As we count down to when Nigeria takes to the field to (probably) get beaten by Croatia, we can look back on the last 2 days of what, I think, has been an explosive start to the FIFA World Cup in Russia. I can comfortably say that we are in for the most entertaining FIFA World Cup yet. There’s plenty of drama still to come so let’s get comfortable.
First off, it was an Arabic affair as Saudi Arabia, Morocco, Iran, and Egypt featured heavily in the first 2 days of the tournament. It was great to see them put in the energy required to compete, especially just after the fasting period. I’m sure they would have prayed for better results though. Saudi Arabia defended so badly that you would think the game against Russia was rigged (I still have my suspicions on that) and the funny thing is that Russia could have had more goals added to the game. I’m not surprised though. I always felt Saudi Arabia had done well just to be in Russia.
I’m not happy with how the African teams have fared so far. Every time the World Cup comes around, I struggle to understand why African teams can’t step it up a level. Uruguay are good but they were not that good against Egypt. With a bit more zip in their passing and movement, Egypt could have nicked it. A draw would still have been good but they chose the final moments of the game to switch off and grant a free header. Just like that…they lost. Same with Morocco. How do you let Iran win? Iran for goodness’ sake? And with an own goal? C’mon mehn. While I accept that Iran deserve credit for their win (off the back of an industrious performance), I expected Morocco to pick up 3 points here; especially with the Portugal-Spain yet to start. They blew a big chance here and will need a major miracle to get out of this group.
As far as blockbusters go, the best was definitely saved for last, with Portugal and Spain putting up a spectacle of a game. What a way to sign off the day. A 3-all draw tells you all you need to know; this game had everything. Tackles, flare-ups, skill, movement, grit, hunger, goals, goals, and more goals…you could watch this game up to 4 times, and not blink. That’s how good the action was. Spain did so well to come back from 2-1 down to make it 3-2. Diego Costa was at his menacing best (don’t talk to me about the foul for the first goal…I thought Pepe tried to make a meal out of the shove and the referee saw the drama rather than the foul) plus I think he delivered the performance that we were all looking for. He’ll be buzzing as Spain head to the next game. Nacho’s goal deserves a mention. The right-back chose the best time to open his account for Spain. What an effort! No keeper would reach that. Even Mr Fantastic (from the ‘Fantastic Four’…in case I’ve lost you) wouldn’t have stretched that far to reach it (ok he probably would…but the ball would still go in…that goal was destiny for Nacho).
I saved my last take for the man of the moment; Cristiano Ronaldo. Like him or not, he is a legend of the game and he proved himself again last night. Portugal owe so much to this man. I need to borrow some accolades to give this guy because I’ve run out of the ones I have. If you could chose the one player that would score the first hat-trick of this year’s World Cup, Ronaldo would not have been far from your mind. He benefited from two mistakes to score his first two goals, but to choose the final moments of the game to score his first free-kick (in forever) just shows you how much he loves the big occasion. For anyone that says he’s finished as a player, you need to stop talking and start admiring, because he’s nowhere near finished…not even close. Lionel Messi? Over to you.