Qatar World Cup: 5 things we learned on Day 9



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Lots of men running around a field scoring goals …OK. Just the kind of thing wanted at a football tournament. One man running across a field with a political message. Not on.

Belts and braces

We were treated to a pair of two-goal heroes in the Ghana v South Korea game. Gue-Sung Cho bagged a brace to drag South Korea back to parity in the Group H clash. But it was Mohammed Kudus who stole the show with his second goal in the 68th minute. It was a composed finish from the 22-year-old Ajax midfielder. Its elegance heightened by what had preceded it. Teammate Inaki Williams tried to sidefoot the ball into the goal but mistimed and caught the top of it. The clumsiness foxed three Korean defenders and took the ball along to Kudus who steered it past the goalkeeper Seung-Gyu Kim. 3-2. And Ghana held out. “There’s a lot of team spirt and a lot of unity,” said Ghana skipper André Ayew. “We’re ready to do anything to get these three points and we showed it.”

Woes

The South Korean players and fans were distraught after the defeat at the Education City Stadium. Coach Paulo Bento was given a red card for whatever he said to referee Anthony Taylor at the end of the affair. South Korea weren’t out but they had to wait to see what happened in the match between Portugal and Uruguay in Day 8’s late game. As it transpired Portugal won 2-0 to advance to the last-16. So it’s quite simple for South Korea and Uruguay. They must beat Portugal and Ghana respectively by big margins because it will come down to goal difference. 

Ticking all the boxes

A protester holding a rainbow flag and with a shirt saying: “Respect For Iranian Women” on the back and “Save Ukraine” on the front ran onto the pitch during the game between Portugal and Uruguay. Security staff quickly intervened and bundled the geopolitical billboard away. There was an important thing like a football match underway. Portugal midfielder Rúben Neves said after his side’s 2-0 victory: “We know what has happened around this World Cup. Of course, we are all with them as well. Iran as well, because I saw his shirt. I hope nothing happens to the boy because we understand his message and I think all the world understood it as well.” Ruben, we don’t think the people who spent 200 billion euros on this fest will be quite so munificent.

Thrills

Speaking of recovering a two-goal deficit. Cameroon turned it around from 3-1 down against Serbia at the Al Janoub Stadium. Eight minutes after coming on as a substitute Vincent Aboubakar latched on to an oil painting of a pass from Jean-Charles Castelletto. Aboubakar impudently lobbed th Serbia keeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic to make it 3-2. Three minutes later Aboubakar set up Eric Choupo-Moting for the equalizer. A six-goal thriller which leaves both sides in with a chance of progressing after Brazil beat Switzerland 1-0 to qualify for the last-16. One slot remains open from Group G. What? Permutations for the final phase of games?

After the World Cup …

In an interview with the British radio station Talksport, the World Cup chief Hassan Al-Thawadi hinted that the Olympics was in the country’s purview. “I don’t know if we’re going to continue bidding or not, there’s a whole different team responsible for that,” said Al-Thawadi whose full title – secretary general of the Supreme Committee for Delivery & Legacy – takes up a lot of space. The boss understandably gave a robust defence of Qatar’s World Cup and outlined a sentiment that is often expressed in the conversations that the review has had with Qataris. “It is a little bit strange because our part of the world has to justify our interest when since the start of the English Premier League, you have had interest coming in from Russian investors, from American investors, from Chinese, from Thai, from all parts of the world. Why not the Middle East?”



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