5 talking points from day 12 of the FIFA World Cup

Here are five major talking points from day 12 of the 2018 FIFA World Cup which saw Spain and Portugal play out draws, while Uruguay and Saudi Arabia posted wins.

Having steered Egypt to the World Cup by scoring a stoppage-time winner, Salah was expected to play a more pivotal role in Egypt's return to the World Cup after 28 years. The Pharaohs, however, leave Russia with no points to their name.   -  Getty Images

Spain's susceptible defence

Despite qualifying for the knockout stages of the competition, Spain looks awfully short of its best. A major concern for the stand-in manager Fernando Hierro will be the side's defensive vulnerability from its 2-2 draw against Morocco.

The African side found plenty of space to work with on the break, threatening David de Gea's posts time and again. If not for Morocco's inability to find its forwards with its final passes, which has been the case for it throughout the tournament, Spain could have conceded more than two on the night.

READ: La Roja tops group despite dramatic draw

In the search for goals, Spain's centre-backs Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique, and holding midfielder Sergio Busquets are often left with the task of mopping up the prospects of opponent's counterattacks.

Perhaps, Hierro could take a leaf out of the World Cup-winning manager Vincente del Bosque's formula in focusing on defence. The 2010 side leaked just twice from its seven matches, while the Class of 2018 has seen five goals put past it in just three outings.

Uruguay's steady start

Oscar Tabarez's Uruguay has made the knockout round without much fanfare. Although up against the lesser ranked opponents in Russia, Egypt and Saudi Arabia, it has not put a foot wrong so far. Built on Atletico Madrid's centre-back duo of Diego Godin and Jose Gimenez, Uruguay is yet to concede a goal in its three matches.

ALSO READ: Uruguay tops Group with thumping 3-0 win over Russia

After a less than inspirational attacking display in its opening two matches, its forwards took the game to host Russia on Monday in its 3-0 win. Tabarez will also be pleased by the fact that PSG striker Edinson Cavani got his name on the scoresheet.

Where was Mo Salah?

After being so prolific in front of goal for Liverpool, where he romped to an amazing 44 goals this season, Mohamed Salah has been a pale version of himself at the World Cup. Of course, Salah suffered a shoulder injury during the Champions League final that saw him miss Egypt's opening game, but in the two matches that he as played, he as failed to create any real impact.

READ: Dawsari snatches last-gasp win against Egypt

He got off to a good start on Monday, scoring the opening goal with a lovely lob over the goalkeeper but that remained his only major contribution to the game.

Having steered Egypt to the World Cup by scoring a stoppage-time winner, Salah was expected to play a more pivotal role in Egypt's return to the World Cup after 28 years. The Pharaohs, however, leave Russia with no points to their name.

Iran nearly sends Portugal home

Portugal needed only a draw to book its spot in the round-of-16 and was stretched to the limit by Iran on Monday night. Ricardo Quaresma put Portugal ahead with a sublime strike at the stoke of half-time and Cristiano Ronaldo missed a chance to extend the side's lead when he had his penalty saved by Alireza Beiranvand.

ALSO READ: Heartbreak for Iran as stalemate vs Portugal ends campaign

Iran pressed hard for an equaliser and earned a penalty in the 90th minute, which Karim Ansarifard duly converted to give the side a ray of hope. Vahid Amiri had a fine chance to find the winner two minutes later, but his attempt grazed the side netting and Portugal survived an anxious couple if minutes to seal its spot in the next round.

Penalties galore

The 2018 FIFA World Cup has seen as many as 20 penalties being awarded so far, the most at any World Cup. And it's staggering to note that we are still in the group stages of the tournament!

Of the 20 penalties, 15 have been converted so far, while Lionel Messi, Cristiano Ronaldo, Gylfi Sigurdsson, Christian Cueva and Fawad Al Muwallad have all failed to score from the spot.

With so many penalties being given after the use of VAR, one can expect to see more in the upcoming matches.

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