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‘Huge talent’ wasted as ‘poor’ England booed in World Cup wake-up call

‘Huge talent’ wasted as ‘poor’ England booed in World Cup wake-up call

All 32 World Cup competitors have played their first match in Qatar. Now the group stage heats up, with elimination well and truly on the line – as is qualification to the Round of 16.

And Friday night began with a stunning match as another Asian confederation nation pulled off an upset, with Iran beating Wales 2-0 in a rollercoaster match featuring the tournament’s first red card – for a truly wild challenge.

Hosts Qatar then failed to bounce back from their dismal opener, losing to reigning African champions Senegal.

That result saw Qatar crash out of contention after Netherlands drew 1-all with Ecuador overnight, with both sides locked on four points atop of Group A.

Then in a Group B blockbuster England settled for a draw with USA, although one selection decision came under plenty of scrutiny.

Re-live all the action with our game recaps below.

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An underwhelming second half from England has left Gareth Southgate’s men settling for a scoreless draw against Team USA.

The result still keeps England at the top of Group B but they would have all but sealed a knock-out berth with victory on Saturday morning.

As for Team USA, yet another draw leaves them behind Iran, who defeated Wales overnight to take second spot in Group B for the time being.

Team USA dominated most of the opening half of their game against England but had nothing to show for it, squandering two key opportunities on Saturday morning [AEDT].

The closest call came in the 33rd minute when Christian Pulisic had a shot from 20 yards out, sending the ball soaring towards the goals but eventually into the crossbar.

The other biggest chance of the half was just eight minutes earlier, when Weston McKennie had a clear shot at goal but skied the ball over the posts.

“Gareth Southgate would be worried,” Martin Tyler said in commentary for SBS.

“This first half really by standards set by his players in major tournaments in recent years, this is a bit of a struggle. USA are really organised and they’re not just settling for organisation, they’re playing with optimism.”

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England did have a late opportunity as Jude Bellingham made a strong run and linked with Luke Shaw, crossing it inside for Bukayo Saka who could not finish it off.

The chances kept coming for Gareth Southgate’s men as Mason Mount forced a save from Team USA keeper Matt Turner.

“They have a system ready,” Mark Bosnich said on SBS of Team USA.

“They’re very patient. When they attack, they attack only at the times they know they have numbers going forward all together, not just one out... they did create the better chances. And slowly but surely England got frustrated.”

Weston McKennie reacts to a missed chance. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)Weston McKennie reacts to a missed chance. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)
Weston McKennie reacts to a missed chance. (Photo by Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV / AFP)Source: AFP

English football pundit Gary Neville, meanwhile, credited Team USA for dominating the midfield.

“We had far too many passes at the back between Harry Maguire and John Stones,” he said on ITV.

“Their midfield three - Tyler Adams, Yunus Musah and Weston McKennie - has made our three look sluggish.”

Team USA opened the second half once more with the best chance to hit the scoreboard, McKennie again sending a shot over the posts as England survived another scare.

In the end, neither side could find the decisive goal with both teams sharing the points, although a late attempt from Harry Kane almost won it but pushed wide.

England fans though were left wondering why Phil Foden was kept on the bench for the entirety of the game as the team desperately looked elsewhere for spark in attack.

Phil Foden was not used. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
Phil Foden was not used. (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

“Astonished that we’ve used 14 players so far yet our most talented player is still sat on the bench,” wrote Michael Owen.

Meanwhile, Neville described the overall performance as “poor” and also questioned why Foden was wasted on the bench.

“We’re all disappointed as we wanted a lot more from England. The clean sheet is a positive and Harry Maguire headed a lot of balls away in the second half,” he said on ITV.

“Sometimes, our midfield just didn’t click tonight. We looked tired at times and I didn’t think we connected in midfield combinations. Their midfield was far better. I was disappointed not to see Foden.

“For me, that talent is huge. I’ve not seen anything like it. We’ve got Bellingham and Grealish among others and Gareth prefers Mount and Sterling.

“For Foden not to be in the starting XI, and to not come off the bench was interesting.”

Reacting to the draw after fulltime, Kane admitted there was plenty of improvement left in the side but did not see the result as “the end of the world” in any way.

“It wasn’t our best performance – we created some good positions but we didn’t have the final product. Great clean sheet. It puts us in a great position in the group,” he said.

“It was a complete contrast to the Iran game. Today we had two or three good opportunities and we didn’t put them away. We were playing a tough team. We move on.”

MATCH CENTRE: Line-ups, stats, play-by-play

Re-live the action in our blog below!

IRAN PULL OFF CRAZY WIN

Having been beaten 6-2 by England in their World Cup opener, Iran bounced back with a magnificent performance to beat Wales 2-0 in a rollercoaster match.

Iran spurned a golden opportunity in the first half when they had a goal ruled out for off-side, before hitting the woodwork twice in 25 seconds in the second half.

The Middle East nation had dominated most of the match, but Wales grimly held on – until it all unravelled at the end.

Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy – who had made a brilliant save earlier in the match – raced out of his box and made a wild head-high tackle on Iran striker Mehdi Taremi, missing the ball completely and flattening his rival.

The referee – amazingly – only awarded a yellow card, but a VAR review quickly convinced him to change his mind and award the first send-off of the competition so far, in the 86th minute.

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Hennessey shown a red card by referee Mario Alberto Escobar Toca.
Hennessey shown a red card by referee Mario Alberto Escobar Toca.Source: Getty Images
Iran's forward #09 Mehdi Taremi receives medical treatment.
Iran's forward #09 Mehdi Taremi receives medical treatment.Source: AFP

Iran, desperate to win, poured forwards at the death, before Rouzbeh Chesmi scored a staggering long-range strike in the 98th minute to break the deadlock. It was just his second international goal, and his first in four years.

Not to be outdone, Ramin Rezaeian scored on another counter-attack in the 101st minute – his first international goal in six years.

Carlos Queiroz’s Iran would have been eliminated from the tournament had they lost to Wales, who drew their opener with the US.

Now, it is Wales who are on the brink of an exit from the tournament, needing to beat England in their final match. Captain Gareth Bale became the nation’s most-capped player when he takes to the field for the 110th time, but could not find the net.

Keeper sent as Iran PUNISH Wales late | 00:54

MATCH CENTRE: Line-ups, stats, play-by-play

Re-live the action in our blog below!

HOSTS CRASH OUT IN HUMILATING EXIT

Host nation Qatar have been eliminated early from their own World Cup after a 3-1 defeat to Senegal.

Goals either side of half-time from Boulaye Dia and Famara Diedhiou gave Senegal the lead before Qatar substitute Mohammed Muntari replied in the 78th minute to set up a dramatic finale.

Senegal substitute Bamba Dieng scored six minutes later to put the result beyond doubt and lift the African champions, who opened with a 2-0 loss to the Netherlands, right back into contention in Group A.

Defeat left bottom side Qatar to become only the second World Cup hosts to bow out after the first round.

“Today we showed what we are able to do. We were competitive and we played well,” said Qatar manager Felix Sanchez.

“Obviously the result is key but we showed a better performance. We have to get ready to play against the Netherlands.

“We know that it’s going to be an even tougher game against them.”

Akram Afif reacts after the final whistle. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP)
Akram Afif reacts after the final whistle. (Photo by MANAN VATSYAYANA / AFP)Source: AFP

Qatar had made a nervy start to the tournament in a 2-0 defeat to Ecuador and they again looked tentative against Senegal.

The Asian champions dropped their goalkeeper Saad Al Sheeb to the bench after his shaky performance in the opener.

His replacement Meshaal Barsham did not inspire much confidence in the early stages, flapping at a corner as Senegal pushed for the opening goal.

Ismaila Sarr and Nampalys Mendy had already missed scoring chances for Senegal by then, and Idrissa Gana Gueye and Youssouf Sabaly squandered more as the first half wore on.

Qatar spent most of the opening 45 minutes on the back foot but a rare break forward saw Akram Afif incensed not to be awarded a penalty after he was bundled over by Sarr.

Senegal looked like they would head into half-time without managing to break down Qatar’s resistance, only for the hosts to gift them a goal in the 41st minute.

Qatari defender Boualem Koukhi fluffed a clearance to leave Dia to pounce on the loose ball and fire it past Barsham.

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Senegal doubled their lead almost immediately after the break when Diedhiou glanced home a header at the near post from a corner.

Qatar began to show much more attacking ambition from two goals down and Afif was involved in everything.

Almoez Ali forced a fingertip save out of Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy before the Chelsea man again rescued the Africans from Ismail Mohamad’s effort.

Mendy was rooted to his line when Muntari pulled one back for Qatar, powerfully heading home Mohamad’s cross to haul the hosts back into it.

The goal lifted the crowd and sent Qatar surging forward in search of another, but Dieng nipped the revival in the bud in the 84th minute when he swept the ball home for Senegal’s third.

Abdelkarim Hassan then lashed a free-kick just wide of the post as Qatar tried to hit back but Senegal held firm to see out the win.

“We had a few chances and we managed to score a goal but then at the end we didn’t have as many chances as we wanted,” said Sanchez.

MATCH CENTRE: Line-ups, stats, play-by-play

Re-live the action in our blog below!

REMARKABLE STATISTIC AS DUTCH SETTLE FOR DRAW

Cody Gakpo scored again at the World Cup but the Netherlands missed the chance to secure a place in the last 16 on Friday as they were held to a 1-1 draw by a battling Ecuador, a result which eliminated host nation Qatar.

Gakpo, the gangly PSV Eindhoven forward who has been strongly linked with a move to Manchester United, put the Netherlands in front with a superb strike in the sixth minute at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Yet, with a large and vociferous support behind them, Ecuador fought back with such ferocity that the Dutch were rattled, and they deserved the equaliser when it came through Enner Valencia four minutes after half-time.

It was Ecuador captain Valencia’s third goal of the World Cup already after his brace in his country’s opening win over Qatar.

Netherlands and Ecuador share spoils | 01:03

And one consequence of this result is that the host nation, already beaten twice, are the first team to be eliminated from their own World Cup.

In contrast three-time beaten finalists the Netherlands are not quite through to the next round, with one point separating them, Ecuador and Senegal, who defeated Qatar 3-1 earlier.

Ecuador and Senegal meet in the last round of Group A matches next Tuesday, while Louis van Gaal’s Dutch side meet the hosts knowing a draw will make certain their place in the knockout phase.

Much of the talk before this game had been about Memphis Depay, with the Barcelona forward having impressed as a second-half substitute in the 2-0 win over Senegal in his first game in two months after a thigh injury.

While he once again started on the bench here, it was the 23-year-old Gakpo who again starred in front of goal.

Scorer of the late headed opener against Senegal, he got an early breakthrough on this occasion, lashing a left-foot shot between the despairing dive of Hernan Galindez and the left-hand post after being set up by Davy Klaassen.

Netherlands save best for last | 00:23

Yet that, remarkably, was to be the Netherlands’ only shot on target as they were pushed back by Ecuador for much of the rest of the game.

Giant Dutch goalkeeper Andries Noppert had to get down to his right to keep out a shot from Valencia, who had been a pre-match fitness doubt.

Then Ecuador thought they had equalised in first-half stoppage time when Pervis Estupinan diverted an Angelo Preciado shot into the net, but the goal was disallowed for an offside against Jackson Porozo.

Depay then came on for Steven Bergwijn at the start of the second half but Ecuador soon got their equaliser.

Estupinan was again involved as the Brighton and Hove Albion wing-back’s shot was saved by Noppert but Valencia followed in to convert the loose ball.

They might even have won it, with Gonzalo Plata crashing a shot off the crossbar just before the hour mark.

An encouraging evening for Ecuador was marred by the sight of Valencia coming off on a stretcher late on and then sitting with ice around his right knee, and they will hope their all-time top scorer can recover quickly.

They will surely need him for a nerve-jangling showdown with Senegal with a place in the last 16 on the line -- it is a stage they have reached only once before, when they were beaten 1-0 by England in 2006.

MATCH CENTRE: Line-ups, stats, play-by-play

Re-live the action in our blog below!

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