World Cup Recap – An Epic Opening Weekend18th Jun 2018 |
Boom! What a start to football’s biggest party that was. In a mere 4 days of footie, action we’ve had more drama than a year of Eastenders scripts. The first 11 matches have left us with a heap of talking points and set the stage in a way no one could have quite imagined.
Here’s a handy recap, just in case you missed any of the high drama from the opening weekend of the 2018 World Cup in Russia…
It all kicked off on Thursday, which feels like a lifetime ago already after Robbie Williams flipped the bird at a world audience of millions during his opening ceremony performance.
Russia had 1 in the net after just 11 minutes and didn’t slow down, overpowering a weak and disorganised looking Saudi Arabia to win it 5-0. The firepower on display created a pretty decent opening gambit, which many feared beforehand could be a damp squib of a game.
Friday’s opening match saw Egypt take on Uruguay with their superstar, Mo Salah, resting on the bench after his injury in the Champions League Final last month. Despite the demands of the crowd, Salah remained on the bench for the duration of the game but is sure to play a part in Egypt’s next 2 matches.
After some stubborn defending, the South Americans found a way through in the 89th minute with José Giménez heading in from a free kick. It was Uruguay’s first win in an opening game at the World Cup finals since 1970.
Egyptian hearts were broken by the last minute loss but they could still go through with a solid performance against Russia and Saudi Arabia. Can the Egyptian Wizard still cast his magic spell on the world stage?
Another very late goal saw Iran beat Morocco 1-0 in the most easily forgettable of encounters on the opening weekend. Despite the early dominance of Morocco, it wasn’t until the 95th minute that a stunning own goal from Aziz Bouhaddouz handed victory to Iran.
Ronaldo vs Spain
Friday night saw the most hotly anticipated of the early matches, with Portugal taking on Spain in Sochi. It didn’t disappoint with a total of 6 goals flying in and the spoils shared between the Iberian rivals at 3-3.
Portugal being awarded a penalty after just 4 minutes gave Ronaldo the perfect start as he went on to bag a hat-trick and drag Portugal level with a stunning free kick in the 88th minute. It’s just further evidence of his claim to be the G.O.A.T. (Greatest of all Time), which many still attribute to Messi instead.
Super Saturday Surprises
A four-match World Cup Saturday kicked off with one of the pre-tournament favourites, France, coming up against a stronger than expected Australia team. Les Blues scraped a 2-1 victory thanks to an Aziz Behich own goal in the 80th minute but are not yet looking like the unstoppable force they were in qualifying. The Socceroos look like they could yet cause an upset in a tight Group C.
Next up were Argentina who were held to a surprising draw by the might of Euro 2016 England-killing Iceland. What some thought would be the ideal opening showcase for Lionel Messi quickly turned into a 1-1 draw, which included the Argentine talisman missing a penalty. The miss instantly triggering a thousand pundits to tip the GOAT status in Ronaldo’s favour.
A missed penalty from Peru gave a 1-0 victory to Denmark in a gutsy display from both sides with plenty of chances at either end. Yussuf Poulsen found the net in the 59th minute to provide the only goal and a vital 3 points in a tough Group C.
Croatia met Nigeria in Group D to close a packed day of World Cup action. Nigeria failed to live up to the pre-tournament hype and put in a below par performance, giving away an own goal in the 32nd minute. Luka Modric scored from the penalty spot in the second half to secure a convincing 2-0 victory.
Shocker of a Sunday for the Favourites
Serbia edged passed Costa Rica with a 1-0 victory, their first in an opening game since 1998. With clear-cut changes coming at both ends it fell to the Serbian skipper, Aleksandar Kolarov, to produce a pearler of a free kick and to take the 3 points and top Group E.
Next up were the defending champions Germany who suffered a shocking 1-0 loss to Mexico, leaving them bottom of Group F. Far from the usually composed unit we’ve become accustomed to over the years, Germany were denied time and again. They finally conceded after some swift link-up play from the Mexican forwards resulting in a peach of a goal in the 35th minute from 22-year-old Hirving Lozano.
Brazil were in action against Switzerland to cap off an epic opening weekend. The Swiss started brightly and managed to contain Brazil until an unstoppable wonder strike from Coutinho in the 20th minute gave them the lead. It was looking like business as usual until Zuber was gifted a free header in the second half.
With the talisman, Neymar failing to fire on all cylinders the Swiss were able to hold on for an unexpected 1-1 draw and share the spoils in Group E.
Plenty More to Come…
With a start like this, just 11 games in, it promises to be an enthralling tournament and Lenny will be with you every step of the way.
Don’t forget to check out his World Cup Calendar for the latest offers on pre-match and in-game odds to back your team or just bet against your rivals.