Nine days of the World Cup are over, and two teams are already out, their World Cup dream ended even before the last set of Group Games.
Qatar, already eliminated after two losses to Ecuador and Senegal, can salvage some pride with an unlikely win (or even a draw) against the Netherlands and avoid the ignominy of becoming the first host to end the tournament without a point.
Coach Felix Sanchez, however, is aware of the improbability of such a result and said: “Although, we won’t qualify, we want to play well against the Netherlands. We competed with all our strength and the group was difficult. We will compete at the highest levels to delight the Qatari fans.”
A point would be enough for Louis Van Gaal’s team to move to the knockouts and a loss, too, would do it no harm if Ecuador beats Senegal. A draw or a win is needed by Ecuador, unless the Qataris shock the world to upset the Netherlands, while a win is a must for Senegal.
Van Gaal said seven of his players are recovering from knocks but indicated a starting role for Memphis Depay who has played only 75 second half minutes so far.
“We need him to become world champion. We are doing everything we can to get him fit for the really important games,” the Dutch coach said. “I never say anything about the starting team, but because if he is going to play for an hour then he has to start.”
In Group B, England with a +4 goal difference can qualify even if it suffers a loss as long as it can keep it’s (goal difference) nose ahead of the others (Iran on three points has a GD of -2, while for the USA its 2 and 0, and 1 and -2 for Wales).
Gareth Southgate might be tempted to give Manchester City’s Phil Foden the first start of the World Cup after an uninspired display against the United States.
“He can play off either flank, he can play as a false nine if we choose to do that, he can play off of a striker although he doesn’t really do that so much at club level. So that’s applicable for certain types of games or certain moments in games,” Southgate said.
“He’s a very flexible player in terms of the attributes that he has and where he can have an impact, and he’s a goal threat, which is also really important.”
Gareth Bale must inspire his team to a win over the noisy neighbours to extend his World Cup stay, while a win is also must for the United States in the feisty encounter against the Iranians. A draw would be enough for the Asians if England doesn’t crumble in this last group encounter and a win would guarantee its progress.