Today, World Cup 2022 hosts, Qatar, were eliminated from the quadrennial tournament after losing 1-3 to Senegal in Group A. The loss leaves Ecuador, Holland, and Senegal with three points each and Qatar with zero points, one goal, and no mathematical way to progress.
The Qataris were outclassed by both of their group opponents (Ecuador beat them 2-0 in the tournament’s overall opener following the Opening Ceremonies) and now have the Netherlands, the group’s strongest team, left to play. It was unfortunate that a clear penalty favoring the Qataris was missed by referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz who is one of the world’s best and simply did not have the angle to see the contact in the penalty area, but also did not have the officiating assistance one would have expected from VAR to make the correct call.
In the early game of the day, in Group B, Wales managed to play their worst match in eons and fell 0-2 to Iran after Welsh keeper, Wayne Hennessey, committed a horrible foul outside the penalty area trying to prevent an Iranian breakaway at the 86th-minute and earned a VAR-called red card for his trouble. Thereafter Rouzbeh Cheshmi (90+8) and Ramin Rezaeian (90+11) scored to give the Persian team hope of progressing pending the USA-England match later today.
At day’s end, the Senegalese made a home-bound and post-operative Sadio Mane proud. Meanwhile, the Welsh could not have picked a worse time to play their poorest, Gareth Bale included, as they are now in a position of having to beat England in their last group game to have any hope of progressing. Iran and the USA will thus play for their group progressions in their final game against one another. Should England tie or lose to the USA then they too will be playing their qualification against the Welsh in their final game against one another.
In the final Group A match of the second round, Holland and Ecuador played to a 1-1 draw with Cody Gakpo scoring a beauty in the sixth minute and Enner Valencia scoring the Ecuadorean response–off a rebound from a great Ecuador’s Pervis Estupinan shot in the 49th minute–for his third score of the cup.
The match was a very physical contest with the higher-ranked Dutch team taken by surprise as the South Americans gave every bit as much as they took and at times a bit more. Going into the final group game, Netherlands coach, Louis van Gaal will have the easier time playing Qatar while Ecuador will have to play a Senegalese team that can turn their cup around with a single win.
What the Dutch found out was that even with Memphis Depay playing they are not a powerhouse contender but a very dark horse team in search of a third break down the line since their first break came with their fortunate first win over Senegal and their second piece of good fortune is playing Qatar when getting points matters. It will be at the Round of 16 that Holland will have to show they are better than they have been playing or they will depart then and there.
Photo: Ecuador’s Pervis Estupinan, Shutterstock ID: 2138387921, by ph.FAB.