World Cup Updates: U.S. Settles for a Draw After Wales Penalty

Timothy Weah’s strike in the 36th minute had given the young American team a lead.

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United States

Group B

Final

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Wales
Photos from U.S. vs. Wales
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Andrew Keh

Reporting from Qatar

A strong start slips through the Americans’ fingers in their World Cup opener.

AL RAYYAN, Qatar — Walker Zimmerman wagged his left pointer finger in the air from where he lay sprawled out on the ground. He shook his head and yelled, “No, no, no, no, no!” But it was to no avail. The referee was already pointing to the penalty spot.

The United States had been leading Wales by the narrowest of margins in the teams’ return to the World Cup when, with roughly 10 minutes remaining before second-half stoppage time, Zimmerman slid into the legs of the Welsh superstar Gareth Bale and sent him tumbling to the grass.

Soon, Bale was on his feet again, blasting his penalty kick into the right corner of the net, scoring the goal that helped Wales snatch a 1-1 draw on Monday that may have suited both teams, but will have really pleased only one.

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Wales’s Kieffer Moore had a prime scoring chance in the second half, but his header went over the crossbar.Credit...Francisco Seco/Associated Press

It was a cruel ending for the United States, which was returning to the biggest stage in men’s soccer for the first time in eight years and looked to be in control for much of the match after being staked to a first-half lead by forward Tim Weah. But it will have to do, for both of them, for now.

“We’re disappointed with the nature of how the game played out,” Zimmerman said, “having a great first half, getting the first goal, and being in a position with less than 15 minutes left to walk away with 3 points.”

The match felt, in some ways, like a collision between bright, hopeful ideas and long-seasoned pragmatism. The United States, the second-youngest squad in the tournament, looked lively for large stretches of the match. Tim Ream, playing his first game for the U.S. since last year, started the game at center back and formed an effective partnership with left back Antonee Robinson, his club teammate with Fulham in the English Premier League. The three American midfielders circulated the ball with intent. The Americans, though, lacked the polish to finish off some of their chances.

“It’s disappointing for sure after such a good start,” the American star Christian Pulisic said. “We got the goal we needed and I guess we just dropped off in the second half.”

After struggling through a meek first half, the Welsh made a series of sensible adjustments, most crucially inserting Kieffer Moore, a 6-foot-5 striker, into the game as a target forward. Because of his presence, they could employ a direct style of attack — stretching the field, flinging balls into the American penalty area — that immediately put the Americans under more pressure.

Even the game-turning penalty, in Zimmerman’s estimation, was the result of some veteran savvy. He said after the game that he did not see Bale come across his path in the 18-yard box as he prepared to clear the ball as it bounced in front of him. He added that he thought Bale had intentionally positioned his leg to draw the foul.

“I think it was one of those where he probably just puts his leg not for the ball but to try to get in the way of me hitting the ball,” Zimmerman said. “Clever move. Wish I would have seen him out of the corner of my eye on trying to clear the ball. It was instinctive. It was quick. Little bit frustrated with that.”

The Americans will have to quickly regain their bearings. They play England, which defeated Iran, 6-2, to take the early lead in Group B, on Friday night.

With Wales bunkered in front of its goal, employing five defenders and stacking the rest of the team close by, the Americans, who enjoyed two-thirds of the possession in the first half, spent much of that time easing the ball from side to side, trying to find an opening, waiting for the Welsh to slip up or doze off for a moment.

The moment came, finally, in the 36th minute. Pulisic received the ball on the run and surged through the heart of the Welsh defense, dragging two defenders with him. Simultaneously, Weah was making a slashing run toward the goal from the wing. Pulisic slotted a perfectly weighted pass into the penalty area, where Weah stutter-stepped and flicked the ball into the net with the outside of his right cleat.

Weah then wheeled away from the goal and slid toward a corner flag, where his teammates engulfed him in celebration.

“It’s a great feeling,” said Weah, whose father, George, won a FIFA World Player of the Year award and a Ballon d’Or but never appeared in a World Cup. “He’s living this moment through me.”

After making its practical adjustments at halftime, Wales became the aggressor. Before Bale’s goal, the Welsh’s best scoring chances arrived around the 64th minute, when Ben Davies headed a ball that seemed to be destined for the goal until the American goalkeeper Matt Turner pushed it over the crossbar. On the ensuing corner, Moore drilled a header of his own over the net.

Even then, the Americans seemed to be cruising toward a crucial opening victory.

Until Bale stepped up, as he so often does, to steal away the spotlight.

“Sometimes, you’ve just got to shrug it off and roll with it,” Zimmerman said. “It happened, move forward. There’s not much time to dwell on it with how quickly this tournament happens.”

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 4:05 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

That Kellyn Acosta foul was soooo smart, and it might have saved the game. Wales takes the free kick, the referee blows for full time and that’s that: United States 1, Wales 1.

They are tied for second place in the group behind England, which thrashed Iran on Monday. Given that England was always thought to be the best team in the group, how these teams fare against the Iranians may decide who goes to the knockouts.

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Credit...Hannah Mckay/Reuters
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:59 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The referee, whom Rory referred to as “a bit of a showman” as he flourished yellow cards, has called for nine minutes of added time that no one here can really understand. Maybe he wants to extend his moment in the spotlight a bit?

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:59 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The last 10 minutes will be a big test for the young American team. Bale’s penalty has lifted his country’s fans to their feet and into song, and the United States looked — for a few brief moments — like the shock had affected them. But they’ve calmed things down, and Jordan Morris has come on for Weah, the goal-scorer, to stall a little. And that has settled the game.

One would expect both teams to be doing mental calculations of whether a draw suits them more than the risk of going for a win and getting it wrong. But as the action picks up, there’s no sense of quit.

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Credit...Carl Recine/Reuters
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:43 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

GOAL! Bale buries the penalty with a shot to his right, and Wales has tied it, 1-1, in the 82nd minute. Vital goal for his team, and absolutely unsurprising that he is the one who won it and converted it.

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Credit...Fabrizio Bensch/Reuters
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Credit...Ashley Landis/Associated Press
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Credit...Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:40 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

PENALTY FOR WALES!

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:42 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Such a savvy play by Bale, who knew he would get to the loose ball in the box before Zimmerman, so he just got his body in the way and took the collision. No doubt on that one.

Bale now steps up to take.

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Credit...Clive Mason/Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:39 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Musah goes down cramping and Berhalter uses the break to make a couple more moves: Dest, who also has a yellow and a recent injury, goes off, too, replaced by DeAndre Yedlin, whose position and dye job makes that a like-for-like switch in every sense.

Haji Wright comes on as the same time, replacing Sargent, who ran around and had a couple of good chances but did not do the actual job of scoring a goal.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:38 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Aaronson’s scurrying almost produces a goal there, but a floated ball at the spot is just out of reach of the substitute’s head. (Aaronson came on a few minutes ago for McKennie, who in addition to having a yellow was also not 100 percent fit. The safe move was to take him off.)

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Credit...Anne-Christine Poujoulat/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Rory Smith
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:33 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Fun fact: Leeds United fans have nicknamed Brenden Aaronson “the Badger,” presumably for his scurrying industry, rather than his viciousness when cornered.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:31 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

There’s Moore, narrowly missing a header that was the best chance of the night for Wales. It quickly followed the second-best chance: a Ben Davies header from 12 yards that Turner pawed over the crossbar.

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Credit...John Sibley/Reuters
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:25 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Wales has quite clearly shifted the momentum now, and having sent on the 6-foot-5 Kieffer Moore, the tournament’s only N.B.A. power forward, it is now driving crosses in relentlessly toward him and Bale.

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Credit...Michael Steele/Getty Images
Andrew Keh
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:25 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Berhalter may be thinking about taking out McKennie, and perhaps Dest, at some point soon. Both arrived to camp last week at less than full health. Both picked up yellow cards in the first half.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:20 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

A yellow card for Tim Ream is the Americans’ third tonight: He joins Dest and McKennie on the referee’s naughty list. Bale and defender Chris Mepham are on there, too.

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Credit...Adrian Dennis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 3:07 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Back under way at Al Rayyan and it takes the United States less than a minute to win another corner. Like most of the ones that preceded it, the ball fizzes in and misses every American who could reasonably do anything dangerous with it, and Wales is let off again.

Rory Smith
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:59 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Who needs experience? Weah’s smooth finish caps a smooth half for U.S.

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Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times

That has gone about as swimmingly as the United States could have hoped.

Eight years on from its last appearance at a World Cup, with a side boasting a grand total of zero minutes of experience at this tournament, Gregg Berhalter’s side has looked accomplished and assured. That it will be mildly disappointed only to lead by one — an expertly crafted, precisely finished goal from Tim Weah — is a reasonable measure of performance. Wales, on the other hand, has seemed curiously inhibited.

The Welsh haven’t been to this tournament for 64 years, remember; it is possible the significance of the moment has proved too much to bear for the players. The working assumption has to be that won’t last. The United States most likely needs another to be sure of a triumphant return.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:51 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Tweet tweeeeet. Our referee blows for halftime. United States 1, Wales 0.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:49 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Four minutes of added time in the first half as Pulisic is pulled down for what he reminds the referee is the 64,389th time in this game.

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Credit...Jewel Samad/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Keh
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:46 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

That could be exactly the sort of spark that this young, inexperienced American team needs to really get going in this game — and in this tournament. They’ve talked about the possibility of nerves. They’ve talked about not quite understanding the intensity of the World Cup, as only one of them, DeAndre Yedlin, has ever played in the tournament. But a goal like that, in a cagey game like this, can take a weight off a team’s shoulders.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:42 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Special moment for Tim Weah, by the way. He is the son of George Weah, the 1995 world player of the year, and now has at least one career highlight his father will never match. George Weah played his international soccer for Liberia, and thus sits quite near the top of the best players to have never appeared in a World Cup.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:36 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

36' GOAL! The U.S. leads through Tim Weah. That was terrific. A lightning attack there as Pulisic bursts out of midfield, takes two defenders out with a neat slotted ball into the path of Weah, who drops his defender as he cuts in from the right. Taking one stabbing touch, he pokes the ball under Wayne Hennessey and that goal that has been coming is finally here.

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Credit...Antonin Thuillier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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Credit...Antonin Thuillier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
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Credit...Adrian Dennis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:33 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

A little shape-shifting going on in the last 10 minutes as the teams look for something that might unlock a good chance. Robinson, the left back, is pushing far up on that side, sometimes ahead of Pulisic. Bale, meanwhile, has played wide right, alone up top and a few minutes ago dropped into midfield. He could use the movement: anything to get a touch right now.

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Credit...Stu Forster/Getty Images
Rory Smith
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:30 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

There’s a nice balance to this U.S. side. Adams and McKennie provide a solid anchor in midfield, with Musah given license to add a little thrust and the two full-backs, Robinson and Dest, the cover they need to raid forward. This has been a good 30 minutes or so.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:21 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Two quick yellows, for Dest and then for McKennie, in the first 15 minutes are two more than any coach wants for vitally important players like them at that stage of a game.

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Credit...Ronald Wittek/EPA, via Shutterstock
Rory Smith
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:19 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The first two chances of the game both fell to the U.S. and were both generated by a single, wondrous piece of ball control by Tim Weah that would even have impressed his dad.

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Credit...Francisco Seco/Associated Press
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:15 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Two great chances for Sargent set off alarm bells for Wales, but he hits the goalkeeper square in the chest with the first from point-blank range, and sees the other flash wide to his immense frustration.

Bale, meanwhile, has had his first touch. Twelves minutes into the game. (Spoiler: That’s not good enough for Wales.)

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Credit...Themba Hadebe/Associated Press
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:10 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The U.S. is dominating possession and a bit quicker than Wales everywhere in the early going. They’ve already won a corner, which was wasted by sending it straight to a defender. The payoff is coming.

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 2:01 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

After a little delay to clean up the pregame ceremonial litter (signs mostly) on the field — and a double countdown — we’re off in Al Rayyan. Sargent kicks off.

Rory Smith
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:59 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The Welsh anthem — Land of my Fathers in English, Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau in Welsh — being played at a World Cup for the first time in more than half a century was a genuinely spine-tingling moment. There were people crying in the crowd. Wales is a small country, and here it is facing off against what, culturally, often seems the biggest. That means something.

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Credit...Patrick T. Fallon/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:56 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

“Yma O Hyd” vs. the “U.S.A!” chant is the fan support version of "USWNT 13, Thailand 0."

Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:52 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The World Cup trophy* is on the field.

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Credit...Andrew Das
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:52 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

*Not the actual trophy but that would be fantastic if it was.

Andrew Keh
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:49 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The history behind the Welsh national team’s anthem.

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Credit...Clive Mason/Getty Images

The chorus of the song comes crashing down in an irresistible wave. You may not have any clue what the words mean, but that’s OK. Neither do many of the people singing it.

The name of the tune is “Yma o Hyd.” It was released in 1983 by Dafydd Iwan, a Welsh nationalist folk singer. Its title translates to “Still Here.” And now, everywhere the Welsh soccer team goes, it seems to follow.

“I don’t know every single word because I don’t speak fluently in Welsh,” said Gareth Bale, the captain of the team, which often plays the song in its locker room and on the bus before games and will be serenaded with it by its fans today in Al Rayyan. “The song is starting to become our anthem, behind the national anthem — one that everybody loves to sing.

“It’s very catchy. It means something to us all and engages the players with the fans. It’s been a big hit.”

The song’s path to jock jam status was an unlikely one. It has gradually grown in popularity over the years after being adopted by sports clubs and pro-independence groups. One such campaign for Welsh independence pushed the song to No. 1 on the United Kingdom’s iTunes chart in 2020.

Earlier this year, Iwan was asked by the Welsh team to sing the song on the field before two crucial qualifying matches. Videos of those performances, with fans belting out the words in unison, circulated around the globe. The song reached No. 1 on the iTunes chart again soon after, ahead of songs from Kate Bush, Harry Styles and Lady Gaga.

“It’s difficult for me to explain the appeal, but obviously there is a patriotic appeal from the Welsh point of view,” Iwan said. (The defiant and proud Welsh chorus translates to “We’re still here.”) “But also it’s quite a stirring song, an anthemic song. A lot of people who’ve never heard it before, when they hear it for the first time in the stadium, they’re quite taken by it.”

Moments after Wales qualified for the World Cup in June with a win over Ukraine in Cardiff, the entire team — with Bale front and center — sang the song together again with Iwan on the field. Iwan, who has traveled with the team to Qatar for the World Cup, said the sight of a player of Bale’s stature singing a song in Welsh at the top of his lungs was invaluable for promoting Welsh identity. He praised the Welsh Football Association for more conspicuously integrating elements of the nation’s culture and language “into the whole ethos of the team” in recent years.

“My support for the Welsh football team is an extension of my Welshness. They are all intertwined,” Iwan said.

Iwan, like many of his compatriots, went out that night in June to celebrate the team’s World Cup berth. The city, he recalled, was rocking with joy.

“The first pub I walked into, everybody stood up and cheered as if I had scored the winning goal,” he said, laughing.

Rory Smith
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:44 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

No question who the locals — and the assembled sundry neutrals that attend every World Cup game — are here to see. Most of the American and Welsh players were greeted with gracious applause, but the mere sight of Gareth Bale was enough to bring a genuine roar, and not just from the huge patch of Wales fans at one end.

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Credit...Antonin Thuillier/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Keh
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:41 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The World Cup, historically, is a good time to do something interesting with your hair. Remember Ronaldo’s forehead tuffet in 1998? Or David Beckhams bleached faux-hawk in 2002? American midfielder Weston McKennie will play this game with a patch of red, white and blue dyed into his bouncy hairdo.

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Credit...Stu Forster/Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:32 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The U.S. is out warming up in the sort of shirt design that makes you wish sportswear brands had to defend their choices to congressional committees.

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Credit...Adrian Dennis/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:36 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Wales, meanwhile, is in white shirts and red shorts. Like an intramural team from Cornell.

Andrew Keh
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:08 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Hours before the United States and Wales kicks off at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium in Al Rayyan, fans of both teams congregated at the enormous and luxurious Mall of Qatar. Colorfully dressed fans intermingled with locals, sung songs and took pictures amid the storefronts of various international clothing brands. Some dined at restaurants serving regional cuisine, while many others opted for globally familiar chains like KFC, Jollibee and Papa John’s. A little closer to game time, hordes of supporters began to march in the dark, happily chanting, along an empty expanse toward the colorfully lit stadium.

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Credit...Erin Schaff/The New York Times
Andrew Keh
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:08 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

Another notable inclusion in the U.S. starting lineup is center back Tim Ream, 35, whose last game for the United States national team was in September 2021. Coach Gregg Berhalter said he picked Ream for his 26-man World Cup roster because of his strong form with his club, Fulham, in the English Premier League. What Ream lacks in speed and overall athleticism, in the coaching staff’s eyes, he makes up for with savvy.

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Credit...Tim Nwachukwu/Getty Images
Andrew Das
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:06 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

The U.S. lineup is out and there aren’t many surprises. The biggest, maybe, is Josh Sargent, who has been scoring goals in England’s second tier, is starting at forward. He will have Christian Pulisic and Tim Weah up front with him, and Coach Gregg Berhalter will be desperately hoping that new mix will produce the one thing the Americans have been missing lately: goals.

Nov. 21, 2022, 1:06 p.m. ET

United States vs. Wales: How they match up.

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The United States on Monday night will play its first World Cup match in eight years, facing a Wales team playing its first World Cup match since 1958.

The Americans have the second-youngest team at this tournament (behind only Ghana), with a roster of promising, but largely unproven, players including forward Christian Pulisic and midfielders Tyler Adams and Yunus Musah.

Wales, on the other hand, fields a group with major tournament experience, including a run to the semifinals of Euro 2016 and to the Round of 16 in Euro 2020 (which was played in 2021 because of the pandemic). They are led by Gareth Bale, a superstar forward at the tail end of his career.

Both teams would love to claim all three points from the game, given that they each have meetings to come against England, the best team in the group. But the two teams will have to decide how many risks they are willing to take, as emerging from the opener with no points at all could severely hurt their chances of advancing from group play.

Andrew Keh
Nov. 21, 2022, 1:04 p.m. ET

Reporting from Qatar

World Cup reunion is extra sweet for Wales.

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Credit...Abedin Taherkenareh/EPA, via Shutterstock

Wales will be playing its first World Cup game since 1958 when it lines up to face the United States on Monday night.

“It’s history in our country,” said Gareth Bale, the team’s captain, during a news conference Sunday afternoon in Doha. “Schools are going to stop to watch our games. Kids will miss school — fortunately for them.” He added, “It’s something that we’ve all wanted for a long time, and to be the team that was to get over the line and do that for our country is incredible.”