It'll be hard to top Monday's drama in the Group B finales: Iran nearly knocked out Portugal late, Cristiano Ronaldo narrowly dodged a red card and VAR took center stage. Amid the madness, Spain and Portgual advance to the Round of 16, as expected, but the path both teams took to get there was anything but. We unpack all the storylines in our discussion below.
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Here's a selection of episode 12, which can be listened to in its entirety in the podcast console above:
BRIAN STRAUS: I saw the goal by (Iago Aspas) from Spain, which was sensational. What a goal. I once scored a goal like that in a game really early on. The other team got annoyed and beat my team 7-1. But he did it at the end, and that was awesome. I missed the Iran penalty entirely, but then I saw them hit the side netting and then I had an aneurysm. It was incredible! It was incredible.
GRANT WAHL: For most of the game I was actually most disappointed with Spain because they were struggling against Morocco ... and were really in a position before the VAR craziness where Spain was going to finish second in the group and you're kind of like, "What are you doing?"
I was saying that to Spain throughout the game. From the start you had Gerard Piqué come in on a two-footed tackle where he might've gotten a red card-didn't. You had Sergio Ramos, the other revered center back for Spain, both of their center backs having poor performances tonight. Ramos having a misplay on the ball with Andres Iniesta that set Morocco free on their first goal, and then Ramos beaten for the header on Morocco's second goal. It's so funny to me. Yes, in the end, it's kind of what we expected: Spain in first, Portugal in second. But the way we got there was absolutely not what we expected. You have to give a ton of credit to Iran for putting themselves in a position to advance. They just didn't.
BS: There are no good teams in this tournament potentially. That's what it's come down to. Every team is flawed, even the ones that are 2-0. They've either played junior high teams or are teams like France, for example, that just doesn't look convincing. Spain has struggled. Brazil has struggled. It's mayhem. It's complete mayhem. I feel like 2/3 of the goals in this tournament have been scored in stoppage time. I don't know how else to say it. I'm running out of synonyms.
GW: Here's my thought: Croatia and Mexico are the two best teams we've seen so far.
BS: That may be true ... in terms of 90-minute performances and against good opposition. That actually might be the case.
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