The Sunday News
THE second round of World Cup group games begins on Friday (today); Wales face Iran in Group B; hosts Qatar then take on Senegal in their Group A clash; the Netherlands take on Ecuador; England round off the day’s play when they face the USA.
England and Wales are back in World Cup action on Friday as the teams in Groups A and B play their second matches of the tournament.
Rob Page’s Wales side kick-off early on, taking on Iran at 10am and looking to build on a well-earned 1-1 draw against the USA on Monday.
Gareth Southgate’s England kick-off as the last game of the day facing an impressive USA side but buoyed from their 6-2 thrashing of Iran.
In Group A, hosts Qatar take on Senegal – looking for their first points of the competition – while Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands face Ecuador, with the sides joint-top of the group after winning 2-0 in their opening games.
England are top of Group B on three points having beaten Iran 6-2 on matchday one. Wales and USA are locked on a point apiece following their draw on Monday, while Iran prop up the group.
If England secure another three points, they will qualify for the round of 16 and remain in top spot.
Victory could even seal qualification as group winners provided Wales have drawn with Iran. Were Wales to suffer defeat, Iran could still mathematically finish above England with another win over USA.
Head-to-head record is the third tie-breaking method at this tournament, after goal difference and then goals scored.
If Wales head into the final game with England on four points, having beaten Iran, they could still finish above England with victory on matchday three, regardless of how England fare against USA.
Iran were expected to provide England with a far sterner test than they managed on Monday but their striker Mehdi Taremi showed his threat with an impressive performance, given the circumstances of that 6-2 defeat.
He showed his instinctive one-touch finishing ability with the first goal and his composure to put away the penalty deep into stoppage time in the second half for his second.
He led the attacking metrics for his side and despite Iran having just 22 per cent of possession in the match the stats show they managed to find him quickly when they did win the ball back. Iran are likely to have more possession against Wales but expect them to look for him at every opportunity.
And there’s good reason for that. Taremi has five goals in five Champions League appearances this season and with 16 goal involvements in his last 13 matches for club and country he’s bang in form.
His stats for Porto this season illustrate how dangerous he is in the box – whether shooting himself or setting up a team-mate, with six goals and five assists to his name this term in the league. He may lose more aerial duels than he wins but he adds so much to the Portuguese side’s frontline – and has become a standout striker in Europe.
He has some story, too. Taremi was a late developer. He’s 30-years-old now but it wasn’t until he was 22 that he played in Iran’s top flight and he didn’t make it to Europe until he was 27.
In between there was a spell in Qatar, so he knows the environment of this World Cup well, but his 62 goals in 115 games for Porto – including the 20 he hit in the league during their double-winning season in 2021/22 – show this is a player who has well and truly arrived now.
Is there another step up in his career to come? The discussion about him could well ramp up in January but for now his focus is on extending his record of 30 goals in 61 Iran appearances against Wales
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has total trust in goalkeeper Edouard Mendy despite his rocky start to the World Cup campaign.
Mendy was arguably at fault for both goals in his side’s opening 2-0 loss to the Netherlands, continuing a difficult spell for the goalkeeper. He has found himself on the bench for periods at Chelsea this season, with Kepa Arrizabalaga preferred under new manager Graham Potter.
“Edouard is doing very well, he has got a steely resolve,” Cisse told reporters on Thursday.
“Edouard’s qualities speak for themselves, I don’t think that anyone is doubting him, sometimes he has highs, sometimes he has lows, he has my full trust, my blind trust, and that of his team-mates. Tomorrow, he will be on the pitch.”
Senegal centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, who is also Mendy’s team-mate at Chelsea, said people were over-reacting about the ‘keeper’s form.
“We play at the same club and we are also brothers in arms for Senegal, Edouard is a very important player for us, it is normal to go through difficult phases – I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill here,” he said.- skysports.com