The second round of World Cup group matches continue on Wednesday with one game from Group A and two from Group B. First up are Portugal who play Morocco in Moscow in Group B before Uruguay look for a second win in Group A against Saudi Arabia at the Rostov Arena. The evening game sees Iran, who narrowly beat Morocco 1-0 in their opener, taking on 2010 World Cup winners Spain. Here’s what you can expect on Wednesday.
Who’s playing today?
Portugal v Morocco (Group B) – Luzhniki Stadium
Uruguay v Saudi Arabia (Group A), Rostov Arena
Iran v Spain (Group B), Kazan Arena
What’s the deal?
After picking up a dramatic point against Spain in their Group B opener, Portugal will be looking to get three points on the board against a Morocco side who lost 1-0 to Iran in their first match. Morocco conceded a last-minute own goal through Aziz Bouhaddouz, meaning Herve Renard’s men almost certainly need a victory on Wednesday if they have any hope of progressing through to the knockout rounds.
Uruguay opened with a hard-fought 1-0 victory against an Egypt side lacking Mohamed Salah, but now Luis Suarez and co have an opportunity to show off their attacking prowess against a Saudi Arabia side who were thrashed 5-0 by Russia. Spain’s match against Iran could determine their World Cup destiny as they seek to register their first win in Russia following a gripping 3-3 draw against Portugal.
Three to watch
Cristiano Ronaldo: He scored a hat-trick against Spain to become the fourth player to score at four World Cups and is now a firm favourite for the tournament’s Golden Boot. Ronaldo’s performance on Friday highlighted his determination to steer his nation out of the group as he looks to add a World Cup to his glowing list of achievements.
Luis Suarez: The Barcelona striker is set to win his 100th cap for the national team and will look to make his mark at this World Cup against a Saudi Arabia side who showed their defensive susceptibility against Russia in the tournament opener.
Isco: With Iran likely to play a typically compact match against Spain, the responsibility to open them up could fall to the Real Madrid playmaker in a central role. His link-up play with the in-form Diego Costa could determine Spain’s World Cup fate.
Also look out for…
Sepp Blatter is in town
Banned former FIFA president Blatter has flown to Russia to attend Portugal’s clash against Morocco today and meet Russian president Vladimir Putin, his spokesman told Reuters. Blatter, who led FIFA for 17 years, is currently serving a six-year ban for unethical conduct after soccer’s world governing body was rocked by a global corruption scandal in 2015.
Barcelona forward Luis Suarez is expected to win his 100th cap for Uruguay, who will be favourites to earn a second win of the tournament, despite making hard work of Egypt. Suarez was guilty of missing several chances against Egypt so will be keen to make amends on Wednesday.
Will a plane engine fault affect Saudi Arabia?
Saudi Arabia landed safely in Rostov-on-Don on Tuesday after experiencing a technical failure in one of their plane’s engines mid-flight. Officials say an engine of the plane caught fire during landing. Russia’s federal agency for air traffic said in a statement that the Airbus airplane flying from St. Petersburg to Rostov-on-Don landed safely and did not require any emergency procedures. Saudi Arabia need to avoid defeat against Uruguay to have a chance of making the last 16.
England have a day off on Wednesday before they start to look forward to their match against Panama on Sunday.
Stat of the day
Spain have been eliminated at the group stage in two of the last three World Cup tournaments in which they’ve failed to win their first match (1998 and 2014) – however, they won the tournament on the other occasion, doing so in 2010 despite losing their first match to Switzerland.
On this day
England and Sweden were involved in a dramatic 2-2 draw at the 2006 World Cup. Joe Cole put England in front with a superb strike from distance, only for Marcus Allback to equalise. Steven Gerrard then made it 2-1 in the 85th minute, but Henrik Larsson levelled for Sweden in injury-time. Michael Owen suffered an injury in the match that would rule him out of the rest of the tournament.