After eight years, you forget what it’s like to be in the deep end of the pool, and all the things you envision after USMNT certification are actually realized on the field. The feeling that you can kiss everyone in front of you is wildly swinging, you can end a human life in an instant. No one watches sports for fun. What is fun? Fuck if you want to have fun. All that remains is feeling, so it rarely feels any good. Anyway, let’s break down the action from the first full day of the 2022 World Cup.
Game of the Day – Wales 1, USA 1
We’ll be taking an in-depth look at this game straight away, but it was the only interesting game of the day, unless you’re English. The USA got the exact opening 45 minutes they wanted. The problem is that FIFA still requires a team to play 90 minutes, although you never know how that might change in the future (see what happens if by some miracle Qatar leads or is tied in a 70-minute game, but more about that in a second). Wales pounced on the USA in the second half, though it didn’t go in any direction, but it all came down to a penalty after Walker Zimmerman’s stupid challenge allowed Gareth Bale to rise. the only time anyone saw him fit at all. The final 20 minutes were frenetic and unstructured thanks to the tournament’s new policy of allowing injury time to be decided by a cokehead, but neither team was left with anything to predict the winner.
Other results: England 6-2 Iran
It couldn’t have gone much better for England, who played with their food for nearly half an hour before allowing Jude Bellingham to soon become the most expensive midfielder in history. Once they took the lead, Iran had no plan going forward and seemed to give up on defense and the Three Lions ran more. Be it Harry Kane, Bellingham, Declan Rice, Bukayo Saka, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford or Jack Grealish, they were able to pass to their wide forwards as Iran could not get close to them. Once those guys are in space, you can forget about it. England tried to score two goals, probably out of sheer boredom, but they stretched and broke the Iranian defense at will.
Netherlands 2:0 Senegal
The fear was that Senegal would definitely be boring without Sadio Mane, and so they faced the Netherlands. The Dutch didn’t look very seasoned either, struggling to break through a fairly strong Senegalese midfield and creating only sporadic chances. It’s been a tournament full of abstract goalkeeping and Edward Mendy was more than happy to take the torch from Qatar’s Saad Al Sheeb, chasing down the butterfly and it wasn’t within five feet:
Mendy wasn’t finished as Memphis headed home the rebound to Davy Klassen after nothing more than Depay’s suggestion. Senegal didn’t deserve much given how little they created, but they could have seen anything to grab a point had their goalkeeper not been taken to Strawberry Fields in the second half.
Goal of the day
Tim Weah’s had a great finish on the elegant counter from the USA, but he has to give it to Saka’s volley:
You’d like more of the Iranian defense dentist-waiting-room-passion there to get out of Saka, but you can’t argue with his arrival.
Did VAR break something?
No, they left it to Qatar and FIFA.
Did Qatar or FIFA screw something up?
And how! The day began with FIFA deciding which teams were scheduled to play their matches captains wear One Love armbands now that was not allowed and any captain who broke the rules would receive a yellow card on the spot. Seven FAs that had planned to do so withdrew.
While the rather empty gesture of wearing armbands when threatened with penalties on the field may seem weak, it’s important to remember how many layers such protest has to go through, all the way down to the players.
It was FIFA that put this tournament in the land of intolerance. After that, any member of FIFA could band together to stop it, unless they were too busy settling their inconsistent scores. Perhaps any actual set of governments could be strengthened, but they desperately need oil and natural gas. There are probably only a few levels where players can do something before they are asked to be a symbol of defiance, which now appears to be a defunct gesture.
Again, this was at the height of England’s Harry Kane first cap. Was it something sent down the chain from the rulers of Qatar? Did FIFA guess what they were going to say anyway? Did they do it out of fear? Ahead of the tournament, we knew that banning beer in stadiums could lead to bigger things, and here we are.
This would be bad enough, but Grant Wall had a tale to tell before the USMNT match:
It feels like someone told stadium security that Wahl might be the preeminent soccer journalist in this country, and giving him a nightingale to loudly demonstrate the ugly way the government wants to run isn’t the best idea, though it’s too late now. Making the idea of ”sports washing” even more farcical.
are we done No! Their ticket application failed Before the England match, England released supporters who crowded outside the stadium when kick-off was given.
Also, FIFA announced that 3,000 more fans than the intended capacity of the stadium came to the Netherlands-Senegal match. You tell us:
And wanted Iranian supporters who wanted to continue bringing Persian flags, a symbol of ongoing protests in that country, confiscated them. This tournament is going well!
Did Alexi Lalas say something stupid?
“MLS Cup Champion Gareth Bale.” Just look at it, admire its beauty…
“He’s Here” award
Ismaila Sarr provided one of Senegal’s few moments of enthusiasm, leading to Denzel Dumphries ending up in the axed beer booths at the concourse.
You get injury time! And you get injury time! And you get injury time!
There has always been a school of thought in football that 10 or 12 minutes of injury time is a common occurrence given how little time the ball can spend in play. Apparently, FIFA tried to fix this in one tournament. England and Iran played 117 minutes, although there were serious injuries. Senegal and the Netherlands played 102. USA and Wales had 10 minutes of injury time in the second half. It’s going to be silly later in the tournament, just watch.