Fernando Hierro admits Spain rode their luck on way to claiming top spot in Group B

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Spain boss Fernando Hierro admitted after the 2-2 draw with Morocco that his side were lucky to finish top of World Cup Group B and stressed the need for defensive improvement.

Hierro’s men were set to finish second in the pool, and face Group A winners Uruguay in the last 16, until a stoppage-time equaliser by substitute Iago Aspas.

Initially the flag was up for offside, but the goal, Spain’s second leveller of the contest, was subsequently given following a VAR review.

With a late Iran goal seeing them hold Portugal 1-1, Spain and Portugal ended up level on five points in first and second place respectively, with goals scored putting the former ahead.

And, thus, it will be hosts Russia for La Roja in the last 16 while the Portuguese take on the Uruguayans.

Hierro, having succeeded the sacked, Real Madrid-bound Julen Lopetegui on the eve of the tournament, has overseen a 3-3 draw with Portugal, a 1-0 win over Iran, and now this result.

And he said in his post-match press conference, streamed on FIFA’s website: “This entire group was a tough one and history bore it out.

“So the first conclusion I draw is that despite all these challenges, we emerged on top, so we need to look at the silver lining, think positive.

“Obviously we can improve and there are things that definitely need to be worked on.

“We will definitely be self-critical – (conceding) five goals in three matches is not the way forward, and it’s what I’ve told my players.”

Spain had gone 1-0 down in the 14th minute when Khalid Boutaib punished a mix-up between Andres Iniesta and Sergio Ramos, before drawing level five minutes later through Isco’s strike.

They survived scares after that when Boutaib almost took advantage of further slack defending as he was denied by David De Gea, and Nordin Amrabat’s shot hit the post, before Youssef En-Nesyri put Morocco 2-1 up in the 81st minute.

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Best images as Cristiano Ronaldo misses penalty but Portugal progress at World Cup

Sport360 staff 26/06/2018

Cristiano Ronaldo missed a penalty and Portugal blew the chance to finish top of Group B, with a dramatic climax seeing them draw 1-1 with minnows Iran.

The European champions were leading through Ricardo Quaresma’s stunning goal but were dramatically pegged back in stoppage time by a controversial spot-kick – and they would have gone out of the tournament had Mehdi Taremi not missed a golden chance at the end.

Ronaldo should have ended doubts about the outcome, and taken his goal tally for the tournament to five, when Portugal were awarded a 51st-minute penalty in Saransk.

But the Real Madrid superstar suffered a rare blip as he saw his effort beaten away by Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand.

Things almost got worse for Ronaldo when he was the subject of a lengthy red card review by the video assistant referee, but his apparent swing of the arm was adjudged only worthy of a yellow.

But his night ended still in huge disappointment after Karim Ansarifard equalised from the spot in stoppage time.

While it meant the score was 1-1, Iran still needed a win, and they never got one.

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Watch: A closer look at sublime James Rodriguez assists in Colombia win over Poland

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Colombia kept their hopes of reaching the knockout stages at the World Cup alive and ended Poland’s when they beat them 3-0 on Sunday.

One man who stood out, perhaps predictably, was James Rodriguez.

The Real Madrid attacking midfielder on loan to Bayern Munich provided two excellent assists for the first and third goals.

Meanwhile, Juan Quintero was in top form as well and did well to play Radamel Falcao clean through for the second.

Here’s a look at those assists in detail with the help of some fine animation.

40′ COLOMBIA 1-0 POLAND | GOAL: YERRY MINA | ASSIST: JAMES RODRIGUEZ

James takes short corner and eventually gets it played back to him in space down the right side. He curls in a delicious first-time cross with his left foot. The in-swinger is hung up beautifully for Yerry Mina to head home.

75′ COLOMBIA 3-0 POLAND | GOAL: JUAN CUADRADO | ASSIST: JAMES RODRIGUEZ

When James receives possession in his own half way out on the left flank, there appears to be no danger whatsoever but the fact that he sets Juan Cuadrado clean through on goal with one pass is testament to his vision and execution.

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