WORLD CUP 2018 @RUSSIA

Best Player MD2: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

PREVIEW: FRANCE VS AUSTRALIA

All set to be a one-sided affair, this match is all about how many goals the French can score. Boasting pace, quality, finishing, creativity and vision, the French squad is relatively young but very, very fast. With the likes of Kylian Mbappe, Ousmane Dembele and Thomas Lemar, the Australian wing backs will surely be troubled. Again, this match will only be about how many goals the French can score.

KEY PLAYERS: Antoine Griezmann, Tim Cahill

PREDICTED SCORE: Australia 0 – 4 France

REVIEW: PORTUGAL VS SPAIN (3-3)

WHAT A CONTEST! Spain was dominant over Portugal for almost the entire match but it was those key CR7 moments that earned Portugal a well-earned draw. Certainly, Portugal had a lot of luck, first, they got a penalty in the third minute, then, De Gea decided to go all ‘Karius’ and then Ronaldo got a free kick in a dangerous position. Spain, on the other hand, was playing a very high brand of football, ‘tiki-taka.’ I think the decisive moment in the match was when Andres Iniesta was subbed off. However good Thiago may be, he can’t fill the boots of Iniesta, who was creating Magic with Isco and Alba on the left wing, completely bossing around the midfield. In the end, Portugal wasn’t playing at even a shade of Spain’s level, but they used their luck to pull off a spectacular match. Both teams were able to break their shackles during the match, Spain overcoming the loss of their manager and Portugal finally getting some key players back into form.

REVIEW: MOROCCO VS IRAN (0-1)

Perhaps the best match this tournament saw until Portugal vs Spain. This match had plenty of yellow cards, fouls, shock injuries and fights and that is what we want to see when two underdogs are fighting for survival. Morocco will surely feel robbed, they were the better team for the better half of the match and were peppering Iran’s goal with shots. That own goal at the end looked rather purposeful, a horrible mistake and I’m sure the player won’t be welcome back in Morocco.

REVIEW: EGYPT VS URUGUAY (0-1)

A match that was earmarked as one-sided but eventually turned out be a stern test for the South Americans. The Egyptians played amazingly well even without their talisman, Mo Salah. Despite bagging three points, there are being questions asked of Uruguay. Was the decision to play such a young squad fruitful? Why did Cavani and Saurez not link up as much as the team needed them to? Are they relying too much on their star strikers? And why were they not able to penetrate a defence that should’ve been easy for them? Uruguay gets a chance to redeem themselves against Suadi Arabia in their next match and looking at the way the Russians played against the Green Falcons, Cavani and Suarez both will be eyeing a hat-trick. For Egypt, qualifying to the knockout stage has become tricky. Russia’s superior goal difference means that Egypt cannot afford to lose against them, they will almost surely be eliminated. However, Egypt may have Mo Salah up and running by then. In all, it should be a cracker of a contest.

REVIEW: EGYPT VS URUGUAY (0-1)

A match that was earmarked as one-sided but eventually turned out be a stern test for the South Americans. The Egyptians played amazingly well even without their talisman, Mo Salah. Despite bagging three points, there are being questions asked of Uruguay. Was the decision to play such a young squad fruitful? Why did Cavani and Saurez not link up as much as the team needed them to? Are they relying too much on their star strikers? And why were they not able to penetrate a defence that should’ve been easy for them? Uruguay gets a chance to redeem themselves against Suadi Arabia in their next match and looking at the way the Russians played against the Green Falcons, Cavani and Suarez both will be eyeing a hat-trick. For Egypt, qualifying to the knockout stage has become tricky. Russia’s superior goal difference means that Egypt cannot afford to lose against them, they will almost surely be eliminated. However, Egypt may have Mo Salah up and running by then. In all, it should be a cracker of a contest.

REVIEW: EGYPT VS URUGUAY (0-1)

A match that was earmarked as one-sided but eventually turned out be a stern test for the South Americans. The Egyptians played amazingly well even without their talisman, Mo Salah. Despite bagging three points, there are being questions asked of Uruguay. Was the decision to play such a young squad fruitful? Why did Cavani and Saurez not link up as much as the team needed them to? Are they relying too much on their star strikers? And why were they not able to penetrate a defence that should’ve been easy for them? Uruguay gets a chance to redeem themselves against Suadi Arabia in their next match and looking at the way the Russians played against the Green Falcons, Cavani and Suarez both will be eyeing a hat-trick. For Egypt, qualifying to the knockout stage has become tricky. Russia’s superior goal difference means that Egypt cannot afford to lose against them, they will almost surely be eliminated. However, Egypt may have Mo Salah up and running by then. In all, it should be a cracker of a contest.

PREVIEW: PORTUGAL VS SPAIN @ Fisht Stadium, Sochi

The key match of the group, the winner of this clash will certainly top the group whereas a draw would spice things up. Spain looked like the overwhelming favourites a few days ago, but their recent change in management will certainly weaken them. Portugal too is suffering from some structural issues and has a number of players horrendously out of form. Both of these teams will certainly be looking to make their mark on their tournament after being shamefully eliminated in group stage back in 2014. Also, you may notice that I’ve mentioned Bernardo Silva as the key player for Portugal, you might say that Ronaldo’s name should be written there but there is a justification for it. Cristiano Ronaldo is the main goalscorer for Portugal but Bernardo is undoubtedly the most important. Owing to Quaresma’s and Ronaldo’s age, they both can’t dart out into the wings and sprint into the box or perhaps deliver crosses and then cut back to midfield, they simply don’t have the stamina. Bernardo, on the other hand, has ample pace to trouble wing backs, enough stamina to get crosses into the box for Ronaldo all day long and an innate ability to sprint back to midfield or perhaps even the back line to help his teammates.

KEY PLAYERS: Bernardo Silva, Isco

PREDICTED SCORE: Portugal 2 -2 Spain

PREVIEW: MOROCCO VS IRAN @ Saint Petersburg Stadium

Both teams start out as relative underdogs in comparison to heavyweights Spain and Portugal. If Spain and Portugal do not draw and one of these teams wins, then this group could also be set up for an excruciatingly important match the next time these teams play. Stat-wise, Morocco should emerge as victors, they topped their African Qualification group and also didn’t concede a single goal while doing it. However, Russia’s match just showed that stats do not tell the whole story at times, Russia hadn’t won in seven matches and then shocked Saudi Arabia by playing a higher brand of football. As of now, this match looks like anybody’s game.

PREDICTED SCORE: MOROCCO 1 – 0 IRAN

PREVIEW: EGYPT VS URUGUAY @ Ekaterinburg Arena, Yekaterinburg

Egypt and Uruguay have never faced each other before in a world cup match. Adding another reason to the list for this match to be extremely exciting. Egypt will be facing what seems like an unstoppable Russian team in their next match, and they would want a draw or perhaps even a win to keep their chances aloft. Also, the fact that Egypt has come back to the world cup after 28 years will only boost their will to win, despite their talisman striker, Mo Salah in a phase of recovery and a doubt for the match. Uruguay, who have become an experienced team in the world cup will look to catalyse their campaign with a resounding win, an announcement to the big nations that they have a new contender. Uruguay will probably roll past Egypt. If they do, this group will truly become extremely interesting. An Egyptian loss would mean that anything apart from a victory against Russia would surely guarantee Egypt being knocked out of the world cup. If they manage to hold Uruguay to a draw, Russia will find themselves as leading the group and being potential candidates to top it. In all, If Mohammed Salah doesn’t fire tomorrow, Egypt may as well book their flight tickets. Also, the Uruguayans will look to break a rather surprising record tomorrow, they’ve never won their first world cup match, drawing thrice and losing thrice.

KEY PLAYERS: Mohammed Salah, Luis Suarez

PREDICTED SCORE: EGYPT 1 – 3 URUGUAY

REVIEW: RUSSIA VS SAUDI ARABIA (5-0)

90 minutes of what football is supposed to be like by the Russians. Straightforward passes in their own half, no lack of creativity while attacking and bouts of pure genius by some of their younger players. No one would’ve put it past Russia to score five in the entire tournament, let alone a single match before today’s fixture. Cheryshev’s stunning strike summed up the match performance for the Russians. Golovin too enjoyed a sensational display in Russia’s first world cup match. On the other hand, Saudi Arabia will be asking some huge questions. Their defence pretty much lost it today, LOST IT! Their hopes of making it to the knockout stage have been delivered a body blow.

STRIKERS TO WATCH OUT FOR

Mohammed Salah – Following an enormously successful season at Liverpool, Salah is carrying the weight and expectation of an entire nation. He was the one who scored the goal which sent Egypt to the World Cup after 28 years. If Salah truly wants to justify his comparisons with Messi and Ronaldo, he will have to at least drag Egypt out of its group which in itself is a pretty big task.

Cristiano Ronaldo – CR7 is running high on confidence, he’s been winning the Champions League since the last three years and won the European Cup with Portugal in 2016. Portugal look like they won’t make it far but you never know! An ageing CR7 surely can’t carry Portugal into the semi-finals but with some help from Guedes, Martins, Carvalho and Pepe, Portugal could pull off a surprise or two.

Antoine Griezmann – Griezmann may perhaps be the unluckiest player in history, he has lost all of the finals he has played in with both Atleti and France except the Europa League final against Marseille. He is currently one of the most clinical finishers in the world, and combining that with an ability to link up with the midfield and setting his wingers free makes Griezmann a force to be reckoned with.

Lionel Messi – Surely, this will be Messi’s last world cup but can he make it count and sign off in style? Messi is certainly the most exhilarating player in the world at the moment, he has the ability to dribble across the entire pitch and the ability to pick out players from any angle. It is no wonder that Messi has been the only goalscorer for Argentina in the last eleven months.

Neymar Jr. – Brazil’s wonderkid has the ability to shake the tournament apart. Neymar can boast about his extreme pace, creativity, vision, finishing skills, accurate passing and flair. An injury in the previous world cup showed how much Brazil depended on him, if he fires for Brazil, Brazil will surely go far in the tournament.

PREVIEW: RUSSIA VS SAUDI ARABIA @ The Luzkniki Stadium, Moscow

Not the best World Cup Opener the footballing universe has seen but no worries, both of these teams are pretty equal. Russia will look to win in front of their home crowd whereas the Green Falcons will look to win so as to give themselves a solid start. Both of these teams have the potential to finish second and this tie will surely be very important. It is important for them to get their game together before facing Uruguay, who are the favourites to top the group. In all, not the most entertaining match but certainly one that the avid fan wouldn’t want to miss.

PREDICTED SCORE: RUSSIA 2 – 1 SAUDI ARABIA