FIFA World Cup 2018: Uruguay, Iran emerge victorious in dying minute thrillers

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The 89th minute header from Jose Gimenez helped Uruguay beat Egypt a 1-0 in their World Cup opener on Friday.

Gimenez rose perfectly to meet a Carlos Sanchez free kick and score the goal that broke a 48-year Uruguayan ‘curse’ of failing to win in the opening game of the World Cup finals.

Egypt came within minutes of surviving largely thanks to the heroics of goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy, who bravely dived to snatch the ball from Luis Suarez’ feet and then flung himself through the air to tip a Edinson Cavani volley wide.

Uruguay gained in strength and purpose as the game progressed and it became clear that Salah, who injured his shoulder last month, was going to stay on the bench.



Before that, Egypt had rarely looked in trouble in a scrappy match at the less-than-packed Yekaterinburg Arena, though without Salah they also did little to threaten the Uruguay goal.

Suarez squandered a great first-half chance by firing into the side netting when the ball broke loose after a corner, and forced another good save from El-Shenawy in the opening moments of the second period.

Salah’s absence came as a surprise after coach Hector Cuper had said on Thursday he was almost 100 percent certain to play.

The Liverpool striker, who turned 26 on Friday, injured his shoulder in the Champions League final against Real Madrid, and millions of Egyptians had been on tenterhooks to see if he would recover in time for the tournament.

He now has four more days to work on his fitness before Egypt face Russia in St Petersburg next Tuesday, while Uruguay will play Saudi Arabia the next day in Rostov.



IRAN STUN MOROCCO WITH STOPPAGE-TIME OWN GOAL

A heartbreaking stoppage-time own goal from substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz gave Iran a dramatic 1-0 win over Morocco in their World Cup Group B opener on Friday.

In a group where Spain and Portugal are strong favourites to qualify for the knockout stage, the result gives Iran an outside chance of an upset but was a bitter blow for an enterprising Moroccan side.

Iran left back Ehsan Hajsafi whipped in a free kick five minutes into added time and Bouhaddouz launched himself at the ball, flashing a header past his own keeper Munir Mohamedi.



The Iranians, who had not won a World Cup game since their victory over the United States in 1998, celebrated as if they had won the tournament, leaving the field only reluctantly after lengthy and emotional embraces.

Morocco and the unfortunate Bouhaddouz were devastated as the country were forced to reflect on a second major footballing blow of the week after their bid to host the 2026 World Cup failed on Wednesday.

When the pain subsides, however, they should take heart from a performance which showcased some impressive talent, well assembled by French coach Herve Renard, and which will have been keenly noted by Spain and Portugal.

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