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1-0 Wins for Portugal, Uruguay and Spain on Day Seven

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June 21, 2018
Ronaldo scored again in another Portugal win

The big news from yesterday, outside of the football, was the trembling of millions of Brazilian knees when word came out about that Neymar’s ankle was having trouble. Today, those knees stopped knocking with word that, in addition to another haircut, he was fit and running again. Joking aside, he really needed that haircut and we really need a fit Neymar to add his talent to this World Cup buffet.

In terms of the games, it’s pretty much a case of the less said, the better. No-one outside of interested back-room teams will ever again look at these matches in detail. Did you expect Portugal, Uruguay and Spain to win? Well, they did with Ronaldo, Suarez and Costa scoring respectively. If you want to learn more about what went on, read the reviews below but for your own sake, don’t watch them back! If you really must watch one, make it the last one and even then, keep it to the second half. And check YouTube for the horrendous assault that poor Pepe suffered at the hands of Mehdi Benatia in the first game but be warned – it will chill you to your very bones.

Portugal 1-0 Morocco

There are millions of children around the planet for whom Cristiano Ronaldo must seem like a demi-god, an Immortal in their world who has always dominated the game. He has been burnishing that heavenly reputation at this tournament; a hat-trick in the opening game including a late free-kick to get his team that morale-boosting draw against Spain drew even more admiration for the man.

He picked up where he left off within four minutes of the start of play, his diving header enough to take the lead and move the man ahead of Ferenc Puskas in international goals. The early strike forced Morocco’s hand and they responded well to going behind. Space and opportunity was to be enjoyed down their right flank but they found it difficult to make the necessary moves in the box or get the right kind of ball in there. Overall it was an enjoyable first half if a somewhat physical and snappy affair with Ronaldo receiving most of the choice treatment. Morocco did enough in that 45 to give themselves hope that they had a chance of getting back into it in the second half. The flip side of that was that Portugal weren’t unduly troubled and with Ronaldo looking sharp, they just had to engineer a couple of chances for their main man should the need arise.

The second half was effectively the last 45 minutes that mattered a damn to Morocco – lose this half and the regret would be theirs forever. They showed little respect for the difference in quality between the teams and again went at Portugal with feeling. The difference in this half was the accuracy of the final ball and shots as evidenced by the quality of saves that Rui Patricio had to pull in the Portugal goal. The fouling continued apace as did the shrill of the referee’s whistle but the official was reluctant to issue the yellow cards that may have put some manners on proceedings.

Watching Morocco play, one was struck by the sheer nonsense of their loss to Iran, the result which left them in such a pickle coming into this game. They’re not a high-quality team and don’t create much but they backed themselves against Portugal and kept the European Champions pinned back for most of the half. In hindsight, they might rue the fact that they weren’t more adventurous when they were in possession; another option up front would have left them open further back but in light of their predicament, they really should have been all in.

Viewers were treated to some classic Pepe buffoonery toward the end when he threw himself to the ground after being patted on the back by Mehdi Benatia but there were to be no laughs for Morocco as they couldn’t affect the scoreline and so their World Cup dream came to an end. Portugal didn’t get close to those vertiginous of their opening game but they didn’t have to; if nothing else, they and their manager are a pragmatic bunch albeit with a cherry called Ronaldo on top.

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The opening quarter of an hour saw Saudi Arabia largely dominate possession against Uruguay, who were happy to sit back and let them have it. It was a scrappy start with sloppy play from both sides but you got the impression that Uruguay had identified Saudi Arabia as a toothless team who hadn’t the necessary skills to inflict any hurt on them and were just biding their time, waiting for space and mistakes to strike.

And after 20 minutes of play, strike they did following a mistake from Saudi Arabia’s goalkeeper, who made a hash of clearing a corner and none other than Luis Suarez was there to finish the chance, wheeling away with teeth all a’ gleam. Quite incredibly, Saudi Arabia kept playing football and had two very decent chances in the 10 minutes that followed, one of which demanded a decent save from Fernando Muslera. Given their efforts alone, they would have been worth an equalizing goal but they just didn’t have the wherewithal to take advantage of the few decent chances they created.

Uruguay continued to amble along in a half-interested manner and whilst that might make sense in terms of keeping players fresh for a long tournament adventure, it can also be argued that it was a wasted opportunity for the team, and the midfield, in particular, to get the taste of controlling and dictating the terms of a match; a trait they should be working on if they want to roll with the big boys later on. The half trundled on in the manner of a cold pancake with no change to the score.

The second half began like the first ended – slow, tortuous and laboured It took 15 minutes and a cross from Edinson Cavani to Carlos Sanchez at the back stick to create the first real chance but Sanchez skied it. After that, the whole shebang blended into an amorphous mass of slow-moving colours. Uruguay’s approach was incredibly attritional given the standard of opposition and Saudi Arabia, for all their possession, couldn’t find the urgency and didn’t possess the skill to do anything to upset the scoreline. They avoided the shellacking visited upon them by Russia but they lost nonetheless so Saudi Arabia are going home. Uruguay might be in for a shock against a Russia team that’s making a habit of doing just that.

Iran 0-1 Spain

Spain meet the hosts Russia in the World Cup Round of 16

The game kicked off beneath a cacophony of noise, a continuous drone that seasoned World Cup watchers well remember from eight years ago – time has not healed those wounds. The football itself began at a good pace with Spain immediately looking to force the issue, Isco showing for the ball repeatedly. Spain floated some dangerous balls into Iran’s penalty area from set-pieces but Iran defended well.

Unsurprisingly, that was to be the tone of the match for the rest of the half – constant Spain attacks eventually breaking down before Iran hoofed the ball up the pitch as far they could. In fairness to Iran, they did look to launch the occasional attack but never troubled David De Gea’s goal. Similarly, for all Spain’s possession and attacking play, they didn’t unduly trouble Iran’s ‘keeper, Alireza Beiranvand, either. Taken as a whole, the first half looked just like a training session of attack v defence but given that Iran are coached by Carlos Quieroz, Iran looked as if they could keep out the tide.

The second half took the baton from the first and ran with it but about 10 minutes in Iran flashed a shot just wide, the side net rattling much to the dismay of Iran’s fans. Not more than a minute later, though, Spain had the lead. Iniesta worked the ball up the middle and Costa, with the help of a defender, steered it home. All of sudden, Iran started to come forward. With just under half an hour left, Iran had the ball in the back of the net following another free-kick but the goal scorer was off-side; Spain had been served notice and Iran were firing.

The game opened up, much to the delight of Spain as they finally had some space to attack even if it meant that Iran were being afforded some opportunities. Suddenly, the din of the crowd was commensurate with the play on the pitch. Iran blazed a header over the bar with just under 10 minutes left from a cross that was preceded by a lovely nutmeg on Gerard Pique.

The difference between the two halves was night and day following Spain’s goal. Iran did themselves proud and arguably created the better chances following Costa’s unorthodox conversion. Complaints that they should have played like that from the beginning ignore the fact that to do so would have been irresponsible in the extreme; in any case, the chances of them holding out until the 54th minute under those circumstances would likely have been slim. Spain deserved the win and with Isco growing with each game, they are the form team going forward.

About the author

Alan Penny
Alan Penny


Alan hails from Northern Ireland and is an avid fan of all sports. He has been with us since 2017 and serves as SBO’s Editor-in-Chief. Alan passionately covers everything from the latest regulatory developments across the globe to tips on the latest football matches.