The major match
For a rustic perceived by means of many as having one thing of a tenuous dating with the game of football, the United States of America has made slightly a contribution to the tradition on the very best of the sport. They’ve reached the semi-final of 1 World Cup (1930), hosted some other (1994) and registered one of the vital all-time nice shocks (1950) during which their intended elders and betters, the self-styled fathers of the sport , had been passed their asses in a prime hat. Throw within the garish however fondly remembered NASL, an all-senses attack which attracted just about as many superstars as Studio 54, and that’s the reason a sizeable legacy. And that is all earlier than we get to the USWNT, four-time winners of the Women’s World Cup and reigning champions. They’ve greater than carried out their bit on that facet of the briny.
So you’ll be able to wager your backside buck that the Netherlands may not be daft sufficient to underestimate the USMNT because the knockout level of the 2022 World Cup kicks off on Saturday afternoon. The Dutch sailed thru their organization with out drama, albeit with out making an excessive amount of of a case that they might pass deep. Louis van Gaal alternatively had no truck with journalists berating his facet for missing the wow issue and will legitimately level to the humiliations of neighbors Germany and Belgium, each considerably hyped going into this match, as an invaluable metric to measure his personal workforce’s under-the -Radar fuss-free competence. The Netherlands additionally possess one in all this World Cup’s breakout hits in Cody Gakpo, together with his selection pack of 3 objectives in 3 video games. Few gave the Dutch an excessive amount of of an opportunity in 2010 or 2014 both, and glance what so just about took place then.
Historical precedent and constructive spin handiest get you thus far, despite the fact that. The Dutch are excellent however no longer out of the highest drawer, not at all by means of their very own lofty requirements, and america will fancy their possibilities of springing a marvel. Despite handiest scoring two objectives within the organization, Gregg Berhalter’s workforce have won excellent notices for his or her attacking intentions. Sergiño Dest and Antonee Robinson maraud alongside the flanks within the fashionable taste. Tyler Adams, Yusuf Musah and Weston McKennie are pressing presences in midfield. Meanwhile centre-back Tim Ream is playing an Indian summer time at 35, america posting back-to-back blank sheets at a finals for the primary time since that aforementioned romp to the semis in 1930.
In truth, they have but to concede a objective from open play in Qatar, and feature handiest shipped 9 within the 15 fits they have performed this calendar 12 months. The containment of the apparently irrepressible Gakpo could be some other feather of their cap. The query would then be: can Virgil van Dijk et al do a equivalent quantity at the up-and-coming Timothy Weah? If america get started clicking into assault, Van Gaal may well be off to control Belgium quicker than anticipated. SM
Ghana leave out some other fateful penalty
If Uruguay meant to get inside of their fighters’ heads by means of striking Luis Suárez – this is, “the devil himself” – up for media tasks earlier than their sport towards Ghana, they might really feel it labored as meant. Whether or no longer thoughts video games had anything else to do with the best way this fit performed out, André Ayew’s stored penalty – impulsively adopted by means of two objectives from Giorgian de Arrascaeta – inevitably drew parallels to the best way Asamoah Gyan squandered the spot kick which resulted from Suárez’s notorious handball in Johannesburg. “This penalty miss put Ghana back in 2010,” mentioned Didier Drogba at half-time. “It’s difficult to come back after missing a penalty like this.” So it proved, despite the fact that Uruguay nonetheless failing to development due to occasions in other places a minimum of supplied a touch of cosmic justice. wm
South Korea dispel group-stage curse
Having prolonged their 100% profitable document towards Portugal, South Korea have have shyed away from some other early go out from the World Cup. Having long gone out on the organization level in 2018, 2014 and 2006, they had been in peril of falling on the first hurdle for a fourth time in 5 makes an attempt earlier than Hwang Hee-chan’s overdue, overdue winner. The remaining time they reached the remaining 16, in 2010, they had been dumped out by means of Uruguay, with Suárez scoring two times. Again, there’s a enjoyable circularity to South Korea being the facet to disclaim the Uruguayans a spot within the knockout rounds. wm
A video shared on social media seems to turn presenters on a Qatari tv program playing Germany’s go out whilst mocking the workforce’s stance on human rights. In the clip, presenters wave good-bye to Germany whilst clamping arms over their mouths – a send-up of a gesture that the German workforce had made earlier than their opening defeat by means of Japan on 23 November in protest towards Fifa’s choice to forestall them dressed in One Love armbands . “Human rights are non-negotiable. That should be taken for granted,” the German Football Association said in words that those Qatari TV presenters could do with reading again and trying to understand.
And here’s the celebrated visual satirist Cold War Steve takes on protests and power struggles at the Qatar World Cup. GB
It was a “winter nightmare” (Süddeutsche Zeitung), an “enormous embarrassment” (Bild), a “new low point” that revealed the four-times world champions to have shrunk into a “football dwarf” (Spiegel). Ouch. Germany’s players and coaching staff hopefully avoided Thursday morning’s front pages after crashing out at the group stage for the second tournament in a row.
Newspapers and websites in Japan were the polar opposite. “Samurai spirit: Japan explodes with World Cup joy,” cheered Japan Today after the wild 2-1 comeback win over Spain. “Captain Yoshida rewrites history,” roared the Chunichi Shimbun. “World Cup redemption,” mentioned The Mainichi, recalling supervisor Hajime Moriyasu’s enjoy of being overwhelmed by means of Iraq in Doha in 1993, which value the country a spot at USA 94. In the Japan Times, repetition was once the one approach they might get their heads across the success. “Japan is in the last 16 … Japan is in the last 16 … Japan is in the last 16 … The more accurate the sentence becomes, the more improbable and fantastical it feels, as though it flowed from the pen of Terry Pratchett or JRR Tolkien .” GB
The internet reacts
The whistle had barely blown on Japan’s win over Spain before various homemade versions of footballs hovering over bylines were being posted on Twitter. They seem rather nerdy – and some of the footballs look suspiciously like they were shop-bought on Wednesday night – but given many seasoned observers of the game Were struggling to understand the basics of physics and perspective, perhaps the home videos and DIY explainers are useful. Here are a selection of them. GB
Ok, sure, we have been at it too.
Friday’s final group games also provided a couple of meme-worthy moments. First, here’s Granit Xhaka with an internationally recognized gesture towards the Serbian bench. Earlier, Edinson Cavani gave the kind of violent takedown of VAR that would have Graeme Souness chuckling malevolently.
Netherlands v USA (Round of 16, 3pm GMT, BBC1)
“If you think it’s boring why don’t you go home?” That was Louis van Gaal’s response to a journalist who suggested the Netherlands, despite easing through as Group A winners, have failed to light up the tournament. Van Gaal is predictably refusing to go quietly, if indeed this does prove to be his last World Cup, and his tactical mind is as sharp as ever. On the pitch Cody Gakpo is scoring goals, while at the other end Virgil van Dijk is marshalling a miserable defence. As England discovered in the group, however, the USA are an accomplished outfit and difficult to break down, while Christian Pulisic should feature despite being injured in the win against Iran. Van Gaal’s last stand? He would be delighted to grind into the last eight, and prolong one of Qatar’s best stories. lmc
Argentina v Australia (Round of 16, 7pm GMT, BBC1)
Lionel Messi performed with devastating intent in the concluding Group C victory against Poland. It was a vintage display of dangerous dribbling and perceptive passing; clearly he has no intention of wasting what should be his last shot at a World Cup. Are Australia intimidated? Not a bit. “He’s only a human, as all of us are,” said Socceroos defender Milos Degenek. Messi aside, for all the quality in their squad, the feeling persists that Argentina are vulnerable following their early defeat by Saudi Arabia. Buoyed by progress to the last 16 for the first time since 2006, Australia will be determined and wily opponents. At a World Cup of shocks: why not? lmc
Player to watch
Memphis Depay To British fans, the forward is mostly known for his unsuccessful stay at Manchester United. Whether he failed or the club failed him is open to debate. Now at Barcelona via a spell at Lyon, the 28-year-old is at his peak. He made his first start of the tournament in the Netherlands’ 2–0 win against Qatar and performed well, involved in both goals. Louis van Gaal could be persuaded that Depay can play a major role in the Orange‘s assault on the knockout rounds. “Dream Believe Achieve” is tattooed on Depay’s chest: He has the blueprint to go with talent and experience. A dangerous opponent and a world-class foil to the headline-grabbing Gakpo. lmc
You might think a renowned manager such as Luis Enrique – “I am the best coach on the face of the earth” – would be hyperaware when his own nation, Spain, could be in danger of getting booted out of the finals. But no, he says he didn’t have a clue that his team had slipped to third in the as-it-stands table on Thursday evening. “Were we knocked out at some point? … When? Why? he asked the bemused journalists. “You see? Well, fantastic… Of course. I didn’t know. At no point did I find out… [if I had known we were] out three minutes, I would have had a heart attack.” It’s more than likely for the most productive Germany fixed a fast comeback towards Costa Rica. GB