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Preview: Wales, USA return to World Cup finals looking to make a point

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DOHA, Nov. 20 (Xinhua) — Wales and the United States return to the World Cup on Tuesday when they face off in their opening Group B game and both will be keen to re-write the history in an early but decisive game.

With England expected to top the group, an early slip-up would leave the loser probably needing to beat a tough Iran side and avoid defeat against England to have a chance of reaching the last 16.

The USA is back at the World Cup after missing out on qualification in 2018 and will feel they have something to prove before they host the tournament in 2026 with Canada and Mexico.

The Americans are rebuilding for that tournament, although coach Gregg Berhalter surprised supporters by leaving young forward, Ricardo Pepi out of his squad. Nevertheless, he has promised his side will stick to the aggressive, high-pressing football that has characterized their football over the last couple of years.

While the USA are back at the World Cup after an eight-year hiatus, it has been a lot longer for the Welsh. The last time they played in the finals in 1958, Pele was a precocious 17-year-old talent for Brazil and a lot of water has passed under the bridge since then.

Coach Rob Page, who replaced Ryan Giggs after the former Manchester United player had to step down due to legal issues, has done a tremendous job in forming a solid group of players – many whom play in the lower divisions of the English game.

There is a feeling that this is a well-earned reward, but also the last chance for the veterans in the side, with Gareth Bale finally appearing at the World Cup aged 33. Chris Gunter is at the same age, while Joe Allen is 32 and Aaron Ramsey now 31.

Allen is likely to miss Monday’s game as he finishes his recovery from a hamstring issue, but Bale has dismissed doubts about his fitness after playing less than an hour of competitive football in recent weeks.

Bale will probably lead the attack, with Daniel James and Harry Wilson offering tricky support out wide, and the 1 meter 96, Kieffer Moore giving the Welsh the options of playing high balls into the USA penalty area.

In what is likely to be a physical match, the USA will look to make their energy count in the heat, and it is vital for the Welsh, that their big-name players last the 90 minutes.

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Van Gaal: Netherlands can go all the way in World Cup

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DOHA, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Netherlands coach Louis Van Gaal asked for improvement from his side but insisted they can also win the World Cup after beating the USA 3-1 in their last-16 game on Saturday.

The Netherlands became the first side to qualify for the quarterfinals with goals from Memphis Depay, Daley Blind and Denzel Dumfries, who was also voted Player of the Match after giving assists in the first two goals.

However, the ever-demanding coach insisted his players had to improve.

“I was very critical in my halftime analysis,” commented Van Gaal.

“In the first half, they (USA) dispossessed us so much, and that is not acceptable. You can’t accept that if you play top level teams. We did better in the second half, even though there were fewer goals.”

“They were great goals and really good team goals,” he explained, repeating his claim that the Netherlands can go all the way to the final in Qatar.

“Some top teams are out and we have three games ahead of us. We can become world champions. I don’t say we will become world champions, but we can be. It is about team building,” he said.

“This gives you confidence. The players are pleased and excited. We will look at the game again tomorrow and then we will roll up our sleeves and get back to work,” commented Van Gaal, who was pleased that other sides are not adapting to counter the Dutch wing-backs.

“I suppose the stronger the rival is the less likely they are to adjust to our system. I don’t think Spain, France or Argentina will adapt to the Netherlands, so I think we have a big chance here,” he concluded.

Meanwhile Dumfries was happy with the way the Dutch wing-backs had a role in all of their goals.

“In the first goal, you see everything from the system we play. We attack spaces and move the ball well. It was a great goal and that is how you see the core of our system,” Dumfries said.

Source(s): Xinhua

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Messi: We are one step closer to our objective

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DOHA, Dec. 4 (Xinhua) — Lionel Messi said Argentina had taken “one more step” toward their goal of World Cup glory by overcoming Australia in a dramatic round of 16 clash here on Saturday.

Messi sent Argentina on course for victory with a first-half strike, and Julian Alvarez doubled the lead before Craig Goodwin’s shot deflected in off Enzo Fernandez, ensuring a dramatic conclusion at Ahmad bin Ali stadium.

Messi’s goal, which came in his 1000th game for club and country, marked the first time he has scored in a World Cup knockout match.

“One more target has been reached. We are one step closer to our objective,” Messi told a news conference.

“It was a tough game, we knew it was going to be like that. We didn’t have much time to rest and we were worried about that. We knew it was going to be a tough game. They are physically very strong. We were able to get the advantage and then it got complicated. We suffered a bit at the end but it’s the World Cup. All games are difficult.”

Messi paid tribute to the tens of thousands of Argentine fans at the stadium, many of whom sang and chanted throughout the 90 minutes. Argentina’s players made a point of applauding them on the pitch after the final whistle.

“It was beautiful to be with them,” the 35-year-old forward said. “I think all of Argentina would like to be here, but obviously that can’t happen.

“We are always thrilled to play in front of these fans and it’s great to have their support every match, to feel their joy and passion.”

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Cameroon coach Song ‘proud’ after historic win over Brazil

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LUSAIL, Dec. 3 (Xinhua) — Cameroon manager Rigobert Song said he was proud of his players after a historic 1-0 victory over Brazil in their World Cup Group G match here on Friday.

A stoppage-time header from Vincent Aboubakar gave the Indomitable Lions the first ever win by an African team over Brazil at the World Cup.

But it wasn’t enough to earn Cameroon a place in the knockout stage in Qatar as they finished third in their group, behind Brazil and Switzerland.

“We have a feeling of regret because this match showed that we could have done better in the first two games,” said Song, referring to a 3-3 draw with Serbia and a 1-0 loss to Switzerland.

“But you have to look at the positive side. We’re satisfied with tonight’s performance. I took over the team not that long ago and we’re progressing.

“I’m proud of my players. We’re trying to get across the Lions’ spirt. We’ve shown that we can be a good team and now we have to make sure that we keep improving.”

He admitted he wasn’t initially aware of the magnitude of his team’s achievement.

“I didn’t even realize it was such a historic victory. My players should be congratulated and they’ve shown they could have done better [earlier in the tournament]. It’s a shame we have to go home now but we are going to keep working so that we improve.”

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