Foden clamour, bad hosts, a missing Bale and more: Five takeaways from day six of World Cup 2022

Grealish (R) and Kane (L) of England react during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar on November 25, 2022.
(Image credit: Evrim Aydin/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

World Cup 2022 is whizzing by, with teams now on their second game of the competition – and Groups A and B are one step closer to completion. 

We've seen our first red card of the tournament (Wayne Hennessey's strange march out to meet an Iranian attacker punishable by sending off), our first players to score in successive matches (Cody Gakpo and Enner Valencia) and our first team eliminated from the competition. Naturally, that had to be Qatar, didn't it?

As the tournament unfolds, however, we're starting to see some nations open up a little more to risk a little… and others do the complete opposite. Wales knew this morning in their defeat to Iran that a 0-0 draw wouldn't be enough and found themselves stretched at the back, conceding two late on. Qatar, likewise, went for broke against Senegal and found themselves 3-1 losers.

England and Netherlands, meanwhile, don't have to be so bold. Both big hitters won their opening games and with both playing opposition vying for that second spot – Ecuador and the US, respectively – they looked to consolidate and protect what they have. 

Here's everything we've found out from another day of World Cup football. 

Gareth Bale is human after all

Gareth Bale Iran

Gareth Bale holds his head in his hands as Wales succumb to Iran (Image credit: Getty)

When Wales needed him most, Gareth Bale was posted missing.

He wasn’t the only one who failed to stand up to the occasion of a must-win clash with Iran, but the expectations of the Welsh talisman are different to those of mere mortals. 

Time and again Bale has shone on the big occasions, dug his country out of holes, and dragged his team-mates up to his level.

But against Iran, the LAFC forward was almost invisible, barely impacting the game from start to finish as his side fell to a defeat that could spell the end of their first World Cup adventure since 1958.  

If the BBC’s player rater was anything to go by, the general public weren’t impressed – Bale received the worst public vote of any player at 2.56/10. 

According to FotMob data, Bale had the fewest touches (36) of any outfield player who lasted 90 minutes, while he also lost the most duels (8) in the game.

He hasn't looked it at times in a Wales shirt, but Bale is human after all. 

Qatar heading for the exit – in more ways than one

Qatar players show dejection after the third goal of Senegal during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group A match between Qatar and Senegal at Al Thumama Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Doha, Qatar.

Qatar players show dejection after the third goal of Senegal during the World Cup 2022 Group A match against Senegal at Al Thumama Stadium (Image credit: Mohamed Farag/Getty Images)

With Qatar’s national team heading for an early exit, their fans followed suit.

A 3-1 defeat to Senegal left Qatar on the brink of elimination after becoming the first host nation to lose two group games. They required an Ecuador victory against the Netherlands to hang onto even the slimmest chance of staying in the competition – but unfortunately, the South Americans couldn't do them a favour. 

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Qatar did at least muster a goal this time, and a well taken one too, as substitute Mohammed Muntari finished a nice move to briefly provide some hope with 12 minutes to go. 

An improved second half performance didn’t impress everyone though, as there were a lot of empty seats by the end of the game after droves of home fans left early.

Qatar are now only the second host nation to go out in the group stage after South Africa, and they still have their toughest game to come against the Netherlands.

We haven’t seen the end of Neymar yet

Neymar of Brazil lies on the ground after injury during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group G match between Brazil and Serbia at Lusail Stadium in Lusail City, Qatar on November 24, 2022.

(Image credit: Fareed Kotb/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images)

No wonder Brazil fans were worried on Thursday night. A badly swollen ankle left Neymar in tears in the dugout, dampening some enthusiasm after an impressive 2-0 win over Serbia.

We’ve all heard the talk about how this is Neymar’s time, the moment for the 30-year-old to guide his country to World Cup glory and exorcise the ghosts of 2014 once and for all.

It was therefore a huge relief to hear from Brazil’s doctor that Neymar could still play a part in this tournament.

He will miss the next two group games against Switzerland and Cameroon after suffering ankle ligament damage, which is a blow, but the PSG star – along with team-mate Danilo – could make a comeback in time for the knockout stages.

"It is important to be calm and evaluate day by day. The idea is to recover them for the rest of the competition," said doctor Rodrigo Lasmar.

England aren't going to sweep all before them

Harry Kane of England acknowledges the fans following the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar

Harry Kane of England acknowledges the fans following the World Cup 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium (Image credit: Clive Mason/Getty Images)

We had a feeling that England wouldn't be putting six goals past all of their opponents in Qatar – but the United States bore draw has brought optimism crashing back down to Earth. 

Gareth Southgate mentioned in the post-match press conference that the important thing was not to lose the tournament in the group stage rather than pushing for a win and it's that kind of energy-sapping pragmatism that fans were greeted with in 90 minutes of England barely threatening US keeper Matt Turner.

In fact, the States looked more likely to score. The Three Lions had their backs against the wall for swathes of the second half, Harry Maguire's head coming to the rescue for multiple corners and Harry Kane having more touches in his own box than the opposition's. 

It's a good job we're not getting carried away, isn't it?

Phil Foden clamour is growing

Phil Foden of England reacts in the dugout prior to the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium on November 25, 2022 in Al Khor, Qatar

Phil Foden of England reacts in the dugout prior to the World Cup 2022 Group B match between England and USA at Al Bayt Stadium (Image credit: Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)

In Euro 2020, the clamour was Jack Grealish. Every time the curtain-haired darling of the nation jogged down the touchline, the Wembley chorus rose in appreciation. Fans longed to see him on the pitch and sure enough, he got his opportunity against Germany to turn the game.

Just over a year later, that man is Phil Foden. ITV pundit Gary Neville called for the Manchester City man at the break, describing him as England's best talent, while Gabriel Clarke asked Southgate after the game why he chose to snub the attacker again, in favour of similar substitutes as in the Iran game. 

Surely we'll get to see Foden at some point but this is a common theme of England at tournaments: crying out for stars not in the side at the first hint of a poor performance. Is Foden going to really change things? Perhaps – but then he's never been particularly convincing in an England shirt.

Maybe that's why Southgate is cautious to turn to his formerly-peroxide prince just yet, choosing to unleash him in bursts later on. A Wales cameo seems likely, now, just to quieten that clamour. 

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Alasdair Mackenzie is a freelance journalist based in Rome, and a FourFourTwo contributor since 2015. When not pulling on the FFT shirt, he can be found at Reuters, The Times and the i. An Italophile since growing up on a diet of Football Italia on Channel 4, he now counts himself among thousands of fans sharing a passion for Ross County and Lazio. 

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