EA late Gareth Bale goal has saved a long-uninspired Wales from a false start to the World Cup in Qatar as they return to the World Cup stage after 64 years. The star player converted a penalty he took himself in the 82nd minute to make it 1-1 against the USA.
For long stretches, the dream of participating in the global championship seemed like a nightmare. The Welsh were too discouraged and unimaginative to get the Americans even remotely into trouble. But they failed to score a second goal. The tenacious Welsh were still within reach of a point win at the start of Group B.
The prelude in the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in ar-Rayyan, which is brightly lit from the outside, belonged to the red block of the many Welsh fans, who were enthusiastically anticipating their country’s first World Cup game since 1958 and singing loudly.
Already in the capital Doha, in which these days not only the fans of the two playing teams, but also the fans of all teams mix permanently with up to four games a day, they were at least as loud as those of the English, who finished 6th in the afternoon 2-1 win over Iran had made an impressive start to their World Cup campaign.
But what the fans from Wales got to see from their compatriots on the field was a mood killer at first. The team mostly entrenched themselves in their own half and yet offered gaps in the defensive structure. A fatal combination that is not very promising.
First, Joe Rodon almost scored an own goal – goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey saved with his chest (9th minute) because he happened to be in the trajectory – a few seconds later a header from former Bremen player Joshua Sargent smacked the outside of the post (10th).
This defensive tactic of the Welsh coach Rob Page did not last long. Christian Pulisic, once with Borussia Dortmund, sent the nimble Timothy Weah, who elegantly tipped the ball past goalkeeper Hennessey to make it 1-0 (36′).
The 22-year-old winger is the son of George Weah, football legend and now President of Liberia. Because his third child was born in New York and grew up there and in Florida, Timothy now plays for the USA.
And what about Bale? After leaving Real Madrid in the summer, he had chosen Los Angeles FC in Monday’s opponent’s country to prepare for the big finale of his career.
That was possible because Bale, who was still struggling with injuries recently, was on the pitch and lasted the entire season. But first, the great name of the Welsh made itself small. For a long time, his most notable scene was a foul, for which he saw a yellow card.
In the second half, however, the Europeans increased offensively. Ben Davies (64′) and Kieffer Moore (65′) had two header chances in quick succession, and suddenly they came closer to the goal. That was unexpected. But suddenly the offensive spirit was there.
When the American Walker Zimmerman in the penalty area went too clumsy with a tackle against Bale after a cross from the outside, the captain had the chance to shoot free from eleven meters. His deep left shot was unstoppable for goalkeeper Matt Turner.
At midnight local time, the fans from Wales sang loudly at the final whistle. They celebrated Wales. And Bale. And they wrote that they definitely don’t want to go home and go to work again.
Behind the English, who are probably too strong, the draw means that everything is open in this group in the fight for second place, which leads to the round of 16. For Bale and Wales, the second game against Iran continues on Friday (11:00 a.m. CET, in the FAZ live ticker for the World Cup, on ARD and on MagentaTV). This is followed by the brother duel with England at the end of the preliminary round. It should not be an early farewell game from the World Cup.