World Cup Thoughts – Day Ten
Group A and B learn their fate
So we know two ties for the first knockout stage! I’m pretending you don’t all know what they are, but let’s get into it.
Grace on Football is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.
Group A (Netherlands vs Qatar, Ecuador vs Senegal)
The Netherlands against Qatar was pretty much a banker and it delivered no surprises. The Dutch needed a win to confirm their place atop the group and did it in a pretty straightforward manner. This might’ve been the derby for Dutch legend and Qatar shill Ruud Gullit but it wasn’t, as he would call it, “sexy football”. But they did enough. Cody Gakpo scored again, taking him to three goals from four shots taken so far. I’ll leave you to make up your mind on that. Frenkie de Jong scored from about two yards out in a scramble in the box to end things, and ensure nothing happened for most of the second half. This was a gimme, and they passed the test.
Senegal meanwhile had more to do. Ecuador were good with a draw and set out as such. The South American team took two shots in the first half, one from a free kick and the other a pretty poor attempt. Look, I have no problem with sides being defensive. But if you’re going to be defensive and play for a draw, you’d better defend well. They didn’t. Senegal targeted Ecuador’s right flank again and again, and Ismaïla Sarr ran Angelo Preciado so ragged he had to be taken off at half time. Senegal got ahead through this route: Preciado panicked and brought Sarr down in his own box, costing a penalty that Sarr put away delightfully.
Ecuador manager Gustavo Alfaro clearly realised he got it wrong and made a double change at half time. Ecuador were much better after this. They got their equaliser through a smartly worked corner kick, taking advantage of Senegal’s man on the post to mean that everyone was still onside in the second phase. They were just as sloppy defending their own free kick, though, and Senegal were through. I did feel like Senegal had more ideas and willingness to attack, so no complaints from me about this outcome.
Group B (Wales vs England, Iran vs United States)
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Grace on Football to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.