World Cup round-up: Saka at the double …

Good morning to all.

That was an interesting first full day of the World Cup, so let’s do it in parts.

Bukayo Saka

Whatever personal thoughts we may have about this World Cup, for a 21-year-old footballer it is a chance to play on the biggest stage, and Bukayo Saka showed the world what all Arsenal fans know only too well.

His first goal was lovely, curling up into the back of the net after cutting the bottom of the bar, and his second was one that made it look very simple. I don’t think the goalkeeper or the Iran defenders covered themselves in glory, but it was a very well taken goal nonetheless. He spoke later and said:

I can’t describe the feeling, I’m so happy, I’m so proud. We also got the win, so it’s a very, very special day.

I feel that I am in a good place, I have the support of the fans, I feel the affection of the fans, and the coaching staff and my teammates. That’s all I need. I feel good, I’m ready to give 100 percent. Say that today and I will continue to do it every time I put the jersey on.

I think it’s normal that as Arsenal fans we have some concerns about the players in this tournament and the physical impact it could have on them, but it’s also very possible that someone like Saka could take his already stellar development a step further.

England were much better than Iran that day, and what a player Jude Bellingham looks like. That’s not news to anyone, obviously, but he told the BBC before the game that he was saving his first international goal, and his header opened the scoring. Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish stayed with the others. Conceding two against a team as poor as Iran can be a bit worrisome, but when you score 6, it doesn’t matter so much, especially in the opening game.

Old legs hinder, then help, Wales

In my opinion, the USA played Wales out of the park in the first half. Timothy Weah’s goal was a clever finish off an excellent pass, and I don’t think you can argue that the lead wasn’t deserved. Wales seemed one-stepped and heavy-legged.

A half-time substitution helped: Bournemouth striker Kieffer Moore gave the Welsh a fine start, and it looked as if the American team had cost them the first half. It made me a little sad to see that Aaron Ramsey lacked the energy that the best version of Aaron Ramsey had, but now he’s 32 and all those injuries have definitely taken their toll on him. There were moments, but he technically and physically he looked a lot like a man in the September of his career.

However, the mind is still sharp. He reacted well to the chance of a quick kick, played a pass to fellow veteran Gareth Bale, and the challenge on him was the most obvious penalty you’ll see in the entire tournament. Matt Turner got off on the right track, but such was the power of Bale’s penalty that he really didn’t stand a chance.

The Arsenal goalkeeper had some interesting moments. There was a good save from a header over the bar, and decent distribution, but also a couple of times on set pieces where he looked vulnerable. Wales missed a good chance to score when he came up and missed the ball.

Anyway, I think a draw was the right result, and the second half was by far the most entertaining of the World Cup so far.

Netherlands leave it late

I was cooking during this game, so I was on the fringes. I liked Cody Gakpo’s goal, it was a brave header from an excellent ball inside from Frenkie de Jong. Its trajectory and precision was Fabregassian. I’m sure many of us are looking at these games and thinking ‘What if…?’ about certain players and a possible future at Arsenal, Bellingham, for example. Frenkie de Jong is one of those for whom he would make a deal with the devil. Devil, contact me, slide into my DMs, whatever.

Senegal clearly missed Sadio Mane, and Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy was no good for either goal. And that is being diplomatic. Put it back on the nets, Potter. We the people demand it.

So much time of injury

I’ve never seen anything like the amount of injury time added in this tournament. In the first half of the England v Iran game, you can understand why it happened after the goalkeeper and defender clashed heads (and there were too many repeats of that!). That gave us 14 minutes at the end of the first 45, but there were 10 at the end of the second half without any kind of similar incident.

There was 8 minutes called in the game between the Netherlands and Senegal, with the second goal being scored well into the 9th minute. There were 9 minutes left in the game between the USA and Wales, and it’s jarring because we never see that amount of time unless there has been a major arrest.

Thanks to @matisaksk on Twitter for pointing me in the direction of this article, in which former referee and now FIFA referees committee chairman Pierluigi Collina explained:

If you want more active time, we should be prepared to see this kind of extra time being awarded. Think of a match with three goals scored. A celebration normally lasts a minute, a minute and a half, so with three goals scored, you lose five or six minutes.

What we want to do is accurately calculate the time added at the end of each beat.

I have to say that I’m not against this in theory, but I wonder if it will now apply to top-level football across the board? It’s very interesting, because as football fans, our position in extra time is very fluid. We love it when we’re chasing a game, we hate it when we’re trying to hold on to one, but there’s no doubt that as it stands, too much actual game time is wasted in all sorts of official ways, more often than not. , do not take it into account when they put the board.

I’m sure I’ll love it when Saka and Emile Smith Rowe score two late goals to win us a north London derby away from home, but when it’s the 119th minute of a 90-minute match and VAR gives the opponent a penalty for a handball that only a supercomputer could have seen, I reserve the right to be totally and utterly furious.

Well, that’s all. There are four games today, starting at 10 am in this part of the world. There will certainly be a lot to talk about tomorrow. Until then.

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