USA and Wales are held to a 1-1 draw in a crucial opening game

Updated November 21, 2022 at 4:47 p.m. ET

DOHA, Qatar — The US men’s national team’s first appearance at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, a crucial opening game against Wales, ended in a 1-1 draw, daunting US hopes of progressing through the group stage.

The result was rather disappointing after the USA showed highlights in a dominant first half.

The team’s first goal in the World Cup match came in the 36th minute when US winger Christian Pulisic fed a breakaway ball to Timothy Weah, who scored it just before Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey’s outstretched foot as the US crowd roared.

The young USA side controlled much of the early game at Al Rayyan’s Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium, beating Wales on possession. It narrowly missed an earlier goal in a chaotic sequence when an own goal near Wales turned into an opportunity for striker Josh Sargent, whose header just missed the post.

But Wales came lived in the second half and pressed heavily on the US defense. Keeper Matt Turner tried to stop Wales from finding the net with a string of goals Highlight reel save.

And a crucial error came late in the game from US defender Walker Zimmerman, who fouled Wales captain Gareth Bale in the penalty area, missing him a penalty. Bale scored the equalizer to end the game 1-1 in the 82nd minute.

“We lost a bit of strength,” US coach Gregg Berhalter said in an interview with FOX after the game. “It was a hard-fought game. We left everything out there.”

Monday’s draw leaves the USA and Wales with 1 point each to decide if they make it through to the knockout rounds. England’s win over Iran has put them 3 clear.

After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, USA have returned to the tournament with fresh eyes: all but one of the 26 players in the roster have never played a World Cup game to date, and the team is one of their youngest teams throughout the event.

USA have turned to their young stars who have honed their skills in top-flight European leagues – including Pulisic, the phenomenal Chelsea winger, 24, and team captain Tyler Adams, the 23-year-old Leeds United midfielder.

Monday opponents Wales have been out of the World Cup for even longer – this year is the first time since 1958. But the side’s performance in recent years under Bale’s leadership has impressed many. At number 19, it is just three spots behind the US

It was the first meeting between Wales and the USA in a World Cup match. Both sides saw a crucial game in their tricky trek out of the hard-fought Group B today. (No other group has a higher average FIFA ranking at 15 than Group B, led by England, a favorite to win the entire tournament.)

Every first World Cup game is important for both teams – since 1998 84% of teams that win their opening game have been able to exit the group stage.

But with England looking dominant in their 6-2 win it seems almost impossible to break out of the group – while Wales, USA and Iran are all battling for second place.

The US team’s next chance comes Friday at 2:00 p.m. ET in a marquee match against England.

Tom Goldman reported from Doha, Qatar and Becky Sullivan reported from Washington, DC

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