Cristiano Ronaldo is our Hero of the Day after guiding Portugal past Morocco

Chris Bailey 20/06/2018
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Not content with just his opening-day heroics, Cristiano Ronaldo donned the Superman cape once again.

Cometh the fourth minute, cometh the man as the Real Madrid show-stopper flew through the air to give Portugal a hard-fought victory against Morocco on Wednesday.

The effort took his World Cup tally to four and sent a generally impressive Morocco out of the competition inside the first week.

KEY STATS

20 06 hero of day Ronaldo-Engllish-NEW
30-SECOND REPORT

Age may have slightly dulled his speed but evidently not his first step. Morocco had barely taken their first breath before the 33-year-old cut their marking to ribbons.

Manuel Da Costa was the unlucky man to be slapped with the job of marking – arguably – the best player in the world and as Ronaldo jagged right, the defender was left flailing.

It gave Ronaldo all the clean air he needed to thunder a header past Munir Mohamedi.

In the end, it was all Portugal needed.

GOT RIGHT

BIG-GAME MENTALITY – Though Ronaldo and Lionel Messi are the undisputed players of their generation, neither have truly taken over an international tournament.

Despite winning FIFA’s Golden Ball four years ago, it was Argentina grind rather than Messi magic that saw them through to the final. Similarly, Ronaldo had a few moments here and there in Euro 2016 only for an injury to cut short his final.

It’s only been two games. However, a world-class player putting an average team on his back … whisper it quietly but there are shades of Diego Maradona.

GOT WRONG

SECOND FINISH – As fine a winner as it was, Ronaldo could have settled nerves that Morocco kept pressing until the finish as Portugal’s slow defence was exposed by the likes of Hakim Ziyech.

Whereas everything he struck turned to gold against Spain, he aimed fire at spectators more often than not in Moscow.

Two free-kicks in particular were a bad waste and he sent one promising chance into orbit in the second half.

SPORT360 VERDICT

This was vintage Ronaldo in snapshot form rather than 90 minutes. Thankfully for Portugal it was enough, with their deficiencies in defence laid bare.

The Real superstar received little help in attack, too, with Bernardo and Goncalo Guedes both sub-par and he was a threat on his own sans the finishing.

If Ronaldo can sustain these levels then anything is possible. Don’t bet against him.

RATING – 7/10

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Jose Gimenez comes of age and other Uruguay v Saudi Arabia talking points

Matt Jones 20/06/2018
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Uruguay booked their place in the knockout stages of the 2018 World Cup with a stoic and workmanlike 1-0 victory over resurgent Saudi Arabia.

Much like in their opening 1-0 win over Egypt, it was a tense affair against a vastly improved Saudi side, who huffed and puffed but simply didn’t have the quality required to break La Celeste down.

Barcelona frontman Luis Suarez, off-colour in their opener against Egypt, grabbed the only goal in the first-half as Oscar Tabarez’s men march on in Russia.

Here, we look at three talking points from the game:

Tabarez turns to the kids

Rodrigo Bentancur made more passes for Uruguay than anyone else.

Rodrigo Bentancur made more passes for Uruguay than anyone else.

Uruguay have always been a staunch and solid outfit brimming with experience and battle-hardened veterans who know how to win.

Oscar Tabarez’s stalwarts have youthful exuberance to back them up at this World Cup, however, which hasn’t been the case in recent editions.

The hallmark of La Celeste sides of the past has been experience. In 2014, 12 of the squad had between 50 and 100 caps, while Diego Forlan was already a centurion.

Four of the 2018 vintage have reached triple figures, including Barcelona’s Luis Suarez who celebrated his 100th appearance with a goal, while goalkeeper Fernando Muslera (99) will reach the mark in Russia, barring injury.

That tremendous bond and familiarity with each other serves them well, but in Russia Tabarez, similarly vastly experienced, has decided to introduce a pinch of youth to the strong veteran blend.

Rodrigo Bentancur (20), Nahitan Nandez, Lucas Torreira (both 22), Giorgian De Arrascaeta (24), Diego Laxalt (25) and Matias Vecino (26) make up the majority of the eight-man midfield unit, with Vecino and Bentancur anchoring against Saudi.

Exciting Juventus man Bentancur made more passes than any teammate (80), substitute Torreira, reported to be on the brink of joining Arsenal, made three interceptions in his 31-minute cameo, while Genoa’s Laxalt looked neat and tidy when introduced.

Six of the eight-strong midfield unit are the aforementioned whippersnappers.

It’s a bold move by the rigid Tabarez, but he could be rewarded the further his team go.

Gimenez in the mould of Godin

Jose Gimenez has a perfect role model in Diego Godin.

Jose Gimenez has a perfect role model in Diego Godin.

What better mentor could there be in world football for Jose Gimenez to learn under than Diego Godin? Having just completed a fourth season in a row at club level with the stalwart by his side, the master and the kid now anchor Uruguay’s rigid defence.

The 23-year-old has his whole career ahead of him but is already on the brink of half a century of caps (44) for his country, having featured at the last World Cup as a fresh-faced 19-year-old – coming in and keeping his place after failing to feature in the opening 3-1 humiliation at the hands of Costa Rica.

Gimenez may have learnt from one of the best but he’s breaking out on his own at this tournament – registering two tackles, interceptions and clearances against Saudi. His 96.8 per cent pass success was only bettered by right-back Guillermo Varela, while he completed 100 per cent of his 33 first half passes.

At the rate he’s progressing and with the stats he’s already racking up, it’s easy to see the Atletico Madrid man toppling Godin (119) in second place or Maxi Pereira (125) in top spot on Uruguay’s top appearance makers.

He’s still just a boy in terms of his career. But in terms of stature and importance he’s very much a man.

Green Falcons can fly home with pride

Saudi Arabia can hold their heads high.

Saudi Arabia can hold their heads high.

So, Saudi Arabia are sent home early from Russia, but their players and a nation can be proud at the effort mustered in a battling 1-0 defeat to Uruguay.

It was a far cry from the capitulation on opening night against hosts Russia – who were the only nation ranked lower than the Green Falcons coming into the World Cup.

Pride was restored against gritty opponents in Rostov. Who knows, with a little more magic to help the tireless Fahad Al Muwallad up front, there could have been goals too – but for all their efforts, Muslera in the La Celeste net was woefully underworked.

It’s all well and good making up for that dismal effort on the opening day of the tournament, but with Juan Antonio Pizzi’s side knowing they’re heading home despite one more game to play, you can’t help but wonder why they were so bad against Russia – who despite recent performances – are no world beaters.

The Saudis have paid the price for shambolic preparation ahead of the world’s grandest tournament, which included firing Bert van Marwijk last September, days after he secured qualification for Russia, returning them to the big stage for the first time in 12 years.

Ever since it has been a disaster waiting to happen, with former UAE coach Edgardo Bauza replacing him, but then sacked two months later in November 2017. Pizzi was immediately appointed but he always faced an uphill task to steady a ship that had been thrown way off course.

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Best images as Cristiano Ronaldo's goal hands Portugal 1-0 win over Morocco

Sport360 staff 20/06/2018

Cristiano Ronaldo continued from where he left off against Spain, as he scored the only goal of the game against Morocco to help Portugal register a 1-0 win in their second game of the World Cup.

A win for Fernando Santos’ men meant they are now top of Group B, with Spain taking on Iran later on Wednesday.

A powerful header in just the fourth minute of the game from the Real Madrid star was enough to hand Portugal all three points at the Luzhniki Stadium.

Here, we take a look at some of the best images from the game.

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