Morocco defeat Spain: Luis Enrique’s penalty homework fails and Hakimi’s masterful game


“After an incredibly cagey 120 minutes, Morocco have beaten Spain 3-0 on penalties to reach their first World Cup quarter-final, with Achraf Hakimi scoring the winner with a sumptuous Panenka. A cushioned volley from substitute Pablo Sarabia almost won it for Spain in the last seconds of extra time. A few inches to the right and it would be Spain into the last eight, instead Morocco progress, where they’ll play the winner of tonight’s Portugal versus Switzerland tie. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: Spain’s shootout ignominy will define Luis Enrique – a coach without a Plan B
The Athletic: Achraf Hakimi’s Panenka penalty was a rare triumph of artistry over analytics (Video)
The Athletic: Morocco didn’t fluke their way to top of their group — why Spain will struggle to infiltrate their defence
Guardian: A beautiful day for Bono and Morocco in last-16 shootout win over Spain
Guardian: Morocco fans drum out Spain to keep Africa dreaming and draw Doha as one

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Portugal 6-1 Switzerland: Ramos hits hat-trick as Santos’ side shine without Ronaldo


Goncalo Ramos scored a superb hat-trick for Portugal after replacing Cristiano Ronaldo in Fernando Santos’ starting line-up against Switzerland. … With Ronaldo dropped to the bench, Portugal played with a freedom we had not seen in their previous three matches in Qatar. The 21-year-old Benfica forward Ramos was their standout performer, opening the scoring and adding two more goals after half-time. Pepe, Ronaldo’s replacement as captain, Raphael Guerreiro and Rafael Leao were also on the scoresheet, Manchester City defender Manuel Akanji scored Switzerland’s consolation goal. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Ronaldo’s Replacement Scores a Hat Trick in Portugal’s Romp Over Switzerland (Video)
The Athletic: Why Cristiano Ronaldo was dropped by Portugal – and what’s next for him at the World Cup

Brazil Turns the World Cup Stage Into Its Own Dance Floor


“After all the bold talk of the coming of a new world order, all the over-excited claims about the rise of Africa and Asia, the last three days have come as something of a reality check. The establishment has struck back. Brazil’s dominant 4–1 win over South Korea means that, unless Morocco shocks Spain on Tuesday, the quarterfinals will be made up of a familiar mix of two South American giants (Brazil, Argentina) plus half a dozen sides from Europe (France, England, Netherlands, Croatia, Spain, Portugal/Switzerland). It was, in truth, always a stretch to expect South Korea to challenge Brazil. …”
SI – Jonathan Wilson

Can You Tell a Country by Its Corner Kicks?


“Mexico did not seem to see it coming. As he stood by the corner flag, Argentina’s Rodrigo De Paul thought about slinging the ball into the penalty area, but then decided against it. Instead, he went short, clipping a gentle ball to Lionel Messi. Perhaps Mexico, at that point, thought Argentina was conserving possession, protecting its slender lead. Messi had other ideas. He eschewed the cross, too, choosing another short pass, this time to Enzo Fernández, on the edge of the penalty area. Fernández shimmed once, twice, and then sent a shot on a perfect parabola that took the ball beyond the reach of Mexico’s goalkeeper. The goal sealed Argentina’s win and — eventually — Mexico’s fate at this World Cup. …”
NY Times

Brazil 4-1 South Korea: Richarlison wondergoal, Tite’s dancing, Neymar one short of Pele’s record


“A rampant Brazil dominated South Korea at Stadium 974 to emphatically seal their spot in the World Cup quarter-finals. Tite’s side were full of confidence as they put four past the South Koreans in the first half, including another outrageous goal by Richarlison. There was so much to like about that third goal: Richarlison dribbling with the ball on his head, the two Brazil players involved in the build-up on the edge of the box being their centre-backs Marquinhos and Thiago Silva, and then there was their 61-year-old manager throwing shapes in the dancing celebrations. …”
The Athletic (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022: Brazil put down the biggest marker at Qatar tournament

Qatar’s World Cup stadiums ranked — and the winner is not the big tent one


“Biggest travelling support? Saudi Arabia (OK, they got the bus). Loudest game? Uruguay v South Korea at Education City Stadium (must have been the Uruguay fans trying to drown the DJ’s K-pop medley). Best expected goal difference? Germany (never mind!). Ladies and gentlemen, this is the World Cup, where everyone and everything is counted and rated. …”
The Athletic

Croatia beat Japan: Livakovic’s historic shootout and ‘Samurai spirit’ falls just short


“The World Cup’s last 16 tie between Japan and Croatia always had the potential to be a nail-biter – and so it proved. Two dogged, ultra-competitive teams still could not be separated at the end of 120 minutes of football, resulting in the first penalty shoot-out of the 2022 finals. And it was Croatia who emerged triumphant, Dominik Livakovic emerging as the hero by making three saves and earning his country a quarter-final on Friday against Brazil or South Korea, who meet later on Monday. Here, we analyse the major talking points. …”
The Athletic

America, the Naive

“One of Gregg Berhalter’s charms is that he can’t be bothered. Unshaven, attired in the uniform of Team Schlub, he loped along the sideline as if it were still the height of the pandemic and he was enjoying his newfound freedom from showering. Standing in the technical area opposite him was the Dutch coach, Louis van Gaal, looking very much like an uptight high-school principal eager to reprimand Berhalter for his aggressive indifference. Van Gaal is one of the most experienced and meticulous coaches in the game, wise to the ways of tournament soccer and a shrewd pragmatist. …”
The Atlantic

England 3-0 Senegal: Emboldened Generation Head For Historic French Showdown


Jude Bellingham
“England came into this game nursing an unbeaten seven-game record against African sides in their World Cup history, although the only time they’d experienced one in the knockout stages was against Cameroon in the 1990 quarter-final, a game in which the Three Lions were largely outclassed, progressing thanks to a late pair of penalties from Gary Lineker. Senegal began 2022 by winning the African Cup of Nations and ending the same year as the first African nation to reach a World Cup semi-final would be a fair reflection of Aliou Cissé’s squad, even shorn of the injured Sadio Mane. England were favourites, but this is knockout football and the margins are tiny. …”
The Analyst
The Athletic – England 3-0 Senegal: Bellingham sparkles, eight World Cup scorers, Henderson sets the tone (Video)
Guardian: Jude Bellingham’s moment of cinema makes us wonder where this might go

The inside story of how Belgium’s World Cup turned toxic

“In the blissful early stages of his tenure with Belgium, Roberto Martinez came up with an idea. People had kept telling him the language barrier was a persistent problem in Belgian football, creating a natural divide between those from the Flemish-speaking north of the country, such as Toby Alderweireld, Jan Vertonghen and Kevin De Bruyne, and those whose first language is French, such as Axel Witsel and Eden Hazard. …”
The Athletic (Video)

France 3-1 Poland: Giroud’s new record, fine margins and how do you stop Mbappe?


France are through to the World Cup quarter-finals after comfortably beating Poland 3-1. Olivier Giroud opened the scoring on the 44th minute — a goal that also made him France’s all-time top goal scorer. And then Kylian Mbappe happened. The mercurial Frenchman scored two stunning goals to give France a 3-0 lead. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Breaking down the brilliance of Kylian Mbappe, the man who can score any type of goal
NY Times: Mbappé and France make a statement in extending their title defense.

At Qatar’s Church City, Sunday Comes on Friday

“Behind closed doors on Friday, in small rooms usually used for teaching catechism, the children celebrated Christmas. There was food, drink and songs. Wreaths and stockings decorated the walls. A few adults wore red Santa hats. Nearby, across the complex of mostly unmarked sand-colored buildings, a Mass was being celebrated in a 2,700-seat sanctuary, its altar backed by painted angels and Jesus on a cross. There would be another mass every hour, 15 of them on Friday, said in 10 different languages: English, Tagalog, Indonesian, Korean, Urdu, Malayalam, Tamil, Konkani, Sinhala, Arabic. …”
NY Times

The cult of Lionel Messi: From the pitch, to Buenos Aires, to the pilgrims of Doha

“… Lionel Messi could have been in the stands. He rhythmically threw his hands up in the air and sang with the fans behind the goal, as if he were one of them at the Ahmad bin Ali stadium, a smile breaking through his red beard.  After a fortnight of carrying the cross on his shoulders, Argentina’s messiah appeared ecstatic and unburdened. He spent a long time after the final whistle communing with his team-mates and his people. The players doused each other in water, bouncing arm-in-arm, joining the fans in concert. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic: This is how you can stop Lionel Messi

How Jared Kushner Lost at the World Cup in Qatar


“It is not clear from Ivanka Trump’s Instagram record of her family’s three-day visit to the World Cup in Qatar if she or her husband, Jared Kushner, heard any of the chants and songs in support of the Palestinians voiced by Arab fans at multiple venues during the first round of matches. But the outpouring of support — which was also expressed on huge ‘Free Palestine’ banners displayed in the stands, and by fans who intruded on Israeli television interviews to wave Palestinian flags and berate Israeli reporters — made it clear how badly Kushner had miscalculated, as his father-in-law Donald Trump’s Middle East peace envoy, when he convinced a handful of Arab autocrats to sign economic cooperation deals with Israel that did not respect the rights of Palestinians. …”
The Intercept_ (Video)

Five iconic matches from the 2006 World Cup

“The World Cup generates an entirely different feeling to club football. All the animosity that fuels and creates the excitement of the domestic leagues is forgotten for a month of national unity. Hailed as the pinnacle of a career, and due to its rarity, the international competition is placed in a dimension of untouchability for most players. The daring dream of bringing 30,875 carats of gold back to your homeland. This is what the World Cup offers. The 2006 World Cup tournament held in Germany remains my personal favourite. I watched every game I could, in the same living room, on the same sofa. …”
Football Paradise

Argentina 2-1 Australia: Messi scores in 1,000th game and big Martinez save denies Kuol


Lionel Messi scored on his 1,000th career appearance to put Argentina in the driving seat against Australia, and Julian Alvarez added a second, but Lionel Scaloni’s side were pushed all the way in the second half. A deflected effort by Craig Goodwin reduced the deficit and future Newcastle United player Garang Kuol forced an excellent save from the Argentina goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez in the dying moments of the game. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: How Argentina Escaped Australia’s Last-Ditch Rally to Advance to Quarterfinals
Aljazeera:
Guardian: Socceroos push Argentina all the way and exit World Cup as Australian heroes

Senegal tactical guide: Wide players key in attack and defence, and a curious corner option

“There will be no Sadio Mane, but that does not make Senegal an easy test for England in the World Cup round of 16. Aliou Cisse’s side are reigning African champions after beating Egypt to win the Cup of Nations final back in February, went unbeaten in their six-game second round of World Cup qualifying campaign before defeating Egypt again in a play-off to get to Qatar and matched the Netherlands for more than 80 minutes in their opening match at the finals before suffering a 2-0 loss. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Was Aspire project a vehicle to deliver votes to Qatar’s World Cup bid?

“Look who we are, we are the dreamers. We make it happen. There is something seductively inane about the soundtrack to Qatar 2022, present in the slogans plastered across its surfaces, the sonic assault of the World Cup PA, the playlist of official anthems, centralised messages, approved corporate machine-feelings. …”
Guardian

USA 1-3 Netherlands: USMNT poor in possession, Depay’s finesse and roll on 2026


“The World Cup is over for the United States after losing 3-1 to the Netherlands. The USMNT went behind after just 10 minutes from a sharp Memphis Depay finish and Daley Blind scored a second just before half-time. In a game that looked increasingly comfortable for the Netherlands, the U.S. got a fortuitous goal back via Haji Wright’s heel, but that was cancelled out just five minutes later thanks to a full-back to full-back combination with Blind supplying an expert cross to Denzel Dumfries to volley home a third for the Dutch. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Ringer: The U.S. Crashes Out of the World Cup—but There’s Reason for Optimism – Brian Phillips
The Athletic: Twenty passes, every player, one beautiful goal from the Netherlands vs the U.S.
Guardian: USA’s familiar shortcomings exposed against clinical Dutch at World Cup
NY Times: Three Dutch Goals End U.S. Run in Qatar

This World Cup Needs the Spirit of Sócrates

“Sócrates may never have gone beyond the quarterfinals of the World Cup, but he remains one of the most iconic players in the history of the tournament. Instantly recognizable by his curly black hair, Che Guevara-esque beard, and the way he loomed over his opponents with his slender 6’4” frame, he looked every inch the revolutionary. At Mexico ’86, where he missed a fateful penalty as Brazil went out to France in a shootout in the quarters, he wore the headband — improvised from a teammate’s sock — which has come to define him in the mind’s eye of millions. …”
Jacobin

Germany’s World Cup failure: ‘It’s not just bad luck, it’s inability’

“You can slice and dice this nightmare a thousand ways, smother it in narrative, toss in a few dollops of socio-political allegories and hunt for a couple of details that really spoilt the taste — it was the remote base camp at the northern tip of Qatar peninsula that lost it, or the unworn One Love armband or the unnecessary pre-tournament friendly in Oman — but listening to the Germany players after the event, they all brought it back to the most basic of basics. …”
The Athletic (Video)

How Brazil (It Lost) and Switzerland (It Won) Advanced to the World Cup Knockout Round



“The chaos that governed the first three days of World Cup group-stage finales did not bypass Group G on Friday so much as churn around the periphery of its two matches, swooping in to cause mayhem in torrents and spurts before leaving as quickly as it arrived. As Brazil’s reserves clashed with Cameroon, Serbia and Switzerland tussled for the group’s final qualification spot. That match included a paroxysm of goals — five in 30 minutes — and then a barren stretch that taunted both teams, one more than another. When it was over, Switzerland had won, 3-2, and advanced to the knockout stage, where it will face the Group H winner Portugal on Tuesday. …”
NY Times
The Athletic: Cho Gue-sung, the South Korea striker who went viral at the World Cup — for being handsome

Demba Ba’s guide to Senegal: ‘We will fight toe to toe with England’

“As Senegal prepare to face England for the first time in international football, former Newcastle and Chelsea striker Demba Ba — who won 22 caps for the Lions of Teranga over eight years, and is one of The Athletic’s guest writers during the World Cup — breaks down how they got here and where they could hurt Gareth Southgate’s team on Sunday. ..”
The Athletic

The Giant World Cup Rookie and an Enduring Dutch Mystery

“As they sat around the dinner table, Andries Noppert’s family raised the question as gently and as kindly as they could. He had been trying to make it as a professional soccer player for more than a decade. At 6 feet 8 inches, he had the physical gifts, and nobody would question his determination, his drive. But he was 26 now, and if everyone was completely honest, it did not seem to be working out. He had been at four clubs, and hardly played for any of them. He had made barely more than a dozen appearances in seven years. …”
NY Times

World Cup 2022: How to take a penalty in a shootout


“Ah penalties, you have to love them. Unless you lose, in which case they are the worst thing ever. There have been 30 World Cup penalty shootouts – with 279 kicks taken overall (excluding Diana Ross’ disastrous effort at USA ’94). BBC Sport and Opta have crunched the numbers to see what we could learn about maximising your chances of scoring. Your chances of scoring a penalty are much increased if you go to the right or left – but please avoid putting it down the middle. …”
BBC – World Cup 2022: How to take a penalty in a shootout (Video)
The Analyst – World Cup Penalty Shootouts: The Facts (Video)

Ghana’s Grudge Match

“When Ghana meets Uruguay on Friday, the Black Stars will be out for redemption—or vengeance, depending on how you look at it. Twelve years ago in South Africa, Ghana were on the verge of becoming the first African team to make it to the semifinals of a World Cup, the first in the tournament’s history to be hosted by an African nation. But they still had to get past Uruguay. With the match tied 1–1, the Ghanaian striker Dominic Adiyiah aimed a header straight at the goal late in overtime. The famed Uruguayan striker Luis Suárez blocked the ball, preventing a certain goal … with his hand. …”
The Atlantic

Can Brazil’s Divisive Team Unite a Fractured Nation?

“RIO DE JANEIRO — Ahead of Brazil’s elections last month, Neymar, the star forward of Brazil’s national men’s soccer team, pledged to dedicate his first World Cup goal to Brazil’s far-right president, Jair Bolsonaro. On Election Day, Bolsonaro wore a protective vest in case of an attack. Over it, he pulled on the national team’s iconic yellow jersey. And in the days after Bolsonaro lost, hundreds of thousands of his supporters gathered outside military bases and called on the armed forces to take control of the government. From above, the protesters were a sea of yellow, with thousands wearing national team jerseys. …”
NY Times

Japan’s ‘historic’ win over Germany: 38 clearances, eight key saves, two glorious goals


“As Japan’s players attempted to take stock in the immediate aftermath of their 2-1 victory over Germany, they gathered close to the touchline. Arm in arm, they each looked above to one of the two big screens inside the Khalifa International Stadium. They were watching the highlights of the second half and, in video form, just how they managed to turn it around. They had achieved the best result in their nation’s footballing history. The substitutes and backroom staff joined their colleagues to form one mass huddle. They had been stood alongside manager Hajime Moriyasu in the final throes of the game, screaming and clapping furiously. …”
The Athletic (Video)
The Athletic – Germany 4-2 Costa Rica: Flick’s side crash out at group stage again, Musiala is rare bright spark
Guardian: Simón plays Spain into trouble as Japan turn World Cup upside down

Playing for Louis van Gaal: What USMNT can expect from a unique Netherlands coach

“You don’t get away with much under Louis van Gaal. Not even if you’re literally the best player in the world. In 1999, during Van Gaal’s first spell as Barcelona coach, Rivaldo had just won the Ballon d’Or, partly down to his performances in Catalonia, and partly down to his performances just behind Ronaldo in the Brazil side that reached the World Cup final. Thus, Rivaldo thought he could throw his weight around a bit: he made an oblique reference to being ‘abused’ after collecting the Ballon d’Or and demanded that he play as a No 10 for his club, rather than on the left of a front three as Van Gaal’s system dictated. …”
The Athletic

Michael Owen’s Moment of Magic, Followed by England Heartbreak in 1998


“The Ringer’s 22 Goals: The Story of the World Cup, a podcast by Brian Phillips, tells the story of some of the most iconic goals and players in the history of the men’s FIFA World Cup. Every Wednesday, until the end of Qatar 2022, we’ll publish an adapted version of each 22 Goals episode. Today’s story involves Michael Owen’s moment of magic in 1998. …”
The Ringer (Video)

Watching Qatar’s World Cup, Off the Field

“DOHA, Qatar — If you’re watching the World Cup from home, you can become numb to the brilliance of athletic feats that drive the world’s fascination. But away from the stadiums, the World Cup — every World Cup — has a distinct local flavor. Far from the manicured lawns of the tournament’s eight gleaming stadiums, New York Times photographers documented the flavor of the first Arab World Cup. …”
NY Times

How Belgium got it so badly wrong at this World Cup


“Coming into this tournament, Belgium had something of a harsh reputation as underachievers. After all, this was supposed to be Belgium’s ‘Golden Generation’. And before we consider whether it was truly golden, it’s worth pointing out how clearly defined this generation is. Extraordinarily, all eight of Belgium’s all-time most-capped players were in this World Cup squad. It seems that the golden generation tag has become so over-used that neutrals now actively want those sides to fail. And if you’re really a golden generation, shouldn’t you win gold? …”
The Athletic
The Athletic: Belgium knocked out, Croatia through in second, Lukaku’s misses and misery (Video)
Guardian: Roberto Martínez exits as dreams of golden generation end with whimper

Germany’s Coach Is Out of His Depth, and So Is Its Chancellor

“BERLIN — The start was promising. In a WhatsApp group — under the peppy name ‘Get prepared’ — the coach of Germany’s football team, Hansi Flick, delivered a stirring motivational message to the 26 players representing the country at the World Cup. Under a picture of a lamp, his colleague added: ‘May our light shine in Qatar!’ Well, not quite. After losing to Japan, in a lackluster, anemic display, the team just about managed to draw with Spain, thanks to a late equalizer. …”
NY Times | Opinion

VAR and the Slow Death of the Goal Celebration

“March 3, 2018 will go down in history as the day that football began shifting away from everything that made the sport so special. This is the day that VAR (video assistant referee) technology was formally written into the Laws of the Game, as a means to reduce the amount of errors in decisions made by on-field referees, with the express intent of improving the game. In this respect, at least in the English Premier League, VAR has failed. The use of VAR technology does have its benefits, of course. Video reviews for offside, handball, and other incidents on the pitch do often come to the right conclusion. …”
Football Paradise

Argentina 2-0 Poland: Messi’s role, Szczesny penalty save and goal difference drama


Poland joined Argentina in the knockout stages of the World Cup despite losing 2-0 to goals from Alexis Mac Allister and Julian Alvarez after a thrilling end to Group C. For much of the final 20 minutes, Poland were going through courtesy of a better disciplinary record than third-placed Mexico, with whom they finished level on points and goals scored, and had the same head-to-head record after drawing 0-0 in their opening game. Mexico had seven bookings in the group stage, compared to Poland’s five. …”
The Athletic

Coping with more injury time at World Cup: ‘Radical’ change has major implications


“The conversation begins with a speculative scenario in which a team is clinging on in the blazing heat of the Qatari afternoon while the big screens inside the arena indicate the game is edging towards its final whistle. Then up goes the fourth official’s board and the side with everything to lose suddenly find themselves condemned to another 10 minutes of emotional turmoil, not to mention physical agony. … We’re over halfway through Qatar 2022 and, in terms of average on-field minutes, this tournament is on course to become the longest World Cup on record. FIFA’s admirable determination to extend the length of time the ball is in play meant 22 of the first 32 group games stretched beyond the 100-minute mark. …”
The Athletic (Video)

The Return of the 4-4-2

4-4-2: the formation that many current players and fans grew up on. The formation that Manchester United used to win the treble. The formation that Brazil used to win the World Cup in 2002. But more recently it has fallen out of fashion. But as Jon Mackenzie explains, it is returning, in a defensive state. Illustrated by Henry Cooke.
YouTube
W – 4-4-2

Qatar’s World Cup Showcases Renewed Ties With Saudi Arabia, but Scars Remain



“There used to be so many Qataris in the bazaar in the Saudi oasis of Al-Ahsa, hunting for deals on spices and sandals, that some merchants called it “the Qatar market.” Qataris would cross the border and drive 100 miles through the desert to reach the towns of Al-Ahsa, loading their SUVs with sacks of flour, dining in the restaurants and filling the hotels. Then came ‘the crisis,’ as people at the market call it. Saudi Arabia, along with Bahrain, Egypt and the United Arab Emirates, severed ties with Qatar in 2017 and effectively isolated the tiny country, accusing its government of supporting terrorism and meddling in their internal affairs. Qatari officials denied the allegations and accused Saudi Arabia and the other countries of creating a ‘blockade’ against their nation. …”
NY Times

Luis Suarez’s handball, 12 years on: ‘The whole of Ghana hates him and we want revenge’

“There was chaos. There was mayhem. Soccer City, that hulking bowl on the edge of Soweto, was reverberating to the sound of tens of thousands of vuvuzelas, blaring like never before. And there was confusion. People were losing their heads, caught up in the excitement as Luis Suarez trudged off the pitch, pulling his shirt over his face, trying to to hide his devastation after being sent off for handling Dominic Adiyiah’s header on the goalline in the final seconds of a World Cup quarter-final. …”
The Athletic

Enjoying Soccer in Its Dark Age

“… Franklin Foer: Really, it’s the fact that the stadiums in which the games are going to be played were built in the worst circumstances for labor. Human-rights organizations have estimated that thousands of people perished in order to make this World Cup happen. [The Qatari government disputes those numbers.] I think a lot of times with sports or things that we love, we’re vaguely aware that, for example, people working at a resort will get treated badly and paid very little, or that a piece of meat was raised unethically. But here, there’s this incredibly direct sense everyone should have that these games are being played in arenas that were responsible for a huge number of deaths. It’s a hard thing to get past. …”
The Atlantic (Nov. 17, 2022)

USA 1-0 Iran: Pulisic goal seals place in World Cup last 16, dominant Dest and focus on the wings


“As is often the case for the U.S., up popped Christian Pulisic when it really mattered to keep their World Cup journey alive. The Chelsea forward scored late in the first half from close range after a fine move involving Weston McKennie and Sergino Dest. Iran improved after the break but failed to really test Matt Turner in the U.S. goal. … From Pulisic’s vital intervention, to the atmosphere in the Al Thumama Stadium, and the energy and drive down the wings, our writers analyse the key talking points…”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Christian Pulisic eases World Cup injury fears: ‘I’ll be ready for Saturday, don’t worry’, W – Christian Pulisic
NY Times: Ahead of U.S.-Iran, Tough Questions and Two Teams Feeling the Heat (Video)
The Athletic – Carlos Queiroz: The many faces of Iran’s manager – tactician, statesman, populist (Video)

Ecuador 1-2 Senegal: Lions of Teranga Roar Into Last 16 for First Time in 20 Years

“Kalidou Koulibaly’s controlled volley was the winner as Senegal defeated Ecuador to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup for the first time since 2002. Moisés Caicedo had cancelled out Ismaïla Sarr’s earlier penalty, but the Senegal captain restored the Lions of Teranga’s advantage shortly afterwards in what would prove the deciding goal. … Ecuador started with both their full backs pushed very high up the pitch, a particularly brave tactic given the pace of the Senegal wide players, and the fact that Aliou Cissé’s men were happy to press those full backs man-for-man. …”
The Analyst

England 3 Wales 0: Rashford at the double, Foden takes chance, has Bale bowed out?


“Two goals in a minute from Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden helped England end Wales’ resistance to top Group B and set up a round-of-16 date with Senegal. After a dour first half, England were brought to life when Rashford scored a sublime free kick before Foden finished at the far post from Harry Kane’s cross following woeful Welsh defending. Rashford added a second in the 68th minute and England were able to enjoy the closing stages after their struggles against the United States and in the first half. …”
The Athletic
The Athletic – Cox: England’s defence has been brilliant but don’t rule out switch to a back five

No wins, few fans… Qatar prove it’s time for every side to earn World Cup place

“Yesterday marked the midway point of the Qatar World Cup — 32 matches played, 32 remaining. Today marked the point when Qatar’s participation ended. They were already mathematically eliminated, but their 2-0 loss to the Netherlands at the Al Bayt Stadium — essentially in the middle of nowhere, 50km north of Doha — completed a hat-trick of defeats. … There has been an intriguing flow of supporters throughout the games. Qatar’s matches have started with many empty seats, which generally fill up throughout the first half. There were a couple of sections of the stands tonight that were initially entirely empty, before suddenly becoming full 20 minutes in. …”

African coaches take centre stage at World Cup 2022


Senegal coach Aliou Cisse, Morocco coach Walid Regragui, Ghana coach Otto Addo , Tunisia coach Jalel Kadri , Cameroon coach Rigobert Song
“Qatar 2022 marks the first time in World Cup history that African coaches will lead all five African nations in the competition. Many are hailing it as a watershed moment after years of African countries relying heavily on foreign, white and Western coaches while many qualified African candidates were denied opportunities. So how significant is this for the African teams, fans and players at the World Cup? And will this lead to more opportunities for African coaches, both on the continent and overseas? …”
Aljazeera (Audio)

Louis van Gaal bristles at ‘boring’ tag as Netherlands sink Qatar to reach last 16

“After the Netherlands coasted into the last 16 as Group A winners, Louis van Gaal was in classic defiant form, going toe-to-toe with those claiming that watching his team is akin to ‘grinding teeth’. The victory featured a Cody Gakpo strike which made him the tournament’s joint-top goalscorer with three, alongside Kylian Mbappé and Enner Valencia,plus one for Frenkie de Jong, who endured sleepless nights in the buildup. So while Qatar bow out of their World Cup with a single goal and zero points, the Netherlands can begin to dream a little. …”
Guardian

There is a World Cup

“Need we say more? Thirty-two teams have converged in the tiny Middle-Eastern nation of Qatar to fight for their national pride, and so far, it is shaping up to be the spectacle that keeps football lovers faithful. But there is no sport without politics, and Qatar’s hosting of the tournament has unleashed a sea of criticism over its dodgy labor practices and poor human rights track record. Should we side with FIFA’s president, Gianni Infantino, in his accusation that the West is being hypocritical? Or are reactionary elites simply weaponizing woke-ish arguments to deflect warranted scrutiny? …”
Africa Is a Country (Audio)

Brazil 1-0 Switzerland: Coping without Neymar and indispensable Casemiro


Brazil ran out 1-0 victors over Switzerland to ensure their progression through to the World Cup last 16. In a tense encounter with few clear-cut chances, it was Casemiro who broke the deadlock on 83 minutes, powering a strike past Yann Sommer after a rare foray into the opposition’s penalty area. … Some of the stories being dangled before us by this World Cup are slightly pre-ordained: Lionel Messi leading Argentina’s triumph, Cristiano Ronaldo doing the same for Portugal, Brazil giving Neymar his moment in the sun. …”
The Athletic (Video)
BBC – World Cup 2022: Casemiro – ‘Best midfielder in the world’ is Brazil’s unlikely hero (Video)
The Athletic: Casemiro can do everything

South Korea 2 Ghana 3

“Ghana won an exhilarating match packed with twists and turns against South Korea in front of a vibrant crowd at Education City Stadium in Qatar. A 10-minute spell in the first half by the African nation gave them a 2-0 lead courtesy of goals from Southampton defender Mohammed Salisu and Ajax’s Mohammed Kudus. However, noisy celebrations by Ghana fans at half time were dampened by a South Korea comeback after the break. Two stunning headers in three minutes from Cho Gue-sung, the top scorer in his domestic league, levelled the game after 61 minutes. …”
BBC

Choupo-Moting thwarts Serbia to cap Cameroon’s wild World Cup comeback


“Chaos. Two teams historically wedded to chaos. A Serbia team in chaos because of injury. A Cameroon team plunged into chaos by the expulsion of the Internazionale goalkeeper André Onana. The result, inevitably, was a match of high chaos. But what chaos! It was chaos that yielded drama, remarkable goals, an implausible fightback, a truly exceptional finish that will be remembered long after the match is forgotten and, in the end, a thrilling draw that didn’t really suit either side. …”
Guardian – Jonathan Wilson

Infantino is the nowhere man in this bonfire of greed, vanity and despotic power

Today I feel … largely invisible. Today I feel like a boggle-eyed despot-groupie. Today I feel like essence of human avarice distilled through a series of filters, poured into a dark suit and presented on stage looking like a discredited small-town mayor with a secret. Today I feel like I really should, for the sake of world football, start to get a grip on this chaotic Fifa World Cup. It is hard to know whether Gianni Infantino feels any of these things right now. It is nine days since Infantino delivered his opening press conference speech, his Jimi Hendrix at Woodstock moment, his I Have a Really Horrendous And Deluded Dream. …”
Guardian

Portugal qualify, Fernandes upstages Ronaldo, Uruguay face Ghana decider

Portugal progressed to the World Cup last 16 with a 2-0 win over Uruguay, booking their place in the knockout stage with a game to spare. Defeat leaves Uruguay precariously positioned in Group H and they now face the prospect of elimination on Friday at the hands of opponents Ghana, the team they famously and controversially beat in the 2010 World Cup quarter-finals. Bruno Fernandes’s free kick appeared to be headed in by Cristiano Ronaldo but replays showed the striker did not touch it. While that will surely annoy Ronaldo, he will have further chances to add to his World Cup tally. To add to Ronaldo’s possible frustration, he had been substituted by the time his side were awarded a controversial late penalty, which Fernandes converted for his second goal of the night. …”
The Athletic (Video)

A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop


“…When players representing Iran and the United States take the field at the World Cup in Qatar on Tuesday, millions of fans will be dissecting every move — not just passes, fouls and headers, but also whether the Iranian players sing the national anthem, celebrate any goals or speak about the protests shaking their country. The game has become yet another front line in the conflict between the two longtime geopolitical foes as Iran battles protests at home in one of the most significant challenges the Islamic Republic has faced since the 1979 revolution that brought it to power. And this time, it is all playing out under the glaring lights of the most watched event in the world. …”
***NY Times: A U.S.-Iran Soccer Showdown Intensifies With Protests as a Backdrop
***Guardian: Bloody history brings flashpoint to key Iran v USA World Cup clash
The Athletic: Detained at the World Cup for wearing a ‘Women Life Freedom’ T-shirt
The Athletic: Iran World Cup 2022 ‘spies’
CNN: Iran calls for US to be kicked out of 2022 World Cup after it changes Iran flag on social media to show support for protesters

Morocco kept Hazard and De Bruyne quiet – this tactical tweak helped them do it

“As the final whistle blew at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha, it felt as though it could have been the Prince Moulay Abdellah Stadium in Rabat, or Stade Mohamed V in Casablanca. The Morocco fans made it feel like a home game as their team got the better of Belgium on Sunday to add three points to their tally in Group F of this World Cup. … This time, it was Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard’s turn. Against Morocco’s regular 4-3-3, Belgium’s 3-2-4-1 made complete sense. By using twin No 10s in Eden Hazard and De Bruyne, Roberto Martinez’s side could theoretically overload Sofyan Amrabat in the centre of the pitch, and find their two star players between the lines. …”
The Athletic

The Fans Screamed for Qatar. Their Passion Hid a Secret.

“Midway through the second half of Qatar’s match against Senegal at the World Cup, the drumming stopped as a man in a bucket hat and sunglasses rose and asked for quiet. Moments earlier, a section of the crowd — more than a thousand strong, almost all men, all of them in identical maroon T-shirts with the word ‘Qatar’ in English and Arabic — had been chanting in unison at the direction of four fan leaders. But now the sea of men understood what was expected, and they followed the order and fell into a strange silence as the match noise swirled around them inside Al Thumama Stadium. Then a signal was made. …”
NY Times

Spain 1-1 Germany: Super subs Morata and Fullkrug, technical quality and a very high line…


“A lot of the talk beforehand was about the midfield battle in Spain’s game against Germany but it was two substitute strikers that had the biggest say. Alvaro Morata put Spain in front midway through the second half before the Werder Bremen striker Niclas Fullkrug equalised late on to grab Germany a point. The result leaves Germany still without a win and with plenty of work to do to advance to the last 16. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Germany meets the moment and keeps its World Cup hopes alive.

‘This is a dream’: Morocco fans ecstatic after Belgium win

“The atmosphere before kick-off was electric. Fans of the Atlas Lions, as Morocco’s national team are known, had gathered early outside the 44,000-capacity Al Thumama Stadium on Sunday, hoping to experience a historic upset. There was a carnival-like atmosphere with a DJ playing Arabic songs to get the crowd warmed up for the World Cup’s Group F clash. Morocco, ranked 22 in the FIFA standings, were taking on the star-studded Red Devils of Belgium, one of the tournament favourites and ranked second in the world. …”
Aljazeera (Video)
The Athletic: Kevin De Bruyne is right – Belgium are too old

The World Cup’s intriguing tactical conundrum of who to play as centre-forward


“For all the talk of formation changes and decisive substitutions, the most intriguing tactical storyline from a side’s World Cup campaign is very simple. It’s when a manager has a regular formation and a relatively settled starting XI but there’s one huge question mark – the identity of the centre-forward. The centre-forward, though perhaps less revered than at any previous point in football history, plays a crucial role in defining their side. There’s such a wide range of possible options – a false nine who plays deep, a speedy runner who invites balls in behind, a target man who thrives on crosses. Ideally, you’re blessed with someone who offers a bit of all three. In reality, many sides are choosing between vastly different options. …”
The Athletic (Video)

Cheer, Chant, Clean: Japan Takes Out the Trash, and Others Get the Hint

“The final whistle blew on Sunday afternoon, and the Japanese fans who had just spent hours bouncing under a blistering midday sun allowed themselves a moment to wallow in the disappointment of their team’s 1-0 loss to Costa Rica. But the moment quickly passed, and out came the blue trash bags. In the return of a postgame ritual that is being met with widespread astonishment at this year’s World Cup, a group of Japanese spectators, who only moments earlier had been deliriously singing for their team, began meticulously cleaning the stands at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, picking up trash scattered across the rows of seats around them. …”
NY Times
Guardian: Keysher Fuller’s late strike stuns Japan and revives Costa Rica’s World Cup

World Cup 2022: How Teams Can Advance to the Round of 16


“The 2022 World Cup is well underway. This year’s tournament is a little more open than usual, our chief soccer correspondent writes. And with the first matches completed in each group, we’ve already seen two major upsets: Argentina’s loss to Saudi Arabia, and Germany’s defeat against Japan. In the tournament’s opening matches, known as the group stage, each team plays the other three teams in its group, earning three points for a win and one point for a draw. …”
NY Times