MOSCOW, June 20, 2018 - Russia’s 2018 World Cup is only seven days old but already the German holders have been beaten, three nations know they are heading home and Cristiano Ronaldo has added another record to his personal encyclopedia of achievements.
Uruguay’s 1-0 victory over Saudi Arabia in Rostov-on-Don meant that the 1930 and 1950 World Cup winners knew they will join Russia in the knockout stage. Celeste and hosts meet in their concluding first round match in Samara on Monday to decide ‘only’ first and second place in Group A.
Luis Suarez marked his 100th international by scoring Uruguay’s winning goal after 23 minutes of an uninspiring game. Thus not only will Uruguay and Russia go forward but Egypt and Saudi Arabia – whatever they do to each other on Monday among the midges of Volvograd – can already book flights home to Cairo and Riyadh respectively.
The outcome of Group B still hangs in the balance but Portugal and Spain are in the driving seats after their respective 1-0 wins over Morocco and Iran. The decisive goals came from Ronaldo in Luzhniki and then from Diego Costa in Kazan.
Ronaldo’s fourth-minute header not only condemned Morocco to elimination but enshrined him as European football’s all-time leading international marksman with 85 goals in his record 152 appearances for Portugal.
This lifted him beyond the record of 84 goals recorded by another Real Madrid legend, Ferenc Puskas. The difference was that Puskas scored his goals for Hungary over ‘only’ 85 games in 11 years while Ronaldo’s took him 152 in 15.
The 33-year-old has been voted world player of the year on five occasions, was the first to win four ESM European Golden Shoes (since overtaken by Lionel Messi). Ronaldo also holds records for most goals scored in Europe's top-five leagues (395), the UEFA Champions League (120), the European Championship (nine) as well as tallies for most assists in the Champions League (34) and European Championship (six).
In terms of Real Madrid, Ronaldo has scored a club record 438 goals in 612 games in the 10 years since 1998 while Puskas managed ‘only’ 244 goals in 264 games in eight seasons.
Back in the current World Cup Ronaldo & Co and the other three Group B teams will wrap up their section next Monday. In Saransk Portugal need a draw to ensure progress while opponents Iran must win to reach the knockout stage for the first time in their history. Spain play Morocco in Kaliningrad, also needing ‘only’ the draw.
Of course both Portugal and Spain may also want decisive victories to try to secure top spot in the group.
In Saransk the focus will be directed not only on the outcome of the match but whether Ronaldo can continue his goals stroll.
The leading single-tournament marksman in the last 48 years is the other, Brazilian Ronaldo with eight goals in 2002. The only men to outshoot him were Germany’s Gerd Muller with 10 in 1954, Hungary's Sandor Kocsis with 11 in 1954 and France's Just Fontaine with 13 in 1958.
Even CR7 could struggle to make it to double figures.
** FIFA has fined the Mexican federation $10,000 for their fans’ "discriminatory and insulting chants" in the 1-0 win over World Cup holders Germany.