Wenger talks Zelalem, gets taste of U.S. obsession for potential international

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For a player who’s made one senior appearance with Arsenal, Gedion Zelalem is getting a lot of attention. Among hardcore United States soccer fans, the 18-year-old has evolved from a curiosity into an obsession, with the German-born prospect occupying many dreams for the next World Cup cycle.

Born in Berlin to Ethopian parents, Zelalem spent much of his adolescence in the United States, where his father is on the path of citizenship. That status would give Zelalem the option of representing the U.S., a choice that’s developed into a fixation for the national team’s most-devoted fans.

Consider the beginning of this Q&A a symptom of that fixation. Sports Illustrated, given time with Arsenal manager Arsène Wenger and executive Ivan Gazidis, began its session asking about a player who, in Wenger’s estimation, probably won’t impact his first team until next year, at the earliest.

But here in the States, the players who’ll actually compete for England and Europe take a back seat. Mr. Wenger: Given our audience, we need to talk about Zelalem first:

SI: Let’s get this one out of the way for American fans … What can you tell us about [Zelalem]?

Wenger: … he’s the kind of player who could be of use to the United States. He’s in some ways the type of player the U.S. was missing in the World Cup …

SI: Is the potential there for Gedion to play for Arsenal [first team]?

Wenger: Right now, I don’t think he’s ready. I don’t think he’s ready in the next six months. Next season, I hope to say yes … The American fans can see him play on Saturday night.

There’s much more on Zelalem and non-U.S.-centric topics in SI’s Q&A, but the first question (and, the almost embarrassed concession which precedes it) says a lot about the hopes of U.S, fandom. While the pride we saw from fans during the World Cup hinted soccer has reached a new level, tomorrow remains in focus. Scavenging for signs the future can outshine the present, fans have seized on Zelalem as if he’s the top pick in the NBA draft. Only instead of bring chosen by the Cavaliers, he’s being picked by America.

It’s not exactly fair, and given how little we’ve seen from Zelalem, it may not be accurate. For all we know, Zelalem may  be the next Josh McEachran – a technically gifted 21-year-old Chelsea midfielder who has struggled after debuting with the Blues four years ago. While Chelsea fans hoped the England U-level standout would develop into a regular, the then-17-year-old has spent the last two seasons on loan with Swansea, Middlesbrough, Watford, and Wigan.

Still, this kind of optimism is natural. Most fans regularly overestimate their team’s prospects. Add in the nationalistic angle to Zelalem (the potential to actively choose the U.S.), and the zealotry is understandable. For most fans, hope is a defining part of their arsenal.

Right now, that hope is fueling a lot of attention, from SI’s coverage, to more quotes on Major League Soccer’s site, to the updates you see here (and here, and here). In time, however, Zelalem will make news for his soccer, and while that will only stoke U.S. hopes, it will also give fans more than nationality to fuel their obsessions.

As Wenger gives him more time, Zelalem the player will finally get his chance to outshine Zelalem the hope.

Australia beats Tunisia to boost last 16 hopes

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Australia secured a huge victory against Tunisia in Group D to keep their hopes of reaching the last 16 alive.

It was the first win at a World Cup since 2010 for the Socceroos.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

Mitchell Duke’s fine header in the first half was enough to get them past a stodgy Tunisia, as the African nation were spurred on by their huge number of fans in the stadium but they couldn’t find a way past Matt Ryan in Australia’s goal.

[ MORE: Group C standings, schedule, results ]

The victory sets up a huge game against Denmark in Australia’s Group D finale, as a win against the Danes will see them reach the last 16.

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

As for Tunisia, they now face reigning World Cup champions France in their final group stage game knowing they have to win and hope for a miracle.


Socceroos dig deep to give themselves a chance

After qualifying for this tournament via the intercontinental playoff, Australia have been written off and Graham Arnold had a lot of criticism for the way the Socceroos played. Nobody cares now. His team put in a heroic shift and played to their strengths and sucked the energy out of Tunisia in the first half. This win gives them huge belief they can get the victory against Denmark they need in their final group stage game to reach the last 16. There is real grit and spirit about this Aussie side and right now you’d say they are the favorites to get past Denmark, even though the Danes have a better team on paper. Defensively they were exceptional and didn’t put a foot wrong and if they can replicate this display against Denmark, they have a huge chance of creating history.


Stars of the show

Harry Souttar: Superb from the giant center back. Key block in the first half and cleared everything which came into the box. At the heart of an incredible defensive display.

Aaron Mooy: What an engine this guy has. Rolled back the years to keep the ball and take the pressure off when Australia needed him and he rattled into challenges.

Mitchell Duke: Great header for the winner, held the ball up so well and gave his side a focal point.

Tunisia vs Australia
Graphic via FotMob.com

How to watch Tunisia vs Australia live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 5am ET, Saturday (November 26)
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Tunisia found it tough sledding to create scoring chances against Denmark, as they came out in a very conservative 3-4-2-1 formation. Midfielder Aissa Laidouni starred in central midfield, though the bulk of his contributions were of the hard-nosed, ball-winning variety. Tunisia will likely find themselves with more possession and the opportunity to take the game to Australia on Saturday, as opposed to playing more of the game against Denmark inside their own half.

Australia were a goal ahead and comfortably the better side after the opening 15 or 20 minutes of their clash with France, before the defending world champions settled in and began to play through Australia’s midfield and defense with ease. Possession was the best form of defense for Les Bleus, who allowed just four shots in total from Australia. To that point, Craig Goodwin’s 9th-minute goal was the Socceroos’ lone shot on target.


Tunisia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 30
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified via CAF playoffs (Beat Mali)
Coach: Jalel Kadri
Key players: Ferjani Sassi, Wahbi Khazri, Youssef Msakni

Australia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 38
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified from AFC via the intercontinental playoffs
Coach: Graham Arnold
Key players: Mathew Ryan, Aaron Mooy, Mathew Leckie

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How can USA qualify for the World Cup last 16?

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“How can the USA qualify for the last 16 of the World Cup and make it out of the group stage?”

[ LIVE: Watch World Cup en Espanol en Peacock

That is the question you will hear time and time again ahead of their Group B finale against Iran on Tuesday, November 29 at 2pm ET.

[ MORE: Group B schedule, rankings, table ]

As the information below tells you, the equation is now very simple for Gregg Berhalter’s young side.

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

After their draws against Wales and England to kick off Group B play, it all goes down to the final 90 minutes against Iran to see whether or not they can reach the last 16 of the World Cup in Qatar.


Group B table heading into final group stage game

1. England – 4 points (+4 GD)
2. Iran – 3 points (-2)
3. USA – 2 points (0 GD)
4. Wales – 1 point (-2 GD)


Group B remaining schedule

Tuesday, November 29: Wales vs England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm
Tuesday November 29: Iran vs USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


How the USA can qualify for the last 16

  • Win against Iran

How the USA will not qualify for the last 16

  • Draw against Iran
  • Lose against Iran

Netherlands vs Qatar: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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The Netherlands face hosts Qatar in their Group A finale knowing a win could guarantee them top spot.

STREAM LIVE NETHERLANDS v QATAR

Louis van Gaal’s side are level on points (4) and goal difference (+2) with Ecuador and if they better Ecuador’s result against Senegal in their Group A finale, they will go through as winners of the group. However, the Dutch were not impressive against Ecuador and were lucky to get a 1-1 draw. It will be intriguing to see if Memphis Depay is fit enough to start as LVG looks to build up his fitness ahead of the knockout rounds.

[ MORE: Group A – Table, rankings, results, schedule ]

As for Qatar, well, they are just playing for pride as the hosts were knocked out of the tournament after just two group stage games. They are only the second host nation in World Cup history to be knocked out of the group stage and they have looked totally out of their depth in defeats to both Ecuador and Senegal. They did score their first-ever World Cup goal through Mohammed Muntari but overall it has been a very disappointing tournament for Qatar.

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

Here is everything you need for Netherlands vs Qatar.


How to watch Netherlands vs Qatar live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

The Netherlands know a big win will basically guarantee them top spot and that means they will probably face one of the USA or Iran in the last 16 rather than playing England. Louis van Gaal may not really care about who they play in the knockout rounds but it is clear that Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay and Frenkie de Jong are the heartbeat of this team. They need Memphis to be fit enough to start and Cody Gakpo has done his best to fill in with two goals in two games, including a beauty against Ecuador.

For Qatar it is now all about pride and trying to cause a big shock in their final World Cup game. Manager Felix Sanchez has worked so hard to get this team together as a unit but they have made big mistakes at key moments and they only really went for it in the second half against Senegal and they looked much better doing that. They have nothing to lose here so expect to see Qatar go for it from the start.


Netherlands quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 8
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 10
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (Won Group G)
Coach: Louis van Gaal
Key players: Virgil van Dijk, Memphis Depay, Frenkie de Jong

Qatar quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 49
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 0
How they qualified: As hosts
Coach: Felix Sanchez
Key players: Abdelkarim Hassan, Almoez Ali, Hassan Al-Haydos


Ecuador vs Senegal: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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This should be a beauty of a game in Group A as both Ecuador and Senegal still have a chance of winning the group.

STREAM LIVE ECUADOR v SENEGAL

Ecuador is on four points after their impressive draw against the Netherlands and La Tri, led by the three goals of Enner Valencia, have been one of the stories of the tournament. The South American minnows have impressed mightily and a win here could see them get a more favorable path in the knockout rounds. A point is enough to guarantee them a spot in the last 16, however their captain and talisman Valencia was carried off against the Netherlands. It seems like he may be fit for the Group A finale though, which would be a huge boost.

[ MORE: Group A – Table, rankings, results, schedule ]

As for Senegal, they beat Qatar easily last time out and after their spirited display against the Netherlands, they are growing into this tournament sans Sadio Mane. Aliou Cisse knows his side need to win to guarantee their route into the last 16 and the African champions are certainly capable of matching Ecuador. If they can stay solid at the back, they have plenty of talented attackers who can punish and mistake from Ecuador.

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

Here is everything you need for Ecuador vs Senegal.


How to watch Ecuador vs Senegal live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Tuesday, November 29
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Enner Valencia has obviously been the main man for Ecuador with his three goals so far but Gonzalo Plata and Michael Estrada have been excellent alongside him in attack. Brighton duo Moises Caicedo and Pervis Estupinan have been superb too, while Angelo Preciado has been electric down the right flank.

Senegal’s defense has looked a bit shaky, even with Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly back there. In midfield Idrissa Gana Gueye and Nampalys Mendy were much better against Qatar and Ismaila Sarr continues to do his best to fill the huge void left by Sadio Mane.


Ecuador quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 44
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 3
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from CONMEBOL (4th place)
Coach: Gustavo Alfaro
Key players: Enner Valencia, Moises Caicedo, Pervis Estupinan

Senegal quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 18
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 2
How they qualified: Beat Egypt in CAF playoff
Coach: Aliou Cisse
Key players: Idrissa Gana Gueye, Edouard Mendy, Kalidou Koulibaly