Morocco and Iran led off Group B play. This game offered both teams their best chance to win a game in group play as neither is expected to do well against Spain and Portugal. Morocco had superior speed and tried to use it to their advantage with long passes into the corners for their wings. Unfortunately, this speed and some sloppy Iranian defense did not translate into good shots. Morocco simply lacks a good finisher. Too many of their shots were off target or directly at Iranian defenders. On defense, the Moroccans tend to group together leaving large patches of the pitch unattended. Iran was quick on the counterattack, but could only manage two on-target shots in the match. Iran managed one good sequence late in the first half, but the Moroccan goalie proved up to the task, blocking one point blank shot and a second follow up rebound shot. In the second half, Morocco really controlled possession, but managed very few scoring opportunities. Neither team could put together sustained sequences. Too many passes and shots were off target. Perhaps fittingly, however, Morocco lost the game 4 minutes into extra time, on an own goal. A Moroccan defender attempted to head out an Iranian free kick into the box, but instead put the ball past his own goalie. All in all, a pretty ugly game to watch.
Portugal and Spain, the favorites, met with Group B and Iberian Peninsula supremacy on the line. Portugal pressed the attack early on and Cristiano Ronaldo drew a penalty kick three minutes in with a step over move to beat a defender in the box who was then forced to foul him. Ronaldo absolutely drilled the penalty kick into the upper right corner of the goal for the early lead. The Portuguese kept up the pace, winning headers and generally looking more hungry. However, midway through the first half, Spanish striker Diego Costa did some fancy dribbling around a few defenders and then blasted through the equalizer. After that, the Spaniards took control of the game and nearly scored a few more goals with near missed shots. In the last few minutes of the first half though, Portugal regained its composure and began placing pressure on the Spanish defense again. Ronaldo managed a half foot of space for a turn around shot in the box which rocketed off the hands of Daniel De Gea, the Spanish goalie for a go ahead goal. Despite the oomph on Ronaldo’s shot, De Gea really should have made the save.
Early in the second half, Spain again got an equalizer on a beautiful floating free kick to the right side of the Portuguese goal, which was then headed back to the middle where Costa ran onto it for the easy goal. Just a few minutes later, Nacho Hernandez hit a screaming volley off a rebound from just outside the box that hit the left post and went in, giving Spain its first lead. Although Spain continued to control possession throughout the second half, Portugal managed a free kick with only a few minutes remaining. Cristiano Ronaldo proved his reputation as one of the best two players in the world by bending the kick around the wall and into the upper right corner of the goal for the third tie of the game and a hat trick for Ronaldo. The goalie barely moved on the kick as he immediately realized he had no chance at it. Time ran out soon after and left neither team in control of the group yet. Goal differential may prove to be the difference between first and second place in Group B, so expect to see both teams run up the score when they play Morocco and Iran. This was the most entertaining game to watch in the first two days of the Cup.