Uruguay eye good start against hopeful Egypt
Ekaterinburg, June 14 (IANS): Uruguay will aim to get their campaign off to a good start while Egypt will be eager for a positive result in their first FIFA World Cup appearance in 28 years when the two teams meet in a Group A clash at the Ekaterinburg Arena here on Friday.
The biggest point of concern for Egypt will be the form of injured star forward Mohammed Salah should coach Héctor Cúper decide to play him.
Salah had injured his shoulder while representing Liverpool in the Champions League final against Real Madrid, which had thrown his World Cup participation into jeopardy.
On the other hand, two-time champions Uruguay will appear in their third consecutive World Cup. They were impressive at the 2010 World Cup, where they finished fourth. That was the first time they had reached the quarter-finals since the 1970 edition.
This will be the third consecutive World Cup appearance for Uruguay’s star players like Luis Suarez, Edinson Cavani and Diego Godin. That experience should hold the team in good stead.
Iran, Morocco aim to impress in opener
Sochi, (IANS): Having failed to progress beyond the group stages in their previous appearances, Asian giants Iran will aim to rewrite history when they face Morocco in a Group B match of the FIFA World Cup here on Friday. Having first played at the World Cup in 1978, Iran have made three appearances since then — 1998, 2006 and 2014. However, they have never progressed beyond the group stages, managing only a lone win, against bitter rivals US in 1998.
Morocco have also qualified for the World Cup after a gap of 20 years. Their last appearance was at France 1998 when they progressed to the second round.
Both sets of players will thus be eager to put their best foot forward when they march out onto the Saint Petersburg Stadium pitch on Friday.
A strong defence is Iran’s main strength and Morocco’s strikers will be tested when they face a team which plays possession-based football and also presses aggressively in defence.
Iran also have a wealth of talent upfront with several players plying their trade in the European leagues.
Spain face big test against Portugal
Sochi,(IANS): 24 hours before kick-off, the match between Spain and Portugal on Friday has taken on a whole new significance.
Real Madrid announced that the Spanish national side coach Julen Lopetegui would take charge of the club in July. The Spanish football federation, RFEF wasted no time in sacking him on Wednesday. A few hours later, RFEF director of sport Fernando Hierro was named as his replacement, reports Xinhua news agency.
Hierro was a great player for Real Madrid and Spain in his day, but has only one season’s experience as the first team coach of second division Oviedo.
With less than 48 hours before Spain kick off their World Cup campaign against the 2016 European champions, it is hard to imagine what changes Hierro can make to the tactics Lopetegui had been using in preparation for Russia.
Portugal’s system is built on a solid defence with relatively few goalscoring chances being created, in the hope that Ronaldo will need just half a chance to score. The 33-year-old talisman has formed an impressive partnership with Silva and their link-up play will be vital if Portugal are to have a successful tournament.