FIFA Fever: After a dramatic Day 12, all eyes on Argentinaâ€™s last shot at WC
Day 12 of the FIFA World Cup 2018 perhaps saw the most drama unfold on-field as penalty shots were missed, heart-stopping last minute equaliser goals were scored and players strongly protested referees’ decisions.
Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty shot and Portugal almost got a heart attack before the team drew 1-1 against Iran. The match drew much flak against the VAR (Video Assistant Referee) system as football experts believe that Ronaldo got away lightly with a Yellow Card for hitting Iranian player Morteza Pouraliganji in the face with his elbow. Iran coach Carlos Queiroz, understandably is livid and believes that Ronaldo should have been given a Red Card and Iran awarded another penalty kick. With this draw, Iran is all but out of the FIFA World Cup 2018, but the team leaves with its head held high. Portugal will now meet Uruguay.
In contrast, Spain will be thanking the VAR system for its 2-2 draw against Morocco. Spain, which was trailing a strong Morocco team 2-1 after 90 minutes of play, saw Iago Aspas score the desperately needed equaliser in injury time. However, the goal was initially disallowed. Following intervention by the VAR, the goal was allowed and now Spain moves on to face Russia in Round 2.
Uruguay handed Russia its first loss in this WC as it surged ahead 3-0 to top Group A with 9 points out of three wins. Luis Suarez, Denis Cheryshev and Edinson Cavani scored for Team Uruguay, which hasn’t lost any match so far.
Mohamed Salah’s goal failed to save Egypt from defeat against Saudi Arabia, which won 2-1.
On Day 13 today, (June 26, 2018), a lot depends on a red wheel barrow... and on the performance of Denmark. Denmark really needs a win against France to qualify for the knockouts and stands the best chance of doing so in their Group. Neither France nor Denmark is known for their defensive play, so we are anticipating an all out offensive back and forth between the two teams. Remarkably, France, considered one of the strongest teams in this WC, has been relatively timid in their goal scoring compared to the other strong teams in the tournament. With a margin of just one goal separating the two teams on account of their previous matches, there is a possibilty for Denmark to cause an upset. Their match begins at 7.30 pm IST.
Although, it looks like the end of their WC run, Australia put up quite a fight against their opponents in this tournament. While they might be lacking in offensive firepower, we have no complaints regarding their defense. Australia could use the support of veteran striker Tim Cahill, who at 38 remains one of the top scorers in Australia. However, coach Bert Van Marwijk has been hesitant to deploy Cahill and rightly so, as his performance has been so-so in the lead up to the WC. He has been more inclined to use younger players like Tomi Juric and Daniel Arzani, which might pay off in the long run as these players gain the valuable experience. Nonetheless, Australia’s offense is crippled for their coming game as their main striker Andrew Nabbout has sustained a shoulder injury.Who will step up to fill his place?
Australia face Peru, which has failed to make a single goal in this tournament. They made a few interesting plays here and there, but none of them manifested into anything remotely dangerous. It may be noted that the 2 goals scored by Australia in their previous matches came from penalties. This puts both teams in a similar boat in terms of offensive strength. Unless they radically alter their offensive strategy, the match might very well turn into the first 0-0 result in this WC.
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Today, the matches of Argentina vs Nigeria and Croatia vs Iceland will determine the fate of 3 teams vying to reach the knockout stage. None of these teams have performed as expected and have remained enigmas in their respective Groups. Croatia has come out tops as the strongest team in the Group with two consecutive victories against Nigeria and Argentina. Iceland, the debutants in this WC and definite underdogs in their Group, have managed to draw against Argentina, but have lost to Nigeria. Lastly, Nigeria who put up a weak performance against Croatia, returned to beat Iceland with a resounding 2-0 victory and showcased their sprightliness on the offensive.
Once upon a time in a match-up between Argentina and Nigeria, the obvious favourites would have been the South American side, however, with Argentina’s poor performance in this WC, confidence has dimmed in their abilities. The single goal made by Argentina in this tournament wasn’t even by Lionel Messi. Argentina’s mish-mash of a defense is riddled with holes and an empty midfield is all the opportunity that the African side needs to sprint past and create a scoring opportunity. For Argentina, it is a do or go home to face an angry nation.
Whatever may be Nigeria’s chances, they are in a much better spot than Iceland. In Iceland’s match against Croatia today at 11.30 pm IST, they lack the raw offensive strength possessed by Croatia. We expect Iceland to spend a majority of the game on the defensive. If Iceland ever gets a chance to go on the attack, they will have to make the most of the opportunity.
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