Premier League Playback: Man Utd’s revival begins, AVB gone, Arsenal’s bad luck

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LIFE AFTER VAN PERSIE… THERE’S HOPE FOR UNITED

In the midst of Manchester United’s run of no wins in four Premier League games, the news earlier this week that talismanic striker Robin van Persie is out injured for over a month and may miss eight games added to the misery.

But in United’s dominant 3-0 win over Aston Villa on Sunday, several stunning performances proved there may be life after RVP (those strands of dyed jet-black hair won’t hide the wrinkles, Robin) as David Moyes’ men produced an attacking masterclass to potentially reignite their campaign. Moyes has been under-fire for most of this season but managed to crack plenty of smiles in his post-game conference as Danny Welbeck, Antonio Valencia and Adnan Januzaj tore Villa’s defense apart with their desire, speed and skill in a three-pronged assault that left Villa’s young defense in ruins. Yet Moyes wasn’t happy with the way his youngest pretender, Januzaj, was treated as several late tackles flew in.

It’s been a reoccurring theme.

“In every game recently, I don’t know how many tackles have been on Januzaj but the last two, three games that’s why I’ve been annoyed with the fourth officials. Before you know it, the boy will get a sore one because he’s definitely not getting protected by the officials. It’s terrible what they’re allowed to do at the moment because this boy’s an incredible talent. The opposition are queuing up and taking turns at who’s going to have a kick at him next. But Adnan will just get up, walk away and get on with it, he’s a great lad. That’s maybe one of his biggest attributes apart from his outstanding ability, he will just get up and walk away and say ‘go on then, kick me again if you want, I’ll get up again.’” – David Moyes on Januzaj being targeted.

Aside for being worried about his starlet being physically assaulted in most games, Moyes has plenty to be happy about.

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Click to enlarge – Welbeck is about to enter the box, as his desire to get to the ball first seems him bag a crucial second goal for United. Note: Rooney on the edge and Januzaj slashing in from the left flank.

He spoke about his delight in seeing Welbeck get back on the score sheet, as the United forward grabbed his first PL goals since the opening day of the season with two predatory strikes in the box. Welbeck, 23, showed his vast hunger and desire to finish both off, just look at the image on the left as Valencia (who was outstanding on the wing) prepared to cross the ball in for Welbeck’s second goal. From that position, you see how much ground the England international has to make up but he got to the ball first, tellingly ahead of his teammate Januzaj, who was always extremely hungry and eager to attack. The Belgian born winger was ready to prove a point all afternoon as his terrific header, which cannoned off the post to give Welbeck his first goal, proved.

Plus his relentless running down the left saw his slight frame breeze past players as if they weren’t there, with the 18-year-olds pace a real asset.

Moyes mentioned that you have to “show what you can do” when opportunities arise.

Welbeck, Januzaj and Valencia all did that with RVP and Javier Hernandez on the sidelines. The pressure looked off for the Red Devils as the feel-good factor returned following a horrid month in which their last PL win came on Nov. 10 against Arsenal. They proved that their attacking juggernaut can be in full flow without being directed by RVP and that bodes well for the rest of the season. Also telling is that United have scored 17 away from home but just eight at home… Are the shackles loosened when they’re away from the 75,000 home fans scrutinizing their every move at Old Trafford maybe?

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Click to enlarge – My prematch thoughts on United were answered with resounding displays from Januzaj, Welbeck and Valencia

Before Sunday’s game as I sipped on a cup of coffee in the press box under the grey clouds forming above Birmingham, I circled Welbeck, Januzaj and Valencia’s names on my team sheet, linked them together and put a question mark next to them… Honest. Look at the picture on the right. I did that because I was unimpressed with them so far, they had to show everyone they had the desire to be winners.

They did that. And some.

Those three were the shinning lights, along with Wayne Rooney, in a dazzling display in the damp drizzle at Villa Park. United’s new-look attacking trio with Rooney orchestrating things from a deep-lying role offers cause for optimism amongst United’s fans who chanted “we are staying up” with heavy irony when the Red Devils went ahead. They’ve had their struggles this season, that’s been well documented. But with a run of three very winnable games coming up in the league (against West Ham, Hull and Norwich) the likes of Darren Fletcher returning from a long-term illness to rapturous applause in the second half and even the much-maligned Tom Cleverley getting a goal and playing well, there’s plenty to be cheerful for this Christmas at Old Trafford.

Just ignore the fact that they’re in 8th place and 10 points behind leaders Arsenal. The way this PL season’s going, United will be back top of the table by the end of January…

If they keep attacking like they did against Villa, they have every chance.

Premier League Schedule – Week 16

Result Recap & Highlights
Aston Villa 0-3 Man Utd Recap and watch here
Cardiff 1-0 West Brom Recap and watch here
Chelsea 2-1 Crystal Palace Recap and watch here
Everton 4-1 Fulham Recap and watch here
Hull City 0-0 Stoke City Recap and watch here
Man City 6-3 Arsenal Recap and watch here
Newcastle 1-1 Southampton Recap and watch here
Norwich 1-1 Swansea Recap and watch here
Tottenham 0-5 Liverpool Recap and watch here
West Ham 0-0 Sunderland Recap and watch here

HIGH-LINE, TRANSFER MEDDLING SEES AVB’S TIME TICKING

Number one, Tottenham is in trouble. Number two, so is Andre Villas-Boas.

UPDATE: Andre Villas-Boas has been sacked as Spurs’ manager. But the rest still applies…

After seeing his side collapse once again to a team full of attacking creativity and nous, AVB’s time at Tottenham Hotspur has now run out as Spurs were humiliated 5-0 by Liverpool at White Hart Lane. Sad fact is, it could’ve been more.

Do Spurs work on defending during the week at the training ground? It doesn’t seem like it. To be fair they had Ettiene Capoue, usually a central midfielder, playing at center back and he looked all at sea as he pushed up high and Tottenham kept a criminally high-line against one of the deadliest strikers in world soccer Luis Suarez, who made them pay with two goals and had a hand in the others. The defending was extremely poor and it shows Spurs have got insufficient cover at the back due to injuries.

That brings me to my next point.

When AVB and Franco Baldini ‘masterminded’ one of the biggest roster reconstructions in PL history over the summer, many (including yours truly) were hailing Tottenham’s manager and the Sporting Director as geniuses for the way they worked the market and brought in eight top-class players for one, when they sold Gareth Bale to Real Madrid for approximately $132 million.

Hindsight is a wonderful thing.

Baldini and AVB forget that more defenders were needed and just went out and bought a ton of midfielders who were either industrious wide players or industrious central guys. They were all clones of each other. Now, when Spurs are looking for a change and fresh impetus off the bench, the players they bring on all do the same thing. New guys Paulinho, Nacer Chadli, Erik Lamela and Capoue are the same as Aaron Lennon, Andros Townsend, Mousa Dembele and Lewis Holtby. Did nobody think of that?

Asked of the transfer policy after the game and if he had made the signings or was given the players by Baldini, AVB gave a strange answer as he mumbled through his answer and backed the players, completely dodging the issue.

The fact that his side has had their pants pulled down and their backsides smacked twice in the last five PL games won’t help his cause, as the Portuguese managers’ future is hanging in the balance at Spurs.

He was fired less than 24 hours after the humbling loss. Nobody was surprised.

Liverpool were fantastic and look like title-contenders, let alone settling for a top four finish. Tottenham are a million miles away from that and AVB is history.

Note: Steve Clarke lost his job as manager of West Bromwich Albion after their defeat to Cardiff on Saturday. Just nine wins in 41 games in charge isn’t a great return but many thought the sacking was harsh. Five managers and counting in this season sack race, so far…

ARSENAL HARD DONE BY TO LOSE 6-3? PERHAPS…

Okay, Manchester City were sublime going forward and in the grand scheme of things deserved all three points in their brilliant display of finishing when beating Arsenal 6-3 on Saturday at the Eithad. But it all could’ve been so different if a few pivotal calls would’ve gone Arsenal’s way.

In the first half two clear offside calls were somehow flagged as Nacho Monreal and Theo Walcott raced through on goal. Both, more than likely, would’ve resulted in goals for Arsenal. In the second half Olivier Giroud was adjudged to be offside as a telling cross approached him in the box. Like the other decisions, replays showed he wasn’t offside.

And finally, to cap it all off, Niklas Bendtner’s goal late in the game was ruled out when he was clearly onside to infuriate Arsenal’s fans, players (so much so that Jack Wilshere is facing a ban as he flipped the bird) and their manager.

Do they have a point? City were incredibly good going forward but Alvaro Negredo did stray into an offside position for his goal. Sooo, if we add those mistake by officials up, Arsenal win 7-6 or 6-5… There’s a small margin for error in this game and the officials are just as capable as the players for some results. Believe me, I’m not taking anything away from City for winning this game. I’m just chucking the evidence out there. Regardless, Wenger wasn’t happy with the defending and Mesut Ozil is in hot water after refusing to go and applaud Arsenal’s fans despite captain and fellow countryman Per Mertesacker telling him to.

THROWING PUNCHES AND PULLING TRICKS

We’ve talked about some pretty heavy stuff in playback this week, so it’s time to tone things down.

Have you ever seen a ref take a dive? That’s right folks, it happened.

First up, we all love the referees (deep down) and realize the game couldn’t happen without them. Moussa Sissoko’s right fist struck poor Mike Jones with an accidental uppercut to his nose from Newcastle’s French attacker with he was involved in ‘handbags’ with Saints’ ‘keeper Paolo Gaazaniga. In the same game, Newcastle and Southampton’s benches cleared as a huge scuffle broke out between the coaching staffs just after Jones had his nose reattached and plugged up to continue. What a crazy ending to that game at St. James Park. Enjoy, or grimace, as you watch it all unfold above.

Finishing on another light note, don’t adjust your displays when looking at the image below. Yes, Peter Whittingham and Peter Odemwingie do both look like they’re about to strike the free kick at the same time, one with his left foot and the other with his right, in Cardiff’s 1-0 win over West Brom on Saturday.

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Click to enlarge – who took this free kick… Whittingham or Odemwingie?

Can you work out which players actually hit the ball? Bizarre.

I’ve seen this before and if it comes off, it utterly bamboozles the ‘keeper and could be a trick we see deployed more often as the season goes on. Hilarious, devious and downright genius.

Premier League Playback comes out every Monday and takes an alternative look at the PL weekend gone by.

Serbia vs Switzerland: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Serbia and Switzerland seek a win that could seal a place in the World Cup Round of 16 when they meet Friday in Doha.

The Swiss can qualify with a win, or a draw if Cameroon beats Brazil and tiebreakers stay in Switzerland’s favor. The Swiss beat Cameroon 1-0 in Al Wakrah but lost to Brazil by the same score in Doha.

STREAM LIVE SERBIA vs SWITZERLAND

Serbia started its tournament with a 2-0 loss to Brazil In Lusail before drawing a wild six-goal thriller with Cameroon In Al Wakrah.

Serbia qualifies with a win if Cameroon doesn’t beat Brazil. If Serbia and Cameroon both win, Serbia would need to take the lead in goal differential.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Serbia vs Switzerland.


How to watch Serbia vs Switzerland live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday Dec. 2
Stadium: Stadium 974, Doha
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Three different goal scorers hit the sheet in the draw with Cameroon, and Fulham star Aleksandar Mitrovic remains a threat to score every game. Sergej Milinkovic-Savic continues to show huge value in the center of the pitch.

Breel Embolo has Switzerland’s only goal and will be continue to be a focal point, while Man City defender Manuel Akanji, Arsenal’s Granit Xhaka, and Nottingham Forest’s Remo Freuler make the Swiss a tough team to break down.


Serbia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 21
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified from UEFA via playoffs
Coach: Dragan Stojkovic
Key players: Aleksandar Mitrovic, Luka Jovic, Sergej Milinkovic-Savic, Dusan Tadic

Switzerland quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 15
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 12
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Murat Yakin
Key players: Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri, Yann Sommer, Remo Freuler

Cameroon vs Brazil: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Cameroon needs to upset qualified Brazil and get help from the other Group G game when the World Cup group stage hits Lusail on Friday.

The Indomitable Lions lost 1-0 to Switzerland before drawing Serbia 3-3 In a thrilling second encounter.

STREAM LIVE CAMEROON vs BRAZIL

Beating tournament favorites Brazil is a big ask but it will be a heavily-rotated and Neymar-less Selecao who faces Cameroon. Brazil blanked Serbia 2-0 in Lusail before beating Switzerland 1-0 in Doha.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Here is everything you need for Cameroon vs Brazil.


How to watch Cameroon vs Brazil live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Friday Dec. 2
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Cameroon defender Jean-Charles Castelletto has joined forwards Vincent Aboubakar and underappreciated Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting in becoming one of the stories of Group G.

Brazil still needs to find its answer if Neymar cannot return to the fold this tournament. Richarlison and Raphinha have impressed but still need to show they can really carry the attack without Neymar. Could Gabriel Jesus shine in his absence?


Cameroon quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 43
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 8
How they qualified: Qualified from CAF playoffs
Coach: Rigobert Song
Key players: Andre-Frank Zambo Anguissa, Vincent Aboubakar, Eric Maxim Choupo-Moting

Brazil quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 1
World Cup titles: 5 (1958, 1962, 1970, 1994, 2002)
World Cup appearances: 22
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (1st place)
Coach: Tite
Key players: Neymar, Thiago Silva, Casemiro, Alisson Becker

Mexico fall short of miraculous escape in win over Saudi Arabia

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Mexico scored the first goals and picked up their first win at the 2022 World Cup on Wednesday, beating Saudi Arabia 2-1 to close out play in Group C, but the margin of victory wasn’t large enough to advance to the knockout rounds.

WATCH FULL MATCH REPLAY

Instead, Poland (4 points) will join Argentina (6) in the round of 16 by way of their superior goal difference (0 to -1) to Mexico (4 points). For nearly 45 minutes, the tiebreaker in question was fair play points (yellow and red cards) with the sides matching one another identically at this World Cup.

After failing to score a goal in either of their first two games, Mexico needed an offensive explosion on Wednesday, and to some degree they got one. Their 2.10 expected goals were more than double their outputs from games no. 1 (0.72 vs Poland) and 2 (0.27 vs Argentina), combined.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Henry Martin got Mexico on the board just two minutes after halftime, turning home Cesar Montes’ flick of a corner kick at the near post. Five minutes later, it was 2-0 after Luis Chavez smashed a dipping free kick home from 32 yards out.

As Mexico pushed more and more numbers forward in pursuit of the third goal that would send them through to the knockout rounds for an 8th straight World Cup appearance, El Tri were hit on the counter-attack. Salem Al Dawsari’s stoppage-time consolation goal was the final, decisive blow.

[ MORE: Latest Group C standings, schedule, scores ]

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How to watch Saudi Arabia vs Mexico live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 2pm ET, Wednesday Nov. 30
Stadium: Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Saudis have arguably been the most fun team at the tournament amongst non-powers, always running and getting exceptional goalkeeping. Salem Al-Dawsari was very good in both games but his missed penalty before halftime against Poland looms large of a match that could’ve been 1-1 going to the break and instead ended 2-0.

Mexico has not scored at the tournament so far, and Raul Jimenez has only been used as a super sub. Hirving Lozano and Alexis Vega combined for just three shot attempts before being subbed out of the Poland loss, while Lozano and Henry Martin combined for two versus Poland (Vega attempted five). They need better up top to keep up their streak of making Round of 16 appearances at the World Cup.


Saudi Arabia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 51
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group B)
Coach: Herve Renard
Key players: Salem Al-Dawsari, Fahad Al-Muwallad, Mohammed Al-Owais

Mexico quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 13
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 16
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONCACAF (2nd place)
Coach: Gerardo ‘Tata’ Martino
Key players: Guillermo Ochoa, Hector Herrera, Raul Jimenez

World Cup tables – Group stage standings in full

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The World Cup tables are shaping up to be very intriguing viewing as the group stage unfolds in Qatar.

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock ]

With teams now scrambling to be in the top two in order to reach the last 16, goal difference will make a big difference and it is going to be very tight and tense over the next few days.

If you need a reminder on the tiebreakers for the group stage, here is everything which will help you work out the two teams who will make it through and the two who will go home from reach group.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub ]

Below are the World Cup tables from all eight groups, as fans across the globe will be glue to these standings as they try to figure out the permutations needed for their team to make it through.


Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H

Group A table

1.  Netherlands — 7 points (+4 GD) – IN THE LAST 16 
2. Senegal — 6 points (+1) – IN THE LAST 16
3. Ecuador — 4 points (+1) – ELIMINATED
4. Qatar — 0 (-6) – ELIMINATED

Matches played

Recap/highlights: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Senegal 0-2 Netherlands – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Qatar 1-3 Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 1-1 Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 2-0 Qatar – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Ecuador 1-2 Senegal –  Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan


Group B table

1. England – 7 points (+7 GD) – IN THE LAST 16
2. USA – 5 points (+1) – IN THE LAST 16
3. Iran – 3 points (-3) – ELIMINATED
4. Wales – 1 point (-5) – ELIMINATED

Matches played

Recap/highlights: England 6-2 Iran – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: USA 1-1 Wales – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: England 0-0 USA – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-2 Iran – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-3 England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Iran 0-1 USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor


Group C table

1. Argentina — 6 points (+3) – IN THE LAST 16
2. Poland — 4 points (0) – IN THE LAST 16
3. Mexico — 4 points (-1) – ELIMINATED
4. Saudi Arabia — 3 points (-2) – ELIMINATED

Matches played

Recap/highlights: Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Mexico 0-0 Poland – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Poland 2-0 Saudi Arabia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Argentina 2-0 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Poland 0-2 Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Saudi Arabia 1-2 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail


Group D table

1. France – 6 points (+3 GD) – IN THE LAST 16
2. Australia – 6 points (-1) – IN THE LAST 16
3. Tunisia – 4 points (+1) – ELIMINATED
4. Denmark – 1 point (-2) – ELIMINATED

Matches played

Recap/highlights: France 4-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Denmark 0-0 Tunisia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: France 2-1 Denmark – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 0-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 1-0 France –  Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Australia 1-0 Denmark – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah


Group E table

1. Spain — 4 points (+6 GD)
2. Japan — 3 points (0)
3. Costa Rica — 3 points (-6)
4. Germany — 1 point (-1)

Matches played

Recap/highlights: Spain 7-0 Costa Rica – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Germany 1-2 Japan – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Japan 0-1 Costa Rica – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Spain 1-1 Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor

Matches remaining

Thursday, December 1: Japan vs Spain – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
Thursday, December 1: Costa Rica vs Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Group F table

1. Croatia — 4 points (+3 GD)
2. Morocco — 4 points (+2)
3. Belgium — 3 points (+1)
4. Canada — 0 points (-4) – ELMINATED

Matches played

Recap/highlights: Belgium 1-0 Canada – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Morocco 0-0 Croatia – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Belgium 0-2 Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Croatia 4-1 Canada – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

Matches remaining

Thursday, December 1: Croatia vs Belgium – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
Thursday, December 1: Canada vs Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 10am


Group G table

1. Brazil — 6 points (+3 GD) – QUALIFIED
2. Switzerland — 3 points (0)
3. Cameroon — 1 point (-1)
4. Serbia — 1 point (-2)

Matches played

Recap/highlights: Brazil 2-0 Serbia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Brazil 1-0 Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Cameroon 3-3 Serbia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah

Matches remaining

Friday, December 2: Cameroon vs Brazil – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm
Friday, December 2: Serbia vs Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm


Group H table

1. Portugal — 6 points (+3 GD) – QUALIFIED
2. Ghana — 3 points (0)
3. South Korea — 1 point (-1)
4. Uruguay — 1 point (-2)

Matches played

Recap/highlights: Portugal 3-2 Ghana – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Uruguay 0-0 South Korea – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Portugal 2-0 Uruguay– Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: South Korea 2-3 Ghana – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan

Matches remaining

Friday, December 2: South Korea vs Portugal – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am
Friday, December 2: Ghana vs Uruguay – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am