World Cup Recap: Cristiano Ronaldo steals the show with a hat-trick on Day 2

World Cup Recap: Cristiano Ronaldo steals the show with a hat-trick on Day 2
That Ronaldo guy is good at soccer. Photo courtesy of Nike, Inc.

After Thursday’s opening activities, action in the 2018 FIFA World Cup ramped up with three matches on Friday. Egypt vs. Uruguay and the heavy-hitting Portugal vs. Spain were the bouts on everyone’s checklist - particularly because a win could decide the group winner in their respective groups.

Egypt 0-1 Uruguay

Ekaterinburg Arena, Ekaterinburg

Attendance: 27,015

This match was one of the must-see today because of the star power that could potentially be involved in the result - Liverpool’s Mohamed Salah for Egypt and FC Barcelona’s Luis Suarez as well as Paris Saint-Germain’s Edinson Cavani for Uruguay. Instead it wasn't a goalscorer but a defender - Atletico Madrid’s Jose Maria Gimenez - that decided the match to give Uruguay a clear path to winning the group.

To start the match, Egypt looked like the better side because they looked better organized and looked more dangerous moving forward despite not starting Salah. Salah was not expected in the starting XI but was on the bench, as expected as he makes his way back from a dislocated shoulder injury in the UEFA Champions League final. Cavani and Suarez did have opportunities but they were defended well by the Egyptian defense. The clearest opportunity in the first half came off a corner in the 24th minute where Suarez misses the target and hits the side netting. Six opportunities is what Uruguay generated in the first half but only one was on target. Egypt had 2/3 shots on goal in the first but in the end teams headed to the dressing room with a scoreless draw.

Uruguay looked much more dangerous in the second outing. La Celeste went for the win but Egypt just would not break. Egypt’s goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy was looking like the man of the match, forcing Suarez into tight spaces and saving a marvelous long-range attempt from Cavani. Salah would not come off the bench as the manager opted for other options but it was a gamble that looked like it would pay off - until the 89th minute. Uruguay had an opportunity off a free kick and it was all they would need to walk away with the 1-0 win.

Analysis: Not picking up results in the opening match can complicate teams, even the great ones, as we’ve seen in past World Cups. Uruguay was looking to head that way if they did not pick up a result. Fortunately, for them, they did pick up the three points and now look to be heading for the top of the group as all predicted.

Egypt on the other hand are still in good shape to go through despite the loss but a draw would have helped better their chances of getting a more manageable opponent in the round of 16. No sense in looking ahead now, as the pressure starts with host Russia up next.

Notable stat: Uruguay won their opening match to start a World Cup for the first time since the 1970 edition.

Morocco 0-1 Iran

Saint Petersburg Stadium, St. Petersburg

Attendance: 62,548

This match was always going to leave much to be desired, especially considering the other two bouts of the day, which is why it was perfectly sandwiched in the middle of today’s TV schedule. Still, it was a must-win for both these teams because European powers Portugal and Spain are the other two teams in Group B. Both sides looked sloppy coming out of the gate an neither really did much to generate opportunities on goal. Everything shot at the goalkeepers was either a missed shot or something with not enough power behind it. It looked as though this would end in a scoreless draw but a winner was decided - sadly it was off a defensive mistake. An own goal by Moroccan forward Aziz Bouhaddouz when defending a free kick in stoppage time was the decider that gave Iran the three points.

Analysis: As mentioned, this was a must-win for either team given Portugal and Spain are the favorites to move out of this group. Still, if you wanted to give yourself a chance it was with a win here and hope other results work out for you in the next two matchdays. Ultimately, it still looks difficult for Iran but they’ve given themselves a chance and can already call this World Cup a success. Morocco on the other hand have to feel like they’re eliminated and are now staring at a winless trip with Portugal and Spain, respectively, up next.

Portugal 3-3 Spain

Fisht Stadium, Sochi

Attendance: 43,866

This match delivered great moments and left us wanting more. Six goals in total, a hat-trick by Cristiano Ronaldo and, of course, the drama of how Spain would react on the field just two days after parting ways with their head coach. Well, I hope you sat down to watch this one because highlights may not do it justice.

Less than five minutes into the first half, Cristiano Ronaldo gets dropped inside the box and to the penalty spot we go. As he’s done so clinically for Real Madrid in the Champions League, Ronaldo did here to put Portugal in the lead over their Iberian Peninsula neighbors. The lead would only last until the 24th minute when Diego Costa converted on an individual play but not before elbowing a defender on a controversial play. Both of the plays - the penalty and the Costa potential foul - did not go to video review despite having the ability to for the first time ever of a World Cup. Ronaldo would rally his troops and would shoot his shot right before halftime, one that becomes a goalkeeping blunder by who many consider the best keeper in the world in David De Gea, and Portugal heads into halftime with a 2-1 lead.

Diego Costa would match Ronaldo in the second half by tying the match in the 55th minute, a free kick attempt that touches the feet of three Spanish players before Costa pushes it in to goal. As the second half goes on, Spain look the more dangerous side and translate that form in to the scoreboard. Nacho would score in the 58th minute with a spectacular shot from long range to place the Spaniards up 3-2 over their rivals. Then, a free kick opportunity in the final stages of the second half. Of course, there was no doubt who would take the attempt. Ronaldo converts and Portugal tie it 3-3 in the 88th minute.

Analysis: This result leaves the top of the group open and, given that the Group B winner faces the Group A runner-up in the next round, that could mean the difference between facing Uruguay or Egypt/Russia. Despite it being a draw, it feels like a win for Portugal. For Spain, a win was needed to calm the waters of firing their coach two days ago. Regardless, the group will likely be decided now by whoever scores more against both Morocco and Iran.

Upcoming Matches (All Times CT):

Saturday, June 16

5 a.m. - [Group C] France vs. Australia (FS1, Telemundo)

8 a.m. - [Group D] Argentina vs. Iceland (FOX, Telemundo)

11 a.m. - [Group C] Peru vs. Denmark (FS1, Telemundo)

2 p.m. - [Group D] Croatia vs. Nigeria (FS1, Telemundo)

Sunday, June 17

7 a.m. - [Group E] Costa Rica vs. Serbia (FOX, Telemundo)

10 a.m. - [Group F] Germany vs. Mexico (FS1, Telemundo)

1 p.m. - [Group E] Brazil vs. Switzerland (FS1, Telemundo)


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