Uruguay score with a thunderous 89th minute header to deal Egypt a 1-0 defeat while a stoppage-time own goal by a substitute player give Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco. Meanwhile, Portugal's Ronaldo scores hat trick to draw 3-3 with Spain.
Uruguay’s Jose Gimenez scored with a thunderous 89th minute header to deal Egypt a 1-0 defeat in their World Cup opener on Friday, just as the North Africans appeared to have escaped with a point despite missing key striker Mohamed Salah.
Gimenez rose perfectly to meet a Carlos Sanchez free kick and score the goal that broke a 48-year Uruguayan ‘curse’ of failing to win their opening game at World Cup finals.
“In the history of football we have broken a spell,” said Uruguay coach Oscar Tabarez, portraying the country’s World Cup campaign as a matter of life and death.
“We either die or we kill, we have to keep progressing,” he told reporters after a result that improves Uruguay’s already strong chances of advancing to the last-16 from a group that also includes hosts Russia and Saudi Arabia.
Egypt came within minutes of surviving largely thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Mohamed El Shenawy, who bravely dived to snatch the ball from Luis Suarez’ feet and then flung himself through the air to tip a Edinson Cavani volley wide.
Cavani also hit the post as Uruguay gained in strength and purpose the longer the game progressed, seemingly buoyed by the realisation that Salah would not even make an appearance from the bench.
Until then Egypt had rarely looked in trouble in a scrappy match at the less-than-packed Yekaterinburg Arena, though without Salah they also did little to threaten the Uruguay goal.
Speculation over the Liverpool striker, who injured his shoulder in the Champions League final against Real Madrid last month, had dominated the build-up to the match and obsessed the several-thousand Egyptians who had travelled to Yekaterinburg from as far afield as Texas and Sydney.
“Perhaps if Mo had been on the pitch today, the outcome would have been different but we can’t know that,” Egypt coach Hector Cuper told reporters.
The man who scored 44 goals for Liverpool last season would be fine for the next match against Russia on Tuesday, Cuper said, but he had decided after training on the eve of the Uruguay game not to take a risk with his talisman.
“At the end of the training session we examined him and there was some doubt if he fell or was hit by another player, and we wanted to avoid a risk today,” Cuper said. “We want to have him in top form for Russia and Saudi Arabia.”
Stunning win for Iran
A stoppage-time own goal from substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener on Friday.
Iran left back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own keeper Munir Mohamedi.
The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament but they now have a chance in a group where they must now face favourites Spain and Portugal.
Morocco, who enjoyed more possession throughout, began in aggressive fashion, taking the game to their opponents and overloading their right flank as they targeted Hajsafi.
That approach almost paid off when Nordin Amrabat whipped in a dangerous cross from the right but Younes Belhanda’s header from an acute angle flashed wide.
Iran were missing the calming influence of suspended holding midfielder Saeid Ezatolahi as Morocco over-ran them in the centre of the park with the clever Mbark Boussoufa directing play as the African side frequently attacked in numbers.
Morocco almost turned that initial pressure into a goal in the 19th minute when following a scramble in the area, Medhi Benatia’s shot was well saved by Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand.
Iran’s Portuguese coach Carlos Quieroz had clearly given his side instructions to defend deep and look to break on the counter-attack and two minutes before the break that approach almost bore fruit.
Striker Sardar Azmoun broke clear though the middle but he shot straight at Mohamedi who got up quickly to keep out a follow-up effort from Alireza Jahanbakhsh.
Chances were at a premium after the break but a well-struck effort from Morocco’s Hakim Ziyech brought out a fine save from Beiranvand nine minutes from the end.
Omg!!! This dude ... #hattrick @Cristiano #WorldCup2018 #PortugalVsSpain pic.twitter.com/MnZRrp0xK7— Kevin Frazier (@KevinFrazier) June 15, 2018
Ronaldo scores hat trick, draws 3-3 with Spain
In the Portugal versus Spain game, Cristiano Ronaldo showed everyone he's the GOAT.
Ronaldo rubbed his chin after scoring minutes into Portugal's opener against Spain, implying he is the Greatest of All Time.
Then he scored two more goals, including a perfectly placed 88th-minute free kick that gave his team a 3-3 draw Friday.
Spain, the 2010 World Cup champion, dominated much of the match but was unable to contain Ronaldo.
"When I play against a player like Ronaldo, these things can happen," newly appointed Spain coach Fernando Hierro said. "It's very fortunate for whatever team has Cristiano Ronaldo."