There were no surprises after the last round of games were concluded in Group B of the 2022 FIFA World Cup currently ongoing in Qatar, as group favourites England and USA qualified for the knockout rounds.
The Three Lions were billed as group favourites from the start and expected to win all three games by most pundits, fans and even bookmakers. However, the USA did what they had always done whenever they meet England in the World Cup: keep them quiet and steal points or come away with a vital result.
The USA, meanwhile, fought to take two draws from England and Wales while beating Iran narrowly in what was a very politically charged atmosphere for both nations. They finished in second place in the group, while England claimed the top spot. Both teams earned seven and five points respectively.
This is unfortunately the end of the road for Iran, who played a good tournament and managed to grab a very important win against Wales, who were only appearing at the World Cup for the second time in their history and for the first time in 64 years. and for the Welsh, it is a potential goodbye to two of their brightest stars, Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale, who had fought so hard to take the Dragons to the World stage at least once in their illustrious national team careers.
Having finished Group B in first place, England will now face the Teranga Lions of Senegal, who finished in second place from Group A. USA will face the Netherlands, which should present a test as tough as England for them in the round of 16 fixtures. Both matches will be historic as England have never faced Senegal in any competition or friendly before and USA have never faced the Dutch at any tournament.
First knockout matches set as tournaments enters final stages
England faced their United Kingdom neighbours Wales in a match that was high stakes for a number of reasons. It was first a United Kingdom derby for bragging rights. Then it was a game in which a loss could see them drop to second place, which would frankly, be a disappointing outcome for the quality they possessed.
The Three Lions looked sloppy in the first half and Wales were dreaming of an upset. But they were woken up to the harsh reality of life just five minutes into the second half when Marcus Rashford buried an absolute beauty of a free kick past Danny Ward in the Welsh goal. Goals from Foden and Rashford completed the rout to end the dream for Wales.
USA, who started the evening in third place, had only one job and they delivered. A first-half goal from Captain America, Christian Pulisic, was all they needed to clinch the three points. Iran fought hard, but resolute defending from the Americans shut them out.
England begin their journey to a first world title since 1966 after finishing top of their group for the first time since 2006. USA, meanwhile, are looking to exert their authority on a sport that they have been much maligned at for most of history.