After one and a half weeks of non- stop football, the FIFA World Cup enters its midway stage. All teams have played two group games, and some teams have already been knocked while others are preparing for the knockout stages. From today Monday 25th June 2018 to Thursday 28th, every day two groups will play their final two games in unison. The reason for this to avoid a situation such as the Sporting Disgrace of Gijon we highlighted in an earlier post, whereby two teams played out a mutually beneficial result because they knew the result of an earlier game.
Remember that if teams are tied for points, then the FIFA regulations state that if teams have the same points then their ranking will be determined as follows:
- Goal difference resulting from the group matches between the teams concerned;
- Greater number of goals scored in all group matches between the teams concerned;
- greater number of points obtained in the fair play conduct of the teams based on yellow and red cards received in all group matches as follows: – yellow card: minus 1 point – indirect red card: minus 3 points (as a result of a second yellow card) – direct red card: minus 4 points – yellow card and direct red card: minus 5 points Only one of the above deductions shall be applied to a player in a single match;
- drawing of lots by the FIFA Organizing Committee.
Monday 25th June 2018
Group A (both games played at 5 pm East African Time)
In group A, Egypt is already knocked out. After losing 1-0 to Uruguay and 3-1 to Russia, Egypt is out of the running to make the last 16 of the world cup. However, there is much to play for in this evening’s game against Saudi Arabia. Not only is pan-Arabic pride at stake, but Egypt will hope to get their maiden win in the world cup finals under their belts. Against Saudi Arabia, this should not be beyond their capabilities. However, there is some discord in the camp after the Egypt team met with Chechen leader Ramzan Kadyrov before the game, who granted honorary citizenship to the team’s star player Mohammed Salah. Salah is said to be unhappy with how he was used as a tool for political mileage and some reports even go ahead to suggest that he is considering quitting playing for the Egypt national team.
This definitely adds a dampener to the preparations for the match. On the other hand, Uruguay and Russia play to find out who finishes top of the group. Russia has the better goal difference, goals scored and has run more than any other team in the competition in their two games, will head into this game knowing that a draw would be enough to top the group.
Prediction: Uruguay will squeeze past Russia and top the Group banking on their lethal strike force of Luis Suarez and Edinson Cavani and experience at this level, while Egypt and Saudi Arabia will play out an entertaining draw
Group B (Both games played at 9 pm East African Time)
In group B, Morocco is already out of the running having lost both of its matches in identical 1-0 score lines and will be playing for little more than pride when they take on tournament favorites Spain. Spain knows that a win or a draw will be enough for them to proceed to the next round because only one of Iran and Portugal can win the other encounter.
Iran vs Portugal encounter features two teams known for counter-attacking football, and Iran will not be cowed by facing the world’s best player Cristiano Ronaldo. This is because their coach, Carlos Queiroz has coached Ronaldo both at Manchester United and at the national team level. This interesting subplot means that Queiroz is uniquely placed to understand the strengths and weaknesses of the Portugal team. A draw or a win should be enough for Portugal, who have one more point that Iran.
Prediction: Spain will wallop a Morocco side who have nothing to play for, as the new coach’s Fernando Hierro’s ideas continue to make their imprint. Portugal will also beat Iran, with Cristiano Ronaldo dragging his teammates to the next round where they are likely to face Russia.