And this is where the plot thickens. For the next four days, teams will move on, teams will meet the sword, and the drama ramps up to 11. I’m here to be your space coyote for it!
Game of the day
Ecuador 1 – 2 Senegal
As U.S. fans learned the hardest way, when you have a game where one team only needs a draw and the other needs a win, it’s better for storytelling purposes if the team that needs to win scores first. Because then just a single goal can swing emotions completely the other way and back again, and the team in the lead now has to balance defending with looking for a second to clinch it.
Senegal got the first goal, and deservedly so when Ismaila Sarr was fouled and then proceeded to bury the penalty. Senegal had Ecuador under their thumb for the whole half, as the latter struggled to figure out how to play for a tie without PLAYING FOR A TIE. They only managed two blocked Enner Valencia shots in the first half.
But then Ecuador made two subs at half, got on the front foot way more, Moises Caicedo equalized off a corner, taking advantage of Senegal having a man on the line to just loiter behind the pack going for the initial header off a corner to bury the second ball.
And this is where that balance, that heart-down-to-your-ankles feeling kicks in. Because in the midst of trying to figure out how to play the rest of the match, Kalidou Koulibaly scored off another second ball off a corner, a true captain’s goal that he lashed into the net.
And this is where the World Cup is special, as it’s the only tournament that can swing you from ecstasy to despair or in the other direction in an instant like this. Ecuador were clearly shellshocked and never really had it. In some ways it’s worse than holding on and giving it up in the last minute. By only getting a glimpse of going through for just two minutes, having it snatched away before they could even see the whole shape of it left them in a stupor. They only had three shots after going behind, and never looked like they would tie it up. Having two enormous events that spring up the opposite emotions happen so quickly together paralyzed them, as it would to anyone. How do you come to terms with going behind again when you haven’t even had time to come to terms with the new state of the match after you’ve tied it?
Senegal are full value for advancing, having pretty much pinned the Dutch to nothing for most of that match and completely nullifying Ecuador for the most part. They will be a challenge for England.
Holland 2 – 0 Qatar
This was a match that happened. The Dutch haven’t been impressive in any of their matches, but didn’t have to be to finally put the complete waste-of-time hosts out of their and our misery. The second gear the Oranje have been stuck in was more than enough for this one.
USA 1 – 0 Iran
We obviously have a ton on this one already.
England 3 – 0 Wales
This one wasn’t much more of an event than the Holland-Qatar staff meeting, and Wales weren’t really any more impressive than Qatar for the tournament. England were able to rotate their lineup to start a little, and then a lot throughout the match. The first half was basically a funeral dirge, until England got bored in the second half and decided to have Marcus Rashford scorch the Welsh defense with his speed.
Goal of the day
Let’s eulogize the departed
Wales and Qatar – Oh they got it! Wales and Qatar! They ate it! Way way too bad! They got it! Wales and Qatar! (that’s a little Sleater-Kinney joke for all you lovely people).
Ecuador – They should have beaten The Dutch but couldn’t find a winner and got their chins above the bar for just an instant before crashing to Earth. They will likely be back, as a majority of the squad was under 25 and Ecuador has been one of the hotbeds of development lately. But it’s a lesson in that in a short tournament, you better win the games you dominate, as they did against the Netherlands. With Qatar being so terrible, everyone got a free spot on the bingo card and the sample for everyone was down to just two games. Ecuador, quite simply, didn’t score enough while doing most everything else right.
Iran – I would love to touchdown dance on Carlos Quieroz ending up on his ass again, just as he did in the AFCON, just as he did in African qualifying, because he’s one of the last true authors of sufferball that is such a chore to watch. Hopefully more nations will move on from the Quieroz type and attempt to play their way out of the group stage instead of just trying to repel, repel, repel. But limited teams will always think this is their surest way to gaining points in a group stage, and because of that managers like Quieroz will still have jobs.
But the Iranian players will be missed, who risked so much in this tournament. Their no-selling their own anthem in the first game reportedly got their families back home threatened. They showed everyone what place sports can hold in a society, and gave more oxygen to the protests and movements back home that will hopefully author significant change there. They took on far more than just trying to get Iran to the Round of 16 for the first time, which is more than enough pressure for any player. Applause to them.
Did Alexi Lalas say anything stupid?
He was definitely feeling his oats at halftime, claiming Iran “wanted no part of this game,” given the way they had sat back and tried to defend and created nothing. Which makes one wonder if Lalas had watched Iran or a Quieroz-led team play before. But would it make any difference if Lalas actually watched any other games?
Also his power rankings bit every day is a Geneva Convention violation.
Did VAR fuck anything up?
Boy we sure thought it was going to with the handball on Shaq Moore or the late penalty shout on Carter-Vickers, didn’t we? But neither were anywhere close to being worth a look, and thankfully we didn’t get the one ref in the booth having a bad day who just wanted to fuck shit up. Phew.
Did Qatar fuck anything up?
More stories of fans with rainbow attire being detained before ultimately being let go, which just smacks of doing it to do it because all the security must know how this ends by now. They just want to harass fans now.
THE FUCKIN’ YANKS ARE MOVIN’ ON!!!!!!