After the excitement, comes the reality
The second round of games have brought their fare of grief and joy. When Russia carved up Egypt 3-1 on day six, the Russians celebrated as if they had gone into the last 16 from Group A. But their party could have been ruined. Though they had six points, there were a couple of permutations that meant the hosts might not qualify. However, all these fears were put to bed when Luis Suarez scored his first goal of the tournament to give Uruguay their second win and six points. Now, the final Group A match between Russia and Uruguay on 25 June in Samara is a battle for top spot. That wasn’t expected.
O Cristiano Ronaldo
Another game. Another goal. The Portugal skipper scored the only goal of the match against Morocco at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow to give his side their first win and – after the opening day draw against Spain – four points. Spain responded later on day seven in Kazan with a 1-0 win over Iran. They too have four points. But the Moroccans are out after their second defeat. Coach Hervé Renard said he was proud of his players. Well, if he’s proud, imagine the swelling heart of the Iran coach Carlos Queiroz. Spain just about edged it against the Iranians. Diego Costa notched his third of the competition. But Iran can still progress. They simply have to beat Portugal. “The reality is this,” said Queiroz. “We have our dreams open and against Portugal it is a match point for us and we are going to try to win the game. We know it is going to be difficult but we are going to try to go to the second round. That’s why we’ve come here.” What a shock that would be if Iran win in Saransk on 25 June. The second phase with no Cristiano Ronaldo.
Make the most of Andres Iniesta
If the second phase without Cristiano Ronaldo seems a bleak prospect, then the last 16 without Andres Iniesta would also be sad. The Spain midfielder is 34 and though he starts, does not finish games. He came off on day seven to be replaced by Koke. Iniesta will retire from internationals after this tournament. His honours with his country include the winning goal in the 2010 World Cup final and a couple of man of the match performances as Spain won the 2008 and 2012 European championships. The original midfield diamond.
The big man who plies his trade at Atletico Madrid scored his third of the competition against Iran. This was all about having the ball bounce in your favour. Costa took a pass from Andres Iniesta in the Iran penalty area with his back to the goal. As he tried to turn, the Iran defender Ramin Rezaeian kicked the ball but it hit Costa’s leg and flew past the Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand. Lucky. Three points.
We at the review have hailed Senegal boss Aliou Cissé and England coach Gareth Southgate for their trousers and waistcoat look on the touchline. But our award for sartorial supergod goes to Hervé Renard for his enduring capsule collection of crisp white shirts. This tournament his signature piece has been worn over dark trousers. When Renard was leading Zambia to Africa Cup of Nations glory in 2012 in Gabon, he sported the white shirt over jeans. After the victory in the final over Cote d’Ivoire, there was a social media campaign in Zambia to have the shirt put in a football museum. Smart.