they would dominate proceedings. It appeared as if Iran thought likewise as they sat very deep and hoped for the best. Unfortunately for the watching world, the quality output took a turn for the worse. Morocco’s ploy of launching long, diagonal balls started to come undone as passes began to fly out of play. This had the dual effect of losing possession as well as emboldening Iran who began to take tentative steps forward in addition to the time-wasting at which they seemed so adept. Come the end of the first 45, Iran were definitely the happier of the two sides to go in at 0-0.

The second half was littered with fouls and stoppages in play – hardly conducive to a decent football match. Very disjointed with little, if any, continuity in the play of either team. Niggles, injuries and histrionics all played their part in denying the neutral a game worth watching. Good work coming up to the 80th minute by Morocco shocked everyone but not, crucially for Iran, their ‘keeper as he pulled off a fine save and put it out for a corner. Typically, the set piece that followed amounted to nothing. It was the Lions of the Atlas who were trying to make most of the play but they could not break down the stubborn Iran team.

Prior to the conclusion of the game, this column was thinking that the most outstanding aspect of this game was the time-travelling qualities that it must have bestowed upon many’s the viewer. Indeed, the audio-sensory overdrive kicked into gear and threw us back to South Africa eight long years ago thanks to the stadium-wide use of the vuvuzela. However, it turned out that the match had a trick up its sleeve by way of late, late 96th-minute own goal which benefitted an Iran team who could hardly believe their luck. Much like all the neutrals who knew that it would be a very long time, if ever before they had to watch these two teams face off again.

  • Egypt
  • Iran
  • Morocco
  • Portugal
  • Ronaldo
  • Spain
  • Uruguay
  • world cup

    About the author

    Alan Penny
    Alan Penny


    Alan hails from Northern Ireland and is an avid fan of all sports. He has been with us since 2017 and serves as SBO’s Editor-in-Chief. Alan passionately covers everything from the latest regulatory developments across the globe to tips on the latest football matches.