There’s a hoary old sports gambling adage to “never bet the ice,” an allusion to the vagaries of ice hockey and its unpredictable nature.
Now that the US is legitimizing sports gambling as a safe and fun alternative to hand gun ownership, soccer will be under the gambler’s (and regulator’s) lens. Herve Renard’s Morocco defeated Portugal, but lost the game 1-0 on an early Ronaldo goal.
Morocco’s Ziyech and Amrabat were fantastic. Ziyech’s deft touches created a dozen or so chances out of seemingly hopeless situations, and Amrabat was a powerful and positive presence on the wing for the entire match despite having suffered a concussion in the match against Iran four days earlier.
The goal was fine, but the game smelled like a fish. Morocco bossed its richer European almost neighbors for most of the match and (did not) earn a penalty when Jose Fonte steamrolled Khalid Boutaib in the box. This was an 8/10, maybe 9/10 penalty (a glimmer of doubt may be there for an interpretation that would give Fonte the benefit of tracking the ball) that was not even reviewed by the VAR chain of command.
VAR (video assistant referee) is debuting at this Cup to overturn obvious officiating errors. That a foul in the box as glaring as Fonte’s would not be reviewed undermines the entire precept of having VAR in the first place. You would not think that an American referee would be the first in line to be “influenced” by forces outside the lines, but…
Morocco’s stylish, positive soccer is exactly what some people want to see at the World Cup, but they are going home and the I suppose most of the world is getting more of what it wants: a preening narcissist with the tan of an octagenarian shuffleboard champ. Oh, and the guy can finish.
Suarez and Cavani at the all you can eat goal buffet
By the time you read this, they might each have a hat trick against Saudi Arabia. Not what the Saudi Doctor ordered after its 0-5 against Russia, but after surviving an air equipment scare the other day, maybe they’ll be energized.
Iran will try to bore Spain to death today. I expect a late Isco winner for 1-0 and a passage into the 16.