The second set of matches got underway on Tuesday. We’ve had our first look at all teams, and now we, and they, have a better understanding of where they stand in their respective groups. How would the form teams from the first two groups perform? Read on to find out.
Match 3: Russia vs Egypt
All eyes were on the return of one man, as Mohamed Salah was named in the starting line-up for Egypt. The Russians were on a high and hoped to continue their great start to the tournament. Egypt had an early shot on goal, with Trezeguet’s curling effort going just wide. Egypt returned the favour with Cheryshev firing just over the bar. Salah started getting more into the game towards the end of the first half, but it was clear he wasn’t fully fit, and was only playing because of the occasion. Russia took the lead early on in the second with a lucky deflection of Fathi, for yet another own goal against an African side. The hosts doubled their lead 10 minutes later, Cheryshev slotting home for his third of the tournament. And Egypt’s defense just collapsed a couple of minutes later. Dzyuba chested down a long free kick uncontested, turned and shot past El-Shenawy without much pressure. The game was settled. Salah was brought down in the box with just 20 minutes to go. He converted the resulting penalty but it was only a consolation as Russia were not troubled after this. The hosts are putting on quite a show!
Final Score: Russia 3 – 1 Egypt
Match 4: Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia
Uruguay started off the better team, making some advances into the Saudi area but unable to trouble their goalkeeper early on. The latter slowly got into the game and were soon looking like a team transformed from their opening day drubbing against Russia. However, Uruguay took the lead in the 23rd minute, almost against the run of play. Suarez scored on his 100th appearance for his country as the opposition goalkeeper Al-Owais completely missed his punch on a corner and Suarez got free of his man. Although Saudi Arabia made considerable inroads into their opponent’s half, they were let down either by the final delivery into the box or the finishing. Uruguay started the second half much better and had some chances to put the game beyond reach, including a free header which Carlos Sanchez put well over. A wicked deflection from Cavani off Lucas Torreira’s long range effort nearly sneaked in as the goalkeeper was completely wrong-footed. Although the Saudis gave a much better account of themselves in this match, they returned empty handed and join Egypt on their out of the World Cup.
Final Score: Uruguay 1 – 0 Saudi Arabia
Match 3: Portugal vs Morocco
Cristinao Ronaldo, who else gave Portugal an early lead, once scoring in the 4th minute, just like the match against Spain. It was a free header really, with the defense going off to sleep for the corner. Ronaldo became the highest scoring European player in international matches, and is now second only to Iran’s Ali Daei in the all-time international goal-scorers list. He came close once again a few minutes later, but the shot rolled just wide. Morocco got into the game after the first ten minutes and were the more imposing side actually. Guedes had a golden opportunity to double his side’s lead just before half-time but was thwarted by Munir’s extended left hand. That was one the rare attacks Portugal mustered in the first half Ronaldo’s second attempt. The second half too saw Morocco stay on the offensive but the goal just wouldn’t arrive. Portugal had their goalkeeper Rui Patricio to thank as he made a couple of smart saves to protect the lead. Benatia missed a glorious opportunity to level the scores in injury time, but skied his unchallenged shot from 12 yards. That’s how it finished and the result meant that Morocco were eliminated for the tournament.
Final Score: Portugal 1 – 0 Morocco
Match 4: Iran vs Spain
Iran set up to frustrate Spain and secure a point from this game. They were relentless in defense putting their bodies on the line every time their goal was threatened. The first produced just one shot on goal from the Spanish, a David Silva strike which was blocked out for a corner. The second half started better for Spain, but Busquets’ early effort from distance was well saved by Beiranvand, who swatted away the rebound as well. Iran had a decent attempt a couple of minutes later, but could only find the side netting. Cue the next Spanish attack, and Diego Costa was found on the edge of the Iranian box by Iniesta. Before the Spanish forward could shoot, Rezaeian tried to kick the ball away, but it only ended up ricocheting off Costa and into the net for the flukiest of goals. For their credit, Iran kept plugging away against their much fancied opponents and it looked like they were rewarded just a couple of minutes later. Ezatolahi shoot through De Gea’s legs after a melee in the Spanish box following a free-kick, only for the goal to be ruled out, correctly, for offside. There was an incredible goal mouth scramble in the Iranian box on 70 minutes, with two of their defenders and the goalkeepers literally falling on the floor in front of the goal to prevent a toe poke into the net. No one could question the heart that the Asians were displaying in this match. In the 82nd minute, the afore-mentioned wasted a glorious opportunity from inside the 6 yard box, Taremi heading over after a cute nutmeg on Pique by Amiri, who then delivered a pin-point cross. Iran came a little short on the day, but their tournament is not yet over. They will take on Portugal next, and an unlikely win will see them progress. Lots to play for there. Spain will be heading into their final group match against Morocco in a slightly more secure position.
Final Score: Iran 0 – 1 Spain