The 2018 FIFA World Cup has barely started but it has already exploded into life. As time stood still on day one as Russia pumped in goal after goal past the hapless Saudis, day two was more miserly until the appearance of a GOAT, in the fag end of the day.
Illustrious names, some late drama, a bit of calamity and certain inexplicable things are common at World Cups. This second day had it all, and then some. Also seen were certain patterns that are likely to be sighted more as the tournament progresses, but for now, here are the top moments from the day that took us all the way from Yekaterinburg to Saint Petersburg to Sochi — a 3000-mile roundabout.
The Ronaldo Show
Cristiano Ronaldo isn't just a showman anymore. He is the show. Having helped Portugal twice into leads over 2010 champions Spain, the 33-year-old saw his team surrender it all to stare at defeat in the 88th minute of the Group B clash. Until that point, Ronaldo had scored a penalty and a low-percentage shot that was somehow allowed into the net by Spain's goalkeeper David de Gea.
At 3–2 down with just two minutes of regulation time remaining, Ronaldo curled a free-kick past Spain's two tallest players — Gerard Pique and Sergio Busquets — and left De Gea watching, helpless and cursing. Name one player who raises the roof as dramatically as the Portugal captain; I bet you can't.
Day of set pieces
The opening day witnessed Russia bulldoze past Saudi Arabia in such a fashion that the fact the two goals bookending their 5–0 win were from set-pieces was largely a footnote. Tighter matches value marginal gains more and that is what happened on day two. Five of Thursday's eight goals came from set-pieces, including Ronaldo's penalty.
21 percent of all goals in the 2014 World Cup were set-piece goals and that figure stands at 54 percent for the 2018 edition at the close of day two, which will obviously decrease as the tournament progresses. Both Uruguay and Iran secured narrow but vital 1–0 wins via set-piece goals, while Ronaldo's aptitude at dead ball situations saved Portugal against Spain.
Tournament football is often seen as too short to implement sweeping game systems like Pep Guardiola does at his clubs, hence set-pieces become important tools for teams to gain advantage. Russia 2018 is proving no different.
Suarez losing bite
Uruguay's Luis Suarez was supposed to be the man to hurt Egypt on the Pharaohs' return to the World Cup after 28 years, and on Mohamed Salah's birthday no less. However, the Barcelona man was a constant source of disappointment when almost all the good chances that Uruguay created fell to his feet and he fluffed the lines on each occasion.
Suarez missed three big chances with only the Egyptian goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy to beat each time. It was only Jose Gimenez's winner in the 89th minute that saved Suarez the blushes.
His numbers have also declined of late. He had an underwhelming 2017-18 season with Barcelona, and Uruguay would hope that he regains his edge soon enough.
Dave doesn't save
David de Gea has faced only three shots at his goal in his entire World Cup career and has conceded from all three. That’s a damning statistic that looks overblown due to the small sample size of shots faced, but the Manchester United number one has definitely seen better days.
It can be argued that De Gea could've done better while facing Cristiano Ronaldo at the two set-pieces, but what is inexplicable is how he allowed the Portugal captain's effort go through his hands and into the net.
Having made a similar mistake in a pre-World Cup friendly against Switzerland earlier this month, it can be safely assumed that De Gea has chosen a wrong time to lose form after a stunning 2017–18 Premier League. Spain are terrific going forward, but De Gea's loss of form is certainly a concern for La Roja.
Late goals to rescue
Late winners always bring about a special energy and both Uruguay and Iran experienced that on Thursday. Sterile possession and ineffective attacks threatened to bring about the tournament's first stalemate in Yekaterinburg, but Uruguay's mastery over the dark arts proved vital as bruising centreback Jose Gimenez powered in a header from a deep free-kick at the cusp of full-time, breaking Egypt's hearts.
Iran, meanwhile, got on the better end of luck against Morocco as late as the 95th minute via Aziz Bouhaddouz's own goal. As a result, Egypt ended the day as Group B leaders, a significant high for Team Melli which was also helped in part by another late goal in the third game of the day by Ronaldo. A day of late goals indeed.
Updated Date: Jun 16, 2018 22:30 PM