Ben Fisher was at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium stadium for the Guardian on Tuesday night, and here is what he made of it from the Wales point of view:
Three weeks ago, on the day Rob Page announced his squad, the Wales manager conceded that whether Bale could handle three games in quick succession was the million‑dollar question, for which we now have a resounding answer: 256 minutes across eight days was simply too much for a player who has played such little football over the past few years. The painful truth is Bale’s three World Cup appearances comprise three duds. At the final whistle Bale limped on to the pitch, embraced Page and then Gareth Southgate.
Bale had seven forgettable touches and completed one pass in 50 first-half minutes – and that was back towards his own defender about 10 yards from the Wales goal-line. Despite starting in his favoured position on the right flank, Bale again appeared to be running on empty, immobile and somehow, despite all of his past grandeur, reduced to a pawn on a chessboard of kings and queens in a dull first half, in which Kieffer Moore had Wales’s only shot on target. Page said if Bale returned for the second half he would have been playing at about 70%. Quite what percentage he was operating at in the first half is anyone’s guess.
US president Joe Biden’s social media team have posted a little behind the scenes clip of him being informed of the US-Iran score, and then announcing it at a political event in Michigan last night.
With apologies to Wales fans, I’m just going to leave this picture here.
Here is how Rory Smith at the New York Times viewed that US performance in Qatar last night, writing:
Those last few minutes were not about talent. They were, instead, the most thorough examination imaginable of Gregg Berhalter’s team’s poise, and composure, and grit. They were a test of nerve. It is to their immense credit that they passed.
Victory was not comfortable, not at all. There were moments when their hearts rose up into their mouths, moments when their legs seemed heavy and their minds weary, moments when they had to fight off the siren call of blind panic. But then, it could not be any other way. It would not be a test if it were easy.
This remains an intensely young team, one that has been designed at least in part with the next World Cup, four years away and (mostly) on home soil, in mind. That they weathered what is most likely the most stressful situation any of them have experienced is to their enormous credit.
The Netherlands now stand in the way of this US team emulating their peers from 2002, who reached the quarter-finals, the best US performance of modern times.
The United States team did reach the semi-finals in Uruguay in 1930 in the inaugural World Cup, in a tournament which saw the winners of each of four groups paired up as the last four. The US were beaten by Argentina in Montevideo on that occasion, having overcome Belgium and Paraguay in the group stages.
Jonathan Liew was at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium last night for England v Wales, and he says that Southgate has a dilemma:
As the teams disappeared down the tunnel at half-time you could almost feel the heat from the steam of a million middle-aged Englishmen collectively boiling their piss. A bright start had disintegrated into a staid passing circle, which as everyone knows is the wokest of all the shapes. But One Trick Gareth had a second trick up his sleeve. And it didn’t even involve a substitution.
So it was a few minutes into the second half that Foden, now restored to his favoured left flank, slalomed past three Wales players, winning a free-kick that Rashford slotted beautifully into the top corner. Less than two minutes later Rashford, now given the freedom of the right wing, won the ball from Ben Davies, allowing Kane to play Foden in for his first tournament goal.
Southgate now has a quiet dilemma on his hands. Bukayo Saka has had a good tournament; Raheem Sterling is his talisman; Mason Mount his rock. But you try dropping Foden and Rashford after a second half like that.
You know the drill by now. Max and the gang were up late after the matches finished yesterday to bring you the latest daily edition of Football Weekly. Mr Rushden is joined by Barry Glendenning, Troy Townsend, Elis James, Barney Ronay and Nick Ames as they talk about England, Wales and all that jazz. Get it in your ears here.
It is the morning after the night before for United States fans basking in the glow of a place in the second round, Iran fans wondering what might have been, England fans puzzled if their team is good again now, and Wales fans dreaming it won’t be 64 years until the next time.
Then we’ve got the no small matter of four matches to get through as Group C and Group D come to the pointy end. Can Argentina redeem themselves – possibly at Poland’s expense? Will Saudi Arabia’s heroics in their opening match come to nothing? Do Mexico even know where the goal is? Can the Socceroos effectively send Denmark home and make the next round for the first time in 16 years? And how will France’s free-flowing football fare when it hits the tension of a post-colonial clash with Tunisia? France are already through, but any of the other seven can still join them. Here is how it lines up …
We will have MBM coverage of all of them. Before then I’ll have all the fallout from yesterday, media lines from the teams playing tomorrow as they emerge, and the buildup to this afternoon’s matches. Drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org