Saturday, June 16
Group D: Argentina vs Iceland
Lionel Messi’s Argentina were held by a solid Iceland team, in their opening game, as Messi missed a penalty.
It took 19 minutes for Argentina to take the lead and it was Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero with the goal, as he took a left footed shot on the spin and powered it into the net.
Four minutes later though, and Iceland were level as Gylfi Sigurdsson’s low cross to Bjarnason was saved by Willy Caballero, but Alfred Finnbogason was at hand to convert the re-bound.
On the brink of half-time, Sigurdson showed great feet to get around Maximiliano Meza and attempt the far post finesse, but it was saved by Caballero.
Just past the hour mark, Argentina were awarded a penalty as Messi was pushed in the back Hörður Björgvin Magnússon. But the Barcelona forward was denied by film director Hannes Þór Halldórsson.
On the brink of full-time, Cristian Pavon attempted a whipped cross, which turned into a shot, which forced Halldórsson into a fine reflex save, and that was the game. A disappointing start from the South Americans.
Group D: Croatia vs Nigeria
Luka Modric captained his Croatian side to a comfortable victory against Nigeria.
Croatia took the lead after 32 minutes, as Modric’s corner was whipped in and flicked on by Ante Rebic, then a slight header from Mario Mandzukic was deflected into the Nigerian net by their own player, Oghenekaro Etebo.
Chances kept falling to the Croatian players, but they were awarded a penalty after 69 minutes, from a Modric corner, Mandzukic was held, and brought down by William Troost-Ekong. It was Real Madrid man and Croatia skipper Modric with the perfect penalty to make it 2-0.
A comfortable victory for Croatia, who were rarely troubled by the Nigerians.
Group C: France vs Australia
France had VAR and technology to thank for their victory against Australia, as it was required for both of their goals.
Despite a faster start from France, Australia had the best first chance of the game as a deep free kick from Huddersfield midfielder Aaron Mooy hit Corentin Tolisso, which forced Hugo Lloris into a quick reflex save.
VAR was called into play for the firsst time in World Cup history after 56 minutes, as Atletico Madrid striker Antoine Griezmann was bought down by Josh Risdon with the slightest of touches, althougb it seemed the Aussie got a faint touch on the ball. Griezmann’s spot kick was sublime and unsavable and France were ahead.
On the hour mark, Barcelona defender Samuel Umtiti cleared the ball with his hand in his own box and Australia were awarded a penalty, which was converted by Mile Jedinak.
France took the lead again, in the 80th minute, and once again technology was called into play as Paul Pogba’s shot deflected off Aziz Benich and looped over Matt Ryan, off the underside of the crossbar and just over the line.
France won the game 2-1, but will have to play much better against “superior” opposition if they want to win the World Cup
Group C: Peru vs Denmark
Peru had the best first chance of the game as André Carrillo dispossessed Vigo’s Pione Sisto and took a shot from the right side of the box, and forced a save out of Kasper Schmeichel.
VAR was called into play after a Peuvian penalty appeal as Christian Cueva was brought down by Yussuf Poulsen of RB Leipzig. Although the penalty wasn’t given at first, a penalty review eventually lead to the Peruvian penalty, which was taken by Cuevas, who sent the ball high into the stands.
On the brink of the hour mark, Denmark took the lead as Poulsen turned from villain to hero as Christian Eriksen slid the ball into the path of the 24-year old striker, who slotted the ball past Pedro Gallese.
Peru almost replied instantly as Edison Flores forced Schmeichel into a fine save and minutes later, Cueva’s pass into Paolo Guerrero, who attempted the back-heel was so close. Jefferson Farfan also had a chance to score, as the ball was squared to him and he was open, but his shot was well saved by Schmeichel.
Friday, June 15
Group A: Egypt v Uruguay
Atletico Madrid’s Diego Godin captained his Uruguay side to a late victory against Egypt.
Barcelona forward Luis Suarez had the best chance in the first half to open the scoring after 24 minutes, but he dragged his shot wide of the goal. In fact, Suarez himself had four shots in the first half, as many as Egypt’s shots combined, two of his shots were off target, one was blocked and one was on target. Chances fell to Vecino and Cavani too, but neither troubled the Egyptian keeper.
In the second half, Uruguay instantly played much better football and Suarez again with the chance, but El Shenawy made a fantastic save to deny him. The one time Cavani and Suarez did link-up, Suarez couldn’t convert the shot as the ball was smothered by El Shenaway as Suarez took to long to do anything, as he attempted to round the ‘keeper.
Egypt were limited to shots from distance, which never really troubled Muslera.
Uruguay had a golden chance to make it 1-0 as Cavani’s free kick hit the inside of the post and came straight back out to an unmarked Uruguayan, but his shot was blocked by his own team-mate Sanchez. Minutes later though, two minutes from time, Sanchez whipped in a free kick from the right hand side, and it was Atletico Madrid defender Jose Gimenez to head the ball into the corner and give Uruguay their first points of this World Cup campaign.
Group B: Morocco vs Iran
Leganes winger Nordin Amrabat suffered a concusion and had to be substituted as his side suffered a late defeat against Iran.
It was Amrabat who provided the first opportunity for the Moroccans as his low cross was met, but it went over the bar.
Iran had their first chance after 32 minutes of play as Sardar Azmoun was played in through on goal by Amiri, but Azmoun’s shot was saved Mohamedi.
Despite the early Moroccan dominance, it was Iran who were victorious, and Iran scored their winner in second-half stoppage and had Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz to thank, as a free kick on the left-hand side was whipped in and the forward made too much contact, and it went into the back of his own net.
Group B: Portugal vs Spain
Spain and Portugal played out a 3-3 draw as Fernando Hierro took charge of La Roja for the first time.
It only took four minutes for Portugal to get on the score-board, and it was from the spot as Cristiano Ronaldo was brought down by his Real Madrid team-mate Nacho Fernandez. Ronaldo converted comfortably as he sent David de Gea the wrong way, and he had his first of the tournament.
Spain were level 20 minutes later through in un-Spanish fashion. A 60 yard long-ball from Sergio Busquets found Diego Costa, who brought the ball down and dummied his way left and right in front of Jose Fonte, before finding the corner.
Moments later, Isco had a thunderbolt of a shot which hit of the crossbar and smashed the line, although it didn’t go over the line.
On the brink of half-time, Portugal were ahead and it was Ronaldo who scored it, although he had the Spanish goalkeeper to thank for it as the shot was straight at the shot-stopper, but De Gea let it slip through his grasp and into the corner of the net, an uncharacteristic mistake from the Manchester United man.
After the break, Spain were equalised again and it was Costa with his second of the game. Andres Iniesta’s free kick from the edge of the box was lofted towards the far post and headed across to the Brazilian-born striker, who was on hand to tap the ball into the net.
And Spain were ahead shortly after, with Nacho atoning for his early mistake with a stunning strike. The ball fell to him on the edge of the box and the Real Madrid defender took it on the half-volley, sending it crashing off the inside of Rui Patricio’s post and into the net.
Two minutes from time, Portugal were awarded a free kick on the edge of the box, Ronaldo territory, and it was five-time Ballon d’Or winner who sailed into the corner to complete his hat-trick as De Gea was rooted to the spot, only able to watch the mastery.
Thursday, June 14
Group A: Russia vs Saudi Arabia
Villarreal winger Denis Cheryshev was among the best performers for hosts Russia, netting twice, having only come on as a substitute for the injured Alan Dzagoev in the 24th minute in this opening match of the 2018 World Cup.
Yury Gazinsky scored the opener, before Cheryshev doubled the lead with some brilliant trickery in the box. Artem Dzyuba made it 3-0 by powering a header into the corner. In stoppage time, Cheryshev scored another, this time with the outside of his boot, setting an early contestant for goal of the tournament.
Aleksandr Golovin, who had already grabbed a couple of assists and played incredibly well, rounded off the show with a pin-point free-kick from the edge of the box, final score 5-0.
Despite sending nine players on loan to La Liga clubs in January in a bid to improve their ability ahead of the World Cup, they failed to register a single shot on target and keeping hold of possession was a struggle for Saudi Arabia.
Russia’s next game will be against Egypt on Tuesday, while Saudi Arabia will have to face Luis Suarez’s Uruguay on Monday.