A wonderful start and now the World Cup really gets going, but first a recap…
Saudi Arabia no great sheiks
After Robbie Williams gave us his middle finger in the opening ceremony the first game of the tournament saw Saudi Arabia put in the most inept World Cup performance I’ve seen since erm Saudi Arabia were tonked 8-0 by a Germany team that could generously be described as less rubbish back in 2002.
Russia were good an as predicted in Aleksandr Golovin they have a creative talent that gave them a cutting edge against a lethargic Saudi defence. Denis Cheryshev was also excellent after he replaced the injured Alan Dzagoev and Russia gave the tournament an unexpectedly explosive start in their 5-0 romp. Russia’s defence was never tested, something that will change once Luis Suarez and Mo Salah home into view, talking of which.
Day 2 Predictions:
Egypt Vs Uruguay
Liverpool’s 2 best players of the last decade face off this afternoon in Ekaterinburg. The question is of course will Mo Salah be fit- it doesn’t look good right now and Salah seems more likely to make his World Cup bow against Russia next week. I fancy Uruguay to go a distance in what looks like being the last stand for an outstanding generation. Suarez & Cavani are the best front pair in the tournament and in Salah’s absence they will likely retreat into being a tight defensive side from this tough opener, but I expect Uruguay will have too much firepower for the Pharaohs.
Prediction: Egypt 1-2 Uruguay
Morocco vs Iran
OK I’m not going to pretend I’ve spent years watching Iranian or Moroccan football. What we can be sure of is Carlos Queiroz will have Iran well-drilled after an impressive qualification and after pushing Argentina all the way in the last tournament.
Morocco too are tough defensively but limited in attack but for those thinking of missing this one I suspect this game will be sneaky good for one reason- with need to win. With Spain & Portugal still to come both these teams need 3 points to give themselves a chance so neither can sit back, it’ll be fascinating to see who’s prepared to gamble more. One player to watch could be Alireza Jahanbakhsh a pacey forward coming of a brilliant season in Holland and I’m plumping for him to make the difference.
Prediction: Morocco 0-1 Iran
Portugal vs Spain
No question this is the blockbuster clash of round 1- the hugely gifted former World & European Champions against the neighbours who stole their continental crown 2 summers ago. The shock defection of Spanish manager Julen Lopetegui to Real Madrid has dominated the build up and with Fernando Hierro parachuted in Spain are in crisis. Hierro is unlikely to make many if any changes and Spain’s side is arguably the most gifted in Russia but they’re up against it against that man CR7.
Unlike 2014 Ronaldo is turning up primed and ready and Portugal have found a fluent supporting cast to go with their mean defence. The plots and subplots here are endless- how will the difference club factions of Spain’s team combine in the light of Lopeteegui’s departure? Does Iniesta have one last trick up his sleeve? And will everyone’s favourite defender Sergio Ramos go in hard on club-mate Cris? This one is unmissable and I think the chaos swirling around Spain will bite them.
Prediction: Portugal 2-1 Spain