World Cup 2022 Diary: Day 14. Netherlands 3 USA 1, Argentina 2 Australia 1: The USA and Australia bowed out at the first knockout stage today, the younger footballing nations seen off by the established royalty of the Netherlands and Argentina.
By Dave Bowler
The United States and Australia bowed out at the first knockout stage today, the younger footballing nations seen off by the established royalty of the Netherlands and Argentina. But for those wanting to see change at the top of the game, even in defeat there were seeds for optimism because both losing sides took their opposition pretty much all the way before finally having to concede.
In the early game, it was the USA who had the first real chance, Pulisic just unable to take advantage of it, Noppert making a terrific save. From there, the Dutch produced a goal of real beauty, passing it across the team, through the pitch, side to side before Depay was picked out to apply the hammer blow. That was the Netherlands embracing their heritage.
The USA would not be knocked off their stride though, Weah drawing another great save from Noppert and had they got to the break at 1-0 down, they could have drawn real belief from it. But with the last touch of the half, Blind clipped home a precise finish and it was uphill from there.
Still they would not be beaten, Ream having a bundled effort cleared off the line, Wright another, Turner producing two excellent saves at the other end. Wright’s inventive – or fortuitous flick – halved the areas in the 76th minute, but just as the US were gathering themselves for a final assault, a momentary lapse of concentration proved fatal. Dumfries was left with freedom of the penalty area to slot in and finally end the contest.
AUSTRALIA TAKE ON ARGENTINA
If moments of quality up front sealed a tight game in the Netherlands’ favour there, Argentina’s win came in very similar circumstances after Australia had the measure of them for long stretches of the game.
The first half was in stalemate when Argentina had a slice of fortune in the opposition area, Otamendi’s dreadful first touch falling perfectly into Messi’s path for him to guide a beautifully judged shot just inside the far post. Could the Argentine number 10 finally be the chosen one at a World Cup? Messianic stuff.
The folly of always trying to play out from the back was exposed in the second half as Ryan in the Australian goal was put under pressure that his feet couldn’t handle. Alvarez swooped down to feast upon the crumbs and at 2-0, that looked to be that.
Aussies don’t quit of course, and back they came. With 13 minutes left, Goodwin’s drive from distance took a deflection off Fernandez and nestled in the net for 2-1. Behich then waltzed – Matilda optional – through the Argentine defence, past four challenges before his shot was brilliantly blocked. In the 97th minute, it needed a superb save from Martinez to deny Kuol, and finally Argentina were home and hosed.
OPTIMISM FOR TEAM USA IN 2026
The United States and Australia can both take great encouragement from this World Cup but of course, the game is about winners and losers, and they were both on the wrong side of that equation.
In the end, the thing that separates the USA, Australia and all the emerging nations is that ability to produce that piece of rare magic that transforms the organised into the brilliant in those pivotal moments in a game.
At the most rarefied level, it is that, more often than not, that decides the winners and the rest. Until one of those coming countries produces, not necessarily a Messi or a Ronaldo, for they are generation definers, but at least a world class finisher or creator, they will always toil in the shadows. But this World Cup has at least suggested that that moment is coming closer. Perhaps it will be Pulisic and Weah in 2026…
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Sir Alf Ramsey: England 1973 focuses on the final full year of Sir Alf’s reign as England boss. The nation that won the World Cup in 1966 failed to even qualify for the 1974 tournament. Ramsey was suddenly a man out of time, both on and off the pitch. The failing fortunes of the England team mirrored those of a post-Empire nation heading for its own a fall.
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