Domino Days


The Panini album feels a little empty now. There are entire pages which feel less alive than others. Qatar 2022 is now over for the hosts, Iran, Wales, Ecuador, Mexico, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia, Denmark and Canada.

Qatar 2022.

Eight more nations will bite the dust in the next 48 hours, leaving the survivors in the Round of 16.

It is always euphoric to qualify for the World Cup, but miserable to exit it. It is also sad for the travelling supporters, for whom the first round with its whirlwind of matches and legions of fans from different corners of the globe is always the most enjoyable part of the month-long show.

The leavers' emotions are mixed - Qatar looked out of place from the start at their own party, the millions invested by the Aspire Academy nowhere near enough to make the national team competitive. 

Their 2019 Asian Cup triumph seems far away now in the wake of an 'O and 3' World Cup hosting, but football in Qatar will only get stronger after this month.

Iran head for the airport too after a pair of losses but at least put up a fight against the USA and had the joy of winning against Wales. Team Melli's quest for the knock-out stages continues.

Of Group D's first-round leavers, few can complain about Denmark slipping out the back door, as the sole Scandinavians in Qatar never found any rhythm and lost deservedly to a more energetic Australia. 

Given the country's exemplary values, there was not a good vibe back home around the squad's participation in the first place, which seems to have filtered through, but the team's lacklustre effort is still very disappointing after their run to the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

Another side where the camp seems sour is Belgium, who looked doomed after losing to Morocco, the manager getting angry with the press and Kevin De Bruyne stating their chance to lift the cup had gone. The latest golden generation has gone rusty.

The Socceroos are probably the best achievers of the first round for having made it out of their group, unlike Saudi Arabia, who registered the biggest shock of the tournament in beating Argentina, but finished last in Group C. A national holiday was a lovely touch, but the team spectacularly failed to carry on from their dream start. 

Tunisia have the consolation of beating the world champions in their final outing, which is something to savour, and like Ecuador can consider themselves unlucky to gain four points but miss out. Ecuador were a good side but were narrowly outgunned in the end 2-1 by an impressive Senegal, who meet England as a prize.

Wales only got one point and had one good half, the second against the USA, but otherwise failed to fire in three matches, which seemed so at odds with the national fervour generated by their first World Cup since the 1950s, as evinced by their mesmeric song Yma o Hyd (We're Still Here) and actor Michael Sheen's much-shared exhortation.

Gareth Bale, their talisman, was anonymous against England and left the stage injured at half time, rather like his country's campaign. Their player pool looked shallow and their defence not up to this level, while Bale and Aaron Ramsey, for years their jewels, failed to shine, while their young flyers like Brennan Johnson and Harry Wilson were just too green.

England won 3-0 and reignited fans' hopes of the trophy, with Phil Foden answering the call for a saviour by scoring but was upstaged by Marcus Rashford.

Questions should still be asked as to why the Three Lions played 90 drab minutes against the USA and a dull half against Wales if they boast such a chocolate box of attacking talents. As in Russia 2018, England cruised through their group without being really tested.

Hirving Lozano rues Mexico's elimination.
Hirving Lozano rues Mexico's elimination

The most frustrated team so far must be Mexico, who played their hearts out in beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 in an incident-packed clincher, but missed out on the second round on goal difference to Poland, who were dull as ditchwater in losing 2-0 to Argentina.

If there were justice in football, the Mexicans would be going forward to play France, but this is football. At least like Canada, who briefly shone but never won (they are still to face Morocco), there is hosting the 2026 tournament to look forward to.

And then there is Argentina, who have been born again, although doubts remain as to whether they are as polished as the French, Brazilians or Spanish.

For Leo Messi, rolling back the years again this evening, the dream is still alive, even if he missed a penalty in Stadium 974.

This has been a good World Cup on the pitch so far and the global reach of football has grown. The latest non-soccer nation to catch the buzz has been Australia, where fans partied at 3 a.m. in Melbourne to salute the Socceroos' win over Denmark.

Round of 16 so far: 

Saturday: Netherlands v USA, Argentina v Australia

Sunday: France v Poland, England v Senegal

Qatar 2022

Al Rihla Official Ball

Cristiano Ronaldo Dropped

Qatar 50/50

Qatar v Ecuador - Opening Match

Qatar is the World's Cup

Hotels in Doha

Images of Qatar


Offside Technology

Opening Ceremony

Semi Finals

The Calling

(c) Sean O'Conor & Soccerphile

Post a Comment

Previous Post Next Post