Well, where to begin! Day 2 did not disappoint with 2 last gasp winners and a challenger for the game of the tournament, combined with some spectacular goals and talent.
Match 1: Egypt Vs. Uruguay (0-1)
In a game that featured two of the worlds best finishers (it would have been three had Salah not remained on the bench as an unused substitute), we expected to see some goals and some scintillating attacking play. Instead, we got quite the opposite as a sluggish Suarez spurned a quartet of golden opportunities to see of the Egyptian side easily. There were a few highlights, however, with hitman Edinson Cavani striking the inside of the post with a rocketship of a freekick from 25 yards out late on. We also saw a frustrated captain Diego Godin who decided to take it upon himself to propel the team forward as he produced some powerful runs from the heart of defence on multiple occasions.
The Egyptian side produced some entertainment but looked to be content with a point as they lacked a cutting edge without their talismanic forward Mohamed Salah. The so-called ‘Egyptian King’ was seen looking on from the bench in despair when promising young center back Gimenez smashed in an 89th-minute header from a Carlos Sanchez cross to seal the game for ‘La Celeste’ (the Sky Blues).
The result means Uruguay go second in group A after Saudi Arabia’s 5-0 drubbing by the hosts Russia on the opening day of the tournament.
Match 2: Morocco Vs. Iran (0-1)
The second of the day’s games also looked as though it was heading for a bland goal-less draw as Morocco dominated possession with 68%, in a game that saw only 5 of the total 22 shots taken actually hitting the target. Despite being the sharper and more dominant team of the two, a horrific defensive gaffe in the dying seconds of added time which saw Moroccan attacker Aziz Bouhaddouz disastrously head the ball past his own goalkeeper and into the back of his own net in a failed attempt to clear a cross which gifted Iran the win and propelled them to the dizzying heights of the top of the table. Although they nicked a win here they will be already looking ahead at the daunting upcoming fixtures against Spain and Portugal.
Match 3: Portugal Vs. Spain (3-3)
Wow. Well, this game definitely lived up to its hype producing 6 high-class goals and some spectacular end to end football.
Portugal flew out of the traps and within 4 minutes Ronaldo had drawn in fellow Real Madrid team-mate Nacho who brought down the current Ballon d’Or winner who calmly blasted home only his 4th world cup finals goal after scoring only 1 in each of his last 3 world cup finals tournaments. Portugal remained on the front foot for the opening minutes of the game but Spain began to grow and control possession with the technician Isco being a key player throughout the game controlling the midfield and getting into some fantastic positions all over the pitch.
Diego Costa brought the Spaniard’s level with a superb solo effort after 24 minutes. this goal helped spur the Spaniards on who again controlled the possession in midfield. However, the Portuguese were equally as strong and produced some spectacular counter attacks with Ronaldo producing some powerful runs forward alongside the 21 year-old Goncalo Guedes who partnered the Mercurial forward in attack. Guedes had some great chances to put the Portuguese side back in front but his inexperience showed as he allowed a brilliant counterattacking chance to peter out.
It wasn’t long before Ronaldo got on the scoresheet again to put his side back on top moments before halftime. Although the goal can be put down to a David De Gea gaffe from what was a relatively tame effort by Ronaldo’s standards, the error from the manchester united number 1 was reminiscent of the error made by Englands Robert Green back in 2010 against the USA.
the Spanish team came out of the dressing room after halftime with a point to prove and started the half brightly with some great trademark tiki-taka football, although the goal came through a typically un-Spanish long ball from a set piece in midfield which after being headed back across goal was smashed into the net by Diego Costa. It seemed after this goal Spain could smell the blood and seemed to move up and find even more gears as they pinged the ball around quickly and neatly for the next 3 minutes following Costa’s 55th minute strike, producing some scintillating football which culminated in a spectacular long-range effort from the edge of the box from the man who gave away the 4th-minute penalty, Nacho, which was has been labelled the goal of the tournament so far.
Spain continued to dominate the midfield with the excellent Isco, Silva, and Iniesta being involved in everything and creating some excellent chances with Thiago coming on to replace Iniesta and produced some great moments in midfield. Former Liverpool flop Aspas, who has proven the doubters wrong since leaving Merseyside, replaced Costa up front and had a couple of decent chances himself. Meanwhile, Portugal produced some spectacular counter attacks and chances, with Quaresma having a brilliant chance to level it after coming off the bench, but as the match drew to a close it looked as though Spain would hold on to claim all three points until the 88th minute that is, when Spain gave a freekick away just outside the box. And after failing to score from 44 freekicks in major tournaments for his national side little was expected from Portugal superstar who stepped up to it in the dying minutes. But after he’s proved time and time again, you never write off Ronaldo as he stepped up and scored a spectacular freekick to draw the game level, 45th time lucky it seems as Ronaldo scored his 51st career hattrick (and the 51st ever world cup finals hattrick) to snatch a point from the Spaniards after a breathtaking game of football.
The result means Iran stay top of the table, for the time being anyway.
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