World Cup Daily: Cristiano Ronaldo's busy day, Iran joy, Saturday's four-game festival!
The first full day of World Cup fixtures brought with it a generous helping of incident, not least the grand arrival on the scene of one Cristiano Ronaldo, who wasted little time setting yet more records tumbling.
The big story: Ronaldo's remarkable day
A day that began with him being "sent to prison" ended with Portugal's captain fantastic scoring a sensational hat trick vs. Spain.
Before he kicked a ball in anger in Russia, reports emerged that the superstar has agreed to accept a two-year jail term -- Spanish law states that a sentence of under two years for a first offence can be served on probation and not behind bars -- and pay a fine of €18.8 million as a result of alleged tax evasion regarding image rights.
However, despite breaking mere hours before his country's World Cup opener, it hardly appeared to affect his concentration. The 33-year-old pitched in with his 51st career hat trick, which is equal to the total number of trebles scored in the history of the World Cup.
Ronaldo, whose magnificent free kick earned a point for Portugal in the 88th minute, also became only the fourth player to score at four separate World Cups, joining Pele, Miroslav Klose and Uwe Seeler in an incredibly exclusive club
Video of the day: Zlatan touches down
Sadly, he won't be getting a game for Sweden in Russia but any international tournament is richer for having a touch of Ibra thrown into the mix.
ICYMI, Iran made history!
As unlikely as it may sound, Iran are sitting pretty at the top of Group B after registering a 1-0 win over Morocco. Even more unlikely? Team Melli managed to score during a second half in which they failed to muster a single effort, either on target or otherwise.
1 - Since 1966, Iran are the first team to score a goal in a half of football in the World Cup without attempting a single shot in that half. Fortunate. #MARIRN #MAR #IRN #WorldCup pic.twitter.com/AVD7xVJfU9— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 15, 2018
Thankfully for Carlos Queiroz's shot-shy team, a 95th-minute own-goal from Moroccan substitute Aziz Bouhaddouz was enough for them to claim their first win at a World Cup since they beat the United States in 1998.
World Cup 2018 must-reads
- Make your picks with ESPN FC Match Predictor 2018!
- Welcome to the Alternative 2018 World Cup Fans' Guide
- ESPN FC's experts make their picks
- Marvel's amazing World Cup spoilers
- Revealed: World Cup 2018 Ultimate XI
- Fixtures, results and full coverage
- Team-by-team previews of all 32 nations
Empty seats in Yekaterinburg
Uruguay's narrow victory over Egypt in Friday's early kickoff highlighted an irregular point, and we are not even talking about the bizarre architecture of the bewildering "outrigger" stand behind the goal at the Ekaterinburg Arena.
There were a large number of empty seats visible in the stadium during the game, with the orange plastic chairs serving to accentuate the sizeable gaps among the crowd.
5,200 empty seats at Uruguay v Egypt - but only 780 tickets not sold. FIFA says it's investigating why.— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) June 15, 2018
Actually was 6,000 empty seats - 5,200 no shows plus the 780 unsold seats— Martyn Ziegler (@martynziegler) June 15, 2018
A discrepancy in ticket sale numbers subsequently only came to light later.
"We can confirm that 32,278 tickets have been allocated for the match between Egypt and Uruguay in Ekaterinburg," FIFA said in a statement. "The stadium capacity is 33,061. The fact that the current attendance doesn't reflect the amount of allocated tickets can be due to different factors, which FIFA is currently investigating."
Tweet of the day
Because you cannot beat a bit of salacious, behind-the-scenes drama.
Favourite fact of the World Cup so far is this lad who's just come on for Egypt was engaged to the keeper's daughter, only for it to emerge that he was already engaged to someone else.— Nick Miller (@NickMiller79) June 15, 2018
The goalkeeper in question is 45-year-old veteran Essam El-Hadary, with the young buck being winger Mahmoud Abdel-Moneim, 24, who is known as "Kahraba," which translates -- rather brilliantly -- as "electricity."
Sparks must fly in that dressing room, etc. and so on.
Oh, and look what else have shown up. Hooray?
What's ahead on Saturday?
France vs. Australia (6 a.m. ET, 11 a.m. BST)
In the first of four games, France manager Didier Deschamps will put his faith in a youthful starting XI against the Socceroos, with Kylian Mbappe and Ousmane Dembele set to lead the line either side of Antoine Griezmann, who hopefully has put all the fuss about his club future behind him.
Argentina vs. Iceland (9 a.m. ET, 2 p.m. BST)
The World Cup will get its first look at Lionel Messi as the Albiceleste get underway against Iceland, who confounded expectations to become the surprise package of Euro 2016. Heimir Hallgrimsson confirmed his entire squad is fit, which means Gylfi Sigurdsson's dodgy knee is OK, and declared the clash to be "the biggest game in [Iceland] history."
Sorry, England fans still reeling from that Euro exit two years ago ...
Peru vs. Denmark (Noon ET, 5 p.m. BST)
Peru are one of the most fanatically-supported nations at the World Cup, with fans doing whatever it takes to roar their team on in Russia. And that team will include top scorer and captain Paolo Guerrero, who has had an appeal against a positive drug test deferred. Can they pull off a surprise against Christian Eriksen and Co.?
Croatia vs. Nigeria (3 p.m. ET, 8 p.m BST)
The undisputed best-dressed team at the World Cup, Nigeria, face a Croatia squad -- Luka Modric, Mario Mandzukic, Ivan Rakitic, et al -- that former manager Slaven Bilic has branded the strongest in the country's history; heady praise given some of the sides for which he played back in the day.
Chris covers the funny side of the game for ESPN FC in the Toe Poke blog.