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World Cup 2022: The group stage highlights we can’t stop talking about

These were the best plays on the pitch of the 2022 FIFA World Cup

The World Cup 2022 keeps rolling along, upsets and upset teammates and all. After a circus off the field, the drama on the pitch keeps building as the group stage flares to a close. As national teams fight for their lives, elite athletic prowess and (mostly) fraternal bonds are turning the Qatar World Cup 2022 into an all-time great tournament just two weeks into the action. From pelvic contusions to deep ego bruisings, week two of the 2022 FIFA World Cup managed to level up the drama while matching the awesome feats accomplished over the previous week. Let’s dig in to uncover this week’s gems.

Christian Pulisic’s self-sacrifice — Iran vs. United States

There’s no other place to begin for this week’s high- and lowlight as Christian Pulisic sacrificed his body (and possibly his progeny) tapping home a deft, lofting pass from winger Sergiño Dest before crashing into Iran’s goalkeeper, Alireza Beiranvand.

Christian Pulisic scores but pays the price, colliding hard with Iran’s goalkeeper. 1-0 to the #USMNT, and AS OF NOW, the U.S. is going through

(via @FoxSoccer)

— SI Soccer (@si_soccer) November 29, 2022

While the team and U.S. fans celebrated, Pulisic remained on the ground, doubled over in pain. After the collision centered on his midsection, Pulisic was able to grit out the remaining half, but left the match for the locker room and eventually the hospital to monitor what turned out to be a serious pelvic contusion. The knee Pulisic took to the groin apparently made more contact with his pelvic floor (which is still a sensitive spot for a severe collision) than with Pulisic’s testicles.

As to Pulisic’s availability against the Netherlands tomorrow, CNN reports he’s been cleared to take the field. USMNT coach Gregg Berthalter indicated that the winger is likely to play, but he has until 90 minutes before kickoff to cement that lineup decision.

Hwang Hee-chan sends South Korea on — Korea Republic vs. Portugal

Son Heung Min’s Taegeuk Warriors lived up to their name, winning a rock fight with Portugal with an extra-time goal to shock the Seleção and lift South Korea into the Round of 16.

Stopping at the top of the right corner of the box, Son Heung-Min “used all his guile and experience” to slow the defense while forward Hwang Hee-chan streaked past the Portuguese. A tap pass ahead right onto Hee-chan’s toe resulted in smashing home the winning goal.

Hwang Hee-Chan scores in stoppage time and South Korea beats Portugal 2-1!! Uruguay now needs a goal vs. Ghana or their World Cup is

— Yahoo Soccer (@FCYahoo) December 2, 2022

What a comeback for South Korea and what a bold fashion statement from Hee-chan — the super-skinny, skin-tight, bandolier-esque tank top. On the other side, let’s all stick out our bottom lip for poor Cristiano Ronaldo. Life apparently isn’t fair even for the fairest of them all. Speaking of that…

Bruno Fernandes’ cross, not Ronaldo’s header — Portugal vs. Uruguay

Bruno Fernandes’ pretty, floating cross over Uruguay’s defense bounced past keeper Sergio Rochet into the net like a sly cat finding a warm place to nap:


Portugal takes the lead!

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 28, 2022

The pretty touch, however, soon turned ugly when teammate Cristiano Ronaldo got involved. Ronaldo tried to take the glory for himself, claiming a ghost goal for a missing head swipe at Fernandes’ shot. Ever the a-hole, Ronaldo was concerned for personal accomplishments — a ninth goal, which would tie him with Eusebio for the most goals scored for Portugal in the World Cup — rather than celebrating a teammate’s artistry and skill.

The hubbub turned out to be all for naught (even though teammate Fernandes tried to gracefully give the dumb record to Ronaldo to shut up his squawking) as British Sky Sports reported that Adidas technology inside the ball proved that not even one of Ronaldo’s hairs touched the ball.

Adidas technology inside ball proves Cristiano Ronaldo did not score against Uruguay

Mohammed Kudus’ header from the heavens — Ghana vs. South Korea

Though he failed to score in a well-played, attacking match against Uruguay, Kudus finished the 2022 FIFA World Cup as Ghana’s best player by far, scoring two goals, winning one penalty, and achieving an over 75% pass accuracy. His prettiest shot was a header that came down from the heavens via an incredible cross from forward Jordan Ayew.

Another look at this beautiful pass and header by Ghana for their second goal of the day 🔥🇬🇭

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) November 28, 2022

What a play. Ghana’s back-and-forth battle against the Korean Republic on November 28 turned out to be one of the best matches of the World Cup so far. Korea battled back to tie the match until Kudus put in his second goal to go up 3-2. The Ghanaian squad barely held up against intense Korean pressure to hang on for the win.

Smooth like Swiss fondue — Serbia vs. Switzerland

This tic-tac-toe goal for Switzerland is example one of why soccer is called “The Beautiful Game.”

That final pass was TOO NICE 🔥🇨🇭

— FOX Soccer (@FOXSoccer) December 2, 2022

To take the late lead against Serbia, Swiss forward Breel Embolo entered the box, danced around two Serbian defenders, calmly kicked the ball back to winger Xherdan Shaqiri who assessed the situation at the top right of the box, fired it through three defenders right into Ruben Vargas’ heel who directed the ball backward to Remo Freuler who fired it past a flailing Djibril Sow in goal. Utterly unstoppable.

Serbia was game for the Cup, firing in five goals in the group stage, but simply was overmatched against the crackling Swiss, tournament favorites Brazil, and upstart Cameroon in Group G.

Now it’s onto the Round of 16. Make sure that you’re tuned in at 10 a.m. EST for the U.S. versus the Netherlands in a knockout match.

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Matthew Denis
Former Digital Trends Contributor
Matt Denis is an on-the-go remote multimedia reporter, exploring arts, culture, and the existential in the Pacific Northwest…
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