Day 2 of the FIFA World Cup managed to create plenty of talking points and, as some had predicted before the tournament, a lot of these were off the field as well. From England’s thrashing of Iran, to the Netherlands edging out a determined Senegal, and Gareth Bale spoiling what was otherwise a good outing for a young American team, the second day managed to create a good amount of noise.
England run riot (6-2)
The day started with England, and a number of other teams, dropping their plans to wear the ‘One Live’ armband – a rebuke of sorts to host Qatar’s human rights record – after FIFA threatened the teams and players with suspensions.
The standoff was not the only dispute that threatened to disrupt play. Iran, Asia’s top ranked team, showed a stunning symbol of protest against the violence caused by the authorities back home. As their national anthem started, the players pursed their lips, refusing to sing the anthem in an expression of solidarity with Mahsa Amini, who died days after her she was arrested by Iran’s morality police for breaching the Islamic dress code, and with thousands of women protesting the back home.
When play began, England’s supporters got a glimpse of how good the team can actually be. For years, supporters have urged manager Gareth Southgate to shed the team’s conservative approach. On Monday, not only did they do that, but they also started in fifth gear.
A goal from Jude Bellingham started the rout with Bukayo Saka (2), Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish finishing the job. Iran responded with two late goals but left it all too late with England laying down a marker.
Dutch come alive late (2-0)
The Netherlands scored two goals in the dying minutes of the match to eke out a 2-0 win over African champions Senegal in the second match of day 2. With Senegal missing their main man, Sadio Mane, and the Dutch without Memphis Depay, the match looked to end in a stalemate before Cody Gakpo leapt to head home Frenkie De Jong’s cross in the 84th minute.
It was going well for Senegal till that moment. They had made sure the Dutch don’t have a shot on target, and with very little width and a number of bodies congesting the centre of the pitch, managed to turn the game they’d have liked to win. That didn’t happen, though. The game was decided by two badly judged calls by Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy –missing the attempted catch from De Jong’s cross that helped Gakpo score and tamely parrying Depay’s cross into the path of Davy Klaassen who scored in a near-empty net.
Wales vs USA (1-1)
It looked like a script 64 years in the making. Playing second-fiddle to a young American team, leaving it till late and one of the country’s sporting heroes scoring in the last 10 minutes is the kind of dream a generation of people from Wales have seen, only to see it come true on Monday.
Wales were on the back foot from the beginning. The American team, with 16 of their 26 players being under the age of 25, showed the dynamism their fans were hoping for. ‘Captain America’, as Christian Pulisic is fondly called back home, latched on to a pass at the halfway line and split Wales’ defense for Timothy Weah to score (the second player after Pele to score against Wales).
Unlike Pulisic, the Prince of Wales (a name Bale earned during the team’s journey in the 2016 Euros) was relatively subdued. But despite facing USA, Bale kept the Hollywood finish for himself as he has done this year – scoring against Ukraine to help the team reach the finals to helping Los Angeles FC lift the MLS Cup a fortnight ago – stepping up to convert the spot kick he had earned to help Wales secure a draw.