#WorldCup: Day 12: What to look out for

Monday marks the beginning of the final round of group fixtures for all the teams at the World Cup.

Cristiano Ronaldo lit up the World Cup in his own inimitable style, curling in a late free kick to complete a remarkable hat-trick in a group match between Portugal and Spain. Picture: @FIFAWorldCup/Twitter.

JOHANNESBURG - Monday marks the beginning of the final round of group fixtures for all the teams at the World Cup. Each Group will be playing at the same time, which means that teams will not know their group’s results before the game. In the first two matches on Monday, we have two Group A dead rubbers. Meanwhile, the 8pm kick-offs for Group B still have a major impact on the Round of 16 fixtures.

Feature Match: Iran v Portugal

Iran’s Key Players:

Ramin Rezaeian (Defender)
The right-back put in a mammoth performance against Spain, despite his side finding themselves on the wrong side of a 1-0 result. The Oostende defender made six important tackles against the likes of Iniesta and Isco attacking down Spain’s left wing. He’ll be going up against Joao Mario and at times, Cristiano Ronaldo. He’ll need a similar performance to counter the Portuguese attack.

Saeid Ezatolahi (Midfielder)
The 21-year-old is an important figure in the centre of midfield for Iran, with one of his best attributes lying in his strong passing game. Ezatolahi’s pass rate was just below 80% against Spain, making a number of important attacking dribbles as well. A more composed performance from the rest of the team may give Iran a chance at a surprise result.

Portugal’s Key Players

Cristiano Ronaldo (Forward)
One of the most influential players in the tournament has proven that he can still perform at the highest level, despite his age. His brilliant performance against Spain, followed by another goal against Morocco in his previous outing gives the team more than enough confidence going into the match. That won’t be on Ronaldo’s mind though, especially considering that Portugal cannot afford to lose.

Joao Moutinho (Midfielder)
The Ligue 1 midfielder was brilliant from midfield against Morocco, playing a number of key passes and making important tackles in the process; six of them to be exact. The assist for Ronaldo’s winner was the cherry on top for the 31-year-old. His long balls and threatening passes will be a major threat for Iran.

Ahmed’s Prediction: Iran 0-2 Portugal

Spain v Morocco: Match Preview

The other Group B match starts with Spain taking on Morocoo. Morocco is playing for nothing but pride. The Spanish contingent will be hoping for a more convincing performance however, and with a fiery Diego Costa up front that will not be a problem. The former Chelsea striker has found the back of the net in his last two outings, with Isco making a number of intricate passes from midfield behind him. Spain should come out comfortable winners.

Ahmed’s Prediction: Spain 2-0 Morocco

Saudi Arabia v Egypt: Match Preview

Amid unconfirmed reports that he may be retiring from international football citing political issues, Mohamed Salah goes into the final match of the 2018 World Cup knowing that progression is impossible. Following their 1-0 loss to Uruguay in the first round, and a 3-1 loss to Russia, Egypt will be heading home after they take on Saudi Arabia. The same goes for Saudi Arabia after the lost to Russia and Uruguay as well.

Ahmed’s Prediction: Saudi Arabia 0-1 Egypt

Uruguay v Russia: Match Preview

It’s a battle to finish at the top of group A when Uruguay take on, hosts, Russia. The Russians were emphatic in their opener, beating the Saudis 5-0. They then had an equally good performance in their 3-1 victory over Egypt. Uruguay were not as convincing, but got the results nonetheless. Russia, with home advantage, go into the game as favourites, with striker Denis Cheryshev looking to add to his impressive goal tally so far.

Ahmed’s Prediction: Uruguay 1-2 Russia

Kick-off Times (CAT)
Uruguay v Russia: 16h00
Saudi Arabia v Egypt: 16h00

Iran v Portugal: 20h00
Spain v Morocco: 20h00