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Old 11-20-2022, 07:52 PM   #21 (permalink)
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TROLLHEART'S WORLD CUP REPORT

DAY 1

GROUP A

The first group kicked off this evening with the host nation taking on South America's Ecuador.

It was clear from the beginning that Qatar were no match for Ecuador, who have not exactly set the World Cup alive, only qualifying for the first time in 2002 and making their best showing in the following tournament, reaching the round of 16 in 2006 but coming a disappointing 12th. So it's not like Qatar were up against Brazil or anything.

You wouldn't know it though, to watch them. Qatar were, to be fair to them, bloody useless. Ecuador embarrassed them with a very early goal (within 2 minutes) which was then ruled offside - a VERY marginal decision, which I feel (without any evidence to back this up of course) that the decision was made so as not to humiliate the holders. At any rate, it didn't take long till Qatar shot themselves in the foot, giving away a penalty as the keeper took down Valencia in the box. The striker then sent the goalie the wrong way and scored a very cool penalty. 1-0 to Ecuador.

Qatar had barely a sniff of goal, in fact most of the time they struggled to hold on to the ball, while Ecuador ran rings around them. The few times they actually had sight of the opposition goal they shot high, wide or otherwise missed poorly. Ecuador sealed it with a glorious header, again from Valencia, and though somehow the match ended up with five extra minutes on each half, and Qatar had a glorious opportunity to at least get something out of the game near the end, again they fluffed their lines and it ended 2-0, an embarrassing defeat for Qatar and the first time the host nation has failed to score in their opening match.

Qatar have now to meet the other teams in their group, Senegal and the Netherlands, and currently reside at the bottom of the group, with Ecuador topping it. Well, obviously: the other two teams have yet to play.


https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Lp1pNJMQaZI

Tomorrow sees three matches:

Group B

England v Iran: England should be expected to cruise past the Iranians, but as ever, you never know in football, especially with the English team. I'd be surprised if they didn't win though.

USA v Wales: Hard to call. Wales can be great on their day but you may remember Trump crowing about how the American team did in the last World Cup (as if he even knows what any football other than American is, but however) and some of their players play in the Premiership in England, including Chelsea's Christian Pulisic and Leeds' Brenden Aaronson. Could be one to watch, certainly, especially if you're an England fan.

Group A

Senegal v Netherlands: Senegal have a great tradition, having punched well above their weight in the World Cup, reaching the quarter-finals in 2002 and beating the mighty France (who were at the time holders of the title and therefore by definition the best team in the world) but the Dutch are always hard to beat. For non-England fans, this will be the one to watch. It will also further sort the group Qatar are in.

For those who can't or don't want to watch the matches, but are still interested, I'll have a report every evening on how the day's action went. See ya tomorrow then!
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Old 11-21-2022, 08:29 PM   #22 (permalink)
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DAY 2

GROUP B

England v Iran (Result: 6-2)

Went pretty much as expected, though even I would not have predicted how many goals England would get. I was thinking maybe 4-0. In the end it was 6-2 to England, with Iran finally waking up near the end and scoring a peach of a goal out of basically nothing, and then getting a penalty right at the end. First scorer for England was Bellingham, the only player, I believe, in the team not playing in the English leagues (he's with Borussia Dortmund) and his first ever goal in the World Cup, a lovely header. Next was Arsenal's Saka with a sweet volley, followed by Sterling from Chelsea, a great assist from Harry Kane giving England their third. Saka scored again in the second half, with no reply from Iran as yet.

Soon after Taremi scored literally out of nothing, but England came back with another courtesy of Man United's Rashford, the sixth being scored by Jack Grealish of Man City. In the very last seconds of ten minutes (TEN MINUTES???) of extra time, Iran got a penalty when Stones pulled one of the players' shirts, and coming ten minutes after another glorious chance for Iran went begging, Taremi took the penalty coolly and netted a second, which at least left the scoreline looking not so disastrous for Iran, but a powerful opening statement from England. Of course, it was only Iran, and they were expected to win, nevertheless they now top the group.


GROUP A

Senegal v Netherlands (Result: 0-2)

First African nation up versus one of the tournament's favourites, Senegal ruing the loss of Mane, out injured. Netherlands missed a sitter, ball passed but nobody there to tap it in, should have been ahead in the third minute. As it turned out, somewhat hesitant play from the Dutch led to them squandering more chances, of which they had the most, but it was in the closing minutes that Netherlands scored through Gakpo, finally, their pressure paying off. Senegal had just lost Kouyate, one of their best players, to a hamstring injury, which was a huge blow to the African team. They never recovered, and though they went close in the last minute or so, the Dutch finished it off in the last minutes of extra time with a second, this time from Klassen, and that was that.

USA v Wales (Result: 1-1 )

Possibly the first two teams to play being even matched; this could have gone either way. Powerful pressure from the USA, who went very close in the 9th minute, only being stopped by a smart save from the keeper. In the end it was the 35th minute before they scored through Weah. In the second half Wales went close, this time the American keeper preventing them drawing level, and then missed from a corner a few moments later.

And then a penalty to Wales in the 80th minute gave Gareth Bale the opportunity to score, and he did not waste the chance. The momentum was now with Wales, but the USA hung on for the draw, so honours even.



Four matches tomorrow:

Group C

Argentina v Saudi Arabia: Argentina twice winners, and with Messi in their squad, who would bet against them?

Mexico v Poland: I imagine that could be interesting.

Group D

Denmark v Tunisia: Would have to bet on the Danes here, but then you never know.

France v Australia: Winners of the tournament twice also, and current holders of the title, you couldn't see France having much trouble beating the Socceroos.
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Old 11-22-2022, 08:49 PM   #23 (permalink)
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DAY 3

Some heavy hitters kicking off this third day, including twice-winners Argentina and France, as well as Denmark, Poland and Mexico, all of whom will fancy their chances of getting into the next stages. First up:

Group C

Argentina v Saudi Arabia: Result 1-2) (No, you read that right).

This should have been a done deal. As I say above, Argentina have great pedigree in this tournament, having won twice, and made it through to this stage without losing a single game. They also have had in the past in their team the mighty Maradona, these days his place as such is taken by Lionel Messi, once - and possibly still - acknowledged as the best footballer in the world. They should have swept the Saudis aside like swatting an insect, Messi shooting in the second minute but missing, and then scoring a penalty in the ninth, nothing to it. He scored again in the 22nd minute but the goal was ruled offside, however Martinez netted seven minutes later and Saudi Arabia looked well and truly done. Until it looked like his shadow was offside and again the goal was ruled out. Incredibly, Martinez scored again in the 34th minute but was again ruled offside, this one clearer.

With the score, which should perhaps have been 3-0 to Argentina, only at 1-0, Saudi Arabia scored as the second half begun and it was all level. Then amazingly scored again to take the lead only five minutes later with a peach of a shot, rocket of a volley from what, 30 yards outside the box? Argentina of course laid siege to the Saudi goal but even though they came so close, the final shot was saved and to everyone’s amazement, after THIRTEEN MINUTES of extra time (what the blue living…?) the impossible had happened. Saudi Arabia had beaten the mighty Argentina! Shock of the tournament so far, without question.


Mexico v Poland (Score 0-0)

Chances mostly went Mexico’s way, but by half time the score was still 0-0 until Poland got a penalty in the 57th minute - and missed. A second scoreless draw, and the first missed penalty in the tournament.

Group D

Denmark v Tunisia (Result 0-0)

Great to see Christian Eriksen back after his cardiac arrest in last year’s Euro Championships. Other big names in the team includes Kasper Schmeichel, son of the great Manchester United keeper Peter, and currently playing with Leicester, as well as Pierre Hoijberg, who plays with Tottenham Hotspur. Tunisia seemed to have taken the lead in the 22nd minute but the old offside came into play again, and it remained scoreless despite a few good chances for both sides. This match therefore became the first 0-0 draw of this World Cup. Would not have expected that.

France v Australia (Score 4-1)

Mbappe, Dembele, Giroud, Griezmann, Lloris: major names in French and indeed English Premiership football, surely likely to roll all over Australia, and yet it was the Socceroos who opened the scoring on 8 minutes! France weren’t too long replying, scoring in the 26th minute to tie it up at one each. Australia quickly lost possession just outside the box and Giroud took full advantage, putting his country in front. Naive defending if ever there was. Mbappe missed a sitter as the first half came to a close, but Australia almost drew level in the last few minutes of the half, hitting the post.

Into the second half and Mbappe got his goal in the 67th minute, taking France into a comfortable lead they never looked like losing. Nor did they, Giroud netting his 51st goal for his country, equalling the record of legend Thierry Henri, and giving France a 4-1 lead in the 70th minute. And so it ended, France showing why they are world champions, and have no intention of surrendering that title easily.

So, to everyone’s surprise - no, amazement, almost incredulity - it’s Saudi Arabia who top Group C with Argentina right at the bottom. If you bet with Paddy Power on that you’ll be a rich person now. No such surprise in Group D, where France comfortably and expectedly take top position.

Tomorrow’s matches

Group F

Morocco v Croatia: Croatia have the mercurial Luca Modrić, a real star of previous tournaments, even if he is getting on now (37 years old). They reached the finals last time out, being beaten by France, and will be out for revenge this time no doubt. I can’t imagine Morocco will present much of a problem to them, though I did say that about Saudi Arabia yesterday, and look what happened. Hey, this is why we love football!

Belgium v Canada: Belgium are another of the world’s football titans, with names like Kevin DeBruyne, Eden Hazard, Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and Leandro Trossard in their squad. They have a good record, reaching the quarter-finals in 2014 and the semis in 2018. They should breeze past Canada, but again, you can never say.


Group E

Germany v Japan: Some major league hitters coming into the tournament tomorrow. Who doesn’t know the mighty Germany, four-time winners and four-time runners-up, technically three times both as West Germany and once as the reunified Germany. With players like Muller, Gündoğan and Havertz, they’ll be expected to sweep all before them. Japan are no slouches either though, and should put up some stiff competition.



Spain v Costa Rica: Another big name of course is Spain, 2010 winners but who failed to shine at more recent tournaments, going out in the group stages in 2014 and the round of 16 in 2018 . With players like Rodri and Pedri (the latter touted by pundits as the most exciting new young footballer in the world), Torres and Morata, who have scored 13 and 27 goals for Barcelona and Atletico Madrid respectively, they surely must put Costa Rica to the sword tomorrow. Surely?
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Old 11-23-2022, 08:30 PM   #24 (permalink)
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DAY 4

GROUP F

Morocco v Croatia (Result: 0-0)

Scoreless at the break, Croatia not surprisingly in the ascendancy and nearly scoring from a corner as the second half got underway, that’s nevertheless how it ended. A great result for Morocco and something of a humiliation for last tournament’s finalists.

Belgium v Canada (Result: 1-0)

Canada were competing in the tournament for the first time in 36 years, so the signs were not good, even though Belgium were without Lukaku, but Canada had a chance to pull off an early and unexpected lead in the tenth minute when they were awarded a penalty for handball, but embarrassingly missed. Chance gone, but Canada kept going and gave Belgium a game they might not have expected at all. It was however Belgium who scored first, after Canada had been denied a second penalty which looked good, but was ruled not viable by VAR (Video Assistant Referee duh). Canada certainly were not folding and they kept up the pressure into the second half, keeping Belgium just the one goal ahead and nearly scoring themselves in the 80th minute.

A valiant effort, and Canada definitely stamped their intention on the World Cup 2022 not to be just there to make up the numbers, but Belgium held on for the win. It couldn’t be said they swept Canada aside by any means, and you would wonder how they’ll do when they come up against the bigger teams. Come to that, how will Canada do in their next matches? After that display, I wouldn’t be betting against them.

Group E[/u][/b]

Germany v Japan (Result: 1-2)

Seemed like a dream start for Japan, scoring in the seventh minute, but the spectre of the offside rule loomed again and the goal was ruled out. Still, a wake-up call perhaps for the Germans, who battered the Japanese goal for the next twenty minutes until they got a penalty which Gundogan dispatched with real coolness and skill. In the dying seconds of the half they added another, this time from Havertz, but this was ruled offside, to Japan’s relief. Back on the attack from the start of the second half, Germany weren’t letting up, Musiala dancing through the defenders like they weren’t there as the clock hit fifty minutes, but unfortunately though the skill was there the finish was not, and he blasted high over the bar.

Gundogan went close next, hitting the post, before Japan finally levelled it up as we got to the seventy-fifth minute. Worse was to come for the Germans as Japan struck again in the 82nd minute to go ahead. And they held on to win, another real upset in this already very interesting World Cup. Banzai!

Spain v Costa Rica (Result: 7-0)

Two giants of the tournament taken down, could Costa Rica make it three? As I said yesterday, Spain have faltered badly in recent World Cups, but they have some exciting new players in the squad this time out, so they must have fancied themselves and they certainly had something to prove to the world. And they started early, scoring in the eleventh minute. Costa Rica couldn’t even get a kick and it really looked like Spain were playing a practice match as they netted a second in the 21st minute. To make matters worse for the South Americans, Spain got a penalty, three-nil and we hadn’t even played thirty minutes.

Second half didn’t change things as Torres scored a second, giving Spain a 4-0 lead that looked about as likely as being impacted as followed by another in the 75th minute. One more goal and they would have equalled England’s so-far highest-scoring match, in fact with no reply likely from the Costa Ricans they would better it. It was never in doubt and Spain hit Costa Rica for six, showing they are again the footballing power other countries used to fear. Eight minutes of extra time allowed them to score a seventh, the highest number of goals of any team so far in this tournament, and you sort of had to feel sorry for Costa Rica, who must have been relieved to hear the final whistle.

That puts Spain at the top of Group E, with Germany an unexpected and disappointed/disappointing third, behind Japan. Belgium top Group F with Croatia second


Tomorrow’s matches

Tomorrow we open the last two groups, G & H

Group G

Switzerland v Cameroon: Switzerland usually fizzle out early, whereas Cameroon had their best showing in 1990, having only qualified for the first time eight years prior, and made the quarter-finals, but being beaten by England.

Brazil v Serbia: Who needs to be told how good Brazil are? Five times champions, reaching the quarter-finals four times, and with players so good they don’t even need a second name: Allison. Fred. Fabinho. Ederson. Expect them to roll all over Serbia.



Group H

Uruguay v South Korea (Korea Republic); Although Uruguay won the very first World Cup in 1930, and again in 1950, the best they’ve managed in recent times has been the semi-finals in 2010, so they’ll be hoping for a decent showing. With the ever-controversial Luis Suarez in their team they should be nothing if not interesting, and there’s Man United’s Edinson Cavani to cope with too. South Korea (now known, apparently, as the Korean Republic) have Tottenham Hotspur’s star striker, Son Heung-min, their best placing being the semis in 2002. Could be quite a battle.

Portugal v Ghana: Another of the big hitters. Love him or hate him, you can’t deny the pure skill and talent of Cristiano Ronaldo, and despite his recent spat with Man United, resulting in his leaving the club this week, he’ll be there, alongside people like Neves, Nunes, Fernandes, Silva and Cancelo, desperate to improve on their country’s best placing so far of 4th in 2006.
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Old 11-24-2022, 06:50 AM   #25 (permalink)
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Admittedly, I'm not watching the World Cup this year, but I'm impressed with your updates, Trolls. Maybe you should have been a sports reporter.
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Old 11-24-2022, 08:15 PM   #26 (permalink)
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And i hate sports, but I do like my football. And hey, it's the World Cup.


Day 5

Group G

Switzerland v Cameroon (Result:1-0 )

All the early pressure coming from Cameroon, the Swiss keeper very indecisive and a lovely chance to score squandered in the dying seconds of the first half, but in the end it was Switzerland who took the lead in the second, in the 48th minute in fact, showing perhaps that despite not playing very well the Swiss only needed one opportunity to open up for them and they would take it. The goal of course changed the complexion of the game and now the momentum was with the Swiss, who missed a glorious chance to add another in the 64th and again the 66th minute.

Heading into the final minutes and Cameroon were well out of it despite a promising beginning. Six minutes of extra time in the second half didn’t help them and so it ended 1-0 to Switzerland. Not a convincing win by any means, but a win nevertheless.

Brazil v Serbia (Result: 2-0)

The game most people had probably been waiting to see, despite their allegiance. It’s always a joy to see Brazil in full flight, and really, Serbia just watched as the world’s greatest team turned on the style. But not the goals, the match still scoreless at half time despite a few chances. It was the 61st minute before Richarlison finally scored. Once he had though, he added a superb second, style stamped all over the acrobatic kick, pure class, worth watching the match for by itself. Now it was a free-for-all, with many near misses, the result never in doubt. Serbia blown away, Brazil at the top of the group, normal service resumed.


Group H

Uruguay v South Korea (Korea Republic) (Result: 0-0)

My adopted team faced tough opposition , but with a current and alumnus Liverpool player in the team, Suarez never forgotten by the Kop, Darwin Nunes their new darling, they bossed the midfield and Korea didn’t really figure that much in the game. Lovely run from Nunes in the 63rd minute that deserved to end in a goal but, well, didn’t. Another attempt in the 80th by him but just past the upright. Beautiful shot in the 89th by Valverde but he hit the bar and back it bounced. Right at the end Son almost did it for Korea, but the game ended as another no-score draw.

Portugal v Ghana (Result: 3-2)

All about one man of course, this, and Ronaldo was certainly in the thick of it, even scoring in the 30th minute but the whistle had already gone and it did not count. It was in fact Ghana who went closest but then a penalty awarded to Portugal in the 62nd minute - a very soft one - gave him the chance to put his country ahead. Great strike by Kudos sorry Kudus in the 71st but straight at the keeper, but then Ayeu latched onto his assist and Ghana were level. Portugal were back in front five minutes later than as Felix scored.

Adding a third in the 80th minute sealed the deal for Portugal, snuffing out Ghana’s late threat and ensuring they start the campaign in style, though Ghana came back with two minutes left to take the score to 3-2. Crazy moment right at the end when Ghana nicked the ball with a player behind the Portugese keeper, but was unable to keep his feet.

Portugal then go top of Group H - really never in doubt - with Uruguay second, while in Group G it’s Brazil, to nobody’s surprise, followed by Switzerland in second.

Tomorrow’s matches


All groups have now played their first match, so tomorrow is the second meeting of the teams in

Group A

Netherlands v Ecuador

Qatar v Senegal

and

Group B

Wales v Iran

England v USA
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Old 11-25-2022, 08:40 PM   #27 (permalink)
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Day 6

Into the second match of each group we went, with those who did well hoping to capitalise on and retain their spot at the top of each group, those who had not yet scored hoping to avoid going out in this early stage.

Group A

Netherlands v Ecuador (1-1)

Netherlands began as they meant to go on, five minutes on the clock and they were already on the score sheet, Ecuador going close in the 31st minute but stopped by the keeper. Just as the first half ended though they equalised, or thought they had, the keeper adjudged to have been obstructed and so the goal chalked off. They sorted it in the 4th minute of the second half though as the score was levelled. Appeals for offside from the Dutch came to nothing and the goal stood.

Ecuador were really pouring on the pressure now, and the Netherlands did not seem to have any answer as their goal was battered. They did put together a decent passage of play in the 65th minute but blasted high over the goal, their only real shot in the second half. Into extra time and Ecuador were pushing for the winner, but it ended all square, in a match the Dutch could very well have been expected to have lost, so they must be reasonably happy with the result.

Qatar v Senegal (Result: 1-3)

This was probably expected to be the least exciting of today’s matches, the holders having been put to the sword by Ecuador in the opening match, while Senegal had failed to shine against Belgium. You could say both teams had something to prove. Senegal had the only real shot on 23 minutes but shot wide, then in the 33rd Qatar asked for a penalty. The ref said no, though everyone in the ground seemed to think it was. Senegal scored then in the 40th minute with a lovely side-footed effort with a second added from a corner in the second half.

Qatar again had nothing in the tank, toothless as they had been against Ecuador, but went close in the 67th, a great save by the keeper the only thing that stopped the deficit being halved. Qatar were on the attack now, and in the 78th minute they got their first ever World Cup goal, making it more of a game now. Senegal however were quick to restore their two-goal advantage in the 83rd, and now there was no way back for the hosts. A quick free kick in the 88th gave Senegal a shock but went just wide, and Senegal won 3-1.

Group B

Wales v Iran (Result 0-2)

Sometimes football takes very much a backseat and becomes secondary, even peripheral, to world events concerning those teams, and this was very much the case as Iran protested against the draconian law in their country which has resulted in death sentences being handed down to protesters as the regime desperately tries to cling to power like a dying miser clutching his fortune, and determined to take it with him to the grave. As before, the team refused to sing the Iranian national anthem (some of them anyway), and it was a match fraught with emotions, Wales no doubt feeling in solidarity with the Iranians, but still with a job to do.

They went close in the 12th minute but the goalkeeper, in to replace the one who suffered concussion in the England match, and it was Iran who took the lead in the 15th minute, only for it to be ruled offside, which was the right decision, but you really felt for them with that release of the pent-up frustration, only to be denied their early lead. So scoreless at the break, but Iran had the better chances, twice missing the post in the 52nd minute, two shots within twenty seconds of each other. Whatever their personal feelings or loyalty to their country - or lack of it - Iran certainly had come to play.

And play they did, coming close again in the 72nd, Wales with nothing to offer until the 83rd minute when the shot was kept out by the keeper, and shortly afterwards the Welsh keeper was off, red card for having come out and taken down the Iranian player. 86th minute, and surely now Iran had the momentum, and again they went close again but still no goal. Then in the last minute of nine of extended time Iran scored, and the game was theirs. For some reason the ref kept the game going after the 9 minutes allowed, right into eleven, almost twelve, Wales hoping for a miracle, but it was Iran who scored again deep in the extended extended time, with a superb result. You’d have to say they deserved their victory.

England v USA (Result: 0-0)

The match everyone but me was waiting for: could England take the USA down and retain their position at the top of Group B? Would USA turn out to be tougher opponents than they have been previously? The Americans have certainly come on in leaps and bounds from the time when they were the new boys, there to make up the numbers. Nobody’s saying they’re challengers, but they could not be counted out. England of course had a vastly superior goal difference and were looking to add to that, Kane going close in the 9th minute but shooting wide. From the resulting corner Stones missed it and Mount blasted high over the bar.

USA squandered a golden chance to take the lead in the 25th, again shooting high, and keeping up the pressure on England gave them a torrid time, Pulisic also going close but the ball hopping off the bar, the keeper beaten. Another Pulisic shot in the 42nd minute underlined how the USA were bossing the game, even if they couldn’t convert a shot as we headed into the final moments of the first half, Mount just missing a decent opportunity. It seemed likely there’d be no six-goal thriller this time. Into extra time and England got a free kick, Kane shooting wide, which ended England’s chances as the match ended in a nil-nil draw.


Qatar’s poor performance sees them go out, the first host nation to exit so soon in the entire history of the World Cup. Netherlands top Group A with Ecuador second only on goal difference. England remain at the top of Group B but are only one point now ahead of Iran (what? Yes, you heard right: Iran) with Wales at the bottom. Crucial matches coming up.

Tomorrow’s matches

Group C

Poland v Saudi Arabia

Argentina v Mexico

Group D

Tunisia v Australia

France v Denmark
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Old 11-26-2022, 08:26 PM   #28 (permalink)
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Day 7

Group C

Poland v Saudi Arabia (Result: 2-0)

Riding high on their unexpected win again the might of Argentina, Saudi Arabia went close in the 12th minute, just hitting the bar, but gave away a corner in the 25th which gave the Poles a chance to score, a chance they spurned. Just before the end of the half though they were ahead with a lovely volley into the net. The Saudis fought back as the half drew to a close, and were awarded a very questionable penalty. The footballing gods of fairness must have been watching though, as Saudi Arabia missed, and even the follow-up was skied. I think everyone who wasn’t a Saudi would have deplored the score if that penalty had gone in. Ref needs glasses.

So into the second half and Poland retained their lead, the Saudis again going close in the 60th minute but shooting high and wide, while Poland rattled the bar two minutes later. End to end stuff, as they say, and Saudi Arabia again came close in the 78th minute, again the shot went wide, though not by much. A terrible mistake by the Saudis then gifted the ball to the Poles and they made sure on 82 minutes, shooting past an unprepared and shocked goalie. They nearly added a third in the dying moments but tried to be too clever and missed. Still, the outcome was in no doubt and Poland took the match, a hard-fought one certainly.

Argentina v Mexico (Result: 2-0)

After a disappointing first match, could Argentina improve on their poor performance and restore faith in them as challengers for the title? A sort of a Latin face-off? Portugal v Spain, in a way? Argentina would as always be looking to Messi to come good, and you have to say that a lot of the time they do seem to be a one-man team. Still, when that one man is Lionel Messi, maybe that’s all you need. Mexico weren’t going down easily though, and a free awarded for a bad tackle in the 9th minute almost paid dividends. But not quite. A lot of harsh tackles, from both sides, in what I think you could call a bad-tempered match, Argentina no doubt smarting from that defeat to the Saudis, Mexico desperate to get their first goal.

It will come as no surprise though to hear that the one to score for Argentina in the 64th minute was that man Messi, and suddenly the momentum was with the South Americans. Mexico seemed a little stunned, and never looked like recovering after that. They had no chance to after Messi passed to Fernandes and Argentina made sure on 86 minutes. Argentina back where they belong, where they expect to be, and where their country demands they be.

Group D

Tunisia v Australia (Result: 0-1)

Both sides needed a win, having failed to win their first match, and it was Tunisia who had the first meaningful attack on 19 minutes, though it came to nothing. Two minutes later the Aussies had their first goal, a break from defence and a lovely header. Tunisia tried to level up the scoring in the 40th minute but the keeper saved, and then in the second of five extra minutes of the first half they almost scored again, but it remained 1-0 at the break. No reply from the North Africans as Australia attacked in the 55th minute but failed to score, again missing a glorious chance in the 70th when the cross was just missed, otherwise Australia were 2-0 up and that would have been that.

Tunisia tried again a minute later but the keeper was in the way, doing what he’s paid to do, and he took some pressure in the last fifteen minutes of normal time, stopping a long-range shot in the 80th and again in the 88th and into extra time, their last chance going in the third minute of six of extra time. They didn’t give up though, unwilling to let it go, but then Australia headed down their half and nearly scored again. Well, no they didn’t really but it took pressure away from their goal, and they hung on to win the match by one goal.

France v Denmark (Result: 2-1)

France had a point to prove, defending their World Cup title; Denmark had also much ground to make up. There were chances for both teams in the first 20 minutes, then a really bad tackle which should have resulted in a red card only got a yellow, the shot coming close from France but stopped by the keeper, Schmeichel kept very much the busier of the two. Denmark did come close in the 35th minute but the shot, though powerful, went wide, while a minute later the Danish goal was again under siege. Giruoud missed a header, Mbappe shot high, but the first half ended scoreless.

The French began the second half as they had ended the first, battering Kasper Schmeichel’s goal and that pressure was bound to tell, as it did, finally, in the 60th minute, and who else but Mbappe, touted by many as one of the greatest players in the world? Denmark hit back, a corner seven minutes later drawing them level when it really looked like they were going to leave empty-handed. Now we had a game. In the 72nd it was almost Denmark taking the lead but after a sustained period of pressure in which France had four corners almost in succession Mbappe did it again, scoring on 85 minutes with a beautiful shot. France secure and ready to move on to the next round, Denmark in real trouble.

So topping Group D, as expected, the French march on with Australia second, Denmark hoping to make up lost ground while in Group C it’s Poland with Argentina behind them.

Tomorrow’s matches

Group E

Japan v Costa Rica

Spain v Germany


Group F

Belgium v Morocco

Croatia v Canada


No prizes for guessing which is the big game!

Watch out for my World Cup Week One Roundup tomorrow.
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Old 11-28-2022, 12:34 PM   #29 (permalink)
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Oh, my paws and whiskers! I'm late, I'm late!

Day 8

Group E

Japan v Costa Rica (Result: 0-1 )

On the face of it, this should have been a walkover for Japan, especially on the back of their shock victory over Germany, and they had their first attack on 12 minutes but the ball shot across the box, nobody there to turn it in. Costa Rica had their own spell of pressure in the 34th but again it came to nothing. Good shot though as the second half began as the Japanese came close, but the keeper saved. Another shot on 56 minutes but well wide from Japan. A free kick in the 70th minute gave them a chance to really open up what had been till then a pretty cagey match, odd, given the opposition, Germany surely wondering how they got beaten by this team. Twice the kick came back off the wall and again no score.

There’s no doubt the Japanese had the best of the play, but their pressure came to nothing when Costa Rica, rather to everyone’s surprise, finished on 80 minutes after Japan had lost the ball, a nice shot from well outside the box and into the bottom corner of the goal. Japan were up against it now. They came close on 87 minutes but the ball bounced around, at one point it looked like it might have crossed the line but no, the keeper smothered it. Costa Rica held on to emulate their opponent, beating Japan who had never been expected to beat Germany. A good one for the bookies no doubt.

Spain v Germany (Result: 1-1)

I don’t think anyone expected Spain to run riot as they did against Costa Rica: this was unlikely to be a seven-nil thriller, not with Germany desperate to retrain their place, and the game was a little cautious for the first 30 minutes or so, when Spain went close but it looked to be offside anyway. A corner in the 35th was cut out by Germany, A long shot up the field from the keeper sent Spain on their way again and earned them a free kick, but they passed it around too much and Germany got possession. They weren’t able to do anything with it though, but then their keeper booted it long too, this resulting in another foul and another free kick, this time for Germany.

They capitalised on their free, nodding it into the net and sending Germany into the lead, or so they thought. Again VAR came into the picture and the goal was chalked off. Even at that, Spain still seemed the more likely to score as half-time loomed. They did seem to be squandering those chances though, as another long punt up the field, another foul, and another free kick gave Germany another attempt on goal. Still no score though.
Unfortunately my TV decided I didn’t really need to see this match and did not record it, and some idiot uploaded the highlights of the same two matches to the player, so I couldn’t even download it. Into a weird world of YouTube highlights I went, watching what seemed to be at one point the match sped up about three times normal speed, another where Germany seemed to score in the 15th minute (I watched part of the BBC replay of the full match and saw it was goalless at the break, so that can’t be right), another one where Germany were for some reason playing in green and white (so it obviously was not them) and several where someone seemed to have recreated the match using the FIFA 2023 game. Very weird. So all I can tell you is that it was a draw, and that I feel like I’ve been through footballing’s version of the Looking Glass.

Group F

Belgium v Morocco (Result: 0-2)

Belgium intended to cement their place and progress into the round of sixteen as they faced Morocco, and must not have been too worried, though we’ve seen this World Cup serve up some surprises. They went close twice between 18 and 20 minutes, Morocco having a go a moment later but shooting well wide. You wouldn’t call it end to end but it wasn’t one-sided as it could have been either, Morocco determined to give a good account of themselves. And they certainly did, scoring from a free kick in the dying seconds of the first half. Or did they? The answer is no: the goal was ruled offside.

Their disappointment did nothing to quench their enthusiasm and their belief they could get something out of the game, and they came close again in the 56th minute. Belgium seemed to be having a harder time of it than they should have had, and things got harder for them as Morocco got a corner and this time it just went right in without any need of assistance, and Morocco were ahead. Incredibly they scored again in extra time, and Belgium were done. Another shock, which just shows that you never can predict what’s going to happen in the beautiful game.

Croatia v Canada (Result: 4-1 )

On a day of surprise victories for underdog teams, could Canada provide another shock and take Croatia? Well yes, it seemed so. In the first minute Canada broke away and scored a bullet of a header, giving them a dream start. Keeping up the pressure on a shell-shocked Croatia, Canada tried to force their advantage before the Croatians could come to terms with being one goal down so early, or indeed at all. It wasn’t long, of course, before they had their own shot on goal, and in the 6th minute they shot but the keeper saved. A Canadian player left on the ground roaring in pain was, well, left on the ground roaring in pain: the ref ignored the incident and VAR obviously didn’t see it, or thought it unworthy of another look. Canada went close again in the 8th minute but were cut out; it was offside anyway.

Croatia definitely started to come back into the match from about 20 minutes on, and they had a decent chance but there was no power in the shot and it just rolled into the keeper’s hands. Croatia kept Canada out, and had another decent shot, this time ending up in the net but ruled offside as the match headed into the 25th minute. Going behind seemed to have put some needed life into the Croatian side, and they passed the ball well and finally got their goal in the 36th minute to level the game and silence the Canadians. And no doubt you could have heard a pin drop back in Alberta, Quebec, Toronto as Croatia scored again as the first half drew to a close.

Perhaps it was Canada’s inexperience showing, the euphoria of being at their first World Cup, allied to the delight of scoring first and so early against such a big team, but they seemed deflated once the Croatians went ahead and offered nothing in the second half, Croatia fully in control now, almost adding a third in the 50th minute and again in the 54th. Could have been four up by then. A free kick for the Canadians in the 62nd minute bounced harmlessly off the wall, the kick pretty poor really. Croatia made sure in the 70th minute with a superb cross, a lovely volley and that was that. Still time for one more from Croatia in extra time, sealing their deserved victory. After a valiant effort, and with their heads held high, Canada go out of their first World Cup, but at least they’re not the first to go.
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Old 11-28-2022, 12:35 PM   #30 (permalink)
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Trollheart’s 2022 World Cup Roundup: Week One

Things got off to an exciting start in the very first match, with Qatar, the host nation, being beaten by Ecuador, despite what seemed a perfectly good goal being ruled offside. The next day, Monday, was when things really got going though, as England thrashed Iran 6-2 in their first match, Senegal beaten by the Netherlands 2-0 and Wales and the USA played out a draw, one goal each. Tuesday then saw the first major upset of the tournament, as mighty Argentina went down 2-1 to the lowly Saudi Arabia. A shock for everyone, possibly even the Saudis. Other big names playing included France, who thumped Australia 4-1, while two scoreless draws resulted between Poland and Mexico, and Denmark and Tunisia.

Wednesday saw another major shock as Germany went down 2-1 to Japan, but there were no such surprises for Spain, who racked up the highest score of the tournament so far (to that day and still stands as I write) beating Costa Rica 7-0. Other matches saw Croatia pla a scoreless draw against Morocco while Belgium showed they were playing to win, beating Canada 1-0. On to Thursday and the really big guns came out, Brazil breezing past Serbia 2-0 and really turning on the style, while Switzerland had a workmanlike 1-0 victory over Cameroon. Uruguay, another stalwart of the tournament, had a bad opening game, failing to score against South Korea/Korea Republic, the game ending in a 0-0 draw, and the other match of the day saw yet another titan of the World Cup enter the fray, as Portugal took on Ghana, winning the game 3-2, but not by any means easily.

That took us to Friday, which, with every team having now played one game, saw the second round open, as Iran turned on skill we had not yet seen and took revenge for their huge loss at England’s hands, to take the game between them and Wales 2-0, no doubt to the surprise of the Welsh, who were now in a precarious position. Their home counties teammates, England, had further humiliation heaped upon them, but not by Iran. This time they played out a scoreless draw against the USA, while Ecuador and Netherlands drew 1-1, but though they scored their first, and only goal in World Cup 2022, Qatar were out when they fell to Senegal 3-1, the first country in the entire history of the tournament to exit so quickly. Two matches and they were gone, without even reaching the round of sixteen.

Yesterday we had some scores settled, so to speak. Poland took Saudi Arabia down 2-0, while Australia netted against Tunisia without reply for a 1-0 win. France continued their relentless march into the next stages with a 2-1 victory over Denmark, and Argentina quickly set about redressing the balance as they took Mexico down 2-0.

At the end of week one the groups look like this:
GROUP A
1st: Netherlands (4 points)
2nd: Senegal (4 points)
3rd: Ecuador (3 points)
4th: Qatar (0 points)
Qatar are eliminated

GROUP B
1st: England (4 points)
2nd: Iran (3 points)
3rd: USA (2 points)
4th: Wales (1 point)


GROUP C
1st: Poland (4 points)
2nd: Argentina (3 points)
3rd: Saudi Arabia (3 points)
4th: Mexico (1 point)


GROUP D
1st: France (6 points)
2nd: Australia (3 points)
3rd: Denmark (3 points)
4th: Tunisia (1 point)

GROUP E
1st: Spain (4 points)
2nd: Japan (3 points)
3rd: Costa Rica (3 points)
4th: Germany (1 point)


GROUP F
1st: Croatia (4 points)
2nd: Morocco (4 points)
3rd: Belgium (3 points)
4th: Canada ( 0 points)
Canada go out.


GROUP G
1st: Brazil (3 points)
2nd: Switzerland ( 3 points)
3rd: Cameroon ( 0 points)
4th: Serbia (0 points)

GROUP H
1st: Portugal (3 points)
2nd: South Korea/Korea Republic (1 point)
3rd: Uruguay (1 point)
4th: Ghana (0 points)
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