Earlier matches may have suggested that the goals had all been takes by Russia yesterday at the 2018 FIFA World Cup but Portugal and Spain served up a classic match as the two European neighbors matched each other goal for goal.
Cometh the hour, cometh the man
Cristiano Ronaldo is no stranger to making the headlines over his career and he did so once again by rescuing a late draw for his country against tournament favourites Spain. This game had everything that makes soccer great. Well-taken goals, intrigue and unfortunately for some, horrendous mistakes. Ronaldo scored his first goal from the penalty spot after club teammate Nacho fouled him inside the box in the fourth minute. Spain brought themselves level in the 24th minute when the infamous Diego Costa won the ball in the air against Pepe and proceeded to send Portuguese defenders the wrong way twice before finishing well into the bottom corner. Ronaldo dragged his team back on level terms again when his effort went through the legs of David De Gea in what was an embarrassing moment for the Spanish No. 1.
Costa wasn't done with his part of this story and he drew Spain ahead in the 55th minute after Sergio Busquets nodded the ball towards him in a well-worked set piece. Nacho, who had been the villain so to speak earlier on, then redeemed himself with an absolutely wonderful strike from outside the box that hit the post and the goalkeeper before staying inside the net. Spain then proceeded to see out the lead while Isco and Andrés Iniesta made Portugal chase shadows and up until the 88th minute, that tactic worked perfectly. They even managed to create some chances as the the clock wound down but could not finish off Portugal.
When Gerard Piqué fouled the Portuguese captain just outside of the penalty area, you could sense that Spain should have put this game away as Ronaldo had yet to have his final say. The No. 7 breathed in and out, took a few steps, lifted the ball up and over the wall and right into the top corner. From the start to the finish, this was everything a World Cup game should be and Ronaldo made sure to put his name in the headlines once again.
Iran overcome the odds to get their first ever World Cup win
The other Group B match happened earlier in the day and it was Iran who came out victorious thanks to a stoppage time own goal by Morocco's Aziz Bouhaddouz. The Iranians were not supposed to win this game, in fact, they had to fight their way into the World Cup but they stood up well for themselves and gave the Moroccans a few scares throughout the game.
Morocco had the more known players and they started off the game strong, pushing forward at every opportunity and trying to make the Iranians stay camped in their own penalty area for as long as possible. For the most part, this worked but what kept the scoreline at 0-0 for as long as it did was the fact that Morocco could not find the one telling pass in front of goal. They dragged the Iranian backline to and fro but as time went on, Morocoo lost its self-belief while Iran gained more of theirs. In fact, the biggest chance of the match fell to Iran on the break but a strong save from Monir El Kajoui stopped the underdogs from taking the lead.
The goal did come in this game and it came at the expense of the Moroccans. With less than a minute to go in stoppage time, Iran won a free-kick which Bouhaddouz somehow contrived to nod into his own net. Moroccan players fell to their knees in despair while the Iranians or 'Team Melli' as they're called by their fans, run off in jubilation. The Iranians now top Group B, something no one saw coming, and will look to make the improbable probable in their next game against Spain.
Heartbreak for Egypt as Uruguay find a late winner
All the pre-match talk about this game was about whether or not Mohamed Salah would play any part in Egypt's opener. The Liverpool FC mad did not see the field and that the encouragement that Uruguay needed to push forward for a winner late in the game. Egypt gave a good account of themselves but every time they got forward, they were missing that final bit of quality in and around the opposition's penalty area to make a difference. Uruguay, in particular Edison Cavani and Luis Suarez, were playing well below their usual standards which helped the Egyptians.
As time wore on and Egypt made their third and final substitution which did not feature Salah, Uruguay decided to push for a goal without having to worry about the threat of Salah being in the game. Cavani whipped a free-kick in that bounced off the post and away in the 82nd minute and you began to wonder if we would see a goal in the game. Up stepped José Giménez to give Uruguay the win and dash Egypt's hopes of gaining a draw. A great free-kick came into the box in the 88th minute and Gimenez rose highest to score the game-winning goal. Russia still top Group A but Uruguay will have every belief in their chances of qualifying for the next round after this result. Egypt, on the other hand, will wonder what could have been if Salah had been on the field, even for just ten minutes.