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

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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

Argentina 2-0 Mexico: Messi delivers, Fernandez’s impact and Martino’s ultra-defensive tactics


“When Argentina needed him most, there was Lionel Messi. And then Enzo Fernandez. Mexico were resolute defensively in the first half but Messi broke the deadlock in the 64th minute with a drilled shot from outside the box, then one of Argentina’s substitutes Fernandez scored an excellent individual goal, curling the ball past Guillermo Ochoa. Tata Martino’s Mexico failed to offer much in response and are yet to score in Qatar. Argentina, meanwhile, grew in confidence after Messi’s opening goal. …”
The Athletic
NY Times: Lionel Messi Scores as Argentina Saves Its World Cup
SI: Messi’s Mastery of the Moment Breathes New Life Into Argentina’s World Cup – Jonathan Wilson
Guardian: Tears follow tension as Lionel Messi and Argentina find redemption

France 2-1 Denmark: Sparkling Dembele and why this is Mbappe’s tournament for the taking

Denmark have been France’s bogey team in recent years, but Kylian Mbappe had other ideas in their World Cup clash at Stadium 974, scoring twice to secure a 2-1 victory that makes it two wins from two for the reigning champions. Denmark had beaten France twice in 2022 and looked to be on course for a draw before Mbappe struck for a second time in the 86th minute. Early on, his opening goal had been cancelled out by an Andreas Christensen header. …”
The Athletic

What does the World Cup mean to the Middle East and Arab world?

“Anyone who has travelled on Qatar Airways recently will have been afforded the exciting opportunity to watch a short feature all about Gianni Infantino on their in-flight entertainment. In the midst of 15 very self-aggrandising minutes about football’s glorious leader, Infantino says about this World Cup: ‘For Qatar and for the Middle East in general, it’s an opportunity to present themselves to the world.’ We’ll gloss over for a moment how patronising that sounds, and instead consider the interesting question his statement inspires: to what extent is this a World Cup for Qatar, and to what extent is this a World Cup for the Middle East/Arabic nations/the Muslim world? Does this World Cup represent an entire region? …”
The Athletic (Video)

Why some World Cup managers are using their full-backs to do very different jobs


“Louis van Gaal, the Netherlands head coach, has described his asymmetric lateral defenders as a ‘steering wheel’. That is, when Daley Blind (left wing-back) pushes forward, Denzel Dumfries (right wing-back) has to drop deeper and vice-versa. Full-backs, or wing-backs, being pivotal to a team’s chance creation is no longer novel at club level but is underpinning the attacking success of many sides in the first round of World Cup fixtures. …”
The Athletic

What Is Offside in Soccer?

“Novice fans don’t understand it. Longtime fans claim to understand it, but then openly disagree about it. Referees and their assistants are trained to spot it, but often have to turn to replays to make sure they’ve got it right. The actor Ryan Reynolds — who, remember, owns a soccer team — admits he doesn’t understand it but has sought cover by saying, ‘in fairness, nobody understands the offside rule.’ But now you will understand it. …”
NY Times

Robert Lewandowski knew ‘time was running out’ to break tournament duck

“An emotional Robert Lewandowski says he knew time was running out to fulfil his dream of scoring at a World Cup finals, after netting in Poland’s 2-0 win over Saudi Arabia on Saturday. The Barcelona striker, 34, ended a run of four World Cup games without making the scoresheet by scoring Poland’s decisive second goal at Education City Stadium. Visibly emotional, Lewandowski held his head in his hands and pointed to the heavens while his jubilant team-mates surrounded him. …”
BBC (Video)

England 0-0 USA: All-action McKennie, retreating Kane and how USMNT dominated right side


England were outplayed by the United States men’s national team in the second group game in Qatar, as Gregg Berhalter’s side earned a deserved 0-0 draw. Gareth Southgate named an unchanged team following the impressive 6-2 win against Iran in their opening game. The U.S., meanwhile, had drawn 1-1 with Wales in their first game, because of a late penalty by Gareth Bale. Weston McKennie impressed in midfield for the U.S., causing all sorts of problems down the right, and Christian Pulisic came closest to a breakthrough when his shot hit the crossbar in the first half. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Edgy England on verge of World Cup last 16 after fortunate draw with USA
The Athletic: USA vs England and the path towards respect and rivalry
***NY Times: England Gets a Look at Itself, and Isn’t Sure It Likes What It Sees

What else Qatar has built with its absurd wealth besides the 2022 World Cup

“Qatar is a player. In the Middle East and across the world, the petrostate of fewer than 3 million people plays an outsized role in geopolitics, media, and art. Its cultural diplomacy has established the country’s influence — and now it’s doing the same with sport. The country’s absurd wealth is on display this month: It spent about $300 billion on stadiums and groundwork to host the 2022 FIFA World Cup, which kicked off Sunday. That money totaled more than all previous World Cups and Olympics combined. …”
Vox

Enner Valencia strikes again to earn Ecuador draw with Netherlands


Ecuador’s Enner Valencia scores their first goal
“Ecuador were far happier with this draw because after conceding early Gustavo Alfaro’s team played front-foot football that went close to administering a fatal blow to the Netherlands. They did not but the result means that Qatar are eliminated from their own World Cup and become the first nation out at the group stage, while Ecuador and the Netherlands each have four points and Senegal three. As Louis van Gaal’s side face the pointless hosts in their final match, the meeting of Ecuador and Senegal appears a straight shootout to see who progresses to the last 16. …”
Guardian
Aljazeera: Can Netherlands exceed restrained expectations at World Cup 2022?

Iran’s Football Team Has Already Won

“Iran’s national football team, known affectionately as Team Melli, kicked off its World Cup on Monday in dispiriting fashion. The side, which came into the tournament the highest-ranked team from Asia, lost a one-sided match to England, 6-2. There is time to make amends. On Friday, Team Melli plays Wales — a potentially winnable match for the Iranians — before taking on the United States in a tantalizing fixture next week. For Iranian football fans, myself included, World Cup games are ordinarily the pinnacle of sporting excitement. This year, in Qatar, things are different. …”
NY Times

Neymar’s World Cup at risk after Serbia’s nine fouls

“It’s that image. Neymar with his head in his hands on the bench after he called for the substitution with 13 minutes left of normal time to play. Brazil’s first game of the World Cup and their star player is injured. Then on Friday, he was ruled out of their game against Switzerland due to the ankle injury. … But how was the ankle injured? After the first round of the group stages, Neymar was the most fouled player — nine times out of a total of 12 committed by Serbia. These are those nine fouls. …”
The Athletic

Brazil 2 Serbia 0: Richarlison’s scissor kick, Neymar the foul magnet and Mitrovic vs Vlahovic


“All eyes were on Neymar before Brazil’s opening game at the 2022 World Cup but it was Richarlison who was the hero in the 2-0 win against Serbia. The Tottenham striker struck twice after half-time, the second an acrobatic scissor kick after teeing himself up inside the penalty area, to give the world No 1 ranked side the perfect start to their campaign in Qatar. Serbia had defended superbly to keep Brazil out for the first hour at the Lusail Stadium but the quality of Tite’s side shone through eventually. …”
The Athletic
W – Richarlison

Breel Embolo’s emotional goal edges Switzerland past wasteful Cameroon

“Breel Embolo grew up in Basel but he was born in Cameroon’s capital, Yaoundé, and did not receive Swiss citizenship until eight years ago. That explains why the Monaco forward refrained from celebrating one of the simplest, yet potentially most significant, goals he will ever score. In an awkward group also featuring Brazil and Serbia, this was a game Switzerland needed to win and, in the 48th minute, Embolo ensured it would prove mission accomplished. …”
Guardian

Ronaldo, Messi, and the World Cup As a Bad Barometer for Evaluating Legacy

“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 the two defining stars of their generation and the confounding question of legacy. …”
The Ringer

How Ronaldo Set a Record as Portugal Held Off Ghana

“The eyes were drawn to Cristiano Ronaldo, even more than normal. Fans poured into Stadium 974 to cheer him and the Portugal team he has led for a generation. But mostly him. There may be no more ubiquitous jersey in soccer than Ronaldo’s No. 7, and on Thursday a good portion of that laundry seemed to have congregated inside a temporary arena dropped between a port and the highway to Doha’s international airport. …”
NY Times

How Japan’s five substitutes and switch to a back five stunned Germany


“It’s been an eventful couple of days in the World Cup, to the extent that this isn’t even the most notable example so far of an Asian side turning a 1-0 half-time deficit against a strong favourite into a famous 2-1 victory. But in a purely tactical sense, Japan’s win over Germany was the most fascinating contest of the World Cup so far, a classic game of two halves. Germany ran riot in the opening 45 minutes, prompting Japan to dramatically change their shape at the interval before launching their astonishing comeback. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Germany’s protest will reverberate down the years and generations
NY Times: Germany Protests FIFA Decision That Blocked Rainbow Armbands
The Athletic: Germany chose to be an ally and take on FIFA. It was a powerful, meaningful gesture

Peek Inside a $200-a-Night ‘Room’ at the World Cup in Qatar


“DOHA, Qatar — After Sheng Xie, a 33-year-old soccer fan from Vancouver, booked his flight to the World Cup, he went searching for accommodations. Using the official tournament website, he quickly settled on a relatively affordable place called Fan Village. The room pictured looked functional and clean. There were two twin beds, Wi-Fi, air conditioning and a refrigerator, all for about $200 a night. He did not realize it was, essentially, inside a shipping container. …”
NY Times

Belgium 1-0 Canada: Two Golden Generations Enter, One (Kind of) Emerges

“We’ve been hearing about Belgium’s golden generation for going on two generations. Much of the world is just learning about what might be Canada’s. … The first 15 minutes – and much of the first half – belonged to Canada, amassing 1.43 xG in that opening spell alone. That’s more than Belgium conceded combined in all eight of the first halves in their qualifying matches (1.42), but Canada weren’t able to convert with Alphonso Davies’s 10th-minute penalty saved by Thibaut Courtois. It was the first on record saved at a World Cup by a Belgian keeper. …”
The Analyst
Guardian: Belgium run ragged by Canada but Michy Batshuayi strikes to grab victory

The Last Authoritarian World Cup


Adrien Rabiot of France scores their team’s first goal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group D match between France and Australia at Al Janoub Stadium on November 22, 2022 in Al Wakrah, Qatar.
“In 1986, the International Olympic Committee voted to split the Winter and Summer Olympics so they would alternate every two years instead of occurring together every four years. The new tradition began in 1994 with the Lillehammer Winter Olympics, site of the infamous showdown between figure skaters Nancy Kerrigan and Tonya Harding. The IOC initiated the split schedule in part to bring greater attention to the winter events, and while this move did bring them out from the shadow of the more popular summer games, it also locked the Winter Olympics into permanent competition with an even bigger quadrennial athletic spectacle: the World Cup. …”
The Bulwark

Moroccan fans bring alive dry draw against Croatia

Al Khor, Qatar: They’ll ‘take it’. Morocco and Croatia drew 0-0 at Al Bayt Stadium in what was a rather uneventful game, aside from the boisterous enthusiasm of supporters of the Atlas Lions, as the Moroccan side is known. While many Moroccan fans were hoping for an upset against the finalists of the 2018 World Cup, a draw sets their team up for a possible pathway to advance beyond the group stage of the World Cup — and its supporters know it. …”
Aljazeera

How Saudi Arabia shocked Argentina: Direct play and high line, crowd sows panic, microscope on Messi


Saudi Arabia have beaten Argentina 2-1 in one of the biggest upsets in World Cup history. The opening match of Group C at the 2022 World Cup looked to be going as expected after Lionel Messi’s early penalty. Yet two goals in the first eight minutes of the second half — from Saleh Al-Shehri and Salem Al-Dawsari — stunned the South American champions, who entered the tournament as one of the favourites to lift the trophy. …”
The Athletic (Video)
Guardian – ‘We gave them a response’: Saudi Arabia claim their place in World Cup history
NY Times: Saudi Arabia Leaves Another Scar on Argentina’s Soul
BBC – World Cup 2022: Saudi Arabia deliver ‘seismic’ shock, but don’t count Argentina out
The Athletic: ‘He sold himself to the devil’ – Messi, 2030, and a very uncomfortable deal with Saudi Arabia (Video)
Guardian: Lionel Messi’s international career has never felt closer to oblivion
The Athletic: Messi’s Argentina have no excuses – but they also shouldn’t be too worried
The Athletic: Saudi Arabia humble Argentina – but was it the greatest World Cup shock ever?

The remarkable revival of Ugandan football

“As the prospect of the FIFA ban on Kenyan football being lifted improves, it might be a good time to look at the example of neighboring Uganda, and how the football sector in that country managed to pull itself out of a deep crisis. A decade ago, the state of Ugandan football looked highly discouraging: after years of internal wrangles and conflicts between the Federation of Uganda Football Associations (FUFA) and some of the country’s powerful clubs, as well as match manipulation, and financial accountability problems, many fans and sponsors turned their backs on the sector. The public image of both FUFA and club football was poor, and public trust and confidence were low. Meanwhile, the popularity of the English Premier League (EPL) among Ugandan football enthusiasts was on a steady rise. …”
Africa Is a Country

Looking for this World Cup’s ‘Group of Death’? It doesn’t exist anymore. Here’s why…

“Whenever the draw for the World Cup is completed, the immediate task is figuring out which is the ‘group of death’. But the boring answer is that there generally isn’t one these days. Changes to the structure of the tournament mean four genuine contenders are less likely to be grouped together. This World Cup, however, is a slight exception. To explain why, here is a brief history of how the group of death gradually faded away. …”
The Athletic
W – Group of death

The Netherlands looked flat but Cody Gakpo was special


Cody Gakpo
“The last time Louis van Gaal took an unfancied Netherlands side to a World Cup, things turned out pretty well. … In this World Cup though, the options are a little more limited, and they might have to rely on a youngster who is at his first international tournament. Cody Gakpo’s stock was already high coming into Qatar 2022. He is a fixture of the transfer-gossip columns; and he’s been the leading scorer and creator in the Eredivisie this season, where he is the driving force behind PSV Eindhoven’s participation in what looks like a genuine three-horse title race. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Cody Gakpo and Klaassen stun Senegal with thrilling Netherlands late show

USA 1 Wales 1: Bale to the rescue, Weah’s vertical movement and Pulisic delivered

“It was Gareth Bale to the rescue for Wales in their opening game of the World Cup against the U.S. men’s national team as the forward who now plays in MLS for Los Angeles FC scored a late penalty to cancel out Tim Weah’s first-half goal. Christian Pulisic set Weah up brilliantly to put Gregg Berhalter’s side ahead at the Al Rayyan Stadium but Bale won a penalty with less than 10 minutes to go after a clumsy foul by USMNT centre-back Walker Zimmerman. …”
The Athletic
Guardian: Gareth Bale’s penalty rescues point for Wales in World Cup opener with USA

Iran’s brave and powerful gesture is a small wonder from a World Cup of woe


While many protests were shut down by World Cup organizers, two people in attendance held signs protesting the Iranian government’s treatment of women.
“Well, that was unexpected. After the cold, cold theatre of Qatar 2022’s opening game, elite sport reimagined as a despot’s light-show, something remarkable happened on Monday afternoon in Doha. As night fell over the vast, swooping Khalifa International Stadium (all these World Cup structures are vast and swooping; unless specifically told otherwise, assume vast and swooping) England and Iran produced something that felt jarringly real, oddly warm, suspiciously authentic. Against all odds at this dislocated World Cup, a football match broke out. Albeit one shot through with its own layers of intrigue, and indeed pathos and horror. …”
Guardian
NY Times: Amid Disruptions, England’s Win Over Iran Was the Easy Part
****The Athletic – Cox: England dragged Iran apart thanks to ambition of full-backs Trippier and Shaw

Why the World Cup in Qatar Brings Fans Joy and Anxiety

“Kieran Jones, an avid soccer fan who lives in Cardiff, Wales, can tell you all the details about the last time his beloved Welsh national team made it to the World Cup. … As we spoke over the phone, Jones was preparing for a six-hour flight to Qatar, the tiny Arab country that on Sunday became the first nation in the Middle East to host the World Cup. Jones plans to stay in Qatar so long as his side remains in the 29-day tournament, which for Wales starts Monday, when it plays the United States. … With his team finally back in the thick of the quadrennial celebration of the world’s game, one might think Jones would be feeling pure, unfiltered joy. …”
NY Times

Morgan Freeman and Ciao but no Pitbull: The most uncomfortable World Cup opening ceremony ever


“Who first came up with the concept of an opening ceremony to a sports tournament? It’s so normalised now that we just accept it, that the first thing we’ll see of a World Cup, Olympics or whatever is a souped-up performance-art event with dancers and a famous-ish pop star singing a confected anthem. It would now feel weird not to have one, like we’re missing out on something important somehow. Could we really enjoy a month of football without it being introduced to us by a rhythmic gymnastic demonstration and Jennifer Lopez? It’s too late now, we’ve been brainwashed. Plus, they’re essentially harmless, aren’t they? …”
The Athletic

Ecuador beat Qatar in World Cup opener: Inspirational Valencia and Afif struggles for hosts

“Two goals from Enner Valencia gave Ecuador a comfortable 2-0 win in the opening game of the 2022 World Cup after a disappointing display from the host nation Qatar. Felix Sanchez’s side became the first hosts to lose the opening match of a World Cup, while Ecuador were able to coast to victory after dominating the first 45 minutes. …”
The Athletic
Qatar 0-2 Ecuador: Player ratings as La Tricolor win World Cup opener

The Qatar World Cup Explained

The Qatar World Cup has provoked strong and sometimes conflicting, reactions in many people. In this series of videos, written by James Montague and illustrated by Alice Devine, Tifo explains why the World Cup in the Gulf State is so controversial. The contest in Qatar is beset by controversy and human rights concerns, most notably the reported deaths of migrant workers. A staggering 90% of the population of Qatar are migrant workers. Why is this number so high? In order for Qatar to host this tournament they’ve had to build stadia, build infrastructure, build a team, and build a reputation.
YouTube

Kickoff: The World Cup By Jonathan Wilson

“The World Cup kicks off today in Qatar. To many people the entire extravaganza is one giant laundromat, a sports-wash of global proportions, designed to rinse clean the dirty laundry accumulated during the gulf state’s decade-long preparation for the event. An estimated six thousand five hundred migrant workers from India, Pakistan, Nepal, Bangladesh, and Sri Lanka were reportedly killed during the stadiums’ construction in the last ten years. To memorialize them, the Danish team will wear subdued colors and hold black in reserve as its third strip. …”
The Paris Review

The Radar – The Athletic’s 2022 World Cup scouting guide


“Welcome to The Radar — the World Cup edition. Last year, for Euro 2020, we profiled 60 players that people were talking about — or would be by the end of the competition. Thirty-four of those players have since moved club. More teams means more players, so for the World Cup we’ve upped that to 100. The result is below, a carefully crafted guide to some of the best footballers on show in Qatar listed alphabetically by country — the heavyweight names, the rising stars and the under-the-radar players who could be coming to an elite club near you. …”
The Athletic

Lionel Messi, Here & Gone

“In the imagination of guidebook writers, who see places as they should be but rarely as they are, there is a passionate love affair between the city of Rosario and its famous progeny, global soccer star Leo Messi. … He’d agreed to help me act on my obsession with Messi, who is one of the world’s most famous athletes, and most unknowable, the combination of which sucked me in. I’d been reading everything I could find, watching internet videos of him scoring one ridiculous goal after another for Barcelona. …”
ESPN