The first matchday of the final round of group stage fixtures didn’t disappoint. Uruguay finished off Group A foes, while the simultaneous nature of the matches made for a riveting pair of Group B games. Here’s a rundown of all the action.
Uruguay 3-0 Russia
La Celeste completed their sweep of Group A to earn a perfect nine points before the knockout stage begins. Star striker Luis Suarez opened the scoring with a low-driven free kick in the 10th minute before Edinson Cavani’s shot just 13 minutes later took a massive deflection off a Russian player and found the back of the net. Although he wasn’t credited for the second goal, Cavani officially scored his own late in the match to seal Uruguay’s 3-0 victory and their third consecutive win of the 2018 World Cup. Uruguay plays Portugal in the Round of 16 on June 30, while Russia takes on Spain on July 1.
Saudi Arabia 2-1 Egypt
Both teams were only playing for pride today, as they were already eliminated prior to their matchup. Mohamed Salah scored his second goal of the tournament after chipping the opposing keeper. A major storyline coming into the match was Egypt’s addition of keeper Essam El-Hadary into the starting lineup, who at 45 became the oldest player ever to play at a World Cup. His shining moment came in the first half after he saved a penalty. However, the Green Falcons claimed their first goal of the tournament minutes later after a second penalty was awarded to them. The comeback was completed with the final kick of the match, as Salem Al-Dawsari’s goal in the fifth minute of stoppage time sent Saudi Arabia home with a win, while Egypt left empty-handed through all three group stage matches.
Portugal 1-1 Iran
In Group B action, Portugal broke the hearts of underdogs Iran by knocking the Asian country out of the competition, solidifying their spot in the knockout stage after a very physical matchup. Portugal’s lone goal was a brilliant one, as Ricardo Quaresma used the outside of his boot to hit a beautiful curler past the Iranian keeper right before halftime. Iran converted a penalty in the dying minutes of the match, but it wouldn’t be enough to stay in the competition. As mentioned before, Portugal plays Uruguay in the Round of 16.
QUARESMA! The 34-year-old finds the upper corner for a beauty of a goal to give Portugal the lead before halftime. pic.twitter.com/8KDbppabzj— FOX Sports (@FOXSports) June 25, 2018
Spain 2-2 Morocco
Spain just barely clinched the Group B crown after an eventful performance against Morocco, who was already knocked out of the tournament. A miscommunication between Andres Iniesta and Isco led to Morocco’s first goal of the World Cup, only for the two players
to turn around and create a goal for Spain just five minutes later. Youssef En-Nesyri’s header off a corner gave Morocco the lead in the 81st minute, but Iago Aspas would do him one better and also score off a corner in stoppage time to split the points. Again, Spain plays Russia in the Round of 16.