World Cup in full swing in Qatar
The 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar has just wrapped its first week. Although the governing body of international soccer and the host nation have faced heavy criticism in preceding weeks from both teams and fans, the opening group stage of the competition has proven to be as thrilling as ever.
Though this year’s tournament is being held in November and December to account for Qatar’s brutal year round heat, the nature of the competition remains the same. The chance to lift the legendary trophy for team and country is an accomplishment unlike any other in the sport.
As an American, it may prove difficult to tear ourselves from the myriad of athletic competition we have at our fingertips, or dissuade ourselves of the notion that soccer is not our sport, the women’s national team should have put that thought out of our heads through four World Cup titles.
This tournament is a real opportunity for proving ourselves on the world stage. First of all, we actually qualified this time around. Though the maturity of previous squads have gotten them into knockout stages, this tournament’s roster is a whole new wave of American soccer stars.
The third youngest team in the competition the Americans have a lot of energy, and feature players performing in the most competitive leagues in the world.
Notable players to keep an eye on are Christian Pulisic of Chelsea in the English Premier League. Team captain Tyler Adams and fellow Leeds United player Brenden Aaaronson who also play in the English Premier League. They lead the attack alongside Weston McKennie who plays for Juventus in Italy, and Yunus Musah, a midfielder at Sevilla in Spain. Timothy Weah who scored the team’s only goal so far, plays for Lille in France and is the son of Liberian soccer star and current Liberian president, George Weah. Among others of notable ability and pedigree, these players exemplify the skill and potential of the American squad for years to come.
The U.S. team drew their way through the first two matches against stiff competition.
Their first game against Wales showed just what this young crop of talent was really capable of as they held possession and found a goal late in the first half. Though they struggled to adapt to a second half Wales team and made a costly error in giving up a penalty kick with 10 minutes to go in the match.
Their second game against England, The Three Lions, on Black Friday generated a lot of excitement as the matchup in South Africa in 2010’s tournament ended in a 1-1 draw.
The Three Lions are desperate for an international title as they fell in penalties at the European tournament final last summer and they seemed ready to prove it with a 6-2 win over Iran in their opening match.
The performance was ultimately a Black Friday bumble. The U.S. was dominant throughout the game, out-possessing, out-passing, 541 to 422 and even produced more shots on target 3 to 1. They effectively ran circles around England’s midfield, and rendered top talent such as Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling and Mason Mount obsolete.
However, they struggled to break the Three Lions back line. Harry Maguire managed to disrupt a number of set plays for the U.S. Three late minute subs were too little too late to spark the offense for the US and they match finished a 0-0 draw.
This puts the U.S. in a must win situation against Iran on Tuesday at 1 p.m. if they hope to make it to the knock out round.
As group play nears its conclusion unexpected upsets like Japan over Germany, Morocco over Belgium, and Saudi Arabia over Argentina have proved highlights of the tournament. The competition remains wide open as titans of international soccer have struggled to live up to their reputation and teams with infrequent appearances have brought their A-game.
Only France, the champions in 2018, have won their first two matches. World superstars Lionel Messi of Argentina and Christiano Ronaldo of Portugal remain ever hopeful of writing their name in the pantheon of legends by winning their first World Cup title in what could be their last chance at this late stage in their careers.