Tuesday, November 22, 2022

World Cup News: Premier League Stars Shine in England Win, US Awaits on Friday; Messi and Argentina Shocked by Saudis; Olivier Giroud Matches Thierry Henry As France Routs Aussies; Ronaldo Steals Headlines Off The Pitch

Four different Premier League players scored and Arsenal’s Bukayo Saka notched a brace as England sprinted away from Iran in a 6-2 win in their World Cup opener. Jude Bellingham, the only non-Premier League player on the England squad, opened the scoring 35 minutes in with a glancing header into the Iran net. Saka followed with the first of his goals eight minutes later and Chelsea’s Raheem Sterling added to England’s first half lead with a stoppage time goal. Saka’s second goal of the match opened second half scoring and subs Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish added to the rout. The Three Lions tallied six goals in a major tournament for only the second time in the nation’s history. A perfect day for England included one scary moment when Harry Kane took a knock on one of his oft injured ankles. Despite wearing a brace while leaving the stadium, Kane has been ruled fit for the United States on Friday by England Manger Gareth Southgate.

The Americans squandered a golden opportunity to take all three points in their match with Wales when center back Walker Zimmerman needlessly clattered into Gareth Bale in the 82nd minute. Bale’s penalty kick tied the match at 1-1 which held up as the final score as both teams tired in the final minutes.

Wales had dominated second half action after the insertion of physically imposing striker Kieffer Moore, scorer of four goals for Premier League side Bournemouth this season. Moore’s presence in the box pressured a US defense which had an easy time of things in the first half. Leeds defensive midfielder Tyler Adams and Arsenal’s backup keeper Matt Turner helped hold the invigorated Welsh attack at bay before Zimmerman’s fateful error. Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic assisted a first half US goal by Timothy Weah but was hindered by a lack of support from a thin US forward line. Norwich’s Jeff Sargent started at striker for the US and was ineffective before being substituted for Jordan Morris in the second half. Borussia Dortmund playmaker Gio Reyna was a surprising non-participant for the US and had supporters scratching their head as to whether the cause was injury or tactical on the part of US Manager Gregg Berhalter. Berhalter’s confusing post-match comments just added to the mystery. Pulisic and friends face the England juggernaut on Friday.

The tournament’s first upset was a shocker on Tuesday when Saudi Arabia came from behind to capture a 2-1 result over Lionel Messi and Argentina. Messi’s penalty had given Argentina a first half lead which was overcome by the Saudis in the first 10 minutes of second half play. Aston Villa goalkeeper Emiliano Martinez was victimized by the Saudi goals which were the first conceded by Argentina after posting clean sheets in its most recent five matches leading into the World Cup. The loss by Argentina to 51st ranked Saudi Arabia rates among the all-time World Cup upsets such as the 1950 loss by England to the US.

Saudi Arabia sits atop its group after Poland and Mexico played to a scoreless draw. Poland’s Robert Lewandowski continued his World Cup futility when his penalty kick was saved by veteran Mexico goalkeeper Guillermo “Memo” Ochoa. Lewandowski has never scored in the World Cup and has a growing legacy for underperformance in big matches.

Former Arsenal and Chelsea striker Olivier Giroud, meanwhile, went through the entire 2018 World Cup for champion France without ever scoring a goal. He scored two on Tuesday in France’s 4-1 win over Australia. Giroud’s second goal of the match tied him with Thierry Henry as France’s all-time goal scorer.

All world goal scorer Cristiano Ronaldo doesn’t start play for Portugal in this year’s World Cup until Thursday, but he is already making news. The Portuguese striker and Manchester United have agreed to terminate his contract with the club. The separation follows on recent explosive interviews and statements where Ronaldo's criticism of the club and Manager Eric ten Hag reached all new levels.

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