Top spot hustle as group stages hit home stretch


It’s that famous point where we get to see simultaneous fixtures, group A has just top spot to settle, the main question has been answered and we just have to find out who finishes first and second with hosts, Russia level on points with Uruguay, in group B, Spain must win to avoid drama of the improbable as Iran would fancy their chances of beating Portugal, we’re on a roll with predictions, it’s day 12… shall we?

Uruguay vs Russia (25 June, 2018 7:00pm)

Uruguay is up against it here, they have failed to sparkle, two uninspiring group stage wins against sides that haven’t really turned up, many expected them to ship goals in tons past Saudi Arabia but they only triumphed on the back of a lone Luis Suarez strike in the first half, now they don’t only face a team that has scored eight times in two games, only Belgium and England equal that, they also face tens of thousands of Russians at the arena on Monday. Group A winners would face whoever comes second in group B, Portugal would obviously be the lesser of the likely two evils to emerge from the group so both teams know finishing first doesn’t guarantee much joy, Spain being the other side expected to make it through. Uruguay hasn’t conceded a single goal in this calendar year, the Atletico Madrid duo of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez are holding forte brilliantly, but their so called highly rated forward line are failing to come to life, so a good defense up against a fluid attack would be an interesting one.

Verdict: Full time draw


Saudi Arabia vs Egypt (25 June, 2018 3:00pm)

At about the same time, dusts would be sent to the innocent skies at another ground for same context but different contest, both teams have crashed out and ideally, this should be played at the airport as both of them head home afterwards. Pride and individual records remain the only incentives to fight for but who wants it more? Mohammed Salah is fit again, he didn’t deliver as expected in the game that broke their hearts but he sure showed glimpses of what could have been with several attempts, it’s time for the Africans to make sure they don’t end up without a win in their return to the big stage. Saudi Arabia avoided a repeat of their 8:0 drubbing in the hands of Germany in 2002 but still shipped five against Russia on day 1, something they massively improved on in their second group game. This would be entertaining.

Verdict: Egypt to win


Iran vs Portugal (25 June, 2018 7:00pm)

Iran haven’t lost hope, on paper they were supposed to be the whipping boys of the group but they have three points in two games and only lost to Spain, football super powers and it wasn’t without a fight, in fact they had a goal cruelly chalked off for offside. Portugal are obviously riding on the wings of Cristiano Ronaldo who has scored all their goals in the two games they have played, including the sensational hatrick against La Roja in their group opener; Portugal haven’t really played well, they were troubled by Morocco who could have gotten a result if they had finished some of the chances they created. Iran is managed by former Real Madrid manager, Carlos Qeiroz, a defensive minded coach with lots of discipline knows it isn’t impossible for Iran to qualify, they will sit deep and look to hit Portugal on the counter, Portugal must be watchful, Ronaldo will be up for this, set pieces, long range screamers and running in behind the defense, it would be a cracker.

Verdict: Iran to pick a point at least


Spain vs Morocco (25 June, 2018 7:00pm)

We end it here on day 12 with this fixture between father and son, Spain, the original colonial fathers of Morocco, although the Ceuta was later ceded to France, we will get to geography later but for now, we are about the final group game of the day, though simultaneous with the Iran and Portugal game. Games at these points get to be played simultaneously to avoid any form of compromise. Spain are yet to hit full gear, they have score four times but have conceded three times and it could have been four had VAR not chalked one off against Iran who stretched them mercilessly. The Spanish golden generation is ageing, Pique seems past his best, the trio of Andreas Iniesta, David Silva and Sergio Busquets need replacement, Morocco has absolutely nothing to play for so this would be academic but should Spain lose here by more than one goal and Iran beat Portugal by just a lone goal, Spain are out, won’t be for the first time as they shockingly didn’t make it past the group stage in Rio four years ago. Morocco would enjoy the game without pressure here, would Spain prefer to play Russia or Uruguay? They should seal qualification first.

Verdict: Spain to win



Strictly the writer’s opinion (@komptrolla on twitter)



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