Some teams moved on from group play yesterday and even those that did not provided some great entertainment, including a 2-1 win by Saudi Arabia over Egypt, in which the Saudis scored in stoppage time in the 95th minute to gain the victory.
The match included a save on a penalty kick by Egyptian keeper Essam El-Hadary, who made history by becoming the oldest player ever to appear on a World Cup at the age of 45. Egypt's star player Mo Salah scored a beautiful goal on a long lead pass with two deft touches to get the ball in the net, but despite his second goal of the tournament, Egypt fails to advance as do the Saudis.
Uruguay dealt host nation Russia its first loss of the tournament with a 3-0 victory, and finish atop of Group A to move on, and the Russians are into the knock out round as well despite the loss.
The most noticeable thing about this very 21st century World Cup is the introduction of video review, and that technology played a center stage role in the outcome of Morocco's 2-2 draw with Spain yesterday, a tie that ends Morocco's aspirations for moving on, and gives Spain a more favorable contest in the elimination round.
Morocco was ahead 2-1 in the late stages of the game, a result that would have been a huge upset if it had held. But a late substitution by Spain sent Iago Aspas onto the pitch and he put in the equalizer in the 92nd minute, a goal that was immediately disqualified by the referee who flagged Aspas for being offside behind the defense.
Enter video review, and after an agonizing wait for fans on both sides of the stadium, the goal was re-awarded to Spain and the game ended in the 2-2 draw, meaning Morocco is out. Needless to say the Moroccans had nothing good to say about video review and in the not-so-long-ago old days they would have scored the biggest win in their nation's history.
Spain will now face Russia in the elimination round, and while they would have been through even with a loss yesterday to Morocco, they would have faced a much tougher opponent from a different group.
If video review had its critics in that match, it really raised hackles in the thrilling 1-1 draw between Portugal and Iran, with two video reviews determining the outcome. Portugal led 1-Nil on a gorgeous goal by Ricardo Quaresma near the end of the half.
In the second half, a review was called for again to see if a foul by Rinaldo was worthy of a red card, which would have sent him off the pitch. Instead, the referee decided the infraction of an arm to the face on a jump ball by Rinaldo was only worthy ofa yellow card. Rinaldo had been awarded a penalty kick earlier in the match but could not convert as the Iranian keeper made a great save on the player many consider the world's best.
But while Iran was eliminated with the 1-1 draw they did get a late equalizer based on video review that will make things tougher for Portugal in the knock out round. A penalty kick was awarded late to Iran, reversing a referee's initial decision that there was no foul in the box and Iran converted to gain the draw, which means Portugal will face Uruguay next rather than runner-up Russia in the elimination round.
Today's matches include France and Denmark, one and two atop thei group. That's at 10am, along with Australia against Peru, the bottom two in the group with only pride to play for at this stage.
Argentina, a huge disappointment so far despite having Lionel Messi on the squad, must win against Nigeria to have any chance of moving forward, a draw will not get it done, and that's the reality fcing everyone's favorite underdogs Iceland, who need to win against Croatia today to make to to the next stage, which will not be easy, as Croatia is undefeated after two matches and atop its group.
Jonathan Loaisiga took a no-hitter into the 6th inning for the Philadelphia Phillies against the high powered NY Yankees offense yesterday, but a two-run homer by Aaron Judge in the 8th inning proved the difference in the Yankees' 4-2 win.
The other highlight in this one was Yankee reliever Dellin Betances doing a Gary Sheffield impression when he was forced to come up and bat due to arcane National League rules that eschew the designated hitter. Sheffield is a former Yankee slugger who had used to make a distinctive rapid back and forth wagging motion with his bat before taking his massive swings and since Betances knew his appearance at the plate was nothing more than a formability, he decried to have some fun with it and try that bat wag before striking out on three straight pitches. Yankee players were giggling in the dug-out and yes, that's all very cute, but enough already with pitchers hitting in the National League. Adopt that DH rule so there aren't automatic outs in the majority of plate appearances every time a pitcher comes to the plate.
The Boston Red Sox were off yesterday. They welcome the L.A. Angels to Fenway Park tonight.
The NY Mets haven't won a lot this season, but their home woes have been especially disheartening. They've lost 14 of their last 15 at Citi Field in Queens including last night's 6-4 loss to the Pittsburgh Pirates, who had come into the game on a five-game losing skid of their own.
The Mets fell behind 5-0 in this one and to their credit made a comeback attempt, and made it 5-4 after a three run homer by Wilmer Flores bit that's as close as they'd get. The Mets also made it tougher on themselves by committing two errors in the first three innings.
Josh Bell and Gregory Polanco went yard for the Pirates.
Randal Grichuk was playing just his third game for the Toronto Blue Jays and did so in front of many friends and family in Houston. The Texas native did not disappoint, other than helping the away team from Canada to a 6-3 win, by hitting a two-run homer and making a game-saving catch in the when George Springer came up with two on and no one out in the bottom of the 9th and blasted what looked like a home run ball, but Grichuk reached over the short wall and brought back the potential tying homer.