21/02/2024

Gareth Bale and his Welsh teammates celebrate his equaliser against USA. (Image: FIFA World Cup/Twitter)

The first draw of the 2022 FIFA World Cup has arrived in dramatic fashion, with USA and Wales claiming a point each in the final game of the second day.

The USA meant business from kick-off and came out of the blocks quickly, with two big chances in quick succession within the opening 10 minutes.

The talented young side produced pure intensity and desire in its hunt for the ball early on, catching Wales off guard and forcing them to rethink their initial plan.

A backward header from Welsh defender Joe Rodon had goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey under immediate pressure. Hennessey parried the ball away, before it was cleared momentarily.

The ball was returned to the possession of USA before American left-back Antonee Robinson stormed to the byline before cutting a cross to Josh Sargent. His headed effort was off target, yet a scare to the Welsh defenders nonetheless.

The constant pressure continued to build, as USA eventually found a breakthrough before half-time.

22-year-old Timothy Weah scored his first World Cup goal, sliding the ball past Hennessey to give the Americans the lead.

Weah continues the great legacy that his father created. At just 22 years old, Weah showed promise in front of goal for USA, proving to be a menace to defenders.

His father – George Weah – in 1995 became the first and only African player to win the Ballon D’Or.

Timothy becomes the first of the two to score a World Cup goal however. His father represented Liberia – which have never qualified for the World Cup.

USA took a 1-0 lead into the halftime break and appeared to be smothering Wales in all aspects of the game.

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While the first half was all USA, as they applied significant pressure from the outset, Wales proved to be more dominant in the second half and clawed itself back into the game.

Most of the pressure that USA had applied in the first half had dispersed in the second half, with Wales finding another gear and putting it to use.

The minutes ticked over and it looked as if Wales’ hard work would come to nothing. With just over 10 minutes of regular time remaining, superstar Gareth Bale stood up for his country. The Welsh captain drew a foul in the penalty box, sending him to the spot.

The 2022 World Cup is only the second that Wales had qualified for, its first since 1958, meaning 64 years had passed between appearances from the nation.

Bale took to the penalty spot and ferociously slammed the ball into the top corner, sending the Welsh fans into raptures.

It was Wales’ first goal in the World Cup since Terry Medwin scored in the round of 16 against Hungary in 1958. Wales went on to win that game, before being downed by eventual winners Brazil in the quarter-final.

The tensions grew in the final 10 minutes of the game, with nine minutes of stoppage time added at the end of the 90.

Wales held all of the momentum as the clock continued to tick, but it was unable to find a scoring opportunity.

The final whistle was blown, over 100 minutes since kick-off, ending in an entertaining 1-1 draw. The points were deservedly shared between the two.

Bale took home man-of-the-match honours, primarily for his second half performance, including his all-important equaliser.

The USA will be quite upset to share the points, as they had a significant hold on the match prior to half-time and were let down in the second half by a lack of intensity.

Wales however will be thrilled to have escaped with a point, with Bale’s penalty a reward for the hard work they displayed after falling behind in the first half.

Wales will face the current bottom nation in Group B in Iran for their second match, as they hope to gain an edge on the USA, who have a tough challenge ahead of them in the top of the group England.

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