Wednesday, November 30, 2022

World Cup News: Pulisic Lifts USA; England Smothers Wales; Koulibaly Delivers Winner For Senegal; Japan Flops; Germany Stays Alive; Aging Belgium Falls to Morocco; Fernandes Shines For Portugal

Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic provided an individual moment of brilliance to lift the US into the final 16 of the World Cup. The US star sacrificed his body in colliding with Iran’s goalkeeper in a 1-0 US win which sets up a knockout match with the Netherlands on Saturday.

The US qualified second in a group which saw England take the honors after a 3-0 win over Wales which saw the Welsh manage just a single shot on target. Manchester City’s Phil Foden finally got a start for the England team and responded with a goal in his first extended outing of the tournament. Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford, meanwhile, scored the other two goals for England versus Wales and his tournament total of three goals draws him even with three other players for tournament best so far.

England will face Senegal in the next round after Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly scored the winner for the Senegalese in a 2-1 victory over Ecuador. Brighton’s Moises Caicedo scored the Ecuadoran goal after Watford’s Ismaila Sarr had given Senegal an early lead. Koulibaly’s goal eliminated an Ecuador side which could have advanced with a draw.

Japan followed up its surprising opening match victory over Germany by falling flat on its face in a 1-0 defeat to Costa Rica. The Ticos had conceded seven goals to Spain before posting a clean sheet against the Blue Samurai.

Germany avoided early elimination by drawing 1-1 with Spain. The Germans are the only team in its group not to have notched a victory but will be favored in their final group match Thursday against Costa Rica with a chance yet to advance to the knockout stage.

Premier League referee Anthony Taylor was at the center of controversy as he blew the final whistle while South Korea prepared to take a corner kick at the end of a 3-2 Ghana win over the South Koreans. The apoplectic South Korean manager was assessed a red card by Taylor over his protestations.

Victorious Ghana, which got an opening goal from 23-year-old Southampton center back Mohammed Salisu, fields the youngest roster in the tournament.

Belgium, on the other hand, started seven players in their thirties in a 2-0 loss to Morocco as the country’s “Golden Generation” may be nearing the end of their trophyless run. Internal discord between members of the aging and frustrated Belgian squad made headlines after a match which damages the Belgians’ chances for advancement. Chelsea’s little used Hakim Ziyech assisted on Morocco’s second goal after having an earlier goal reversed on VAR review.

Canada scored the fastest goal of the tournament at the two-minute mark of its match with Croatia but then watched the Croatians pour four goals into the Canadian net in a 4-1 loss which eliminated the Canadians from the tournament. Canadian manager John Herdman made comments before the match which the Croatians felt were disrespectful and the European power, which finished second to France in 2018, responded by spanking the North American upstarts.

Brazil punched its ticket for the knockout round by defeating Switzerland 1-0 as Manchester United midfielder Casemiro scored the goal in a second consecutive win for the Brazilians. Portugal also advances to the next round after a 2-0 win over Uruguay. Manchester United midfielder Bruno Fernandes continued his excellent tournament with two goals against the Uruguayans. Portugal could be a tournament dark horse with Fernandes and Cristiano Ronaldo joining four other Premier League players in a star-studded Portuguese starting eleven.

Manchester United midfielder Christian Eriksen and his Denmark teammates saw an early end to their tournament in a 1-0 loss to Australia. Australia moves to the knockout stage of the tournament for the first time since 2006.

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