Do you wish you could keep up with the World Cup but can’t get that sneaky iPlayer tab on the go with your boss sat next to you? Gutted to miss the opening games because your mate selfishly organised an engagement do at the same time as Spain vs Portugal? Fear not; here comes a recap of the opening games from Russia!
World Cup Opening Ceremony
I already had a feeling the 2018 World Cup might be a weird one. For a start, it’s taking place in Russia, under the watchful eye of Vladimir Putin, who sort of reminds you of an uncle you don’t really want to talk to, but also kind of feel you have to talk to if you don’t want your dog to go missing after the family barbecue.
The potential for weirdness had already been established with the announcement that Robbie Williams would be performing. What they didn’t mention is that he would be doing so looking like a leopard print-clad Morrissey and give the middle finger to the camera during ‘Rock DJ’. Robbie, of Take That, giving the finger. Robbie, who sang ‘Angels’, flipping the actual bird at an actual one billion people. World Cup Weirdness accomplished.
The ceremony was brought to a close by Putin giving a speech that definitely didn’t give you the feeling that Edinson Cavani will end up found in a dumpster should he bag two goals against the Russians in their final group game.
Anyway, my mate left his keys at work and got locked out of his flat, so I missed most of this; but the World Cup is back!
GROUP A: Russia 5-0 Saudi Arabia
I’ll be honest, I thought this one was going to be rubbish. The two lowest ranked teams on paper, not known for attractive football and with the former having not played a competitive match in two years (due to automatically qualifying for the tournament).
Boy, was I wrong. I think Saudi Arabia had possibly one decent passage of play before being dismantled by the Russians. It wasn’t even that the hosts were that good; they were good, okay, but not 5-0 good. It just seemed that the Saudi defence evaporated every time they got near the goal.
Like, I can see the green shirts are definitely there when the ball goes into the box, but they’re also definitely not really there when the Russian striker casually bulldozes over two of them to nod it in. Sort of like Schrodinger’s Defence.
There was nothing even a good backline could have done about this worldie from Denis Cheryshev though.
A blistering start to the World Cup. Russia was happy, Putin was happy and Edinson Cavani might make it home after all!
GROUP A: Egypt 0-1 Uruguay
This one, billed as ‘Salah vs Suarez’ such is their popularity among their respective nations, was a bit of a duffer. For a start, Mohamed ‘Premier League Player Of The Year And Generally-Smiley Man’ Salah was consigned to the bench after sustaining a shoulder injury in the Champions League final. Boo.
Luis Suarez, meanwhile, is still as famous on these shores for a variety of reasons. While he lit up the Premier League for Liverpool before moving abroad to Barcelona, a lot of us still remember him as ‘the bitey one’:
Luis Suarez: A Sample Conversation
“Suarez… is he the bitey one?”
“Well…yeah, but he also scored 31 goals in the league this season despite missing the opening five games!”
“Why did he miss the games? Was it because he-”
“Yes, it’s because he got banned for biting someone, but I think he’s put all that-”
“I think he’s just bitten someone else!”
“Well that’s just silly, he wouldn’t- oh Luis…”
Anyway, long story short he was rubbish; like ‘missed three sitters and pissed off his teammates’ rubbish. Egypt, on the other hand, were pretty organised and solid defensively; no mean feat for a side featuring not one, but two of last season’s West Brom defenders.
In the end, the Uruguayans managed to sneak a win courtesy of a late José Giménez header which made Salah look sad. The bastards.
GROUP B: Morocco 0-1 Iran
Another game, another late, late header; this time to give Iran their first World Cup win since 1998. In all fairness to Morocco’s Aziz Bouhaddouz it was a lovely finish; bullet header, buried it. Just a shame it was in his own net.
In truth Morocco were edging it in a tight clash that was a tad more entertaining than the early kickoff. This was mainly due to Morocco manager Herve Renard’s striking resemblance to Jaime Lannister.
Go on, admit it; he does. You know it, I know it, presumably most of Twitter knows it. If we meet them later in the tournament and an England fan doesn’t make an inappropriate jokes about Herve Lannister having relations with his own sister, we deserve to go home.
GROUP C: Portugal – Spain
For a very long time, I’ve hated Cristiano Ronaldo. He’s whiny, he’s arrogant and he winks England out of World Cups.
After this game though, I love him. The fact he twice put Portugal ahead of Spain, single-handedly winning and converting a penalty and making his old teammate in goal look a fool was enough, but to then finish one of the greatest World Cup games of all time, with a stunning, late, free-kick equaliser, to complete your hat-trick – all with your shorts inexplicably rolled halfway up your thigh? Amazing.
It also helps I have Portugal in my work sweepstakes. If it isn’t Coming Home, I want it going into my bank account.
As for Spain, they are allegedly in “turmoil” after sacking manager Julien Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament. If there’s one thing they’ve proved, it’s that they can’t do turmoil as well as England can even do average.
Their version consists of scoring three goals against and outplaying a Portugal side with one of the all-time greats having one of the best games of his life, plus their right-back hitting a scorcher.
If his was England, we’d have hired Alan Pardew and been dumped out by Belgium after goalless draws against Tunisia and Panama before watching our new manager headbutt a Russian ball boy and start a city-wide riot our players can only escape by sheltering under Harry Maguire’s head.
Good game tho.
You can read more questionable reviews here or check back on Sunday night/Monday morning for more World Cup recaps (depending on how much I drink over the weekend).