Sat, 04 Feb 2023

Exit Qatar upstaged. But some of those remaining in Group A and Group B say they want to give warm feelings to the fans. What? In this heat?

So farewell for a little Neymar

Brazil will have to do without Neymar for two games it emerged on Day 6. The 30-year-old Paris Saint-Germain star was ruled out of the games against Switzerland and Cameroon with ligament damage in his right ankle. But he could be back should the Brazilians advance to the next stage. Neymar was replaced in the 80th minute of the 2-0 win over Serbia at the Lusail Stadium after a heavy tackle from Nikola Milenkovic.

So farewell for ever Qatar

Senegal's 3-1 victory over Qatar in their second Group A game left the hopes of the hosts hanging perilously. And the guillotine fell with the 1-1 draw between Ecuador and the Netherlands. And so Qatar join South Africa as the only hosts to fail to move into the second phase of the tournament in its 92-year history. After 200 billion dollars or so spent on laying on the lavish spread, it's these little acts of munificence and union that shine out.

One for the fans: Part I

Iran boss Carlos Queiroz dedicated his side's 2-0 victory over Wales to the fans. Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian scored in second half-stoppage time after Wales had been reduced to 10 men with the expulsion of goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy for clattering into Mehdi Taremi. "I don't have the words to say thank you to the players," said Queiroz. "They deserve all the attention and respect. They deserve to be supported. We did this game for the fans."

One for the fans: Part II

Rob Page, who coaches Wales, was also thinking of the supporters as he chewed over the 2-0 defeat to Iran. "We weren't in the game at all," he lamented. "Even before the sending off." His team has one point from two games and will qualify if they absolutely wallop England and the United States scrape past Iran. "We can't sit and cry about it," Page mused existentially. "We've got to get on with it. We've got an opportunity to put it right against England. We've got to give our supporters something to cheer about. They've shown massive commitment to come over and support us and that's what disappoints me too ... you don't give them that kind of performance."

Pre-match entertainment

The Afcent Band - short for Air Forces Central Band - impressively went through a set of chart-topping hits before the clash between England and the United States. The six-piece group had been detailed to the Al Bayt Stadium to entertain the masses disgorging from the buses and onto the plains around the stadium. Made up of active service personnel, the group is the brainchild of the combined air forces commander General Alexus Grynkewich. It had been deployed from the Al Udeid airbase, home to 10,000 US troops as well as fighter planes from air forces across the world. Soft rock power.

True grit

We almost wished the Afcent Band could have come in and played for a full 90 minutes inside the Al Bayt Stadium. England and the United States served up a 0-0 draw that was a tactical dogfight. The Americans were the more vibrant of the duo. But the English will be the happier. With four points from their two games, England merely need to avoid a whopping defeat to Wales and they will be into the last-16 for the second consecutive tournament regardless of what the Americans do against Iran on Day 10. The Iranians require a draw to advance to the knockout stages for the first time.

Originally published on RFI

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