Southgate confirms England players will take the knee before Iran WC opener
England are ready to go. They face Iran in their first encounter of the World Cup 2022 as Gareth Southgate’s men hope to qualify out of Group B.
Their recent tournament runs under Southgate have been impressive. They reached the semi-finals of the World Cup four years ago before losing in a penalty shootout to Italy in the final of Euro 2020 – not that we need reminding of that. With a core group of players set to play a part in all three tournaments can this campaign prove to be a long hoped for success or has Southgate’s team already passed their peak?
James Maddison is a doubt for the match after training away from the rest of the squad but everyone else should be fit to go. The manager may choose to start Kalvin Phillips in midfield to test his fitness and Southgate must also decide between a solid back three or a potentially more attacking back four as England’s best formation.
Today’s encounter is the first time England have ever played Iran in competitive football. Russia 2018 saw Iran record their best performance at a World Cup as they lost out on the knockout stages by just one point. The Iranians are 20th in the Fifa rankings and have an experienced squad to call on which could make this a tricky opener for the Three Lions.
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England vs Iran
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Today at the World Cup: Qatar fall flat while England opt to take knee
After 12 years of controversial headlines, Qatar’s World Cup finally got under way on Sunday with defeat for the host nation.
A glitzy opening ceremony at the Al-Bayt Stadium featuring Hollywood actor Morgan Freeman, South Korean pop star Jung Kook and Qatari YouTuber Ghanim Al-Muftah, was followed by a 2-0 loss for Qatar against Ecuador.
Here, the PA news agency rounds up events in Qatar:
Michael Jones21 November 2022 08:18
Qatar World Cup opening ceremony showed the BBC can do both sport and politics
Opening ceremonies to major sporting events are, in the robust opinion of a committed sports fan, a sop to the people who love the drama and spectacle of international commingling, but have little interest in the games being played.
At the Olympics, they have become an enormous, gaudy art form in their own right – from the jaw-dropping show at Beijing’s Bird’s Nest to the cringe-inducing fantasia of London 2012 – but they’ve never been such a big part of World Cups. Perhaps the only lasting memory of an opening ceremony is Diana Ross missing, with the goal at her mercy, during the 1994 curtain-raising bonanza. On Saturday, Gianni Infantino, the polyglot head of FIFA, set the tone for this tournament’s opening.
Sat at a press conference, an array of sponsored items laid out before him like The Generation Game conveyor belt, Infantino gave an impassioned defence of the tournament. “Today, I feel Qatari,” he announced to the assembled delegates of the world’s media. “Today, I feel Arab. Today, I feel African. Today, I feel gay. Today, I feel disabled. Today, I feel a migrant worker.” His words went down like a snog in Doha; you know you’ve struck a bum note when even Alan Shearer calls it “rubbish”.
Michael Jones21 November 2022 08:13
Gareth Southgate’s biggest problem? The England manager has made the impossible job look possible
As England prepare to embark on another World Cup campaign, it is worth remembering where we were at the start of the last one. Two years of improved results and performances under Gareth Southgate had not sufficiently lifted the sense of inertia around the national team that had set in some six years earlier and solidified after that defeat to Iceland.
In a way, a lot has changed. Southgate often spoke during his first few years in the job about reconnecting the team with its public. A first World Cup semi-final since 1990 achieved that. At Euro 2020, the run to their first major tournament final since 1966 only strengthened that bond.
Yet, since the disappointment of that penalty shoot-out defeat to Italy, cracks have appeared. The England manager’s selections have been questioned. His apparent pragmatism and conservatism have been criticised. The focus has shifted from how far this team have come under his management to where – if anywhere – they are going.
Michael Jones21 November 2022 08:07
England vs Iran
Good morning and welcome to The Independent’s coverage of England’s opening World Cup fixture as they take on Iran in the Group B opener.
Kick off for this one is at 1pm at the Khalifa International stadium and the Three Lions will be hoping to get their campaign started with a win. They have never face Iran in competitive football but will feel confident that a quick start can see them through the game.
James Maddison is a doubt for the match due to his knee injury and there are questions over the fitness of some other key players such as Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips but Gareth Southgate will have his plans in place to make sure everyone is ready to go.
Iran are an experienced side and come into the tournament having recorded their best World Cup campaign in Russia four years ago. They have the same manager and a very similar squad meaning they will have their sights set on the knockout stages. Going against them is the fact they have never beaten European opponents at the World Cup and in Group B they face both England and Wales.
Let’s see how they go this afternoon. We’ll have all the build-up, latest team news and match action from England’s opening clash so stick with us throughout the day.
Michael Jones21 November 2022 08:01