West Asia Saudi Arabia

Qatar Dumped Out as Iran and Australia Emerge Victorious – World Cup MD 2 Asian Round-Up

The second matchday of the 2022 FIFA World Cup is now done and dusted, with the competition’s Asian representatives receiving mixed results in their respective outings. Hosts Qatar have been eliminated from the World Cup after losing 3-1 to Senegal, while there were important victories for Iran and Australia over Wales and Tunisia respectively. Having impressed in the first matchday, both Saudi Arabia and Japan succumbed to humbling defeats while there were goals galore in South Korea’s 3-2 loss at the hands of Ghana.

Qatar (Group A)

Having dropped their opening match 2-0 to Ecuador, World Cup hosts Qatar knew that they must beat Senegal in order to avoid the ignominy of being only the second host country to be eliminated from the World Cup in the group stages. Taking on the Africans at the Al-Thumama Stadium in Doha on November 25th, Qatar found themselves 1-0 down after Boulaye Dia seized advantage of a missed clearance from Qatari defender Boualem Khouki to fire home past goalkeeper Meshaal Barsham.

Qatar had a penalty claim turned down by the referee in the first half after a foul on Akram Afif by Ismaila Sarr prior to Dia’s opener, and the hosts were further exasperated after Famara Diedhiou’s header in the 48th mintue doubled Senegal’s lead.

Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy pulled off some excellent saves to deny Almoez Ali and Ismail Mohamad, however the Chelsea goalkeeper was left powerless in the 78th minute after Mohammed Muntari had beaten him with a powerful header – Qatar’s first-ever goal in the World Cup.

However, all hopes for a Qatari comeback were dashed in the 84th minute after Bamba Dieng scored Senegal’s third to seal the win for the Africans.

The loss, combined with Ecuador’s 1-1 draw with the Netherlands in the later kick-off, ensured that Qatar were eliminated from the World Cup in the group stages, the second time that a host nation were eliminated in such a stage after South Africa in 2010. Qatar’s elimination was also the earliest suffered by a World Cup host nation, with the Middle Easterners going out after just two games.

Iran (Group B)

Still reeling from a painful 6-2 thrashing at the hands of England, Iran took on Wales in Al-Rayyan on November 25th knowing that another loss would seal their exit from the World Cup.

Amidst a charged atmosphere at the Al-Rayyan Stadium that saw the Iranian players singing their national anthem amidst boos of defiance towards the Iranian government from the Team Melli fans, Wales were ran utterly ragged by Carlos Queiroz’s charges, being second-best throughout the match despite fielding notable names such as Neco Williams, Ethan Ampadu, and Welsh football’s two golden sons of the current generation – Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey.

Despite their dominance, Iran were unable to leave a dent on the Dragons’ chainmail, with the likes of Sardar Azmoun and Ali Gholizadeh providing the main goalscoring threats for Team Melli. Wales had the VAR to thank for chalking off Gholizadeh’s goal in the first half for offside, but the officials were less lenient towards the Dragons right at the end of the match.

A last-man foul on Mehdi Taremi done by Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey resulted in a straight red card for the Nottingham Forest goalkeeper, and Iran immediately seized upon the numerical advantage.

Substitute Roozbeh Cheshmi opened the scoring with a long-ranged effort in the ninth minute of injury time, before victory was confirmed by Sepahan defender Ramin Rezaeian, who finished off a devastating counter-attack with virtually the last kick of the game.

The win over Wales gave Iran some hope of qualifying into the round of 16 for the first time in their history, with a win over the United States in matchday three effectively confirming Team Melli‘s spot in the knockouts.

Saudi Arabia (Group C)

Fresh off the back of their famous 2-1 win over Argentina, Saudi Arabia were looking for more of the same as they took on Poland at Education City Stadium on November 26th.

Unfortunately for the Green Falcons, they came up against an inspired Wojciech Szczesny, with the Juventus goalkeeper denying the likes of Mohamed Kanno, Salem Al-Dawsari, Mohammed Al-Breik, and Saud Abdulhamid throughout the match.

Piotr Zielinski opened the scoring with Poland’s first shot of the game in the 39th minute, before Saudi Arabia were given a lifeline in the first minute of stoppage time after the referee awarded them with a penalty following a foul in the area on Saleh Al-Shehri.

Unfortunately for the Saudis, Al-Dawsari’s penalty was excellently denied by Szczesny, who then parried away Al-Breik’s rebound.

Saudi Arabia tried their best in chasing for an equalizer throughout the second half, while Poland attempted to clip the Green Falcons’ wings even further with a series of counterattacks. In the end, it was the Poles who managed to kill the game off in the 82nd minute.

Robert Lewandowski, who played a pivotal role in Zielinski’s opener, scored Poland’s decisive goal with his first-ever World Cup goal to boost his side’s chances of reaching the round of 16 for the first time since 1986.

Saudi Arabia’s own round of 16 chances remain alive though, and they must overcome Mexico in their final Group C game while hoping for a Poland slip-up to ensure qualification.

Australia (Group D)

Australia received a humbling 4-1 defeat at the hands of defending champions France in their first Group D outing and matchday two sees the Socceroos taking on an on-paper much more manageable opponent in the form of Tunisia at the Al-Janoub Stadium on November 26th.

Both Australia and Tunisia knew that with both France and Euro 2020 semifinalists Denmark competing in the same group as theirs, their match against one another would provide the best chance for either of them to reap maximum points. With Qatar being geographically close to Tunisia, the North Africans’ supporters came in full force at the Al-Janoub, jeering and hissing the Australia players with every touch.

However, the Tunisian fans were silenced in the 23rd minute after a Craig Goodwin cross was flicked into the far corner of Aymen Dahmen’s goal by Mitchell Duke, with the Fagiano Okayama attacker dedicating his goal to his son.

Knowing all too well that a win would preserve Australia’s chances of advancing into the round of 16, the Socceroos close up shop and defended admirably throughout the remainder of the match, seeing out the lead to clinch their first win in the World Cup since 2010.

Australia will engage in a do-or-die tie with Denmark for a spot in the round of 16 in matchday three, but the win over Tunisia would provide Graham Arnold’s men with some degree of control over their destiny.

Japan (Group E)

Having shot themselves into the headlines with a superb win over 2014 world champions Germany, Japan were brought back down to Earth in the harshest way possible as Costa Rica eke out a 1-0 victory with the winning goal being scored late into the game on November 27th at the Al-Rayyan Stadium.Education

Keysher Fuller scored the only goal in the game in the 81st minute to punish Japan for their inability to carve out meaningful chances. Hajime Moriyasu rang in the changes and made five alterations to the starting lineup that stunned Germany in matchweek one, resulting in a subdued and disappointing performance that saw them being deservedly beaten by a Costa Rica side who seized their chances with both hands.

Japan’s defeat, coupled with Germany’s 1-1 draw with Spain, blew Group E open coming into matchweek three, with all four teams still having a chance to qualify into the knockouts. Japan will take on Spain in their final group match, knowing that a win would certainly squeak them through into the last 16.

South Korea (Group H)

November 28th saw two candidates for this year’s game of the tournament, with Cameroon playing out an entertaining 3-3 draw with Serbia in Group G, while Ghana and South Korea participated in a five-goal thriller at the Education City Stadium, with the Koreans coming out at the wrong end of a 3-2 defeat.

Ghana raced to a 2-0 lead in the first half, with Southampton’s Mohammed Salisu scoring in the 24th minute and Ajax Amsterdam’s Mohammed Kudus doubling the Black Stars’ lead ten minutes afterwards.

With the Taeguk Warriors faltering at half-time, it seems that Ghana were on their way towards an easy victory.

Cho Gue-sung had other ideas, however.

The top-scorer of the 2022 K-League 1 season with Jeonbuk Hyundai Motors, Gue-sung led the South Korean rally in the second half, halving the deficit with an excellent header in the 58th minute before drawing the game level in the 61st minute with another header.

South Korea’s revival was short-lived though, as Kudus slammed home Ghana’s third goal in the 68th minute.

The Taeguk Warriors attempted to mount another revival, however Ghana dug deep to defend their lead, ensuring that the Black Stars would emerge out as winners at the end of the day.

Tensions flare up towards the end of the match, with South Korea head coach Paulo Bento being sent off by the referee for his remonstrations towards the decision to not allow the Koreans to take a corner with the last kick of the game.

With Portugal sealing a spot in the round of 16 with a win over Uruguay, South Korea must pull off a result against Cristiano Ronaldo and his friends whilst hoping for a favorable result from the Ghana-Uruguay tie for a ticket to the knockouts.