World Cup Watch: WC 2022 at the Midpoint

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Qatar and the World

Reports have surfaced of fans being harassed and denied entry into games while displaying rainbow flags or symbols, which Qatar had promised would be allowed. Officials have also banned kosher foods and the prayer spaces they had promised would be made available for the estimated 10,000 Jewish fans who've come to the country. Logistics seem to be holding up, though, and the first direct flights in years between Israel and Qatar are a positive development. Clearly, the final chapters in this odd sociological experiment are yet to be written.

On the Field: The Story So Far

As we go to press, four of the eight first-round groups are finished, and four will be decided on Thursday and Friday. The U.S. advanced by the skin of their teeth, with an emotionally fraught 1-0 win over Iran, but won't have long to celebrate, as they face the Netherlands Satur­day morning in the first of the knockout round games. Christian Pulisic's status is unknown after he suffered an abdominal injury while scoring the winning goal. The U.S. scored only two goals total in three games; but on the other hand, they've only conceded one, that came on a penalty kick. Elsewhere among the favorites, Brazil, France, and England are all cruising (the U.S. scoreless draw against England stands out against a team that scored nine goals in its other two games), but Germany and Belgium are in trouble today. Africa has shown well, with Senegal ousting Ecuador in a thriller, and they could have up to four of their five entries advance. As for our own confederation, Canada crapped out early, Mexico couldn't score goals until the finale when it was too late, and Costa Rica, despite losing their opener 7-0, is improbably the only one still alive going into their finale today.

What's Next

It's high drama today and tomorrow, with 15 of the 16 teams still in the hunt to advance. Thurs­day is especially chaotic, though I expect Croatia and Spain to rise to the top while – you read it here first – Costa Rica knocks out Germany. On Friday, Brazil and Portugal have already clinched advancement and should win their groups, while Ghana will try to match Senegal in knocking out a South American team in their finale.

Thursday, Dec. 1
9am (Group F): Croatia-Belgium, Canada-Morocco
1pm (Group E): Japan-Spain, Costa Rica-Germany

Friday, Dec. 2
9am (Group H): South Korea-Portugal, Ghana-Uruguay
1pm (Group G): Cameroon-Brazil, Serbia-Switzerland

After that, it's on to the last 16 starting Satur­day morning with U.S.-Netherlands. That's a winnable game, too; the Dutch were one of my pre-tourney favorites, but didn't really impress in the first round. But where will American goals come from? How about the thus far unused Texas connection – Claudio Rey­na's son Gio Reyna and FC Dallas' Jesús Ferreira?

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World Cup 2022

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