With qualification from the groups now beginning to materialise the matches begin to carry an added significance. Argentina and Germany face crucial tests over the weekend, the heat is on.
25 November IRANIAN TRANSFORMATION
Iran rebounded from their 6-2 shellacking by England to deservedly beat Wales 2-0 with the two latest goals in a 90-minute match in 98th and 102nd minutes. Wayne Hennessey received the first red card of the tournament and is only the 3rd keeper to do so at World Cup after . Pagliuca in 1994 and South African Khune in 2010.
HOSTS EARLY DEPARTURE
Qatar lost their second game and their early exit from the tournament was confirmed by Netherlands draw with Ecuador. They become only the second host country to fail to get out of the group stage. South Africa did win one and draw one in their group so if Qatar do not win their last game against Netherlands they will become first host to not win a match at their own tournament.
VALENCIA’S RUN CONTINUES
Enner Valencia became only the fourth player to score six consecutive goals for his country. Others were Eusebio in 1966 who scored two against Brazil and first four against North Korea; Paolo Rossi in 1982 who scored hat-trick against Brazil, then 2 against Poland and first in Final; Oleg Salenko who after scoring a penalty in previous game, scored first five in Russia’s 6-1 win over Cameroon in 1994. All the others came in one tournament, Valencia’s have come over three tournaments – 2010, 2014 & 2022.
ENGLAND SCORELESS DOZEN
England’s 0-0 with USA might have been disappointing but it does put them further ahead as the country with the most goalless draws at World Cup – with twelve.
24 November GOALLESS DRAWS GALORE
Uruguay and South Korea served up the fourth scoreless match of this World Cup and the record of seven in an entire tournament, set in 1982 and equalled in 2006 is under serious threat.
Cristiano Ronaldo etched another milestone when scoring in a fifth World Cup in the best game of the tournament so far. Ghana almost snatched a late equaliser when Williams stole the ball off the Portuguese keeper after coming from behind him.
Richarlison’s sensational goal rightly hogged all the headlines but what was more ominous for Brazil’s challengers was the defensive solidity of Seleção. Famous for their free-flowing attack Brazil’s last two World Cup wins have been founded on strong defensive record – in 2002 they let in four goals, in 1994 just three.
23 November ANOTHER STALEMATE
Morocco and Croatia served up the third goalless draw in two days, matching the record of 24th and 25th June 2010 when Paraguay New Zealand, Portugal Brazil and Switzerland Honduras all followed each other in quick scoreless succession. There have already been three times the number of scoreless ,matches in the first nine matches than in entire tournament in 2018.
Germany’s loss to Japan was the second consecutive time they have lost their opening World Cup match, in 2018 they lost 1-0 to Mexico. Before those two reverses their record in opening matches between 1990 and 2014 was pretty impressive – Played 7 Won 7 Goals For 27 Goals Against 3.
Spain oozed class in their 7-0 shellacking of Costa Rica, with Gavi the shining light as he became not only their youngest ever player at a World Cup but also almost inevitably their youngest ever scorer. The only cloud on Spain’s horizon is that they might have gone a bit early – since 1954 only one team has gone on to win the title having recorded the highest ever win at the group stages, which was West Germany in 1990 who beat UAE 5 -1.
Canada’s 1-0 defeat to Belgium means that they set the record for the longest run without a goal since debut. Having made their debut in 1986 this was their fourth goalless match on the trot, all other scoreless teams have played three matches – Zaire 1974, China 2002 and Trinidad & Tobago 2006 apart from Dutch East Indies who played one match in 1938, losing 6-0 to Hungary, before being eliminated.
22 November ARGENTINA HUMBLED
Argentina’s capitulation against the might of 51st-ranked Saudi Arabia is considered as not just one of the biggest shocks in World Cup history but, in many eyes, THE biggest. Additionally, it was Argentina’s first loss against an Asian country after four wins against South Korea (2), Japan and Iran. Lose to Mexico on Saturday and Lionel Messi will be leaving Roger Milla’s Last Chance Saloon through the Fire Exit.
When Denmark and Tunisia failed to score it was the first goalless match for 31 matches since France against none other than Denmark on 26 June 2018. The very next match between Mexico and Poland was also goalless, thus instantly doubling the number of 0-0s from the previous tournament and 2022 is on course to beat the record of seven goalless draws in a tournament.
France sent out a strong message that they were not going to go down the rocky route that four former champions have in the last five World Cups, who limped out at the Group stage, a trend started by France themselves in 2002. Les Bleus’ 4-1 victory over a game but limited Australia was their third consecutive win in their opening match and they look set fair for a strong defence of their title.
21 November ENGLAND DOMINANT
England recorded their highest ever win in an opening World Cup game by hammering Iran 6-2. To add a little more shine to the performance all five goal-scorers notched their first World Cup goals – Bellingham, Saka (2), Sterling, Rashford and Grealish.
DUTCH OPENING STRENGTH
By beating Senegal with two late goals, the Netherlands emphasised what strong starters they are at World Cups. This was their seventh of their last nine consecutive in opening matches, having drawn the other two.
WELSH DRAW INSPIRATION
Wales’ comeback against USA secured by Gareth Bale’s late penalty was their fourth draw in six World Cup matches. In those six matches The Red Dragons have scored the same number of goals as they have conceded with five each.
20 November QATAR MAROONED
The match between Qatar and Ecuador was about as one-sided as it gets. In losing 2-0 Qatar became the first World Cup host to lose their opening match. They are only the third host to concede two goals in an opening match after Japan drew 2-2 with Belgium in 2002 and in the next tournament in 2006 when Germany beat Costa Rica 4-2.