FIFA 2018: Spain, Portugal make it to ‘Round of 16′

Rajat Kain

Photo - AP/PTI

Photo – AP/PTI

Portugal made it to the Round of 16 but not before given a scare by spirited Iran, who impressed all in their performance holding the European champions to a 1-1 draw. The match was a big reality check for Portugal who failed to convert their chances, including a penalty miss by star Cristiano Ronaldo.

The Portugal will now clash with dangerous looking Uruguay in the knockout game this weekend.

The European side took the lead after Ricardo Quaresma scored a stunning goal in 45th minute curling the ball past the outstretched hands of goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand.

In a game full of moments of anxiety and frustration for Portugal, Bieranvand proved himself as one of the best hands in this World Cup blocking many of Europeans’ advances.

His heroics included a stunning save of Ronaldo’s penalty in the 51st minute, something that will haunt the World’s no. 1 player for days to come.

As it looked the game was well over Iran’s reach, Ansarifard converted the penalty in stoppage time to make it 1-1.

Iran were awarded a penalty in stoppage time after Paraguayan referee Enrique Caceres used the video assistant referee (VAR) system to rule that Portugal’s Cedric Soares had handled the ball in the box.

Seconds later Iran got a golden chance to make it past the winning line but Vahid Amiri hit the side netting and finishing close third in Group B.

Photo - AP/PTI

Photo – AP/PTI

In the other Group B match, Spain drew with Morocco after substitute Iago Aspas struck in stoppage-time after the latter took a 2-1 lead..

Spain will take on the hosts Russia in the knockout match this weekend after it finished on the top of Group B. Morocco showed amazing spirit and grit to stall 2010 World Champions to a nervous 2-2 draw.

Snatching the ball from Sergio Ramos in midfield, Khalid Boutaid ran through alone and coolly slotted Morocco’s first goal between the legs of David de Gea. It was also their first goal of the World Cup.

But five minutes later, the order was swiftly restored with Isco scoring equaliser for Spain.

Morocco returned in the second half with even more sense of purpose and direction. Nordin Amrabat nearly gave the North Africans the lead in the 56th minute when his thunderbolt from 25 yards clanged off the far post and crossbar. David de Gea could only see the ball and pray.

But it was not over for Morocco, as Youssef En-Nessyri’s brilliant head put his side 2-1 ahead with just nine minutes remaining.

Spain finally prized out an equaliser as Substitute Iago Aspas struck in stoppage-time. Though it was originally ruled out for offside but was finally awarded after a lengthy VAR review amid chaotic scenes on the pitch.