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≡ QATAR 2022 ≡
The second round of matches in Groups A and B of the 2022 FIFA World Cup were held on Friday, with host Qatar eliminated in Group A and everyone still in contention in Group B:
● Group A: Netherlands and Ecuador are both 1-0-1 (W-L-T) and have four points, with Senegal at 1-1-0 and three. Qatar (0-2-0) will not advance out of the group. Ecuador and Senegal will play Tuesday (29th), with Ecuador advancing on a draw and Senegal advancing with a win. The Netherlands will face Qatar and needs at least a draw to be sure of advancing.
● Group B: England is atop the group at 1-0-1 (four points), with Iran now second at 1-1-0 (three points), the U.S. third (0-0-2: two points) and Wales fourth (0-1-1: one point). England will play Wales, needing a draw or a win to be sure of advancing, while the Welsh might get through with a win. The U.S. must win against Iran on Tuesday to advance to the elimination round, but the Iranians might get through with a draw (depending on what happens in the other game).
Saturday’s games include Group C, with Poland (0-0-1) vs. Saudi Arabia (1-0) and Argentina (0-1) vs. Mexico (0-0-1). In Group D, Tunisia (0-0-1) plays Australia (0-1) while France (1-0) faces Denmark (0-0-1).
≡ Friday’s Matches ≡
● Group A: Senegal 3, Qatar 1 ● The host Qatar team played spirited football from the start, but a mistake led to Senegal’s first goal on the way to a 3-1 win.
Defender Boualem Khoukhi failed to clear a pass into the box and Senegal striker Boulaye Dia scored in the 41st minute for the only goal of the first half. Senegal then took the air out of the game early in the second half with another goal in the 48th minute when Ismail Jakobs’ corner found the head of striker Famara Diedhiou for a 2-0 lead.
But Qatar midfielder Mohammed Muntari scored the country’s first-ever World Cup goal with a fabulous score on a header off defender Ismail Mohamad’s cross in the 78th minute to cut the deficit to 2-1. But substitute striker Bamba Dieng got Senegal’s third goal with a right-footed smash from the middle of the box in the 84th for the 3-1 final.
Senegal had 55% of the possession and a 13-10 edge on shots.
● Group A: Netherlands 1, Ecuador 1 ● The Dutch didn’t score until the 84th minute of their opener against Senegal, but Cory Gapko – who scored that first goal – got a feed from Davy Klassen and pounded in a left-footed rocket from the left side in the fifth minute to put the Dutch up, 1-0. Plenty of time for more, but no more goals were coming for the Orange.
This is was pretty physical game, with 27 total fouls and 15 on the Netherlands, who knew exactly where Ecuador’s star striker Enner Valencia was at all times. He still got three shots off in the first half and then capitalized on a rebound off of a Pervis Estupinan shot and scored past Dutch keeper Andries Noppert in the 49th for the 1-1 tie.
Ecuador kept attacking, with only the occasional Dutch shot, but the score ended even. The Dutch had 54% of possession, but Ecuador had an astounding 15 shots to just two for the Netherlands.
● Group B: Iran 2, Wales 0 ● This was a wild game that saw no score through 90 minutes, but with Welsh keeper Wayne Hennessey red-carded in the 86th minute, leaving them playing with 10 for the remainder of the match.
Midfielder Ali Gholizadeh scored for Iran in the 15th minute, but the goal was nullified on video review for offsides, with Iran continuing to press the offense throughout the first half. More of the same in the second, as Sardar Azmoun hit the right post in the 51st and Gholizadeh hit the left post a minute later.
But Hennessey was sent off after coming well out in the field and clobbering striker Mehdi Taremi, leaving Wales a man short.
That mattered in stoppage time, as an Iranian charge resulted in three blocked shots, but led to Roozbeh Cheshmi’s right-footed blast from outside the box to the right corner of the net at 90+8 and then Ramin Rezaeian finished a fast break with a right-footed pop-up from the center of the box at 90+11 for the 2-0 final.
The Welsh had 62% of the possession in the game, but the Iranians were the aggressors, with 21 shots to 10 and six on goal to three.
● Group B: England 0, United States 0 ● Was mighty England as good as its six-goal explosion against Iran? Which U.S. team would show up? The aggressive one from the first half of the Wales match, or the less-energetic second half side?
Happily for the Americans, the energy was high and the result kept the U.S. in the hunt to advance. The English attack was frustrated again and again by midfielders Tyler Adams, Weston McKennie and Yunus Musah, and midfielder Christian Pulisic made run after run into the England zone to create pressure.
On offense, McKennie had a right-footed blast in the 26th minute go over the crossbar and Pulisic had a shot hammer the bar in the 33rd minute. Even without a successful finish, the U.S. was unrelenting on runs into the English zone and ended with seven corners.
England’s star striker Harry Kane had a first-half blast toward the goal blocked by Walker Zimmerman and his header at 90+4 went wide to the left. U.S. keeper Matt Turner made three saves, especially on a first half stoppage-time shot by Mason Mount that he pushed away.
The possession chart showed England with 55% of the possession, but the U.S. had 10 shots to eight for the English. Shots-on-goal however were three for England just one for the U.S.
The 0-0 final was the fifth scoreless draw in the tournament so far, closing in on the record of seven, done four times previously (last in 2014).
≡ Thursday’s Matches ≡
● Group G: Switzerland 1, Cameroon 0 ● A very tightly contested match was decided by a 48th-minute goal from Swiss striker Breel Embolo, who was born in Cameroon.
Embolo took a perfect cross from midfielder Xherdan Shaqiri right in front of goal and sent a swift, right-footed shot into the net, but refused to celebrate given his heritage. And it turned out to be the only goal of the game, after Cameroon had been on offense for most of the first half. Bryan Mbeumo’s 10th-minute shot from inside the penalty area was saved and the rebound was booted over the net by Karl Toko-Ekambi on one of Cameroon’s best chances.
The match stats reflected the close nature of the game, as the Swiss ended with 51% of possession and Cameroon got off eight shots to seven for the winners.
● Group G: Brazil 2, Serbia 0 ● As expected, no. 1-ranked Brazil was on offense from the start and superstar Neymar Jr. almost scored an unbelievable goal from a corner with a curving ball in the 14th minute that was punched away by Serbian keeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic!
The half ended scoreless as Serbia packed in the defense and challenged Brazil’s stars, committing eight fouls. Brazil had 59% of the possession and led in shots, 4-1.
The second half started with 12 minutes of continuous pressure from Brazil, but no goals. After a Serbian counter, Brazil came back with more and Alex Sandro hit the post with a powerful strike from 25 yards out in the 60th minute and the pressure was back on.
Minutes later, Neymar dribbled into the middle of the box, then sent the ball left for a quick strike by Vinicius Jr. that Milinkovic-Savic saved, but left the rebound in front for Richarlison to clean up with his right foot for a 1-0 lead in the 63rd.
Serbia had a chance at goal in the 71st off a corner that bounced off multiple heads before it bounded outside of the penalty area and Darko Lazovic shot it over the net.
But then the game was decided on a spectacular, scissor-kick strike by Richarlison with the right foot from in front of the net in the 73rd. A pass by Vinicius into the middle bounded off Richarlison, dropped to the ground and then the Brazilian star swung his right leg to the ball, that sailed just over the shoulder of Serbian defender Milos Veljkovic and into the net.
Neymar suffered a right ankle injury and will not play in the next match against Switzerland and may miss the group finale vs. Cameroon. Brazil finished with 59% possession and 22-8 on shots, with 10 on goal. Dominant.
● Group H: Uruguay 0, South Korea 0 ● There was no score and almost no offense in the Group H opener, as only one shot on goal was credited in the entire match!
Uruguay’s Diego Godin his the post on a header in the 43rd minute and Fede Valverde’s cannon shot in the 90th minute also found the woodwork in the best chances to score for Uruguay.
Uruguay had 56% of the possession and out-shot Korea by 10-7, but had only one shot actually on goal and the Koreans had none. Both will be difficult to score on in Qatar.
● Group H: Portugal 3, Ghana 2 ● What started as a defensive battle turned into a wild, back-and-forth scoring festival in the last 20 minutes with Portugal’s Rafael Leao scoring what turned out to the game-winner in the 80th minute.
Much of the focus was on Portuguese superstar Cristiano Ronaldo, who had chances in the 10th minute, 13th minute and scored in the 31st, but was called for a foul. The half ended scoreless, with Portugal enjoying 62% of possession and had a 7-0 edge on shots.
The game got increasingly physical in the second half. Ronaldo was pushed in the back by Ghanan defender Mohammed Salisu in the penalty area in the 62nd minute and converted the penalty with a crisp right-footer just over keeper Lawrence Ati Zigi in the 65th. The goal gave Ronaldo a record of scoring in five different World Cups. Game over, right?
The party was just getting started, as a cross from Ghanan midfielder Mohammed Kudus sent a cross from the endline to the left of goal into the middle of the box that caromed between the legs of Portugal’s Danilo Pereira and right to striker Andre Ayew, who finished with the right foot to tie the match in the 73rd and set off a wild celebration among Ghana’s fans right behind the Portugal goal.
Ayew came out four minutes later and while still being congratulated by his teammates, saw Joao Felix take long pass from Bruno Fernandes and score off a dribble and a shot from the right of goal in the 78th minute for a 2-1 Portugal lead. And just two minutes later, Fernandes led a fast break down the middle of the box and passed to Leao on his left, who finished with the right foot for a 3-1 lead.
But Ghana kept on coming, and got to 3-2 on a Osman Bukari header in the 89th, but could not do more and had to take the loss. Portugal ended with 62% possession and an 11-9 lead in shots. There were 33 fouls in the game.
≡ PANORAMA ≡
What fans and reporters can and can’t do continues to be a story in Qatar:
● Britain’s Daily Express newspaper reported on Friday:
“England fans have been asked not to dress up in crusader costumes in order to avoid upsetting Muslims at the World Cup in Qatar after a couple of supporters were seemingly led away by security this week. … footage shared on Twitter appeared to show two England fans wearing chain mail and helmets being turned around by officials prior to Monday’s victory over Iran.
“Crusader costumes run the risk of offending the locals in Qatar, with the best-known Crusades taking place between 1095 and 1291 when Christian armies fought to seize Jerusalem and the surrounding area from Islamic rule.”
● The Football Association of Wales posted a notice on Twitter Thursday that “In response to the FAW, FIFA has confirmed that fans with Rainbow Wall bucket hats and rainbow flags will be allowed entry to the stadium for @Cymru’s match against Iran on Friday.
“All World Cup venues have been contacted and instructed to follow the agreed rules & regulations.”
The “Rainbow Wall” is a Welsh LGBTQ supporter’s group and there were some reports that Rainbow Wall hats and flags had not been allowed in the stadium for the 1-1 tie with the U.S.
● Accredited Argentine television host Joaquin Alvarez from the El Trece channel was conducting a live interview with a wheelchair-bound fan in a residential complex in Doha when his cameraman was told by Qatari officials to point the camera elsewhere.
The crew eventually completed the interview later – from the back of a car – but Alvarez said during the program:
“The person who stopped the filming got out of a van and told us in a very rude way we couldn’t film any more because we were in a private place. I told him we were showing something nice but they told us we had to go and there was a moment when they even wanted to take our equipment off us.” In a later social media post, he added:
“We had a bad experience and what happened was totally unfair because we had all our permits and everything in order. It’s in the past now, another anecdote.”
“The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has opened proceedings against the Mexican Football Association due to chants by Mexican supporters during the Mexico v. Poland FIFA World Cup match played on 22 November.”
No further details were available, but the Mexican Football Federation has previously been sanctioned for chants considered to be anti-gay made by its fans during goal kicks.
FIFA also announced, on Tuesday, an inquiry into “chants by Ecuadorian supporters during the Qatar v. Ecuador FIFA World Cup match played on 20 November.” Reuters reported on Thursday that the Ecuadorian federation has asked its fans to refrain from further “homophobic slurs” aimed at Chile, which challenged Ecuador’s right to be in the World Cup over a potentially-ineligible player, winger Byron Castillo. The federation’s statement included:
“The Ecuadorean Football Federation calls on Ecuador fans accompanying ‘the Tri’ in Qatar 2022 to avoid all types of offensive, insulting and discriminatory songs.”
ESPN reported that an unspecified number of World Cup fans, who rented converted shipping containers in specially-arranged “fan villages” came and found their accommodations unavailable as they were not finished. A spokesman for Qatar’s Supreme Committee for Delivery and Legacy said:
“We are aware that a number of fans have faced delays checking into select fan village accommodation due to owner and operator negligence. …
“While these sites are managed by independent commercial entities, rectifying these issues remains the utmost priority for the Supreme Committee. Full refunds are being offered to fans severely impacted by this issue as well as alternative accommodation which will be free of charge for the duration of their stay.”
FIFA reported that attendance in the first-round matches totaled 94% of capacity, with more than 3,000,000 tickets now sold for the tournament.
Perhaps just as stunning – or even more so – was a FIFA tweet that the television audience in Japan for the Blue Samurai’s 2-1 win over Germany reached 26.19 million (in a country of 125.7 million people) and that during the match, 71.3% of all televisions that were on were tuned to the match!
From the European Parliament:
“On Thursday, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the human rights situation in Qatar. MEPs highlight that the Gulf state won the FIFA World Cup bidding process amidst credible allegations of bribery and corruption. They deplore the deaths of thousands of migrant workers primarily in the construction sector who helped the country prepare for the tournament, as well as all those injured. …
“To protect athletes and fans and put an end to sportswashing, international sporting events should not be awarded to countries in which fundamental and human rights are violated, and where systematic gender-based violence is prevalent.
“With an estimated more than 2 million foreign nationals making up some 94% of the country’s workforce, the resolution welcomes the fact that, according to the International Labour Organization, the Qatari government has reimbursed USD 320 million to wage abuse victims through the so-called ‘Workers’ Support and Insurance Fund’. MEPs regret, however, that many workers in Qatar and their families have been excluded from its scope and call for the fund to be extended to include all those affected since the work related to the FIFA World Cup began, covering also workers’ deaths and other human rights abuses.
“They also call on FIFA to contribute to a comprehensive remediation programme for workers’ families as compensation for the conditions to which they have been subjected.”
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