England and Wales get their Group B campaigns under way against Iran and USA respectively on Day Two of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
2018 semi-finalists, and Euro 2020 runners-up England kick off the day’s action against Iran as Gareth Southgate’s team look to go one step further and clinch a senior men’s trophy for the first time since 1966.
After Senegal and Netherlands conclude the first round of Group A matches in Doha, Wales make an historic first World Cup finals appearance since 1958 when they take on USA in Al Rayyan.
World Cup fixtures – November 21
- England vs Iran – Group B, kick-off 1pm
- Senegal vs Netherlands – Group A, kick-off 4pm
- USA vs Wales – Group B, kick-off 7pm
England will not have James Maddison or Kyle Walker available, with both players carrying injuries into the tournament. Kalvin Phillips – who also had questions marks over his fitness heading into the World Cup – is available.
Gareth Southgate said: “In terms of player availability, everybody is available bar James Maddison for tomorrow.
“It’s a little bit early for Kyle Walker but he is training with the team, so that’s ahead of where we thought he might be at this stage. Very positive. We’re looking forward to this challenge and I’ve really liked the way the players have approached training this week.”
Iran’s most notable absentee is experienced midfielder Omid Ebrahimi due to a groin injury, but Bayer Leverkusen striker Sardar Azmoun is part of the team despite tearing a calf muscle last month.
Ehsan Hajsafi will wear the captain’s armband as he prepares to make his 122nd appearance for Iran, while Brentford’s Saman Ghoddos is also in the squad.
Wales will not risk Joe Allen against the USA. The midfielder hasn’t played since September after injuring his hamstring – and a return for the opening game is still too soon.
“We said from the start we’re going to give every possible chance that we can to get him to play that first game, he’s probably not going to make it,” said Rob Page.
“We could have pushed him but if it breaks down then he’s definitely out of the tournament, let alone the second game. Risk and reward. We’d have liked him for the first game, but we’re not going to push him to the point of completely losing him.”
USA head coach Gregg Berhalter named Leeds midfielder Tyler Adams captain for the World Cup on the eve of their opener against Wales.
The 23-year-old is the youngest captain by a distance at this year’s tournament, with England’s Harry Kane the only other skipper under the age of 30 in Qatar.
The responsibility has rotated between multiple players throughout Berhalter’s tenure, with Adams, Christian Pulisic, Weston McKennie and Walker Zimmerman all having held the role since the start of World Cup qualifying. Adams wore the armband in seven of his 12 appearances during that period.
Senegal suffered a huge pre-tournament blow with Sadio Mane ruled out of the World Cup due to a leg injury he sustained while playing for Bayern Munich.
Mane was named in Senegal’s 26-man squad for the World Cup but the former Liverpool forward will not feature in Qatar after being unable to recover from the injury.
Memphis Depay will also miss out on the Netherlands’ opening World Cup game. The forward hurt his hamstring playing in the Nations League in September, but told reporters he was fit to play after participating in training.
“It will be a blow for us just like Sadio Mane missing for Senegal is a blow for them,” Van Gaal said of Monday’s Group A clash in Doha.
Iran carrying weight of protests at World Cup
Iran begin their World Cup campaign on Monday under the glare of a political spotlight. While England’s players will be focused solely on performance, Iran’s will have much more on their minds. Some argue they should not be there at all.
Their participation comes at a time of immense turbulence in Iran, where nationwide protests triggered by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in police custody in September have been met with a bloody response by the ruling regime.
Amini died after being arrested by the regime’s so-called morality police for an alleged breach of their Islamic dress code, her plight intensifying long-standing feelings of anger and resentment around the oppression of women’s rights in the country.
At least 348 protestors have been killed so far, according to human rights monitoring groups, while a further 15,900 have been detained. Earlier this week, a court in Tehran, Iran’s capital, issued the first death sentence to a person arrested for taking part.
Iran’s involvement in the World Cup feels incongruous to many given the context. There have even been calls for them to be barred from the tournament. But the focus is now turning to how their players will act in Qatar amid anticipated demonstrations off the pitch.
Read more on the situation surrounding Iran ahead of their World Cup opener HERE
Van Gaal’s last stand: Netherlands boss doing it his way
The Netherlands squad selection has sparked debate in the build-up to the World Cup in Qatar. It is an eclectic mix that could only have come from the mind of Louis van Gaal. The mistake would be to think this means it is not going to work.
“Louis has a very clear opinion of how he wants his team to play and the system that he wants to play,” Frans Hoek tells Sky Sports. “He had been watching the national team from a distance and had a very good view of what was available and what was not available.”
Much like Van Gaal, there is an insistent tone to Hoek’s voice, a manner that makes you believe that something others would consider outlandish is in fact entirely logical. Much like Van Gaal, his long-time goalkeeper coach has the credentials to back it up.
Read more from Adam Bate’s interview with Frans Hoek HERE
Opta stats: England set-piece specialists, USA’s leaky defence
- England are the only European team to have reached the semi-finals in each of the last two major tournaments (FIFA World Cup + EURO).
- 12 of England’s last 18 goals at the FIFA World Cup have been scored from set-pieces. In fact, 75% of their goals in 2018 came from dead ball situations (9 out of 12).
- This will be the first ever encounter between Senegal and the Netherlands. The Dutch are unbeaten against African opposition at the FIFA World Cup (W3 D1), whilst Senegal have never tasted defeat when facing European opposition in the group phase of the competition (W2 D1).
- USA have only kept two clean sheets in their last 27 matches at the FIFA World Cup, conceding 46 goals in the process. In contrast, USA had kept a clean sheet in three of their first six World Cup matches between 1930 and 1950.
- Nine of Wales’ 13 goals at their last two major tournaments (EURO 2016 & 2020) have seen at least one of Gareth Bale or Aaron Ramsey involved as goalscorer or assist provider.
Elsewhere at the World Cup
Belgium’s record goalscorer Romelu Lukaku trained apart from the squad on Sunday as uncertainty over his fitness continued to cast a shadow over the team’s World Cup campaign.
Lukaku, 29, has made two substitute appearances in the last four months at club level as he struggles with a hamstring injury and is unlikely to be ready for Belgium’s opening Group F clashes against Canada and Morocco.
His situation is being evaluated on a daily basis, and the objective is to have him available for the last group game against Croatia on December 1.
Karim Benzema has been ruled out of the 2022 World Cup in Qatar after tearing a muscle in his left thigh.
The Ballon d’Or winner, 34, came into the tournament having suffered knee and hamstring injuries and had been training away from the French team.
Saturday was Benzema’s first full training session and he was forced to leave it early after feeling some pain in his left thigh, with the French Football Federation later confirming the striker had “a tear” that would rule him out of the tournament.
Goalkeepers are facing an ever tougher task at World Cup tournaments as the balls travel increasingly fast in flight and the new model being used in Qatar is no exception, according to Uruguayan goalkeeper Sergio Rochet.
FIFA has said that the new ball – named Al Rihla or “the journey” in Arabic – travels faster than any other in the tournament’s history.
“Year after year, it gets better for the strikers and for us goalkeepers it gets very tough,” Rochet told reporters ahead of Uruguay’s opening game against South Korea on Thursday. “This is a very fast ball. We are in a process of adaptation.”
Football fans must not be “visibly under the influence of alcohol” or be shirtless at World Cup stadiums in Qatar, according to organisers.
FIFA has prepared a “stadium code of conduct” applying to all 64 matches at the tournament in the Gulf state.
A section advises ticket holders about their behaviour at the stadium and runs through a list of things they must not do unless “expressly authorised by the event organisers, where appropriate”.
Essential Football: World Cup podcast
Listen to episode two of the Essential Football World Cup podcast as we discuss who will start in England’s opening game against Iran and Gareth Bale’s fitness for Wales.