day eight
pulisic's goal

day nine

Here are the scores for the Tuesday-Sunday matches that started at 2:00 AM my time: 2-1 0-0 1-0 2-0 1-0 1-0. These weren't necessarily bad matches ... Saudi Arabia's 2-1 upset of Argentina was especially interesting. But five clean sheets, and a total of 8 goals in 6 matches made it easier for me to miss out because I couldn't stay awake.

And the 5:00 AM games weren't a whole lot better. Yes, England put up 6 against Iran, but there were two scoreless draws, and arguably only one unmissable match (Japan's comeback win over Germany).

So I was keeping my eye on every game, as I have throughout the Cup, but I was also aware that after today, there would be no more 2:00 or 5:00 matches, and I wasn't going to be sorry they were gone.

So, of course, those early games went out with a bang. Cameroon and Serbia was 3-3, Ghana-South Korea 3-2. At least I saw the highlights.

The marquee matches didn't have the goals, although they had the excitement. Brazil left it until the 83rd minute to score in their 1-0 win over the Swiss, and it took two second-half goals for Portugal to beat Uruguay.

Now the fun begins. All group matches will be played simultaneously within the group, so tomorrow we'll have Netherlands-Qatar and Ecuador-Senegal from Group A starting at 7:00 AM (my time), and Group B matches (Iran-USA, Wales-England) will start at 11:00. For an explanation why this has been the case since 1986, check out this Wikipedia article (Disgrace of Gijón).

This makes for nail-biting table watching. Let's take Group B. At the start of play, the standings are England 4, Iran 3, United States 2, Wales 1. If both games end in draws, England and Iran advance, the USA and Wales go home.

Suppose the Americans score an early goal. That will make the "live table" read ENG 5 USA 5 IRN 3 WAL 2. The U.S. would advance, Iran would be out. But then say Iran and Wales both score. Now it's ENG 4 IRN 4 WAL 4 USA 2, and goal differential starts to matter. Iran scores to take the lead? IRN 6, ENG 4 WAL 4, USA 2. Basically, every goal in both games changes the table. It will take a lot to eliminate England, who have a big goal differential. But all other teams are still in the hunt.

Meanwhile, in Group A, Qatar are already eliminated, leaving the others with everything to play for. As the day starts, the table is Netherland and Ecuador 4, Senegal 3.