World Cup 2022: Wales hold USA to opening draw

Gareth Bale scored an 82nd-minute penalty to earn Wales a 1-1 draw against the United States at the World Cup in Qatar on Monday.

The US led the game courtesy of a Christian Pulisic assist to Timothy Weah but Gareth Bale equalized with a late penalty.

Team captain Gareth Bale represented Wales after six decades of world cup absence. If Qatar 2022 feels like the last hurrah for Wales, then it was the beginning of something for the USA.

They are the second youngest squad at the tournament behind Ghana, with an average age of 25. And at 23, Leeds midfielder Tyler Adams is their youngest captain at a World Cup since Walter Bahr in 1950.

But you wouldn’t guess their age from the experienced display they showed at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

The USA started strong with lots of possession in the early minutes, although most of it has been in the middle third. 

For all their defensive excellence, Wales wasn’t able to keep the ball for long spells in the first half.

The first chance happened in the 10th minute as the American Weah ran onto a long pass from Dest and hooked a cross that was headed instinctively towards his own goal by Rodon.

The ball hit Hennessey, who had almost no reaction time and rebounded to safety. Briefly. The US regained possession, and seconds later Sargent flicked a close-range header just wide of the near post. It may even have hit the outside of the post.

The US maintained a high press and direct passing style being very good without the ball and harassing Wales into making mistakes. Initially, it was a pretty one-sided 0-0, at least in terms of possession percentage: USA 68-32 Wales.

And, despite a nice defensive showing by Ampadu and Williams, a blunder was inevitable as Pulisic dribbled centrally and passed a beautiful through ball to Weah who took his chance with lightning pace.

As Timothy Weah stepped onto the pitch, only 22 years old, there was little expectation that he will emulate his father George’s legendary attacking style. But it was his goal that gave US hope at the end of the first half.

The second half was a different story though. It started better for the Welsh who regained possession and dribbled past the American fullbacks more often. This all culminated in the 64th minute with an incredible double chance.

Wilson’s inswinging free-kick was headed up in the air, which led to an impromptu game of head tennis. Eventually, Davies’s diving header was tipped over by Turner, a fairly comfortable save above his head. Wilson curls the resulting corner to the near post, where Moore gets away from Turner but heads over from four yards with an excellent chance; he just couldn’t quite get over the ball.

But that elusive goal wouldn’t evade the Welsh for long as their national hero, Bale, got fouled by youngster Ream in the closing minutes earning a penalty. He converted with a top right finish to put the teams on level terms.

It is a bittersweet night for the Welsh whose experienced squad would have expected more but it is more disappointing for team USA who let the win slip.

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