In perfect (71-degree-F) weather in Qatar, the USA National Team blew a first-half, one-goal lead to allow Wales a last-gasp draw in the teams’ opening Group B match of the 2022 World Cup. As we have long learned, it is not the star player but the team’s weakest link that often has the greatest impact on the outcome of a game.
After having controlled nearly 60% of possession and the better—if few—chances, and earning a 36th-minute lead, the USA managed to blow the entire effort on one misguided play. In the 82nd minute, USA defender, Walker Zimmerman, slid awfully through Gareth Bale in the USA box to gift the Welshmen a 1-1 draw on the ensuing Bale penalty score.
The USA played a controlled, possession match with a few pretty plays, mostly initiated by Christian Pulisic. Striker Josh Sargent missed a point-blank header that could have provided a two-goal cushion but other than that play and Timothy Weah’s conversion of Pulisic’s beautiful breakaway assist, the USA did not have a single other shot on target the entire match.
It must have been a frustrating game for USA coach Gregg Berhalter, whose lineup surprisingly included Sargent instead of Brenden Aaronson (who came in as a sub at the 66th minute and had as much impact as Sargent while playing about half as long) and who needed to substitute wholesale in the second half when things were not going well.
The unfortunate draw left both Wales and the USA at the mercy of England who now have commanding points and goals leads, but also left both teams with an advantage over Iran who sits at zero points and a -4-goal differential. Both the USA and Wales now need to defeat Iran and potentially draw with England to progress, while England can afford to draw its remaining two games as long as neither the USA nor Wales score oodles of goals.
It is a shame, from the USA perspective, that such an effort should have gone for naught while for the Welsh it could not have been a better outcome given how poorly they played in the first half and the effort it took them to catch up in the second.
The only other noteworthy occurrence was the poor officiating job of Qatari Referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim who managed to give out six yellows (4-USA and 2-Wales) and call 25 fouls yet missed what could have been three fouls in dangerous locations for the USA and one of which might have been a penalty on Pulisic.
Netherlands 2—0 Senegal
In an evenly played match, the European and African teams kept things even until the 84th minute when Cody Gakpo pulled the Netherlands ahead 1-0. With the Senegalese still trying to digest the set-back, Davy Klaassen scored in subsequent stoppage time to give the Dutch an undeserved 2-0 win. Perhaps Edouard Mendy’s poor game could have been a contributing factor to Senegal’s loss, but in a match where possession was nearly even, and in which the Dutch had to make four saves to Senegal’s single one, it was two simple plays, at the very end of the encounter that determined the outcome.
Photo: Gareth Bale, Shutterstock ID: 2164613955, by Andrew Dowling Photo.
Papa is now 1 for 4 or 25% of predictions correct. Ecuador over Qatar—correct, England wins (rather than draws) with Iran—incorrect, USA draws (rather than wins) with Wales—incorrect, and Senegal losing to Holland (rather than drawing)—incorrect.