from HUSSEIN HUSSAIN in Doha, Qatar
DOHA, (CAJ News) – THE second Group matches kick off on Friday with hosts Qatar and Senegal under pressure to avoid the humiliation of being the first side to be knocked out of this World Cup.
The pair suffered defeat (both 2-0) at the hands of Ecuador and The Netherlands earlier this week and whoever loses this encounter to the Al Thumama Stadium will be left with a mountain to climb, as two defeats in a row usually results in elimination.
Judging by their performances in the last matches, Senegal stand a better chance in the Group A match than Qatar.
The African champions’ build up play against the Dutch was impressive and for the most part, they were stable defensively.
However, they capitulated at the death after some goalkeeping blunders.
Senegal lacked the cutting edge upfront, dearly missing injured captain, Sadio Mane.
“Everyone needs to be confident in our role,” defender Kalidou Koulibaly said at the pre-match conference.
“Everyone needs to get stuck in. It is together that we are going to be able to overcome this hurdle,” the player said.
The Maroons of Qatar, champions of Asia, were utterly poor against an Ecuadorian side that barely shifted from first gear.
That they are the first hosts to lose their opening fixture in the competition’s 92-year’s history and had no shot on target is a measure of the amateurishness of manager Felix Sanchez’s beleagured debutantes and first Arab hosts.
Sanchez’s Senegal counterpart, Aliou Cissé, will be looking to exploit this shoddiness to get the Teranga Lions’ campaign back on track.
Ecuador’s La Tricolor and the Oranje of Holland, the joint leaders, contest the other Group A encounter at the Khalifa International Stadium later on Friday.
The winner of this game will be the first of the 32 teams gathered in the Middle East to cement a place in the knockout stage.
Group B action resumes with Iran and Wales at the Ahmed bin Ali Stadium.
Defeat for the bottom-placed Persian Stars of Iran could mean an exit from the tournament after England crushed them 6-2 in the opening encounter.
Wales, making a return to the tournament after a 64-year absence, secured a late, penalty-inspired 1-1 draw against 2026 joint hosts, the United States.
The Dragons, as the Welsh are known, last won at a World Cup finals match in Chile 1958 when they beat Hungary 2-1.
Table-toppers England and the United States conclude the day’s proceedings at the Al Bayt Stadium.
The Three Lions underlined their favourites tag with that emphatic victory over Iran.
England, winners in 1966 but perpetual chockers, also have a magnificent record against the Stars and Stripes, winning eight of their previous 11 meetings.
– CAJ News