World Cup 2018 enters the second round of matches in Day 7 as only Russia and Egypt have already played their second matches. Russia now has the best start to a World Cup of any host nation in history with two wins and eight goals scored with only one conceded after beating Egypt 3-1 yesterday. In 1934 host Italy scored eight in two wins but gave up two goals. In other action Tuesday there were two upsets as Japan took advantage of a red card foul inside three minutes (2 minutes and 54 seconds) on Colombia and converted the ensuing penalty kick then held on for a 2-1 win. Senegal was the second upset winner as they went up 2-0 on Poland and held on for a 2-1 win giving Africa their first points of the tournament.
Time: 5:00 AM
Location: Luzhniki Stadium, Moscow
TV: Fox Sports 1 (English) and Telemundo (Spanish)
Announcing team: JP Dellacamera and Tony Meola (English)
I don't often talk about referees in this space (look to the comments for that) but as an ardent watcher of MLS, it has to be pointed out that MLS and FIFA referee Mark Geiger has been assigned the center duties for this game. It might be worth getting up at 5 am and watching on twitter as the world enjoys what we have enjoyed over 173 MLS games since 2004 when Geiger first started working MLS games.
Portugal comes into this game with one point after Cristiano Ronaldo put on a show for the ages and dragged Portugal to a 3-3 draw with Spain in their opener. Ronaldo scored a hat trick that was capped off with a stunning free kick late in the game off a foul he earned at the top of the box. If Ronaldo keeps playing like that, Portugal has a shot at repeating their European Championship success from two summers ago.
Morocco were unlucky to not leave Saint Petersburg with at least a point in their opener to Iran. Morocco dominated the match creating 13 chances as recorded by FIFA to Iran’s 8 and had 64% of the possession. But Iran benefitted from Own Goal’s first of 5 goals so far this tournament as Aziz Bouhaddouz headed into his own net in stoppage time.
Uruguay vs. Saudi Arabia
Time: 8:00 AM
Location: Rostov Arena, Rostov-On-Don
TV: FOX (English) and Telemundo (Spanish)
Announcing team: Derek Rae and Aly Wagner (English)
With Russia sitting on six points and Egypt virtually eliminated with zero points from two played, this game could settle Group A before other groups play their second match. Anything but a Saudi Arabia win here will ensure the Russia advances and a win by Uruguay will see both Uruguay and Russia advance with matchday 3 being to see who wins the group.
Uruguay played a tight game against a defensive Morocco team in their opener, but benefitted from a late goal for the full three points. Look for Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and the Uruguayan attack to use this game against what looked like an overmatched Saudi Arabia team to sharpen up as the tournament progresses.
What’s to say about Saudi Arabia? They came out in their opener and looked to play out of the back, press high and generally attack Russia. The problem was eventually Russia scored and then they scored again. Then they made some subs and scored again and it got out of hand with a 5-0 finish. While another team might sit back and try to absorb pressure against a favored Uruguay team, expect Saudi Arabia to run with the same game plan and give Uruguay space. It should at least be entertaining.
Iran vs. Spain
Time: 11:00 AM
Location: Kazan Arena, Kazan
TV: FOX (English) and Telemundo (Spanish)
Announcing team: Mark Followill and Warren Barton (English)
Your author throughout this journey in Russia that we are taking together picked Spain to win the World Cup before the tournament opened. With a 3-3 draw in their opener against a Portugal team enjoying a transcendent Ronaldo performance I am actually feeling better about the pick. Spain looked like their best self from 2010 but with the added bite from Diego Costa. They will be fine. With Spain being in Group B and paired against Group A (Russia’s group) in the knockout rounds, that looks like an relatively enviable path to the quarterfinals.
Iran already exceeded expectations when they beat Morocco in the opener. With three points in hand, they can afford to lose this game and still have a “win and move on” game against Portugal in the group closer.