After the completion of the matches in this round, the standings are as follows.
Spain sits atop currently with Portugal in 2nd, the common convention would say they have all but guaranteed passage on to the next round as expected. However, a win by Iran in matchday 1 and a strong performance against Spain might prove for entertaining TV. It leaves the last matchday as the true decider for the group, who will move on and who joins Morocco heading home. It is important to note that the matchday 3 group fixtures are timed to coincide in order to avoid a match-fixing type scenario, and Iran or Morocco could play spoilers.
Portugal vs Morocco
The final score in this matchup is not one many would have predicted after Portugal’s thrilling match with Spain, however this was textbook for the modern Portugal side. Ronaldo came up big again for Portugal, scoring a headed goal from a corner in the 4th min. The only goal of the game happened to also be a record-breaking one as it pushes Ronaldo past Puskas for the title of highest scoring European internationally. However, this was the only real bright spot in Portugal’s day as they reverted to the same approach that led them to the Euro championship title. That being said, Morocco, coming off a disappointing loss, seemed to produce a glimpse of what many had hoped they would in this tournament. Allowed space by Portugal, Morocco saw fit to control much of the play, they lead in all the major statistical areas including possession, shots, corners, pass attempts, passing percentage, tackles, and distance covered. Despite this control, Morocco was again unable to produce a quantifiable outcome for themselves as they failed to score in their 4 shots on target. While Ronaldo may have been the hero in scoring the game-deciding goal, it was really Rui Patricio who made sure that Portugal came away with 3 points. Rui Patricio, who recently signed with Wolves (a newly promoted Premier League side) made a few spectacular diving saves to make sure Portugal was spared any blushes. Morocco joins the ranks of the sides eliminated in this edition of the World Cup, they will try to salvage some respect while trying to play spoiler against Spain in their final match. Portugal will line up against a tough Iran side in their final group match with eyes on progressing, and building confidence going forward.
Iran vs Spain
A match for the neutral to enjoy for sure, Iran set up to dig-in and defy the Spanish attack. Spain as expected, completely dominated the statistical aspects of the match, most glaringly with 78% possession, 17 shots, and 803 pass attempts. Seeing this you would have thought this match would have been a massacre, however, Spain did not fully convince in their victory. Iran displayed the heart, mettle, and tactics in their defense that they prevented Spain from mounting too many threatening attacks. Iran was even able to mount a few counterattacks that struck real fear in the Spanish defense, blazing shots just wide and over, and even having a goal ruled out for offside. In the end, Spain was lucky to get a goal through an unlikely deflection sequence in the 54th min. Diego Costa took the initial shot, after multiple deflections between 2 defenders and himself, the ball skipped into the net. There will be more questions surrounding Spain’s credentials as title contenders after this performance, they seem to have more frailties than initially thought. They will face Morocco next as they attempt to secure their place in the next round. Iran will have a showdown with Portugal and it will likely be highly entertaining as both teams have to leave it all out on the field as they vie to progress.