Tunisia vs France
Australia vs Denmark
Poland vs Argentina
Saudi Arabia vs Mexico
Australia clinched a 1-0 victory over Tunisia on Saturday to keep their hopes of reaching the World Cup knockout phase alive.
The Socceroos, who would have gone out with a second successive defeat, scored the only goal through Mitchell Duke’s 23rd-minute header to move second in Group D behind France.
More to follow . ..
England missed a chance to book their place in the World Cup last 16 as Gareth Southgate’s side produced a limp display in their 0-0 draw against the United States on Friday.
Southgate’s men would have been guaranteed to advance from Group B with a victory in their second game of the tournament, but they rarely troubled a determined US team.
Having thrashed Iran 6-2 on Monday, England lacked the urgency they showed in their opening game and were booed off at full-time.
They managed just one shot on target and could easily have conceded in the first half when the US were in control for long periods at the Al Bayt Stadium.
For the third time in three World Cup meetings with the US, England failed to live up to their status as favourites.
After a shocking defeat in the 1950 tournament and a 1-1 draw in 2010, this was another defiant American effort against England, cooling some of the hype around the Three Lions following the Iran rout.
Although it was an extremely underwhelming performance from England, they are still in control of their own destiny.
A draw in their final group game against Wales on November 29 would ensure England progress to the knockout stages, while a victory would seal first place.
The US, who have drawn their first two games, play Iran on the same day knowing a win would send them into last 16.
Gregg Berhalter’s group are the second youngest team at the World Cup, but a day after America celebrated Thanksgiving they left sluggish England looking like they were the ones who had indulged in too much turkey.
With Harry Kane and Harry Maguire recovered from an ankle injury and illness respectively, England named an unchanged team for the first time since the 2018 World Cup semi-final defeat against Croatia.
But, whereas England dominated possession against timid Iran from the opening moments, they found the US far more willing to press higher up the pitch.
The US desire to engage England briefly left space in behind them and Jude Bellingham’s buccaneering run and pass freed Bukayo Saka down the right side of the US area.
Saka’s cross reached Kane, whose goalbound shot was blocked by Walker Zimmerman.
That near-miss proved a mirage in the desert for England as Haji Wright, a surprise selection in place of Josh Sargent, had the Americans’ first sight of goal with a well-timed run into the area for a header that whistled wide.
It was a warning that the US could trouble England and moments later Weston McKennie should have put them ahead.
Timothy Weah’s cross from wide on the right eluded the flat-footed England defence and the unmarked McKennie pulled the trigger from 10 yards, only to fire just wide of the relieved Pickford’s goal.
Showing no signs of being intimidated by England, Berhalter’s side were inches away from turning the enterprising display into a stunning lead when Christian Pulisic jinked into space and lashed a rising drive against the crossbar from just inside the area.
Giving the ball away far too easily and laboured in their build-up play, England looked rattled and Pulisic tested their fraying nerves with a header that glanced wide.
In a rare moment of menace from England, Saka’s pass found Mason Mount and the Chelsea’s midfielder low drive from 20 yards brought a first save from US keeper Matt Turner.
Epitomising the US spirit that was such a contrast to England’s lethargy, Tyler Adams crunched into a tackle on Saka, winning the ball and roaring in delight afterwards.
England remained stuck in first gear yet Kane nearly snatched an undeserved winner in stoppage time when he headed wide from Luke Shaw’s free-kick.
A second-half brace by Richarlison, including a stunning overhead scissor kick, gave tournament favourites Brazil a 2-0 win over Serbia in their opening World Cup game at the Lusail Stadium on Thursday.
The record five-time winners had toiled at times in the first half but improved after the break and were rewarded when Tottenham Hotspur striker Richarlison followed in to score the opener in the 62nd minute when a Vinicius Junior shot was saved.
Vinicius then set up Richarlison to score again in the 73rd minute with a stunning acrobatic effort that is surely the goal of the World Cup so far.
The result continues Brazil’s superb record in the World Cup group stage, in which their last defeat came in 1998 against Norway, when they had already secured a place in the next round.
Tite’s side are now already on top of Group G ahead of Switzerland, who beat Cameroon 1-0 earlier and who are Brazil’s next opponents.
The scoreline here was the same as when these sides met in the group stage in 2018 but Brazil are determined to do far better than four years ago, when they lost to Belgium in the quarter-finals.
They have come to Qatar as the favourites for a sixth title, two decades after their last victory.
Other results in the opening round of matches in Qatar served as a warning, with their great rivals Argentina suffering a shock defeat to Saudi Arabia at the same stadium and Germany being shocked by Japan.
However, Brazil would have known not to take Serbia lightly, given that the side who lie 21st in the FIFA rankings are one of Europe’s most improved teams and topped their qualifying group above Portugal.
Yet it still would have been a huge shock for Brazil to lose at a ground where they intend to return for the final on December 18.
Tite sent out a very attack-minded side, with Neymar in support of Richarlison while Raphinha and Vinicius occupied the wings and Lucas Paqueta added creativity in central midfield.
Neymar, the world’s most expensive player, kicked off needing just two goals to equal Pele’s all-time record tally of 77 for Brazil, but he will have to wait a little longer to get them.
Serbia did their best to frustrate the Paris Saint-Germain superstar, who come close to scoring direct from an early corner that would have raised the roof at the magnificent Lusail Stadium, where the stands were filled with yellow and green.
The best Brazilian moments in the first half came when Thiago Silva’s defence-splitting pass found Vinicius in the box, only for goalkeeper Vanja Milinkovic-Savic to thwart the Real Madrid man, and when Raphinha played a one-two with Paqueta before his shot was saved.
Barcelona winger Raphinha was involved again within a minute of the restart when he hounded Nemanja Gudelj out of possession but was again denied by the goalkeeper.
However, Serbia’s resistance was broken just after the hour mark.
The warning had come when Alex Sandro lashed a left-foot shot off an upright and two minutes later the goal arrived.
Neymar set up Vinicius for a shot that Milinkovic-Savic got a hand to, but the ball broke to Richarlison who followed in to score.
Serbia responded by bringing on Dusan Vlahovic, the exciting Juventus striker who had been struggling with injury.
Yet Brazil had now found their stride and the second goal when it came was worthy of the biggest stage.
A Vinicius cross with the outside of his right boot was controlled by Richarlison who then spun around and leapt to score with an outrageous acrobatic effort.
Brazil could have scored more, with Casemiro seeing a shot come back off the crossbar, but this was a very promising start.
Spain shredded Costa Rica 7-0 on Wednesday in a brutal destruction in their Group E opener which launched their bid to lift a second World Cup.
Avoiding the fate of giants Argentina and group rivals Germany, who lost 2-1 to Japan earlier on, Luis Enrique’s fancied side sparkled at Doha’s Al Thumama Stadium, dominating possession and taking their chances mercilessly.
Ferran Torres netted twice and Marco Asensio, Dani Olmo, Gavi, Carlos Soler and Alvaro Morata were also on the scoresheet for the Euro 2020 semi-finalists in an emphatic romp.
In the past the 2010 World Cup winners have paid the price for profligacy but all three forwards Luis Enrique selected netted in the first half to pay back his trust in them.
The coach placed Asensio at false nine, flanked by Olmo and Torres, starting with Morata and Ansu Fati on the bench.
The coach opted to deploy Manchester City midfielder Rodri Hernandez in central defence, alongside club team-mate Aymeric Laporte, correctly anticipating his team would monopolise the ball.
It took only 11 minutes for La Roja to open the scoring, with Gavi stabbing a pass forward for Olmo to receive in the area and the RB Leipzig winger taking one sublime touch to turn and another to stroke the ball gently past Keylor Navas.
Costa Rica, who were a surprise package at the 2014 World Cup, beating Italy and Uruguay and drawing with England to top their group, were sliced apart again for the second goal 10 minutes later.
Jordi Alba’s low drilled cross was rammed home by Real Madrid forward Asensio past his former team-mate Navas, who might have done more to keep it out.
Torres stroked home from the penalty spot after Alba was fouled by Oscar Duarte –- a soft call on a hard night for Los Ticos, who were never in the game and failed to muster a shot at goal.
Barcelona forward Torres capitalised on more slack defending to fire the fourth past Navas early in the second half.
Luis Enrique was able to take off the effervescent Pedri and Torres before the hour mark in order to rest them for Sunday’s clash with Germany, and handed teenage Barcelona left-back Alejandro Balde his debut.
The 19-year-old roared up the pitch in the build-up to Spain’s fifth goal, with substitute Morata crossing for Gavi to drill home with aplomb.
Kopa Trophy winner Gavi became the third youngest goalscorer at a World Cup at 18 years and 110 days old, after Mexico’s Manuel Rosas and record holder Pele.
Soler and Morata then got in on the act with stoppage-time strikes to pile further misery on Costa Rica and help Spain flex their muscles in a perfect opening match in Qatar.
Robert Lewandowski suffered fresh World Cup misery as the Poland striker’s penalty was saved by Guillermo Ochoa in a 0-0 draw against Mexico on Tuesday.
Lewandowski has never scored at a World Cup and the Barcelona striker had admitted it would be a “huge dream” to finally get off the mark on the global stage.
Instead, the 34-year-old’s dream turned into a nightmare when he won a second-half penalty, only to see Ochoa deny him from the spot.
Lewandowski, Poland’s record scorer with 76 goals, has netted 18 times in 19 appearances for Barcelona, the club he joined in the close-season after bagging 344 goals in eight trophy-filled years at Bayern Munich.
Yet the World Cup has proved hellish for Lewandowski, with this latest goalless outing coming after he failed to score in Poland’s three games when they bowed out in the group stage four years ago.
Saudi Arabia’s stunning 2-1 win over Argentina earlier on Tuesday had blown open the race to progress to the last 16 from Group C.
But this was a frustrating draw for both teams, with Lewandowski wasting the best chance of a cagey game and Mexico ruing their failure to turn territorial dominance into goals.
Mexico boss Gerardo Martino had endured stinging criticism from fans and media following some poor pre-tournament performances, prompting him to dub himself “public enemy number one”.
That didn’t stop thousands of Mexico supporters making the long journey to support ‘El Tri’ in Qatar.
The unique Stadium 974 — whose structure was partially created from a colourful tapestry of shipping containers — overlooks Doha’s port and the area was transformed into a colourful fiesta as green-clad, sombrero-wearing Mexicans partied ahead of the evening kick-off.
It was an even more vibrant scene inside the stadium, with the estimated 40,000 capacity almost entirely filled with vociferous, flag-waving Mexicans.
As the main threat to their team’s hopes, Lewandowski was immediately subjected to ear-splitting jeers from the Mexico fans.
Lewandowski tried to silence the din with an early header but his effort deflected harmlessly wide.
With Poland curiously content to sit back for long periods and Mexico’s energy levels almost matching their raucous fans, it was Martino’s side who carried the greater threat.
Alexis Vega looped his header inches past the far post from Hector Herrera’s cross.
Mexico followed that close shave with another incisive move that ended with Jesus Gallardo’s shot being palmed away by Wojciech Szczesny.
Jorge Sanchez’s deflected effort whistled just over Szczesny’s crossbar as Mexico kept up the pressure.
Isolated by Poland’s conservative tactics, Lewandowski mustered just one touch in the Mexico area and completed only three passes in the first half.
Lewandowski couldn’t be contained forever and his tenacity earned the 57th-minute penalty when he barged into the Mexico area, forcing a crude challenge from Hector Moreno that was ruled a spot-kick after VAR intervened.
But Lewandowski’s World Cup woe wasn’t over as the 37-year-old Ochoa plunged to his left to make a fine save, leaving the striker holding his head in despair.
It was Lewandowski’s second successive penalty miss after he failed to score for Barcelona against Almeria earlier this month.
Henry Martin’s glancing header drew a good stop from Szczesny as Mexico tried in vain to make the most of their escape.
Australia’s goalkeeper #01 Mathew Ryan (2nd R) reacts while conceding a goal by France’s forward #10 Kylian Mbappe (2nd L) during the Qatar 2022 World Cup Group D football match between France and Australia at the Al-Janoub Stadium in Al-Wakrah, south of Doha on November 22, 2022. (Photo by Chandan Khanna / AFP)
The FIFA World Cup remains the biggest football competition in the world and special players have always played huge roles in deciding who wins the coveted trophy on each occasion.
Pele, Maradona, Bebeto, Ronaldo De Lima, Zinedine Zidane, Fabio Cannavaro, and Andres Iniesta to name a few have risen up to the occasion to help their teams become world champions.
As the competition begins in the Middle East, here is a list of some players who could take the spotlight and lift their teams:
Lionel Messi – Argentina
Messi does not need an introduction to anyone who has followed global football in the last 15 years. He has remained one of the best in the game, winning seven Ballon d’Or awards so far including other individual awards. Leading two-time champions Argentina, the former Barcelona man came closest to winning the World Cup in Brazil in 2014 only to be stopped by Germany in the final.
The Argentina captain has been in scintillating for Paris Saint-Germain so far this season. With 12 goals and 14 assists for his club, Messi is in the mood to go one spot better than in 2014 with his national team.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
Ronaldo is the only player who has kept pace with Messi in terms of performance within the last two decades and has always come through for Portugal.
Though not in the best of moments at Manchester United, the Portugal skipper is the last player anyone can write off, as he still holds the record for most goals (117) scored for a national team by a player.
His charisma and leadership propelled Portugal to their major international trophy in 2016 when they defeated France to win the Euros. He is still much around and fit to replicate the success with his teammates in Qatar.
Neymar Junior – Brazil
The PSG star is an important player for the five-time world champions, scoring 75 goals in 121 appearances since 2010 to become the second top scorer only behind the legendary Pele for the Selecao.
Brazil’s progression at the World Cup on home soil in 2014 was halted by an embarrassing 7-1 semi-final defeat to Germany following an injury to the former Barcelona man in the quarter-final.
With his form this season at PSG, Brazil will be hoping that Neymar stays fit to boost their chances of once again lifting the trophy they last won in 2002.
Kylian Mbappe – France
Mbappe was instrumental as France lifted the World Cup for the second time in Russia in 2018, scoring four goals including one in the final against Croatia.
Alongside Messi and Neymar in PSG this season, Mbappe is once again in hot form and if he carries it to the World Cup, he will no doubt be among the most feared attackers in Qatar.
Thomas Muller – Germany
33-year-old Muller has appeared in three World Cups and has scored 10 goals which put him at number 8 among all-time scorers in the competition. Muller is one of the top scorers in this competition and with that reputation, he is one to watch out for in the German team in what is likely his last World Cup.
Harry Kane – England
Kane was the top scorer in Russia in 2018 with six goals as England went all the way to the semi-final only to be stopped by Croatia. With 12 goals and three assists so far for Tottenham this season, Kane is no doubt in the mood to replicate his exploits 4 years ago and possibly do better.
Luka Modric – Croatia
Modric’s performance as Croatia reached a World Cup final for the first time earned him the Golden Ball as the Most Valuable Player of the tournament. At 37, he remains one of the best performers for a Real Madrid team that lifted the Champions League once again last season. Croatia will definitely be looking up to him as they hope to better the achievement of Russia in Qatar.