Qatar 0-2 Netherlands, Ecuador 1-2 Senegal
Senegal took on Ecuador in a direct battle for qualification. At the same time, Netherlands rotated some players on MD3 in the match against hosts Qatar. Trailing in points, Senegal did not waste time and started attacking Ecuador. Out of the four teams, Netherlands was the first to get on the scoreboard when Cody Gakpo scored his third goal of the World Cup from a Davy Klaassen assist. After the goal Netherlands increased their points tally to 7 which was enough to win the group regardless of the other match result.
Nearing halftime, Ecuador sucummbed to Senegal’s pressure by conceding a penalty which was converted by Watford player Ismaila Sarr. The goal pushed Senegal up from third to second in the group, overtaking their opponents Ecuador before halftime.
If did not take Netherlands long to add their second goal in the second half due to Qatari defender Pedro’s poor follow up. He failed to clear a saved shot from Memphis Depay, and Frankie De Jong finished the ball into the net in the 49th minute.
Senegal closed off all paths to their goal, protecting the all important qualification spot, until a corner kick for Ecuador in the 68th minute was turned into the leveling goal by Moises Caicedo.
Ecuador’s celebrations were short-lived, as two minutes later Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly was in the right place at the right time to finish a bouncing ball in the box after Ecuadorian players failed to clear a Senegalese free kick.
While Netherlands were happily preserving energy with a two-goal lead over the hosts, the intensity and drama was escalating in Khalifa stadium with Senegal trying to send Ecuador packing for good and Ecuador looking for the eqaulizer to secure qualification to the Round of 16.
Netherlands secured first place three minutes before the match between Senegal and Ecuador came to a conclusion. Senegal’s defeat of Ecuador made Senegal the first African team to qualify to the Round of 16, and Ecuador became the third team to bow out from the Group Stage.
England 3-0 Wales, Iran 0-1 USA
England with 4 points and Iran with 3 points each headed into MD3 hoping to win the group in order to avoid facing Netherlands in the Round of 16. There is no room to play for a draw or a narrow win, since we have seen comebacks in several matches that could mercilessly knockout any team in this group.
While England immediately dominated Wales in terms of possession and attempts, Iran versus USA begain with an intense battle of the midfield. Soon after, USA took over control of the match while Iran settled back for quick counter attempts.
While England was getting close to scoring with every attack on Wales, it was USA who notched the first goal in Group B matches in the 38th minute: Christian Pulisic tapped in a Sergino Dest cross. Unfortunately, Pulisic suffered a pelvic contusion in the ensuing collision with the Iranian goalkeeper, depriving USA players of a proper celebration.
Preventing the English stars from scoring until halftime is commendable for Wales, however five minutes into the second half Marcus Rashford scored from a free kick. Two minutes later, Harry Kane sent in a low cross for Phil Foden to extend England's lead.
Rashford then added to England's lead when he received a long pass from Kalvin Phillips to dribble past the defender and score his second goal of the match.
With the England-Wales match now all but decided, all eyes shifted to the battle at Al Thumama stadium where Iran had started to pick up the pace. Needing only a tying goal to go through, Iran went all out in the dying minutes of the match. But in the end they were not able to level the score, and USA punched its ticket to the Round of 16. The Americans will face Group A winners Netherlands, while England will take on Senegal.