The World Cup has been flying by: Round 1 of the Group Stage finishes today, followed by the first game of Round 2. I hope you’re enjoying the ride as much as I am!
Before we dive into today’s action, remember that the deadline for roster changes for your McDonald’s fantasy league closes at the same time Round 2 opens: 19:00 BST today, when Russia faces Egypt. If you haven’t already, make your transfer (and initialize your round-2 captain! And unsubstitute as needed!) by clicking on “RD-2 MANAGE TEAM” and going from there.
Group H: Round 1
This one is a replay of the group stage match from World Cup 2014 in which Colombia pounded Japan 4-1. There is a very real possibility that today’s game will unfold in similar fashion. Colombia’s James Rodriguez was the leading scorer of WC 2014, and his strike partner Radamel Falcao put up 18 goals in 26 Ligue 1 appearances for Monaco this season.
Meanwhile, Japan have conceded at least 2 goals in each of their three games under the leadership of their new manager, who assumed the reins only two months ago. Their suspect defense is likely to be exposed by a Colombian attack that was able to put 3 goals past France in a March friendly. As it did in 2014, this match up could easily end with another beat-down for the Samurai Blue.
Tuesday, 19:00 BST: Poland vs. Senegal
This game features Bayern Munich’s hitman Robert Lewandowski, who leads a Polish strike force that amassed 28 goals during qualification, 16 of which were Lewandowski’s. Poland’s back line has been a bit shaky though, and that will be welcome news for a Senagalese side that, despite the electric talents of Sadio Mane, has been relatively impotent recently. In their last five friendlies, they’ve produced only four goals.
I’m guessing the result is something like 2-1 for Poland.
Group A: Round 2
Tuesday, 22:00 BST: Russia vs Egypt
Russia is coming off the 5-0 shelling of Saudi Arabia and will want to virtually seal their promotion to the knockout rounds with a win over Egypt today. Egypt will be a tougher nut to crack than was Saudi Arabia though. And this time, the incomparable Mo Salah is expected to start, having watched from the bench as his team was defeated by a last-minute goal by Uruguay in Round 1. That loss means that a result today is crucial to Egypt’s hopes for advancement.
The Russian side I saw on opening day was confident, composed, patient, and clinical. Granted their opposition was weak, but if they can maintain the form they showed in Round 1, then I see a victory in store for Sbornaya today, regardless of whether the Egyptian magician sees the pitch or not.
Group B: Round 2
The last time Portugal took the pitch, we were treated to one of the most incredible individual performances in the history of the World Cup. Ronaldo’s three goals against Spain made him the oldest player to ever score a World Cup hat trick, and he joins the ranks of only three other players who have scored goals in four different World Cup tournaments. Morocco, on the other hand, were the first-round losers of a dismal match with Iran, and I can’t see anything but another defeat in store for them again today. And for your viewing pleasure, here is another look at the man who is the main reason why Portugal will have more than enough to prevail today:
Wednesday, 1900 BST: Uruguay vs Saudi Arabia
The first round butt-kicking that Saudi Arabia suffered at the hands of the tournament hosts was so egregious that many fans were calling for manager Juan Antonio Pizzi to be sacked immediately. While Uruguay were lucky to snatch the three points from Egypt with a late goal from Jose Gimenez, they’ll be licking their chops at the prospect of putting another layer of shellac on the hapless Saudis. And with the likes of Edson Cavani and Luis Suarez in Uruguay’s side, this one could very well end with another demolition of The Green Falcons.
Wednesday, 2200 BST: Iran vs Spain
Spain must surely feel unlucky not to have taken full points from their meeting with Portugal. If not for an uncharacteristic goalkeeping error from David De Gea and a spectacular free kick goal from one of football’s GOATs, Spain would probably have left the stadium with a victory. And although Iran was able to eke out a 1-0 victory over Morocco to climb above Spain in the Group, Spain’s pool of talent dwarfs the quality in the Iranian squad. Not surprisingly, the Spaniards are heavily favored to win tomorrow, and I can’t see it going any other way.
Whom did you sell / buy before the deadline? Did you take a penalty (-4) to transfer a second? Did any of you go crazy and play your wildcard? Who has a last-chance, round-1 group-H captain playing today? Please tell us in the comment-chat below!