It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Multiple soccer games on throughout the day. 32 countries fighting for the glory and fame of becoming a World Champion! The 2018 FIFA World Cup kicked off on Thursday! Now is time for the group stage where groups of four teams play each other. The nations get three points for a win, one point for a tie, and zero points for a loss. The top two teams with the most points from their three games move on to the knockout rounds! Have you missed any of the action from the first two days? We’ve got you covered! Here’s the first of many Philly Sports Network’s World Cup Reviews that will sum up all of the action! In this first World Cup Review, we look at the first match of Group’s A and B.
Group A has been labeled one of the weaker groups by many. Teams like Russia, Saudi Arabia and Egypt are not perennial powerhouses. However, each of the three teams are in a place where fighting to make it to the knockout stage is a possibility. Russia are the host country; they’ll be looking to show the world that they won’t be a push over on their home soil. Egypt have a superstar in Mo Salah, but are they disciplined enough to get results? Saudi Arabia are the biggest underdog; they are young and hungry to show the World what they can do. The outlier, Uruguay, has the quality to easily win this group, they’ll have to show they can live up to playing to what they’ll see as weaker competition.
Russia: 5 Saudi Arabia: 0
The Hosts opened up the tournament Thursday night with a 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia. The nerves of the tournament definitely played a factor for both sides early, but as the match went on the nations were following different trajectories. Russia was trending up feeding off their home crowd; Saudi Arabia never grew into the game, showing no discipline when on the ball.
Russia scored twice in the first half, showing their dominance. They added a third in the 70th minute, and two in second half stoppage time. With five goals they get and added boost to their victory. They now have a +5 goal differential to take with them as they move on to their other two group stage games! Saudi Arabia will have to win at least one of their next two games if they want to survive the group.
Uruguay: 1 Egypt: 0
The predicted group winners, Uruguay, were set to take on one of the newest superstars in world soccer in Mohamed Salah and Egypt. But before this one started, the news came out that Salah would not start due to his nagging shoulder injury he picked up during the Champions League for his Club Liverpool FC. Even so this match was very entertaining! Uruguay showed they have world Class build up ability, but couldn’t find their finishing boots. Their stars Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani had no success with chances they had. Egypt looked good as well on the counter attack, and did well defensively. The Pharos looked to hold Uruguay to a draw.
Late on Egypt looked good, and their coach Héctor Cúper made changes to help them preserve the point. This left Mo Salah on the bench. Then in the 88th minute Uruguay had a dangerous free kick. Their towering center back José Giménez rose above everyone to head home the winning goal. Uruguay will roo their early missed chances, but will be happy with all three points. Egypt played a great game, but were missing a final attacking spark. I will likely have to turn to their injured Mo Salah for the next two matches to stay alive in the tournament.
Here’s where things stand after the first game of Group A! Russia and Uruguay look to be the favorites to get out of the group. Egypt could make a run if they can get the most from their team, and superstar Mo Salah. Saudi Arabia have the most ground to make; with another loss they’ll likely be eliminated of the tournament.
Group A now looks like this…
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 15, 2018
Group B is a group of title favorites and underdogs! Spain have one of the best squads in the tournament. Portugal have Christiano Ronaldo. Iran and Morocco are underdogs, but have some of the best defenses of their respected countries. Iran leaned on their defense and counter attacking in their Asian qualification games. Morocco has the best defense in Africa, and have shown some flair in their attacks. Will this group be dictated by the two European powerhouses, or will the underdogs find a way to run faster than them?
Iran: 1 Morocco: 0
In the first match of Group B we saw two very good defensive teams come to play. The game was very open in the middle of the field. Both sides looked to jump on the other when possession turned over. It made for a very competitive and fun to watch match. Morocco had the majority of the attacking chance in the first half, but couldn’t punish Iran.In the second half the tides turned Iran’s way. They attacked and attacked. As the game went on it was clear that both teams deserved a draw.
Both sides chances just weren’t clinical enough to beat the opposing keepers. The game went into a long, six-minute, second half stoppage time. In the fourth minute of stoppage time Iran had a free kick in a dangerous spot. The ball was sent in, and Moroccan defender Aziz Bouhaddouz tried to deflect the ball away with his head. But instead it was put into his own net. The game finished 1-0 Iran. Iran will be elated to have a win in this tough group; while Morocco will have to find ways to play better agaisnt European powers Spain and Portugal.
Portugal: 3 Spain: 3
In what will be in contention for game of the tournament, legendary superstar Christiano Ronaldo and Portugal played their neighboring country Spain. Spain are one of the favorites in this World Cup, despite firing their coach two days before the tournament started. Portugal, have been criticized as relying too much on their superstar Ronaldo, even though they have a great squad. This match did not disappoint.
In the opening minutes Ronaldo earned a questionable penalty, there was contact on him, but the way he flew to the ground caused speculation. Ronaldo put home the Penalty to give Portugal the lead in the 4th minute. Spain’s Diego Costa equalized in the 23rd minute on a great individual effort and the game was on. Spain dictated possession, but couldn’t find a second goal. In the dying minutes of the first half a chance fell to Ronaldo who put a shot in on Spain’s keeper David De Gea. De Gea, fumbled the shot into his own net giving Ronaldo his second goal! Portugal had the lead going into half time!
As the second half commenced Spain were on a mission. Their passing and movement was much more intentional. This lead to Diego Costa getting his second goal in the 55th minute, after of some great passing from Spain. With the game now tied Spain continued to push. Three minutes after their equalizer, Spain’s right back Nacho Fernadez found himself with space to shoot after Portugal’s scrambling defense tried to clear. Nacho hit the shot with the outside of his right foot and curled it off the left post into the net. Spain had the lead in the 58th minute. Spain continued to dictate the play, until late on.
Portugal came alive late on moving forward and creating chances. in the 88th minute Portugal had a free kick from about 25 yards out Ronaldo stood behind the ball, and waited for the whistle. Once it was blown he charged the ball hit it over the Spanish wall, and into the top right corner. A hat-trick for Ronaldo secured a split of the points for both sides. This will feel like a loss for Spain, and a win for Portugal. It will be interesting to see how it affects both teams as the tournament progresses!
Here’s where things stand after the first game of Group B! Raise your hand if you thought Iran would ever lead this group! They’re in the first spot after the first match. They will need to keep up their strong defense in their next two games to stay in the top two. Portugal and Spain will look to dominate their next two games after their thriller. Morocco has a lot of ground to gain, but if they are able to fix things in their next two they could go through!
And so, Group B looks like this:
— FIFA World Cup (@FIFAWorldCup) June 15, 2018
More action to come!
As the tournament roles on, we will continue our reviews! Come back tomorrow for a review of Groups C and D. Catch all the games on Fox or Telemundo! Replays of matches are also available on the FoxSportsGO App!
Check out these matches or replays today:
France vs Australia (Group C) – REPLAY – FoxSportsGO App.
Argentina vs Iceland (Group D) – REPLAY – FoxSportsGO App.
Peru vs Denmark (Group C) – REPLAY – FoxSportsGO App.
Croatia vs Nigeria (Group D) – REPLAY – FoxSportsGO App.
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Mandatory Credit: Sipa USA-USA TODAY Sports