Heading into their last group stage match in the World Cup, Argentina and Portugal are both looking to secure their place in the round of 16. While the reigning European champions have more than one way to move on in the competition, Argentina needs to win just for a shot at advancing.
By scoring a phenomenal header in Portugal’s 1-0 victory over Morocco, Cristiano Ronaldo surpassed fellow Real Madrid legend Ferenc Puskas to become the second all-time leading scorer in international competition. Ronaldo’s 85 goals are second only to Iran’s Ali Daei who scored 109. The reigning Ballon d’Or winner also became the second person to score at least four goals in the World Cup after turning 33-years-old.
In their last group stage match against Iran, a win or draw for Selecao das Quinas would see them advance. Iran needs a win to get into the round of 16. The contest will also reunite CR7 with Carlos Queiroz. The 65-year-old is currently the manager of Iran and used to be a coach at Manchester United. He is the one that suggested to Sir Alex Ferguson that he should sign Cristiano when he was an 18-year-old flashy winger at Sporting Lisbon. While at United, Queiroz helped UEFA’s Best Player in Europe to simplify his game and become a prolific goal scorer. Their relationship soured after Queiroz became Portugal’s national team manager.
When they were eliminated in the 2010 World Cup by Spain, a reporter asked Ronaldo about the reasons his team lost and he replied “Ask Queiroz.” The former Sporting Lisbon manager did not enjoy that response from his best player and refused to call up Cristiano to play for the national team. Queiroz was fired shortly afterwards. The two have not been on speaking terms ever since and it adds an element to an already exciting matchup.
Argentina, on the other hand, was embarrassed by Croatia 3-0 in their second group stage match. Right winger Ante Rebic scored the first goal in the match and wanted to swap shirts with Lionel Messi after the game until the behavior of La Albiceleste changed his mind.
“To be honest, I wanted to get Messi’s jersey for my friend, who is a big fan of Leo. But the Argentines made such a bad impression on me that I gave up on asking Messi for his jersey,” said Rebic to Goal.com.
The Argentina captain once again led the game in dribbles with five but could not create any clearcut chances for his teammates or himself. Manager Jorge Sampaoli switched his tactics to a 3-4-2-1 and his team was punished by getting outplayed, especially in the midfield. The loss was so bad that a television network in Argentina held a moment of silence following the match. Messi turned 31 on Sunday but I’m sure he wasn’t in the mood to celebrate with how bad things have gone for his team. Their last match of the group stage is against Nigeria. The last time Argentina played the Super Eagles they lost 4-2 in a friendly in November. The nine-time LaLiga winner did not play in that match. While there are rumors floating of a rift going on between Sampaoli and the Argentina players, Javier Mascherano assured the media in a news conference that the team is not falling apart.
“Leo is fine. But as a collective, where things don’t go as we’d like, we all have our own frustrations. He’s human and he has his own frustrations but he’s desperate to turn the situation around. He wants to show the world a different image to the one we’ve shown in the first two games,” said Mascherano.
For Argentina to win, they need Messi to find his superhuman form or else they will be back at home sooner than they expected.