Senegal 0-2 Netherlands
This game started off with each side matching the performance of the other fairly closely. Both played openly, leaving space behind the back lines, which made for entertaining football. But after about 25 minutes, the rhythm began to slow and the attacking movements lost some menace. The first half ended level at 0-0.
In the second half, Senegal was tactically more sound and seemed more in control, with a couple of opportunities to score on breakthroughs. But the Dutch side, with Henerveen goalkeeper Noppert between the sticks instead of Remko Pasveer, stood resolute.
The game remained a stalemate until Frenkie de Jong collected a bouncing ball on the flank and delivered a targeted cross to a charging Cody Gakpo, who nodded the ball home in the 84th minute.
Now forced to chase the game, Senegal was caught on the break by Memphis Depay, who beat Kalidou Koulibaly to force Eduard Mendy into a save that he could only parry into the path of Davy Klaassen. Klaassen slotted into an open net to put the game to bed at 90’ + 9’.
England 6-2 Iran
Ali Reza, Iran’s goalkeeper, managed to keep England scoreless for the first 20 minutes before he went down with what appears to be a concussion. After 14 minutes of treatment on the pitch he was replaced by Hossein Hosseini. Fourteen minutes later, Jude Bellingham scored the opening goal with a curved header off a Luke Shaw cross. Eight minutes after that, Bukayo Saka converted a headed assist from Harry Maguire, threading the ball between two defenders and the goalkeeper. Despite Iran amping up the pressure on England’s back line, it took the Three Lions only three more minutes to score their third, when Raheem Sterling tapped in a low cross from Harry Kane.
England continued to dominate after the intermission despite Iran substituting in three fresh players. The English confidence occasionally lapsed into minor complacency at the back, but the Iranian attack failed to capitalise on several English mistakes. At the 62nd minute, Raheem Sterling shifted into fifth gear and made a key pass to Saka, who scored a goal following a skillful bit of dribbling. The English back-line was then finally made to pay for their complacency as Porto striker Mehdi Taremi ran past Maguire to put Ali Gholizadeh’s through pass into the back of the net.
Now inspired, Iran picked up the pace, prompting Gareth Southgate to make four substitutions (one of them for Maguire due to an injury scare). Substitute Marcus Rashford soon rewarded his manager’s decision, sliding the ball to the far end of the goal to score England’s fifth in the 71st minute. The assist was Kane’s second.
The tempo of the match then waned until the 90th minute, when an English counter attack ended with Jack Grealish tapping in his team’s 6th goal from a Callum Wilson assist. Ten minutes off stoppage time were added to the second half, during which substitute Sardar Azmoun hit the woodwork after he was allowed a one-on-one with England goalkeeper Pickford. A couple of minutes later, Brazilian referee Raphael Claus consulted with VAR to award Iran a penalty for a tug of Taremi’s shirt by John Stones. Taremi stepped up and sent Pickford the wrong way, converting at the death just before the referee blew the final whistle.
USA 1-1 Wales
Wales adopted a defensive posture similar to what we saw from Qatar and Iran. This allowed USA to play a comfortable possession game, but they failed to convert tantalizing crosses to Timothy Weah, Josh Sargent and Christian Pulisic into end-product. Sargent came closest but was denied by the post. Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim brandished seemingly harsh yellow cards to Sergio Dest and Weston Mckennie soon after.
The Welsh low block stymied the Americans pretty effectively until Christian Pulisic finally broke free through the middle to set up Tim Weah for the first goal of the match. Wales then shifted tactics to increased the tempo of the match, but the ball remained mostly in the middle of the pitch or in American possession until the halftime whistle.
Wales emerged from halftime on its front foot and the tides seemed to start turning in their favour. The American team started to fall back to defend their lead, but a foul on Gareth Bale earned a penalty for Wales in the 82nd minute. Bale converted the penalty himself to steal a point for his nation in what could prove to be a crucial difference-maker for qualification.
Both teams relied on long passes from the back line in the remaining minutes of the match, but none of these searching balls found success and the game ended in a 1-1 draw.