June 15, 2018, Day Two
Futbol Papa’s World Cup 2018 Diary, Day Two, today chronicled a Group A showdown between favorites Uruguay and second favorites Egypt, playing without their injured talisman Mohammed Salah, who was yet on the bench. The match was a quality affair that at 0-0 had more good futbol played than the majority of the 94 minutes of the opening match between Russia and Saudi Arabia.
The Egyptians played the Uruguayans even for 89 minutes and though the South Americans had the upper hand—the greater scoring chances, more possession and over 100 more passes made by the 28th minute, for example—the African’s were every inch up to the task of thwarting their stronger rivals with a strong, full-field, fast, technical, and strategic effort.
Unfortunately for Salah, who could only shake his head for the last few deflating minutes of the second half, Egypt fell apart at the 87th minute, conceding wave after wave of Uruguayan attacks, committing fouls in dangerous locations (ok, Cavani created one out of thin air that produced a dangerous free kick that almost turned into the game winner but instead went off the post), and eventually, at the 89th minute, conceding a Jose Gimenez header for the lone score of the match.
This will make things difficult for the Egyptians who must now hope Salah can lead them offensively to do what they were able to mostly do defensively against their toughest competition in the Group. To advance, the Africans will have to beat their two remaining rivals, setting up a must-win situation for the rest of the group stage.
In the second game of the day, Iran defeated Morocco by the minimum edge of an unfortunate own goal by forward Aziz Bouhaddouz, at the 90+5 minute of the match, on a diving header attempt at a clearance. Given the first item under Events below, not the fairest of outcomes.
The main course of the day featured a monumental clash between Portugal and Spain in Sochi. In a scintillating first half punctuated by a crossbar-down-to-the-line non-score by Spain, Cristiano Ronaldo scored a brace (early right footed penalty that faked keeper David de Gea and go-ahead left footed stinger that bounced off the keeper’s well positioned knelt body and skipped in) and Diego Costa scored a tying goal that while awarded yet required a VAR review given the two defenders who he bested sequentially both lay sprawled on the ground after coming into contact with him. By the 26th minute the match had provided more superb soccer than all the preceding games of the cup combined so far. The first half ended 2-1 to Portugal.
The second half saw Spain turn on the afterburners and show why they are a favorite to win it all, pulling ahead with two well taken goals, particularly the go ahead golazo by Nacho. And then, Ronaldo took over and showed why he is one of the true greats, earning an 88th minute draw against the run of play with a 25-yard free kick the froze de Gea for the cup’s first hat trick. The game, by far one of the best to be played in any World Cup, ended 3-3 and few could say that despite Spain being the better side, Portugal did not deserve the draw.
At the 70th minute of the Morocco v Iran match La Liga and Leganes midfielder Nordin Amrabat was the victim of a vicious shoulder/head to the head from Iranian Vahid Amiri while contesting the ball at a sideline. The Moroccan seemed knocked out, falling onto the turf, face first, unable to break his fall. Neither the referee or the linesman made a move to call the obvious foul and when the medical crew finally arrived on the scene they did not seem to know the concussion protocol and had the player on his feet before fully realizing his situation. Amrabat, who was walked clear around the field in a woozy state was eventually substituted, but VAR needs to have played a role here every bit as much as FIFA’s medical folks need to get on top of player safety ASAP.
Cristiano Ronaldo, taking a page out of Lionel Messi’s recent book, plead guilty in Spanish Court to a suspended sentence on tax evasion charges which under the nation’s laws means a slap on the wrist and no jail time. The Portuguese striker, who has denied wrongdoing from day one, was looking to put an end to the distraction the charges brought about as, similarly to Messi, he is both ultimately responsible and yet hardly in charge of the daily decision making regarding the minutia of his legal or financial affairs.
Unfortunate Saudi players were set to be punished for their sub-par performance in their 5-0 loss to hosts Russia, while Mail Online provided us a tour of the VAR headquarters in Moscow.
Tomorrow we have some very entertaining matches scheduled from Group C with France’s opening game in Kazan, against Australia at 6:00 AM EST, and Peru and Denmark playing a pivotal game in Saransk at 12:00 noon, EST. In the opening games of Group D Argentina open their campaign playing Iceland in Moscow at 9:00 AM EST and Croatia and Nigeria match up in Kaliningrad at 3:00 PM EST.
We will have to see if the initial goal scoring tendency continues as so far, of the thirteen goals scored in the cup nine have been by La Liga players.
Futbol Papa’s World Cup 2018 Diary Predictions
Four games played. Right calls–(3)--Russia over Saudi Arabia, Uruguay over Egypt, Portugal-Spain draw. Wrong calls–(1)--Called for a Morocco-Iran draw which ended with a 1-0 win for Iran off a Moroccan own goal at the 90+5 minute mark.
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