That’s all from me. It’s been a blast. I’ll be back for more tomorrow. Til then, then!
Alan Shearer was quite exercised about Iran’s penalty award on the BBC.
“Here in Czech Republic, as the ref toddled off to the pitch-side screen, the commentators called it yellow for Ronaldo,” writes Greig Aitken. “There seemed to be quite some thuggish intent from Ronaldo there, not sure how you didn’t see it. Although the actual camerawork on the incident was very bizarre: every time we saw the VAR review, you expected to get to the truth of the moment, but the camera repeatedly kept bouncing out of proper focus.”
There was certainly a push from Ronaldo, but I don’t think he had much choice but to do it as he was being deliberately blocked, and I don’t think it was particularly violent. I appreciate that this is a fairly charitable reading of the situation, but it’s the only one I’ve got.
Watched the players? Rate the players!
Not watched the players? Rate the players anyway!
That was an evening of intense drama. Ridiculous play-acting, aggressive referee-pressuring, outrageous outside-of-the-boot-scoring, unexpected penalty-saving, incredible last-gasp chance-missing drama. It is a shame that the outcome is somewhat tainted: Spain’s Gerard Pique could have been sent off early in their game, which would surely have changed everything, while Portugal could have had a man (the man) sent off, and Iran’s penalty might not have been awarded.
It’s really hard to know, as the dust settles, who genuinely deserved to finish where. What I would suggest, however, is that Morocco’s performances were not fairly and adequately rewarded with points.
Equally: “That was a clear handball in the penalty area,” says Anton Kuratnik. “Really don’t see what’s so ludicrous about it. Clearly seen from several angles.” The ball hit Cedric’s arm, no doubt about that. But it was headed down into his arm, from a distance of perhaps two feet. There was absolutely no arm-to-ball movement. He knew nothing about it whatsoever.
“RTE here in Ireland are saying off for Ronaldo,” says Anthony O Connell. Opinions, eh? Everybody’s got one.
Here’s a match report:
And one on the Spain game to boot:
“For an alternate viewpoint of that Ronaldo incident the announcers here in the US, Derek Rae and Aly Wagner, think Ronaldo should have been red carded,” writes JR. The BBC have just shown the incident again, and I remain of the opinion that the defender deliberately obstructed Ronaldo, and he pushed past him, as he then had to do, without excessive force.
That was ludicrous, and that VAR decision will not be swiftly forgotten. It has, after all, cast Portugal into the tough half of the draw, and given them a very difficult first knock-out tie. And had Taremi had his shooting boots on, Portugal could have ended up out of the tournament altogether, entirely (well, largely) thanks to an inexplicable, unjustifiable penalty award.
So it’s Spain v Russia, and Portugal v Uruguay.
Final score: Iran 1-1 Portugal
90+7 mins: It’s all over! And in the moments after the final whistle, one of the Portuguese players is booked for dissent!
90+7 mins: Iran mount one final attack, but the cross floats behind.
90+5 mins: They could have won it! The ball deflects to Taremi inside the area, and he sends his shot into the side netting! He should have scored!
90+4 mins: Meanwhile it’s now Spain 2-2 Morocco. As it stands Spain go top of the group.
GOAL! Iran 1-1 Portugal (Ansarifard penalty, 93 mins)
If Ronaldo wants penalty-taking lessons, this guy seems to know a thing or two about them. Ansarifard sidefoots it Kane-style into the top right corner!
PENALTY TO IRAN!
90+2 mins: This is a terrible decision. And it could totally change Portugal’s path through the tournament.
90+1 mins: There will be about six minutes of stoppage time. There’s a penalty incident in review here, a ludicrous claim of handball against Cedric Soares. Azmoun headed the ball down into his arm from no distance at all.
90 mins: Everyone’s moaning to the referee at the moment. I haven’t seen anything that would give them a reason to do so.
88 mins: Portugal win a free kick on the left wing, which Beiranvand, who has miraculously transformed during this match from an absolute calamity magnet to an absolute rock, claims.
85 mins: Enormous if dept: If Iran score, and Morocco score again, Iran would go through!
84 mins: Portugal take off João Mario, and bring on João Moutinho.
83 mins: The referee returns to the pitch and shows Ronaldo a yellow card.
83 mins: Morocco, meanwhile, have gone 2-1 up against Spain!
82 mins: The referee has been told by the VAR to look at the incident again! Presumably so that he can book Pouraliganji for absurdity.
81 mins: Ronaldo tries to close down Beiranvand, but Pouraliganji is in his way. So he gently pushes the defender aside, and the Iranian flings himself down in absurd style.
80 mins: Cedric brings down Amiri, who screams, does several ridiculous rolls, hears the referee’s whistle and then leaps up and runs off.
77 mins: Going back to that penalty appeal, Carvalho certainly made contact with Azmoun, but the Iran forward looked to have slowed himself down to guarantee it. Does a defender have to leave a safe stopping distance? If the rules of the road applied, that was a penalty.
76 mins: Iran make their final roll of the dice, bringing on Ansarifard and taking off Ezatolahi.
75 mins: The referee blows his whistle and heads to the bench. Is he going to check the replays? No, he’s going to tell Queiroz to calm down.
74 mins: Iran are a little over-keen on throwing themselves to the turf inside the penalty area. In the latest incident, Azmoun went down with Cavalho just behind him. Queiroz wants the VAR to get involved.
72 mins: Chance for Iran! It’s a long ball forward, headed down on the edge of the area to Ghoddos, who pulls his shot just wide from 20 yards!
69 mins: Substitutions! Portugal take Quaresma off and bring on Bernardo Silva; Iran take Jahanbakhsh off and bring on Ghoddos.
67 mins: Spain still haven’t had a player booked tonight, and Quaresma is the second Portuguese name in the referee’s notebook, so if Iran were to equalise Spain would comfortably lead the group on disciplinary record.
66 mins: Ronaldo cuts inside from the left flank before eventually shooting wide from 20 yards. Ronaldo shot count: 5
64 mins: Quaresma is tripped. The referee gives nothing, so he gets up and hares after the ball, which is at the feet of the unfortunate Ezatolahi. Quaresma takes aim at every available ball, including the two between his opponent’s legs. He is now receiving treatment, and Quaresma has been booked.
62 mins: Iran seem more likely to get a red card than a goal at the moment. Quaresma is on the pitch as I type, holding his face as if punched. Replays show a defender’s fingers brushed his chin.
59 mins: The referee is just about maintaining control of this game, courtesy of a lot of whistle-blowing and some very mean stares.
57 mins: Now Azmoun flings himself to the ground inside the penalty area after bouncing off Cedric Soares. This surely isn’t a penalty. Here’s more about Beiranvand, whose backstory is more remarkable than his penalty-saving:
56 mins: Haji Safi, booked a few moments ago, is being substituted. Mohammadi comes on.
55 mins: Carlos Queiroz is meanwhile seen leaving the technical area in a strop, presumably sent off, and moments later he is seen back in the technical area, apparently not sent off after all.
54 mins: The referee books Azmoun, also for dissent. This referee has impeccable card-flourishing skills. Really quite dramatic.
It’s saved by Beiranvand! The Iranian goalkeeper, who couldn’t even catch the ball earlier this evening, goes the right way, stops it and holds it! Ronaldo shot count: 4
PENALTY TO PORTUGAL!
52 mins: Haji Safi has been booked as he leads the Iranian protests.
51 mins: VAR intervention! The referee’s going off to have another look!
50 mins: Ronaldo gets the ball on the edge of the area, cuts across it, runs into Ezatolahi and flings himself to the ground. The referee tells him to get up. It’s a question of who instigated the contact.
48 mins: Just to confirm the situation, given that nothing much is happening on the pitch: whoever wins this group goes into the half of the draw that everyone wants England to be in and plays Russia in the round of 16. Whoever comes second goes into the half of the draw that as it stands will also contain Brazil, Germany and England, and plays Uruguay. #incentive
46 mins: Peeeeep! They’re back out, and the game is back under way!
The outside of Quaresma’s foot is better than the outside of anyone else’s foot, says Mats Hummels:
As it stands Portugal win the group, but if Iran should equalise and the other game remains tied at 1-1 Spain have extended their lead in the fair play table, thanks to Guerreiro’s yellow card here.
If you want to know what Quaresma’s goal looked like, here’s a version he pre-created:
Half time: Irão 0-1 Portugal
45+4 mins: And that’s half-time. Iran have had a good half and don’t really deserve to be losing, and but for the fact that a bloke from Portugal did a really good shot that went in their goal they wouldn’t be.
45+3 mins: We’re into the last of the three minutes of stoppage time we’ve been led to expect.
45+1 mins: There was absolutely no stopping that! Quaresma’s second outside-of-the-right-foot effort in a few minutes is considerably better than the first, and Portugal top the as-it-stands table.
GOAL! Iran 0-1 Portugal (Quaresma, 45 mins)
A lovely shot with the outside of Quaresma’s foot curls and dips over Beiranvand and in!
43 mins: The ball is played to Ronaldo on the left flank, and Ebrahimi does excellently to let it bounce off his chest before getting in front of him and shepherding it out of play for a goal kick.
42 mins: Quaresma gets the ball on the right side of the penalty area, and has an outrageous outside-of-the-right-foot, facing-the-wrong-way attempt on goal, which floats high.
40 mins: Ronaldo’s 40-yarder is deflected straight into Beiranvand’s arms. Ronaldo shot count: 3
37 mins: Iran are absolutely giving as good as they’re getting here, and if Azmoun were a little more keen on optimistic shooting and a little less keen on attempting to set up his team-mates, the shot count would reflect that.
37 mins: Beiranvand catches a football, and gets a loud ovation for it.
34 mins: From the free kick, Ezatolahi heads straight at Rui Patricio. Meanwhile, thanks for all the clarification from the Portuguese speakers out there. Easy mistake to make. You can stop emailing now.
33 mins: Raphael Guerrero is booked for fouling Jahanbakhsh, and Portugal are now two bookings behind Spain in the fair play table.
30 mins: Actually it looks like the shirt says Irão, which may just be Portuguese for Iran (though Google tells me Portuguese for Iran is Irã).
28 mins: Rui Patricio has a bit of treatment, at the end of which he feels better. Meanwhile an update from the extremely good spot and national humiliation dept (Actually not such a good spot, see later updates): “Are my eyes deceiving me, or do Portugal’s shirts say Iraq instead of Iran underneath the crest in the little commemorative details area?” wonders Simon Lee. “I could have sworn so during the close-up for the Portuguese anthem, but haven’t got a good look since then.” I can’t really zoom in with any clarity, so will only find out for sure when this is published, but you do appear to be right (update: he wasn’t)!
23 mins: Now Iran slide the ball into the area, where Rui Patricio reaches it just before Jahanbakhsh, and gets a shin in the face by way of reward.
22 mins: From the free kick Rezaeian shoots wide, and also a bit high.
21 mins: Isco has equalised for Spain against Morocco.
20 mins: Haji Safi does a fantastic 360-degree spin on the edge of the area. He then falls over, but it’s entirely unprovoked. A few seconds later the same player nutmegs Adrien Silva, and this time he is fouled.
18 mins: So as it stands Portugal win the group and Spain come second, beating Iran on goal difference. If Iran were to win they would top the group, and Portugal and Spain would be separated on goal difference/disciplinary record/drawing of lots.
16 mins: The shot clips the top of the wall and goes over. Ronaldo thinks it hit a hand. Ronaldo shot count: 2
16 mins: Portugal have a free kick just outside the area, and the Ronaldo shot count is about to rise.
15 mins: In the other game, Morocco have gone a goal up against Spain!
13 mins: That’s even worse from Beiranvand! It’s another cross from the right, and this time he comes out, gets both hands on the ball and, unchallenged, completely fumbles it! Again, he escapes unpunished.
12 mins: Now Portugal cross from the right, and Beiranvand comes for it and gets nowhere near it. It really was a hopeless attempt at cross-claiming, but he gets away with it as the ball drops to a defender.
9 mins: And a great chance for Portugal! They send the ball into the area. The goalkeeper comes for it but Ezatolahi gets there first and hooks it to the edge of the area, where Joao Mario had an open goal and missed it! Beiranvand gives Ezatolahi an absolute rollicking after the shot drifts high.
7 mins: Chance for Iran! It’s a nice move, at the end of which Jahanbaksh slides the ball across the edge of the area and Amiri runs onto it and hits the worst shot of the World Cup so far pathetically wide.
5 mins: Andre Silva is barged over by Rezaeian, out to the left of the penalty area. Obviously he wanted the foul, and was anticipating it. The referee waves play on.
3 mins: Ronaldo gets into the left of the box, cuts onto his right foot and hits a low, hard shot straight at Beiranvand. Ronaldo shot count: 1
2 mins: Apparently Iran’s supporters tried to ruin the Portuguese team’s sleep by making a massive din outside their hotel last night. Old school gamesmanship there.
1 min: And they’re off! Portugal get the game under way.
Anyway, they’re about to start here. Deep breath.
“I have spent the last few days making busts of the world’s top football players (papier mache since you ask) and can tell you why no-one can make a decent one of Ronaldo,” writes Nigel Phillips. “He has a very strange-shaped head.”
I demand photographs. Not necessarily of Ronaldo, if that one’s a bit rubbish for head-shape-based reasons.
“We all love good analysis, but sometimes results hinge on moments of luck,” writes Kari Tulinius. “Iran were very lucky to win against Morocco, and desperately unlucky to concede that goal to Spain. I wouldn’t be surprised if this game remains tight enough throughout that a fluky goal decides it one way or the other.” Iran looked very decent against Spain, and I would suggest they have an approximately 13% chance of causing a massive upset tonight.
The players are in the tunnel! “Stuff drawing lots,” sniffs Matt Dony. “If they finish dead level, it should be decided by a staring contest between Ramos and Ronaldo. Who can conjure up the most powerful look of arrogant disdain? I’d pay to see that kind of gladiatorial encounter.” Hmm, not a bad proposal. Perhaps a thumb war?
“I bet Ronaldo was absolutely fuming after Harry Kane’s fluke goal against Panama took him to five goals from two games,” writes Shaun Wilkinson. “How many shots is he going to have tonight?” Well he has had 10 shots in his two games so far, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he doubles that tally tonight.
Carlos Queiroz seems happy to be here:
It’s a wonderful opportunity to come here and play against one of the most powerful national teams in the world. We are very happy and have great gratitude for this opportunity. We come here to win. Fantastic opportunity to play against Portugal.
It’s a tale of Silva out, Silva in, other Silva in for Portugal: in come Andre Silva, Adrien Silva and Ricardo Quaresma, while Goncalo Guedes, Bernardo Silva and Joao Moutinho drop out. Iran make a single change, bringing in Alireza Jahanbakhsh, and leaving out Karim Ansarifard.
Here are the teams again for those who can’t see embedded tweets or who just enjoy simplicity:
Iran: Beiranvand, Rezaeian, Hosseini, Pouraliganji, Hajsafi, Taremi, Jahanbakhsh, Ezatolahi, Ebrahimi, Amiri, Azmoun. Subs: Mazaheri, Torabi, Mohammadi, Shojaei, Ansarifard, Khanzadeh, Ghoddos, Montazeri, Ghoochannejhad, Dejagah, Abedzadeh.
Portugal: Rui Patricio, Cedric, Pepe, Fonte, Guerreiro, Quaresma, William Carvalho, Adrien Silva, Joao Mario, Andre Silva, Ronaldo. Subs: Beto, Bruno Alves, Fernandes, Joao Moutinho, Bernardo Silva, Dias, Ricardo Pereira, Bruno Fernandes, Goncalo Guedes, Gelson Martins, Mario Rui, Lopes.
Referee: Enrique Caceres (Paraguay).
Spain and Portugal are currently level on points at the top of Group B, with identical goal difference and having scored the same number of goals, and are thus divided by fair play points: Spain have received one fewer booking. So if today’s two matches finish with identical draws, or with the two Iberian sides either winning or losing by the same scoreline, and if Spain receive precisely one caution more than Portugal, they will be divided by the drawing of lots. This draw would take place at the Luzhniki Stadium (which will presumably be deserted, given that nobody is playing there) at 9pm BST this evening. I, for one, desperately want to see lots being drawn.
The dressing rooms at the Mordovia Arena looks particularly lavish, with each player having what more or less amounts to a throne:
The teams are in, and Ronaldo plays:
To start with, the bare facts: Iran need to win; Portugal must not lose. Omen dept: the teams have met twice before, Portugal winning both. Iran have never beaten a European team at a World Cup (lost six, drawn against Scotland in 1978). Carlos Queiroz said yesterday that he had a very simple gameplan: “to be better than Portugal in every aspect”. “We are going to fight for 90 minutes tomorrow,” he said. “We have a dream and we fight for that dream, we have nothing to lose. They have everything to lose.”
Interesting fact: in 1983-84 Carlos Queiroz, now manager of Iran, was assistant manager of Estoril. Fernando Santos, now manager of Portugal, was one of their players. They were relegated.
Statistical pointers (all correct after two rounds of matches):
- Iran have the worst passing accuracy in the World Cup, with 68%. Next worst is Iceland, on 72%; top of the table is England with 92%.
- Iran have had the fewest shots on goal in the World Cup, with two. Costa Rica are immediately above them with three. Top of the table is Belgium with 18, followed by England and Germany on 14.
- Iran have had the fewest corners at the World Cup, level with Egypt and Tunisia with four. Top of the table is Brazil, with 17.
So, in short, there is nothing to encourage Iran today. Except these guys, that is:
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