What happened today
Group A action continued today and competition in Group B got underway with a bang at the 2018 World Cup on Friday. Here’s how it went down.
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez lacks bite in 1-0 win over Egypt
Uruguay’s Luis Suarez spurned a hat trick of opportunities against Egypt in a tightly knit contest at the Ekaterinburg Arena in the remote city of Yekaterinburg. The Barcelona sharpshooter, who earned infamy for sinking his teeth into the shoulder of Italy defender Giorgio Chiellini four years ago, looked a long way off his best against a resolute Egypt side that soaked up pressure without creating many notable opportunities of their own.
Egypt’s star player Mohamad Salah, who’s still working his way back from a shoulder injury suffered in last month’s Champions League final, remained on the bench throughout the match. It was a gamble that nearly paid off for Egypt coach Hector Cuper. As the game ticked into the final 10 minutes, it seemed destined for a scoreless draw. That is until Uruguay defender Jose Gimenez rose above the Egyptian defense in the dying seconds of injury time to smash in a cross from Carlos Sanchez for a late-match game-winning header Sergio Ramos would’ve been proud of.
Horrific own goal for Morocco sees Iran grab three points
The second match of the day also looked to be headed for a scoreless draw, until a horrific defensive blunder deep into stoppage time gifted Iran just their second-ever World Cup win. In a failed attempt to cut out a cross into the box, Moroccan attacker Aziz Bouhaddouz disastrously headed the ball past his own keeper just seconds before the final whistle. It was a bitter pill for Morocco, who dominated possession and looked sharper for much of the game. Against the run of play or not, Iran was happy to take it and, for the moment at least, find themselves sitting first in the group.
Ronaldo lights it up for Portugal
Cristiano Ronaldo lived up to his billing as one of the World Cup’s marquee stars, bagging a hat trick in a thrilling 3-3 draw with Spain that will likely go down as an all-time classic. The Real Madrid man scored early from the penalty spot and restored Portugal’s lead after Diego Costa had equalized for Spain. Spain went ahead in the second half through back-to-back goals from Costa and Nacho. But Ronaldo had the last word, curling in an exquisite free kick from the top of the box to earn Portugal a draw.
Why it matters
Iran find themselves in the surprising position of being on top of Group B. Although the Iranians were fortunate against Morocco, their next match will be against Spain. Morocco meanwhile, will face Portugal. Conventional wisdom would have it that the two European powerhouses will win those games, but a slip from either could make things interesting in a Group B that many regarded as a foregone conclusion in terms of who would progress to the next round.
GIF of the day
It just wasn’t Luis Suarez’s day. Even Mohamed Salah, sitting on the Egyptian bench, couldn’t resist allowing himself a chuckle at the Uruguay striker’s foibles in front of goal.
Tweet of the day
Two hours ago, I had more career World Cup goals than Ronaldo, clearly making me the better player. Then he scored a hat trick
— Landon Donovan (@landondonovan) June 15, 2018
Goal(s) of the day
There were plenty of options to choose from Friday. On the one hand, there’s Ronaldo’s spectacular free kick that equalized for Portugal . . .
On the other hand there was Nacho’s absolute barnburner. We can’t decide, so like the match itself, we’re calling it a draw.
UNBELIEVABLE STRIKE FROM NACHO!
The defender makes up for his early mistake with a beauty to put Spain ahead 3-2. pic.twitter.com/r6Zokn9mQ5
— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) June 15, 2018
What happens next
Matchday 3 brings the opportunity to see several of the game’s big guns in action for the first time in this World Cup.
France vs. Australia
The action kicks off early on Saturday with Group C favorites France meeting Australia at the Kazan Arena. With the French boasting a star-studded squad headlined by the likes of Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, and Australia still reliant on 38-year-old Tim Cahill for goals, it has the look of what could be a one-sided affair. But then again, this is the World Cup, so one never knows.
Peru vs. Denmark
Featuring in their first World Cup since 1982, Peru face a stern test right out of the gate as they go up against a talented Denmark side in Saturday’s other Group C fixture.
Argentina vs. Iceland
Lionel Messi’s Argentina kicks off their tournament against Iceland in Group D action. A traditional powerhouse of the game, Argentina struggled in qualifying and have been over-reliant on the Barcelona maestro recently. Iceland meanwhile, has a growing reputation as a giant killer in Europe, setting up what could be a less one-sided affair that it might appear at first glance.
Croatia vs. Nigeria
Saturday’s final matchup sees the two teams most likely to follow Argentina out of the group go head to head. Croatia boast one of the more talented squads in Europe with Real Madrid playmaker Luka Modric, evergreen striker Mario Mandzukic and Barcelona midfielder Ivan Rakitic the standout names. Nigeria meanwhile, topped their group in qualifying and in addition to sporting perhaps the smartest looking kit at the World Cup, have a talented squad with a good balance of youth and experience, setting up what could be most evenly matched fixture of Matchday 3.
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