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FIFA World Cup: The U.S. and Wales tie 1-1 in a crucial opening match

The U.S. men's national team celebrates after Timothy Weah's goal in the first half of a match with Wales in the FIFA World Cup.
Jewel Samad
/
AFP via Getty Images
The U.S. men's national team celebrates after Timothy Weah's goal in the first half of a match with Wales in the FIFA World Cup.

Updated November 21, 2022 at 4:47 PM ET

DOHA, Qatar β€” The U.S. men's national team's first appearance in the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a crucial opening match against Wales, has ended in a 1-1 tie, complicating U.S. hopes of emerging from the group stage.

The outcome was something of a disappointment after the U.S. had shown flashes of greatness in a dominant first half.

The first goal of the team's World Cup campaign came in the 36th minute, as U.S. winger Christian Pulisic fed a breakaway ball to Timothy Weah, who flicked it in just ahead of the outstretched foot of Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey as the U.S.-friendly crowd roared.

The young U.S. squad controlled much of the early game at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, besting Wales in time of possession. It narrowly missed an earlier goal in a chaotic sequence where a near Wales own-goal turned into a chance for forward Josh Sargent, whose header went just wide of the post.

But Wales came alive in the second half, pressing hard on the U.S. defense. Keeper Matt Turner worked to keep Wales from finding the net with a series of highlight reel saves.

And a key blunder came late in the game by U.S. defender Walker Zimmerman, who fouled Wales captain Gareth Bale in the box, gifting him a penalty kick. Bale knocked in the equalizer to bring the game to a tie at 1-1 in the 82nd minute.

"We lost a little bit of power," said U.S. coach Gregg Berhalter in a post-game interview with FOX. "It was a hard-fought game. We left everything out there."

Monday's draw leaves the U.S. and Wales each with 1 point in the tally that will determine whether they make it to the knockout round. England's win over Iran has them ahead with 3.

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, the U.S. has returned to the tournament with a fresh look: All but one of the 26 players on the roster have never played in a World Cup game before today, and the team is one of the youngest squads in the entire event.

The U.S. has turned to its young stars who have honed their skills playing in high-level European leagues – including Pulisic, the 24-year-old phenom winger with Chelsea, and team captain Tyler Adams, the 23-year-old midfielder for Leeds United.

Monday's opponent Wales has been out of the World Cup for even longer – this year is its first appearance since 1958. But the team's performance in recent years, under the leadership of Bale, has impressed many. At #19, it is ranked just three spots behind the U.S.

It was the first meeting of Wales and the U.S. in a World Cup match. Both teams saw today as a critical match to win in their difficult road out of the competitive Group B. (No other group has a higher average FIFA ranking than Group B at 15, led by England, a favorite to win the entire tournament.)

Any first World Cup game is already important for both teams – since 1998, 84% of teams who win their opening match are able to move on from the group stage.

But with England looking dominant in their 6-2 victory, it appears to be a near-lock to leave the group – leaving Wales, the U.S. and Iran all jockeying for the second spot.

The U.S. team's next chance is on Friday: a marquee matchup with England set for 2 p.m. Eastern time.

Tom Goldman reported from Doha, Qatar and Becky Sullivan reported from Washington, D.C.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Becky Sullivan has reported and produced for NPR since 2011 with a focus on hard news and breaking stories. She has been on the ground to cover natural disasters, disease outbreaks, elections and protests, delivering stories to both broadcast and digital platforms.
Tom Goldman is NPR's sports correspondent. His reports can be heard throughout NPR's news programming, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and on NPR.org.