Saudi Arabia 0-0 United States: Reyna suffers injury scare as USMNT deliver another poor display

By Sports Desk September 27, 2022

Gio Reyna was substituted early on during the United States' limp 0-0 draw with Saudi Arabia on Tuesday, dealing them an injury scare less than two months before the start of the World Cup.

The Borussia Dortmund winger, who is expected to play a key role for Gregg Berhalter's men in Qatar, bowed out after just half an hour of the team's final pre-tournament friendly in Murcia, being replaced by Paul Arriola.

The teenager's departure will have set alarm bells ringing, particularly given he missed much of last season after suffering several muscle injuries.

A statement on the national team's social media channels moved to allay those fears, however, indicating the Dortmund man was replaced as a precautionary measure after experiencing "muscle tightness".

Berhalter's side had started brightly in Spain, with Tyler Adams going close from distance, but Saudi Arabia missed the best chance of the first half when DeAndre Yedlin – who was also later substituted through injury – made a last-ditch block to deny Hattan Bahebri.

Jesus Ferreira could only manage a tame attempt when presented with the USA's best opportunity of the second half, and they will enter the World Cup in disappointing form, having suffered a dismal 2-0 loss to Japan last week.

 

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    Theirs was the worst group-stage record of any home side at a World Cup, becoming the first to lose all three matches and conceding a landmark seven goals. Only South Africa, in 2010, had previously failed to make it out of the first round.

    Controversially awarded the tournament months after Spain's Barcelona-inspired success at South Africa 2010, Qatar had plenty of time to prepare and soon put its faith in Catalan coach Felix Sanchez.

    He worked first with the nation's youth teams before taking the top job five years out from the World Cup.

    Although Sanchez led Qatar to Asian Cup success in 2019, he never considered a World Cup run a serious possibility – or so he said after a third straight defeat last month.

    "Our country has 6,000 federation football licences, so this was a likely outcome," he explained. "We never set a goal to reach the round of 16 or quarter-finals."

    While Sanchez believed this to be a "very realistic" approach, Qatar undoubtedly underwhelmed.

    However, fortunately for those with a vested interest in the country boosting its reputation at the finals, its presence on the pitch extends beyond Sanchez's national team.

    Lionel Messi and Neymar, like Sanchez, were poached by Qatar from Barcelona, and they are having a far greater impact.

    Of course, neither are counted among the naturalised Qatari citizens who turned out in the colours of the gulf nation, but the South American superstars, along with Kylian Mbappe, represent Qatari-owned Paris Saint-Germain every time they step out on the field.

    If disappointed by Qatar's woeful displays before his eyes, Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani, the Emir, could at least therefore be heartened by the influence of his club side.

    PSG's takeover by Qatar Sports Investments followed hot on the heels of FIFA's vote for the 2022 hosting rights, yet it scarcely could have dreamed of the status its players would enjoy when the tournament finally came around.

    Admittedly, things could have been very different had this World Cup taken place in the Northern Hemisphere's summer, as is the norm.

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    In Europe's top five leagues, Erling Haaland (21) alone has more goal involvements in 2022-23 than Neymar (20). Mbappe (10) leads the same metric in the Champions League. Both in Europe's top five leagues and in the Champions League, Messi sets the benchmark for assists (10 and four).

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    Meanwhile, Neymar was forced to watch as his club colleagues seized control of this competition, injured after a brutal Brazil opener in which he was fouled nine times by Serbia players and hobbled off with a severely swollen ankle.

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