It was a zestless 1-1 stalemate between USA and Wales in a game of plenty of mis-passes and cynical fouls. It was also a game of expectations – hunching down on the shoulders of a youngster and an aged warrior. For Timothy Weah, the scorer of the first goal for the USA, the burden is the constant comparison with a genius father, the former Ballon D’Or winner and current Liberian President George Weah.
And for Wales’s Gareth Bale, the hopes of a nation and the need for an answer to the critics’ cynicism are always there when he takes the field. He, too, scored here, from the spot to give the Dragons a satisfactory return to the world stage after 64 years.
The five-time Champions League winner also has the jitters while taking an 82nd-minute penalty, much like the shakes suffered by many ahead of a high school math exam. “Of course, you feel the pressure, but it’s my responsibility, my job to step up and take penalties as the penalty taker. I’m happy to do that and obviously thankful it went in,” Bale said after the heat of the game in the cold desert midnight air.
As it happened | USA vs Wales FIFA World Cup
But the captain and the talisman chose to lead from the front and keep Wales’s World Cup journey on track. “Yeah, it was always (going to be) me (to take the penalty). No doubts in my head. I feel like I must step up, and I’m happy to do so,” he said.
Timothy was happy to do what his father never got the chance to achieve. The 22-year-old, who was in India in 2017 to participate in the FIFA under-17 World Cup, scored in the 36th minute to send the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium – packed with American expats with their chips and cola – into a tizzy. With his famous father and Jamaican mother – Timothy could have played international football for four nations – and a few uncles in the stands, it was a proud moment for Liberia’s first family. “My father and mother were here. It’s incredible to have the family in a moment like this,” said the Lille winger.
The defensive outlook of the opponent in the first half had left Weah, and his fellow USMNT forwards with little space to create enough goal-scoring threats despite enjoying almost 60 per cent possession. “I think when you’re playing a five in the back as a winger and as a striker, it’s very hard to find open spaces or to go one-on-one,” Timothy said. “There were a couple of moments where I felt like I was a bit out of the game, but that’s a learning experience. Those first World Cup game jitters are out, and now, it’s time to focus on the next game.”
Wales and Bale will do the same in this battle to make the next round. “It’s incredible to have a World Cup goal, but I’d rather have the three points,” Bale said. “I felt a little bit tired towards the end. I can’t believe there were nine minutes added on, but we have to dig deep for our country. We always do.”