World Cup recap - Day 2
Day Two results;
England 6 - 2 Iran
Senegal 0 - 2 Netherlands
USA 1 - 1 Wales
Day Two of this year’s World Cup saw England start their tournament in the best possible fashion with a resounding victory against Iran. Gareth Southgate’s men outplayed their opposition from the first minute of the game and ran rampant in attack, scoring the first four goals of the match.
Louis Van Gaal’s Dutch side avoided an upset against Senegal, who had plenty of chances to break the deadlock and go ahead at nil all. Cody Gakpo took the Dutch ahead with his 84th minute winner and Davy Klaassen sealed the deal in stoppage time as Senegal committed more men forward in the hope of rescuing a draw.
The game between The USA and Wales was a game of two halves. The USA dominated the first half and would have felt disappointed to be only one goal ahead at half time for all the dominance they had in the first half. It was a different Welsh side in the second half though and Wales were able to equalise through Gareth Bale and even looked like they might go ahead in the last ten minutes of what was a free-flowing game.
Five Things We Learned
England Mean Business
From the moment Gareth Southgate’s England squad was announced, it was clear that they wanted to start their tournament with a bang. Many were surprised to see that Southgate had selected Jude Bellingham in midfield ahead of the more experienced and defensively minded players Phil Foden and Jordan Henderson.
Southgate’s decision was vindicated in the 36th minute when Bellingham opened the scoring in what was to be a flurry of goals for the Three Lions.
Even when England started to rotate their squad and bring players off the bench, the goals kept coming. Substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish both scored goals to ensure that England did not let their Iranian opponents let up for the whole 90-minutes of play.
Although they scored two consolation goals themselves, Iran were never in the game. This was illustrated by the fact that Harry Kane, England’s top scorer throughout qualifying, didn’t even register one shot on target in the 6 - 2 demolition.
Other contenders for this year’s World Cup will now be wary of England, who potentially have one of the softer paths to the final if they are able to continue their form and top Group A.
The England fans and media traditionally heap a mountain of pressure on their national team during World Cups and other major tournaments, but last night’s game will have gone a long way to alleviating some of that pressure.
Remember the Name, Cody Gakpo
One of the features of the World Cup is that every tournament there are a number of youngsters who announce themselves as the next crop of superstars in world football. Mesut Ozil (2010), Angel Di Maria (2010) and James Rodriguez (2014) are all recent examples. Each earned a contract with the biggest club in the world, Real Madrid, after announcing themselves on the biggest stage at their respective first World Cups.
This year, one of the player’s who has every chance of stepping up to that next level is Dutch attacker Cody Gakpo. Gakpo forced his way into Louis Van Gaal’s side with a recent run of form that has made up for the temporary absence of experienced Barcelona winger Memphis Depay, who found himself on the bench for Netherlands first game.
Despite being the reigning Dutch player of the year and Captain of club side PSV Eindhoven at just 23 years of age, many football fans will not be familiar with Gakpo, who currently plies his trade in the Netherlands and is yet to gain much experience in the top tier of football so far in his young career.
Gakpo was one of the Netherlands best players and looked like he might create a scoring opportunity nearly every time he got the ball in his attacking half.
It seems a matter of time before Gakpo receives a bid from a bigger club than PSV and he might find himself playing in one of Europe’s top leagues very soon.
It’s Hard to Get a Read on USA and Wales
It’s one of those sporting clichés that doesn’t really make any sense, but last night’s game between The USA and Wales was a game of two halves.
USA dominated the first half and could have easily found themselves further ahead than the lead provided to them by their single first half goal.
Christian Pulisic, Sergino Dost and Weston McKennie all proved to be a handful for the Welsh defence in the first half and the Americans were aptly led in midfield by Captain Tyler Adams.
The Welsh might have YouTube’d Martin Sheen’s rousing speech at half time, because they came out a different team in the second half.
Attacker Kiefer Moore came on at half time and completely changed the game in favour of the Welsh. Moore’s addition freed up Gareth Bale, who, although he hardly touched the ball in the first half, seemed that he could bob up with a decisive action at any moment, such is his class as a player.
Adding Moore up front meant that Bale was not sitting in attack as a lone striker, like he was in the first half, and could get more involved in Wales’ build up play.
By the time the Welsh equalised in the 83rd minute, it felt as though The USA was hanging onto a draw.
And hang on they did, as both sides took a point from the game. Group B is now likely to come down to goal difference with England going a long way to sealing their spot at the top of the group.
USA and Wales will now both be looking for a big win against Qatar and either a draw or narrow defeat against the English. There was a risk that Group B could become a lot less interesting if two teams emerged as clear favourites to qualify. Luckily for us, that’s not the case and so every game continues to be vital for each of these teams.
November World Cup Could See Cream Rise to the Top
This World Cup is the first time that a World Cup Finals tournament has been played outside of its traditional timeslot in June and July.
It remans to be seen what effect this will have, if any, on the final result of this year’s tournament, but early indications suggest that the November timeslot could benefit the best teams and disadvantage the sides that don’t boast as many superstars.
For one, the better players are more likely to have been playing for their club sides recently. With club competitions pausing as recently as last week, these players will enjoy much more residual fitness than those who haven’t been playing regular football.
Also, teams haven’t spent as long together in preparation for this year’s World Cup. Whereas in previous years, teams would have had a training camp that went for several weeks prior to the tournament, this year this wasn’t the case.
There’s a chance that this will disadvantage the teams who would usually make up for a deficit in talent with increased team cohesion. This year, there hasn’t been the same opportunity for teams to develop that cohesion, so it falls upon particular players to perform if their team is to win.
This also means that it might take longer for some teams to warm into this year’s tournament than others and so we could see late improvement from sides who are seemingly out of form having not been used to playing together recently.
Finally, World Cups are typically played in June and July, just a few weeks after the end of a long season. This year, players were with their clubs as recently as last week and so do not have the same level of fatigue they are likely to have when a long season backed up by a June/July World Cup.
If the first games, which saw wins to favourites Ecuador, England and The Netherlands, are any indication, then this could be a World Cup that is set up for the best players in the world to assert themselves on the competition.
Football Could Use A Concussion Rule
The game between England and Iran was held up for several minutes in the first half to attend to Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand, who suffered a nasty headclash with a teammate as he was diving to defend a ball that was crossed dangerously in front of his goal.
To Australians, who have heard so much commentary around concussion in our domestic football codes in recent years, it was jarring to see someone experience such a fierce head clash and stay on the field despite being treated by team doctors. Beiranvand collapsed to the turf minutes later and was soon taken off by a stretcher, but it was surprising that he was allowed to continue at all considering the severity of the head clash.
It seems a matter of time before FIFA and football’s other governing bodies introduce an independent arbitrator when it comes to assessing head knocks, even if it’s just to avoid future litigation from players who’ve experienced the lasting effects of repeated knocks to the head throughout their career.
Hopefully Beiranvand is able to return to the field soon.
You May Have Missed...
England winger Jack Grealish recently appeared in a viral video, where he met Finlay, one of his fans who suffers from cerebral palsy. Grealish’s sister also suffers from cerebral palsy and Grealish’s attitude towards his sister and work he’s done for those with disabilities compelled Finlay to write a letter to his hero.
After receiving the letter, Grealish showed up at Finlay’s own soccer game. The two met and Grealish promised to dedicate his next goal to the boy by performing any celebration of his choosing when he scores his next goal. Last night, in the World Cup, Grealish kept that promise as he performed Finlay’s chosen celebration after scoring his goal.
The video is well worth a look!
Also from last night’s games, the Welsh national anthem is amongst the best in the world and last night’s rendition was one of the most stirring I’ve ever heard. It was Wales first World Cup since 1958 and the travelling Welsh supporters made up for lost time. Tears were flowing in the Welsh section of the crowd and I’m sure they flowed in living rooms all around Wales as the fans filled the stadium in with their passionate chorus.
It wasn’t enough to get the win, but the crowd seemed to be a factor in Wales’ improvement when they burst to life in the second half and willed their team to an equalising goal.
9pm AEDT - ARGENTINA vs SAUDI ARABIA
Tonight’s early game will give us our first look at Lionel Messi and his Argentian side. They come up against a Saudi Arabian team that will be familiar to those who followed Australia’s World Cup qualification campaign.
Argentina are heavy favourites for this game and will look to continue their form from the Copa America, where they beat Brazil and won their first major trophy in 28 years.
Lionel Messi enters the tournament in sparkling form for club and country, including a incredible 9 goals in his last three games for Argentina. He will be required to step up to fill the void left by the injured Paulo Dybala, who was withdrawn from the Argentinian squad through injury. The news is better though for Angel Di Maria, who recently returned to training after an injury of his own.
Saudi Arabia will be hoping to buck the trend of sides from the Middle East struggling so far in this World Cup. Both Qatar and Iran failed to show much in their first games and Saudi Arabia will be hoping that they can cause an upset against their much more fancied South American opponents.
12am AEDT - DENMARK vs TUNISIA
At midnight, Socceroos fans will get a chance to check out our primary opponents in this World Cup as Tunisia and Denmark face-off for their first match of the tournament.
Denmark go into the game as favourites, but Tunisia will feel that they are a chance to grab a draw or cause an upset in this game that is likely to be decisive for qualification in Group D.
Denmark have been in good form recently, having won 5 out of their last 7 games (including two wins against France). Christian Eriksen, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, Martin Braithewaite and Kasper Dolberg are all likely to threaten when the Danish have the ball and Tunisia will have to get past Leicester City goalkeeper Kasper Schmeicel if they want to score.
Tunisia have been enjoying their own purple patch recently, with a record of 6 wins, 2 draws and 1 loss in their nine games since January. That run of form saw the Carthage Eagles defeat both Japan and Chile and so Denmark will not want to underestimate the team from Tunisia.
3am AEDT - MEXICO vs POLAND
These are the kind of games that can go under the radar with so many big teams in the tournament. But make no mistake, this shapes up to be one of the games of the group stage at this year’s World Cup.
Mexico and Poland look to be fairly evenly matched, so it will be fascinating to see how the European and Central American styles of play clash in this must win game for both these teams.
Argentina are likely to top Group C and so the loser of this game will face a tough task to qualify. Should either of these teams win, however, they will feel that they have one foot in the knockout stages of this year’s World Cup.
Poland will be looking to qualify for the group stages of the World Cup for the first time since 1986 and it is their last chance to do it with their star striker Robert Lewandowski. At 34 years of age, it’s likely to be Lewandowski’s last World Cup and so the Polish team will be fired up to make the most of his talent while he’s still around.
Mexico have been tipped by many to be the surprise packet of this year’s World Cup. Led by former Barcelona and Argentina boss Gerardo Martino, they will look to build upon a run of seven successive qualifications from the group stage at World Cup Finals.
Mexico are unbeaten in their last six World Cup group game openers (5 wins, 1 draw), so they are likely to perform well in their first game of this year’s tournament. They will turn to Wolverhampton’s Raul Jimenez to help get over the line as Mexico have won each of the last 13 matches that he’s scored a goal.
This match is way too close to call, but it’s likely to be a super spectacle for fans of free flowing, attacking football.
6am AEDT - FRANCE v AUSTRALIA
After four years, we will finally get the chance to see how Australia performs on the biggest stage when we meet France tomorrow morning. Tournament organisers have been kind to us with the timing of the game and so we can set our alarms for a relatively reasonable 6am to catch this game against the reigning World Cup winners.
France will be without some of their best players in Ballon D’Or holder Karim Benzema, Paul Pogba, N’Golo Kante and Olivier Giroud, but the French squad is as deep as any in world football.
They will be led up front by the man many are describing as the most valuable player in world football Kylian Mbappe, so they will still feel confident that they have the talent to easily account for a young Socceroos side.
Australia will be disappointed by the injury to attacker Martin Boyle, who was likely to start in Graham Arnold’s side and has instead had to head home. Marco Tilio comes into the squad to replace Boyle and despite Tilio’s attacking flair, it’s a bitter blow to lose Boyle, who sits equal 10th for the most goals in the Scottish Premier League this season.
Boyle’s injury might force Graham Arnold to introduce emerging star Garang Kuol into the game earlier than he otherwise would have, had Boyle been available. Kuol is as exciting of a prospect as Australia has produced for a long time, if ever, so we if get a chance to see more of Garang Kuol, then it might be a blessing in disguise for the Socceroos.
France will feel that they have a big opportunity to get their World Cup underway with a win, but injuries have meant that they’ve had some disruption to their preparations to defend their World Cup title. It is never ideal for a country like Australia to draw the reigning champions in the first game of the World Cup, but there is a chance that France will take a game or two to warm into the tournament. If Australia can capitalise on a sluggish start by Les Bleus, and can finish the game within a goal of the World Champions, then the Socceroos will feel their chances to qualify are massively enhanced. If Australia can somehow sneak a draw, or dare I say an unlikely win, our chances of qualifying for the Round of 16 will look as good as they have since we qualified for the knockout stages of the 2006 World Cup.
Tonight’s action promises to be captivating with four exciting games to look forward to.
Let’s go The Socceroos!