Cristiano pushes Puskas
Ali Daei, he's coming for you. International football's all-time top goalscorer may have been able to pad out a 13-year career with Iran by rolling over the likes of Laos and Chinese Tapei, but you can't take those digits away from him. Not yet, anyway.
Cristiano Ronaldo scored his fourth goal of this World Cup with the winner against Morocco in a dogged Portuguese display; a strike which simultaneously took him beyond Ferenc Puskas in the international scoring charts for his 85th goal. That makes CR7 the highest-scoring European in that respect – but something tells us that might not quite be good enough for our Ronny.
Next in his sights: Daei's 109-goal haul for Iran set between 1993 and 2006. The former Hertha Berlin striker never scored at a World Cup despite attempts in 1998 and 2006, but remains 24 ahead of the 33-year-old Ronaldo. Good job he's always relished a challenge.
Spain suck it up
It was far from pretty, but Spain got the job done to beat Iran 1-0 in Kazan. The latter will have considered their gameplan well executed – Carlos Queiroz set his side out to contain and frustrate La Roja, which they largely managed to do. It was just ugly. Spain's winner was suitably scruffy, coming after Ramin Rezaeian deflected a clearance back off Diego Costa and beyond Alireza Beiranvand.
Iran thought they'd grabbed a leveller midway through the second half when Saeid Ezatolahi bundled home, but after wild on-pitch celebrations from everyone of Persian persuasion it was correctly ruled out by VAR for offside. The Asians battled hard to find an actual equaliser thereafter, and actually applied good pressure towards the end; "They just need one more chance," chimed Chris Sutton on BBC 5 Live.
Mehdi Taremi got it with seven minutes left – and headed over.
Neither Spain nor Potugal were particularly impressive in their second matches, then, but both have four points from their first two games and matching goals columns for and against. An intriguing battle for top spot awaits in their final Group B matches.
Morocco’s astonishing bluntness
Twenty-eight attempts on goal. That’s how many Morocco took over two games against Iran and Portugal for the sum result of zero goals, as they exited the World Cup. The only Moroccan to actually find the back of the net was poor Aziz Bouhaddouz, who headed into his own net to give Iran their 1-0 win last week.
The early stages of the World Cup have been characterised by teams controlling play but failing to take their chances. See also: Peru, Sweden (who needed a penalty to beat South Korea) and even England for long stretches against Tunisia, before Harry Kane rescued matters.
Yet Morocco top the pile. They had more chances than Portugal in their 1-0 loss, with delivery from dead-balls consistently threatening, but there was nobody to put the ball into the net. Contrasted with the ultimate cutting edge that Portugal boasted at the other end, it was clear why Morocco became the first team to officially be out of the Russia World Cup.
Don’t judge Uruguay too early
It’s two wins in two games, but two unimpressive displays for Uruguay in Group A. Qualification is secured after victories over Egypt and Saudi Arabia, yet few would have thought Russia would show far more attacking flair against the same opposition, scoring eight goals to Uruguay’s two.
Yet it would be a mistake to judge Uruguay on these performances alone. This is a side that has the ingredients to cause problems for better, more attacking sides. With Atletico Madrid pair Jose Gimenez and Diego Godin at the back, Uruguay could replicate the style of that duo's club side; strong in defence and relying on two sharp strikers up front to punish teams on the counter-attack.
Manager Oscar Tabarez has done a lot to bring through a new generation of slick-passing Uruguayan players. But the wily old coach will be well aware that gameplans can be adapted for opponents. Uruguay have looked uncomfortable when expected to take the initiative, but it might yet be a different story when they meet a side expected to challenge them; one they can look to soak up pressure against and hit on the break.
Rise of Ruben
In November 2017, Ruben Loftus-Cheek was called up to the England senior team for the first time. Now he’s in line to start his first competitive game for the Three Lions in a World Cup, with a nagging muscle injury meaning Dele Alli is likely to be rested against Panama at the weekend.
It’s a remarkable rise for the 22-year-old midfielder who was considered touch and go to make the World Cup squad (and probably wouldn’t have done, if Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain had been fit), but impressed in his brief cameo against Tunisia. So far, Loftus-Cheek has stood out for how uninhibited he’s looked in an England shirt, while his combination of purposeful running, athleticism and fine touch/technique make him a natural fit for the way Gareth Southgate wants England to play.
As with this England side, there’s a great deal for Loftus-Cheek still to prove, but plenty of promise. "I'll be ready to come on again if I get the opportunity," he declared on Wednesday. Don't doubt it.
Sparks fly on comms
BBC reporter Vicki Sparks made history today as the first ever woman to commentate on a men's World Cup match for British TV, grabbing the mic for Portugal's win over Morocco. It's a fine, overdue achievement that deserves to be saluted: Sparks has bags of experience and is very much in Russia on merit, despite being most famous for her involvement in David Moyes's Slap-Gate up to this point.
A pity, then, that the knuckledraggers of social media were out in force to discredit her (Because Ovaries: how dare she?) – just as they did in their masses when Jacqui Oatley made history by becoming the first female commentator on Match of the Day in 2007. The excellent Oatley is now helping to front ITV's World Cup coverage and among the most respected broadcasters in her field.
Although 11 years apparently still isn't quite long enough for some viewers to realign their smattering of brain cells and get over it, times are a-changing: Eni Aluko and Alex Scott are featuring prominently on ITV and the BBC respectively, while Gabby Logan and Oatley continue to provide well-informed reporting. And for every imbecile, there's someone else who's inspired...
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