Gareth Bale, one of the great players in football history, made his debut, at the age of 33, with a goal, in his first World Cup, that of Qatar 2022. A goal that only served him, however, for Welsh to tie (1 -1) with the United States, who dominated the first half and ended up dominated by the British in the second part of an entertaining game.
Bale, who after leaving Real Madrid, has just won Major League Soccer (MLS), the North American professional league, with Los Angeles FC -to the greater joy of the legendary Magic Johnson, NBA legend and one of its owners – scored from a penalty in the 82nd minute, equalizing the American goal scored with ten minutes to go by Tim Weah, the son of the legendary George Weah, who never played in a World Cup but won the Ballon d’état for Liberia Gold of 1985 and is currently the president of said republic.
Wales had not participated in a World Cup for 64 years, since 1958, in Sweden; and this Monday, in his second appearance, the first of the ‘Cardiff express’ -winner of five Champions Leagues with Real Madrid-, with a draw against the United States. With which he comes to occupy second place in group B, led by England; after sweeping Iran hours before (6-2).
Not a few fans would be surprised to discover that the United States, where ‘soccer’ is giving the definitive acceleration to a project that was devised in the 70s -with Pelé and Beckenbauer’s Cosmos- and which began to take shape at the beginning of the century, Not only did she play in the semifinals, but she finished third, in the first World Cup in history, in 1930 and in Uruguay.
It was a very popular sport of that time, played mostly by the then very growing number of immigrants that populated the country. But television arrived, baseball became a television sport and, with it, a mass phenomenon. And soccer was not long in vanishing in the United States.
Gregg Berhalter -who played the World Cup in Korea and Japan 20 years ago- wants to recover those old stories, turn ‘Team US’ into a football powerhouse. He wants to give her a winning spirit, after having been absent four years ago, in Russia; and of having achieved the pass to Qatar after finishing third in the CONCACAF octagonal. But he still has work ahead of him.
He started by changing the captain for the debut in Qatar. And it was Tyler Adams (Leeds United), 23, who wore the bracelet, instead of a historic man like Christian Pulisic -with 53, the second most capped Americans and who nevertheless maintains the status of ‘ 10’-, who played up front alongside Sargent and Tim Weah, the son of the current president of Liberia.
Berhalter, who had declared that on a good day his team could beat anyone, lined up two acquaintances of the Spanish fans, the former Barcelona player Dest (now at Inter Milan), in defense, in which Zimmerman formed, the only one in the starting eleven of the US Team that plays in the MLS-; and the Valencian player Musah, in the center of the field. Both brilliant, the defender on the right and the midfielder on the left.
It was the Americans who took the initiative, almost always on the right flank; and in the ninth minute they already warned on a double occasion: a cross from the right by Weah did not turn into an own goal by Rodon -which he cleared badly- thanks to the good reaction of Hennesey; before the rebound ended at the feet of Robinson, who he put the ball from the left so that Sargent’s header skimmed the post.
Wales seemed not to feel uncomfortable with the initiative taken by the Americans, who in almost two minutes saw McKennie and Dest receive yellow cards, the first of them to see it and who tried from afar in the 28th minute.
But it was in the 36th minute that the scoreboard moved for the first time, thanks to a great goal in a quick play between Pulisic and Tim Weah, who picked up the pass through the Chelsea striker and on the fly crossed the outside of the instep with a ball that gave the Americans the advantage. Rob Page’s team reacted late and only equalized in cards, those that saw the star of him and Mepham, in the last minutes of the first act.
Page brought on Kieffer Moore for Daniel James and, after a stormy start by the Americans, Wales slowly gained position on the pitch to take possession of the second half. He was about to tie in two consecutive headers: the first by Ben Davies, who saved, in a great intervention, Hennessey; and immediately afterwards, by Moore (m.65).
At times, the United States found itself on the ropes. So he made a triple switch. Dest, Sargent and Musa left and Yedlin entered -the only one on his team who also played in the World Cup in Brazil’14 and the one with the most games (76)-, Acosta and Wright.
It did not fix much, because Wales did not give up on their efforts. And a clear penalty from Zimmerman on Bale was materialized by the Cardiff star to forcefully tie the game. To the greater delirium of the fans of his country who populated the bottom in which he scored.
Moore, with a brilliant heel shot into the hole, enabled Johnson, who could have sentenced the match in favor of Wales, but the Welsh were content to celebrate with their idol, who in his 109th match with his team raised his number of goals to 42 .