Day 10. A sad day. A lonely day. The day they took the early games away.
A warning would have been nice. There we were, coffee in hand, scone lovingly buttered, when what did we see? A small, spiky individual being cajoled into enjoying himself by a circle of annoyingly jolly compadres. Roy Keane on ITV? No, the opening credits of Happy The Hoglet on RTÉ2.
So, no 10am game. No lunchtime game, even. Nothing to do or see until three o’clock in the afternoon. What do they expect us to fill our time with? Work? Yeah, right.
Tell you who isn’t a happy hoglet — Kevin Doyle when he’s sent to take charge of RTE’s Fancy Effects Desk to analyse the Senegal defence. Joanne has him and Richie Sadlier up on their feet in front of the megascreen, clearly with mischief in mind. “Kevin,” she smirks, “you’re going to answer one of the great questions of World Cup 20222. Which is, why are we standing here and what’s that?”
“We’re finally going to use the magic machine,” Kevin says, with the air of a man who has just been asked to light a match to look into a petrol tank. “You are,” says Richie, delighted to stand well back. The way they’re going on, you’d swear she was asking them to land a chopper by remote control.
Kevin shows a few bits of Senegal coughing up chances to Qatar in the last game. By the time he’s done, you’re wondering what he was worried about. It’s basically Gilesy’s magic pen after it’s been through college.
News comes through of a goal in the other game. Cody Gakpo, his second of the tournament. Much more of this and they’ll nickname him Brian
The last round of group games, of course, is the As It Stands round. At kick-off time, Group A stands at Netherlands (4), Ecuador (4), Senegal (3), Qatar (0). John Kenny informs us on commentary that Ecuador v Senegal is like a knock-out game. Stephen Kelly: “No shi…”
News comes through of a goal in the other game. Cody Gakpo, his second of the tournament. Much more of this and they’ll nickname him Brian. How It Stands Now — Netherlands (7), Ecuador (4), Senegal (3), Qatar (0). But not for long — Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr gets fouled for a penalty, scores a penalty and now the group is alive. How It Stands — Netherlands (7) Senegal (6) Ecuador (3) Qatar (Sitting in the corner and hoping nobody notices.
Three minutes into the second half, Frenkie De Jong gets on the end of a messy one and puts the Dutch 2-0 up. Meaning it all comes down to the other game now and Ecuador aren’t doing a whole pile. “Considering the stakes,” says Stephen Kelly, “you would think Ecuador would be giving it a bit more here.”
Next minute? Ecuador goal, Moises Caicedo at the back post. Now we’ve got a situation. As It Stands: Netherlands (7) Ecuador (5) Sene… oh, hang on a second…
“Senegal looking for their first attempt of the second half,” says John Kenny. “And they’ve got it! There’s a goal. And it’s Koulibaly. Suddenly this game has sprung into life. Two goals in 90 seconds!” As It Stands: Netherlands (7) Senegal (6) Ecuador (4) Qatar (Ah, leave us alone, will ya).
Evening time means Group B. Starting table: England (4) Iran (3) USA (2) Wales (1). Two games, four channels. USA v Iran is on the RTE News Channel, which feels about right. How does it stand between those two? How long have we got?
But in the other game/clash of civilisations, The Great Satan have snuck a late goal
In both games, the first half is cagier than Cagey the Cage-Fighter locked in a cage on National Cage Day. Wales get to half-time with the game scoreless, although Gary Lineker has a few stats. “Wales have had nine passes in the final third, England 104. Passes in the opposition half: Wales 34 England 218. Seventeen touches in the box for England, none for Wales.” Doesn’t sound great, to be fair.
But in the other game/clash of civilisations, The Great Satan have snuck a late goal. Christian Pulisic has slid in to put the US 1-0 up and taken an almighty whack in his Big Apples along the way. He doesn’t appear for the second half, officially with abdominal pain. Anyone watching the replay will be surprised they didn’t land further up than that.
Second half. As It Stands: England (5) USA (5) Iran (3) Wales (2). But not for long. Marcus Rashford lines up a free-kick for England. Danny Ward lines up his wall. And then, for some reason, moves to stand behind it. Rashford accepts the challenge and curls a nice one into the corner.
“Aw, he’s just stepped to his right a tiny bit, Ward,” groans Ronnie Whelan, using his best These F**king Idiots tone of voice. “He’s got to stay on that side. He hasn’t covered himself in glory there, Danny Ward.” As It Stands: England (7) USA … ah here, will you let a man type? Phil Foden taps in Harry Kane’s cross at the back post and that’s that.
As It Stands: England (7) USA (5) Iran (3) Wales (We’ll get our coats).