Africans Suffer Defeat, as Egypt, Morocco Lose Opening Games


•Portugal, Spain light up tournament  

I t was not a good day for African representatives in the ongoing 2018 World Cup in Russia as Egypt and Morocco suffered 0-1 losses to Uruguay and Iran respectively.
Jose Gimenez headed a 90th-minute winner as Uruguay beat Egypt 1-0 in their opening Group A game at the Mundial in Yekaterinburg.
The Atletico Madrid defender rose highest for Carlos Sanchez’s free-kick to head past Mohamed El Shenawy and break Egypt hearts after a largely sluggish show from the Uruguayans.
Luis Suarez had missed three fine chances and Edinson Cavani hit the post as Egypt looked to have survived without their talisman Mo Salah, who did not feature from the bench due to his shoulder injury.
Uruguay started slowly as Egypt’s defence stayed compact, but Suarez had the first clear chance at the far post after Diego Godin flicked on a corner, scuffing his effort from six yards into the side-netting.
Half-time could not come soon enough for Oscar Tabarez’s side, with Suarez, in particular, looking unlike himself, but he had another fine chance within a minute of the second half to put Uruguay ahead.
After Cavani’s through ball, Suarez did well to get goal-side of Ahmed Hegazi at close range, but goalkeeper Mohamed El-Shenawy spread himself wide enough to deflect wide with an outstretched leg.
Egypt began to retreat and were nearly punished as Cavani set up Suarez again, but the Barcelona forward dwelled on the ball, attempted to round El-Shenawy, before the ball was taken from his feet.
Cavani saw a 20-yard volley from Suarez’s set-up brilliantly saved by El-Shenawy, before his free-kick came crashing off the post, but Uruguay won it as the game headed for injury time.
After Egypt gave away a needless free-kick on the right flank, sub Sanchez found the head of Gimenez, who did superbly to find the far corner with his header.
Uruguay will now face Saudi Arabia in Group A on Wednesday in Volgograd at 4p.m., while Egypt face Russia on Tuesday evening at 7pm in St Petersburg.
Meanwhile, Iran won their first World Cup match since 1998 as Aziz Bouhaddouz’s 95th-minute own goal sunk Morocco 1-0 in yesterday’s Group B opener in St. Petersburg.
After creating little and enjoying just 32 per cent possession, Iran got their lucky break with almost the last kick when Bouhaddouz put an unstoppable near-post header past his own goalkeeper when attempting to defend a free-kick.
Morocco, who looked dangerous in parts but were toothless in attack, will be wondering how they lost a game they controlled for large periods.
In the last match of the day, it was a six-goal thriller as Spain and Portugal honours in which Cristiano Ronaldo scored the first hat-trick of the 2018 World Cup.

Nigerian Fans Banned from Taking Chickens to Matches
Nigerian fans have been banned from taking ‘lucky’ live chickens into the ground for their team’s opening Group D game with Croatia today.
Supporters of the Super Eagles believe the tradition of taking chickens to games brings the team luck.
However, the Russian Government has banned the practice as Nigeria plays its sixth World Cup in Kaliningrad.
“Fans from Nigeria asked if it’s possible to go to the stadium with a chicken. We told them that it is not possible,” Andrei Ermak, Minister of Culture in Kaliningrad, told Russia’s Interfax news agency.
Ermak added that the ministry will advise Super Eagles fans on areas they will be allowed to carry chickens when supporting their team.
At the 2010 World Cup, Nigerian fans were banned from taking chickens painted in Nigeria’s colours into Ellis Park, Johannesburg, for a game against Argentina.