The 2022 World Cup began with an beautiful opening ceremony showing Qatar’s culture, the past World Cups & Morgan Freeman’s voice – chills.
On the pitch, Qatar couldn’t follow the steps of previous host nations as they became the first host to lose an opening match in the World Cup. Ener Valencia scored twice to give Ecuador all three points in a 2-0 victory.
Within the week Valencia was called upon yet again as Ecuador held the Netherlands to a 1-1 draw. He has now scored Ecuador’s last 6 goals in the World Cup – joint record with Eusebio (Portugal 1966), Paolo Rossi (Italy 1982) and Oleg Salenko (Russia 1994).
Netherlands left it late to defeat a Mane-less Senegal 2-0 while England put six past Iran in an 8-goal thriller. Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka was awarded the man of Match after scoring twice.
France defeated Australia 4-1 with Olivier Giroud equalling Thiery Henry’s 51 goal record for France. Giroud got a brace in the game. There is an odd record of defending champions falling off at the group stage but France defied that record and defeated Denmark 2-1 with Mbappe scoring his 6th & 7th goals in the World Cup.
Spain were 7-0 winners over Costa Rica while Serbia lost 2-0 to tournament favourites Brazil. Richarlson with a brace and a nominee for goal of the tournament.
Saudi Arabia came from a goal down to defeat Argentina 2-1. It was a game that no one gave the Saudis a chance but they kept Argentina off and responded brilliantly to Lionel Messi’s early goal from the spot. It was a great victory for the Saudis, so much that a public holiday was declared at home. Can you believe it?
Japan also came from behind to defeat Germany 2-1. Gundogan’s 33rd minute penalty gave the Machines the lead but the introduction of Tomiyasu led a spirited 2nd half display by the Japanese. Former Arsenal striker Takuma Asano scored the winner in the 83rd minute after Doan drew Japan level in the 75th minute. Asano never got a work permit to play for Arsenal in the Premier League. Wonder if he could have made it at Arsenal.
Ghana scored Africa’s first goal in the tournament but they lost 3-2 to Portugal. Ronaldo’s opener was from a controversial penalty but the striker couldn’t hide his bewilderment in the last minute of added time as Ghana almost made it 3-3.
Senegal recorded Africa’s first win in Qatar: a 2-0 win over Qatar. The victory means Qatar will not feature in the knockout stages, despite camping for months.
Iran had two late goals against Wales while England were held to a goalless draw against USA. The results mean that the final day of the group would be decisive.
Wojciech Szczesny saved a penalty and the follow-up rebound as Poland put a pin to Saudi Arabia’s bubbles. Lewandowski scored his first World Cup goal in the 2-0 victory.
Lionel Messi scored and provided an assist as Argentina recorded their 1st win in the tournament. He now has as many goals (8) as Diego Maradona in as many matches in the World Cup (21).
From an Arsenal perspective, Gabriel Jesus and Gabriel Martinelli featured for Brazil in their 2-0 win over Serbia. Matt Turner kept a clean sheet for USA, Saka has a brace for England but Ramsdale & White were unused subs in England’s two games. Tomiyasu & Xhaka featured for Japan & Switzerland respectively.
In the new week, Spain will play Germany in probably the biggest clash of the week. Morocco & Canada will hope to score their 1st goals as they play Belgium & Croatia respectively. Don’t forget Iran vs USA – hot!