KJ's World Cup Diary (Nov. 21): Tournament comes alive at last with USA-Wales atmosphere
Monday November 21st, 2022
World Cup matches don’t usually kick off at 10pm. Then again, World Cups rarely give you an opportunity to visit two games in a day either. Today I was thankful for both.
England vs. Iran felt like the main course on the menu in today’s double dip and in many ways it delivered. We had eight goals, the most at a men’s World Cup match since the 2014 semifinal between Brazil and Germany, fantastic World Cup debuts from 19-year-old Jude Bellingham and 20-year-old Bukayo Saka, and a thoroughly strong collective performance out of the gate from one of the contenders here in Qatar.
Yet, despite eight goals being retrieved from the back of the net, despite a reasonably loud ‘Barmy Army’ supporters’ section and a large crowd in attendance, the entire game felt a little soulless.
Being in the country for four days you get used to things being different. It’s remarkably dry here, you don’t see the colours or the nature you are used to, and the extreme contrasts had seemed to spread to the football pitches here as well.
It’s not that Qatar-Ecuador and England-Iran were not good games to watch. They just felt more like an event, a showpiece exhibition kind of act.
The drive from Khalifa International Stadium to Ahmad bin Ali Stadium was no more than 30 minutes in evening traffic, but it turned out to be lightyears of difference to what we had watched in the first game of the day.
Sometimes it’s the small things, things often taken for granted but missed terribly when they are gone.
The moment I took my seat in the stadium it felt different. A stadium almost full to capacity an hour before kick-off. Supporters singing, chanting, pointing at each other. More loud cheers and emotion when the players appeared for warm-ups.