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The World Cup Day That Was

#Russia2018: Maradona’s cigar, Messi’s mess up and Iceland winning hearts

Argentinian soccer legend Diego Maradona is seen in the stands before the FIFA World Cup 2018 group D preliminary round soccer match between Argentina and Iceland in Moscow, Russia, 16 June 2018. EPA-EFE/PETER POWELL

You know when we said it's not a World Cup until there is a bear blowing a vuvuzela? Well, it's not a World Cup until Diego Maradona smokes a cigar in the stands with the giant "no smoking" sign.

Stay up to date with all the latest news from Russia with Daily Maverick‘s dedicated World Cup 2018 section.  For the latest highlights, results and standings from all the groups, click here.

Croatia  2-0 Nigeria

A goal for all of Africa (in the wrong net) and about 36 fouls between the two teams. That’s the briefest of summaries of how the final fixture on a frenzied Saturday unfolded. The Super Eagles aren’t so super, it turns out.

Peru 0-1 Denmark

Early contender for worst attempt on goal of the tournament came from Peru’s Christian Cueva. A penalty awarded after a consultation with VAR was taken so badly it would not even have been welcome in the PSL. Denmark won, thanks to a single goal from Yussuf Poulsen, the penalty-conceding offender. Watch the highlights here.

Argentina 1-1 Iceland

File this one under “words you never thought you’d read.” Argentina were held to a draw by Iceland in their opening fixture of the World Cup. We’re going to repeat this one for dramatic effect. A squad with part-timers in it held one of the World Cup favourites to a draw.

Inevitably, the population comparison reared its head. Everyone is an anthropologist so, if that sort of thing floats your boat, Iceland has a population of just over 300 000, with nine percent of them currently in Moscow. Argentina has a population of just under 44 million.

What population size has to do with the success of a sporting team nobody really knows. New Zealand seem to be doing just fine at rugby despite being far smaller than most of the sides they beat regularly.

But we can appreciate the Icelandic cricket team trolling Messi on Twitter. You cannot make this stuff up.

Just in case you’re from the “Cristiano Ronaldo would have done better” camp, he didn’t. When Iceland played Portugal in 2016 Ronaldo took ten shots and didn’t score once, unlike that hat-trick on Friday. That fixture also ended 1-1.

You can watch Messi fail at being Messi on the highlights.

France 2-1 Australia

VAR got its first outing at the World Cup. But what would technology be without a little bit of controversy?

Antoine Griezmann’s VAR-assisted penalty was not awarded initially, but the decision was turned around after a peek at the telly.

Debate raged over whether it should have been a penalty or not, but the effect was amplified because it actually had an impact on a match, rather than just providing something to be shouted about on social media.

Australia’s Mile Jedinak put his side level through a non-VAR penalty of his own, but Paul Pogba’s late strike was enough to help Les Bleus secure all three points. Watch the highlights here.

News you might care about

It’s not strictly news, but it’s definitely adorable. A clip of two World Cup mascots’ reaction to standing with Cristiano Ronaldo went viral on Friday night. Although, perhaps they just heard the news of how much money he is belatedly paying over to the Spanish taxman.

Fifa has launched an investigation into why the official attendance between Egypt and Uruguay was lower than the number of allocated tickets. According to reports, there were some complications with fans entering the stadium, including a tricky queueing system. Don’t tell the English. [The Guardian]

Diego Maradona spent the day watching Argentina draw with a team of butchers, bakers and candlestick makers. Not that he was too fussed, though. Watching from the stands, he was quite happy to smoke a cigar while taking pictures with fans.

He was later accused of making a “clearly racist gesture” after young South Korean fans waved at him. ITV presenter Jacqui Oatley added in a follow-up Tweet: “Maradona not so cool now. Some South Korea fans just shouted “Diego” and he obliged with a smile, kiss and wave. Then pulled his eyes to the side in a clearly racist gesture. All of us who saw it are stunned.”

Daily Maverick writers are all embarrassing themselves by predicting the scores for this World Cup. The only two people in the office who actually watch sport are stone dead last in our pool game.  This is how the top five is shaping up:

Daily Maverick SuperBru Pool

  1. Finance guy
  2. Finance guy
  3. Greg Nicolson
  4. Aphiwe Ngalo
  5. Antoinette Muller

A taxi drove into a crowd in central Moscow on Saturday after the driver lost control. A source said that seven people were hurt in the accident which occurred as fans gathered in the centre of the country’s capital. [EWN]

Quote of the day

“If the game against Morocco was the World Cup final for us, the game against Spain will be the Universe Cup final.”

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz is reaching for the stars after his side sneaked a 1-0 win over Morocco in their opening fixture. Unless, of course, that Universe Cup is organised by the same person who founded Miss Universe. You know, the Orange One, otherwise known as Donald Trump.

Fixtures on 17 June

14:00 Costa Rica vs Serbia
17:00 Germany vs Mexico
20:00 Brazil vs Switzerland

Dish of the day

It’s time to spice things up like a 1990s pop star. You’re probably pretty au fait with Mexican fodder thanks to the prevalence of restaurants generically themed along those lines, but stick with us.

Why would you pass up the chance to have what is basically a fried pie? Empanadas are savoury, spicy delights filled with meat and deep fried.

Popular in the Americas, it’s an improvement on the dreary old Cornish Pasty. Bit of a metaphor for the football of the different regions.  Try this recipe if you like it hot. DM