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FIFA Fever: Ronaldo – Portugal’s savior; but mess with Messi at your own risk

The Portugal-Spain FIFA World Cup tie was everything football fans were hoping for and much, much more. Cristiano Ronaldo, who is being hailed as the ‘Hat-trick Hero’, kept the drama alive and sent Portugal into raptures with his 88th minute goal to end the tie in a 3-3 draw. 

That’s not to say that Spain didn’t fight back. Though the team faced an early setback when Ronaldo scored the first goal through a penalty kick in the 4th minute of the match, Spain kept coming back and put the pressure on with Diego Costa, Nacho Fernandez and David Silva scoring goals. 

This match will be remembered as one of the best matches of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018 – for all the drama, fast-paced action, some incredible game play, and of course, Ronaldo saving the day for Portugal. 

The other two ties of the day – Uruguay Vs Egypt and Iran Vs Morocco – paled in comparison. Both Uruguay and Iran won their respective ties with 1 goal each. 

And today’s the day when the big boys come out to play. France take on Australia at 3.30 pm (IST), Argentina take on Iceland at 6.30 pm (IST), and Peru take on Denmark at 9.30 pm (IST). 

Without doubt, Lionel Messi and his men are whom majority of the fans in India are eager to watch. Football fans in India can catch all the action live on television – Sony Ten 2/HD in English and Sony Ten 3/HD in Hindi, as well as 4 other language feeds; and on digital with SonyLIV, the official Mobile and Internet broadcaster of FIFA World Cup Russia 2018. Fans can also tweet their favourite predictions using the official Twitter hashtags #WorldCup, #FRA, #AUS. 

Argentina has a strong offensive line-up consisting of forwards such as Paulo Dybala (Juventus), Gonzalo Higuain (Juventus), Lionel Messi (Barcelona), and Sergio Aguero (Manchester City), accompanied by a strategy that basically intends to score more goals than their opponent does and keep them on the defensive. Argentina is ranked 5th in this year’s rankings and is expected to reach at least the semi-finals. Messi is determined to make a mark in this WC after his team’s agonising defeat to Germany in the 2014 WC. The footballer has even said that he would retire from football if his team didn’t make it to this WC.

On the other hand, this is the first time that Iceland has qualified for the WC. But the team is not to be taken lightly as Iceland was able to keep Ronaldo in check with only one goal conceded in the Euro Cup. The team proved their capability in the European Championship in 2016, where they drew with Portugal and went on to beat England in a 2-1 upset that rocked football fans all over the world. Although, there are no notable players in the Iceland squad, they bring with them a strong rhetoric of team play, whereas the Argentinian team’s play strategy revolves around Messi. 

Another strong team in contention is France, which has an incredible base squad strength this year. They also have the guidance of 1998 WC winner and former coach of Juventus, Monaco and Marseille; Didier Deschamps. They are ranked 7th in the FIFA rankings. These factors easily make France one of the top contenders for the WC. When attacking midfielder Paul Pogba and forward Antoine Griezmann play in tandem, they can wreck havoc on the Australian defensive line. 

One can expect another tough tie in Peru and Denmark. With rankings of 11th (Peru) and 12th (Denmark), both teams are quite similar statistically speaking. Both have made 4 appearances in the WC and reached only as far as the quarter-finals. However, the last time Peru reached the qualifying stages of the WC was in 1982, whereas Denmark participated in the 2010 WC. This divide in experience might be telling in the final match of Day 3. Moreover, Denmark cannot be disregarded as a strong challenger for the other Group C team France as they have a history of unlikely victories, remember the 1992 Euro Cup? This year, Denmark’s Christian Eriksen has caught the attention of fans with his standout performances in their undefeated run. The attacking midfielder is going to be key in Denmark’s offense against Peru. 

Peru, which had lost its identity as a competitive football team, has been clawing its way back under coach Ricardo Gareca, lovingly called ‘Tigre’ or Tiger. Critics have praised coach Gareca’s efforts in returning elegance to the Peruvian style of play. A lot is resting on the shoulders of Captain and forward Paolo Guerrero, who will be leading his team in his first WC. 

The battle lines are drawn, the beverages and snacks are stocked, the fans are all stoked up, and hey, it’s the weekend. Let the game begin!

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