Euro 2020 Special

World Cup Groups A &B Concluded: Netherlands and England Top Their Groups

Both Group A and Group B of the 2022 Qatar World Cup have now concluded. In Group A the Netherlands have qualified as group winners and they have been joined in the round of 16 by Senegal. In Group B, it was England who followed top, with the USA advancing alongside them.


Group A

The Netherlands had already booked their place in the round of 16 before their game with the host nation Qatar, who were already eliminated from the tournament. Their task when they met was to win the game and get the points necessary to top the group.

This they duly did, with goals from Cody Gakpo – his third of the World Cup so far – and Frenkie de Jong.

Qatar suffered the ignominy of become the first host nation to go out of the tournament without having earned a single point.

However, it was all to play for in the other match between Senegal and Ecuador. Going into the game, the South Americans had the slight edge, having already secured four points as opposed to three by the West Africans.

In the event, though, it was Senegal who took the lead just before half-time, Ismaïla Sarr converting from the pot after a clumsy challenge in his own penalty area by an Ecuador defender.

Midway through the second half, Ecuador equalised when Moises Calcedo scored from close range, but the cheers of their supporters soon turned to grains of despair, as Senegal quickly regained their lead through their captain Kalidou Koulibaly.

That set up a frantic finish but Senegal held out, ensuring their first round of 16 appearance since 2002.


Group B

England began their final group match with Wales – a match dubbed the Battle of Britain by the press – virtually assured of qualification, but looking to produce a better performance than they had managed in their disappointing draw with the US. The Welsh were looking to beat England for the first time since 1984, and needed to do so by an improbably large margin if they still hoped to qualify.

Little of note happened in the first half, although Marcus Rashford did have a close range effort saved by Danny Ward in the Welsh goal.

But two goals in a minute in the second-half ended Welsh hopes for good and all. Rashford scored direct from a free-kick and then Phil Foden turned in a cross from Harry Kane.

Rashford later added a third for good measure, but Wales were well-beaten by then, and their star names like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey were just shadows of their former selves.

There was more at stake in the other game between Iran and the USA, which was given extra spice by the controversy pre-game, when the US team posted a picture of the Iran flagon their social media account without the emblem of the Islamic Republic, as a gesture of solidarity with protesters in Iran campaigning for more freedoms.

That had led for calls by Iran for the USA to be kicked out of the tournament.

Iran began the game in the box seat courtesy of their win over Wales, whilst the Americans had managed just two draws so far, but it was Christian Pulisic who gave the USA the lead before half-time when he turned a header from Sergio Dest over the line.

The goal came at some personal cost, though, He collided with Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand in the process of scoring it, and, after several minutes of treatment, was replaced at half-time, He was later taken to hospital complaining of dizziness, and his continued participation in the tournament is in doubt.

Although Iran poured forward in search of a leveller, they only had one shot on target all game.

In injury time, Morteza Pouraliganji came close to giving them the goal they needed, but he directed his diving header just wide. And there was still time for late drama, with Iran claiming they should have had a penalty only for the referee to wave their appeals away.

Some of their fans who have used the World Cup to protest about the political situation back in Iran now face an uncertain next few days, with reports that the Iranian government had sent spotters to Qatar to try and identify trouble makers.


What happens next

The Netherlands will face the USA in their round of 16 match on Saturday, December 3rd.

The following day it will be the turn of England and Senegal to meet.




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