A day four years in the making has finally arrived. For the first time since the 2014 World Cup, the U.S. men’s national team will play in the tournament. With a young, talented team, the USMNT’s game against Gareth Bale and Wales on Monday will set the tone for a challenging, but manageable, Group B.
Elsewhere in the group, England and Iran start things off at 8 a.m. ET. Senegal, without superstar Sadio Mane due to injury, faces the 2010 World Cup runner-up Netherlands.
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England scores twice in five minutes
England made it 2-0 after defender Harry Maguire leapt over Iranian defenders to head a ball into danger. Arsenal midfielder Bukayo Saka, 21, stuck the ball just right, up and over Iran’s substitute goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini. Then forward Raheem Sterling took advantage of Iran and scored on a counter attack. It was his 20th goal for the England national team.
England gets on scoreboard first
England midfielder Jude Bellingham, 19, headed in England’s first goal of the 2022 World Cup with his first goal for England and a 1-0 lead against Iran. “Hey Jude” chants spread throughout the stadium as the youngest player on England’s squad celebrated.
Time: Monday, Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. ET
Stadium: Al Rayyan Stadium Ar-Rayyan, Qatar
How to watch: FOX and Telemundo or stream on fuboTV and Peacock
As long as the eight years since their last run at the World Cup may have felt for fans of the U.S. men’s national team, the Welsh have been waiting an actual lifetime for this moment. Their last World Cup appearance was in 1958. Since then, their squad has amassed substantial tournament know-how in the last two European Championships.
And that’s not including the masterclass of Gareth Bale.
“I’ve said all along, you’ve probably heard me say this, that I think they’re underrated,” USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter said of Wales at a press conference Sunday.
The political situation back home has been a regular line of questioning for Iran ahead of the team’s opening Group B match against England.
Large swathes of people in the country have risen up to protest for women’s rights following the death of Mahsa Amini while being detained for allegedly breaking rules regarding head coverings.
“We have to accept that the conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy,” Iran captain Ehsan Hajisafi said. “We are here, but it does not mean that we should not be their voice or we should not respect them.
“Whatever we are is from them. We have to fight. We have to perform the best we can and score goals and to present the bereaved people of Iran with the results. And I hope that the conditions change towards the expectations of the people.”
The protests have seen prominent former players Ali Daei and Javad Nekounam both say they have declined an invitation from FIFA to attend the World Cup.
Contributing: Associated Press
Iran’s Alireza Beiranvand collided with his own defender. The goalkeeper stayed on the ground while the defender walked away seemingly unharmed. After extended examination Beiranvand returned to play, only to sit down and call for a substitution minutes later.
Journalists at Khalifa International Stadium report a possible issue with FIFA’s ticketing application, causing lines outside the stadium.
With many names familiar to the English Premier League fan, England takes the field led by captain Harry Kane. Iran’s captain Ehsan Hajsafi plays left back for Greek Super League club AEK Athens, and their starting striker Mehdi Taremi is a top-five scorer in Portugal for FC Porto.
On the eve of the World Cup, the USMNT got a pep talk from none other than the POTUS himself.
U.S. President Joe Biden, from his desk in the Oval Office, was connected to a phone held by USMNT coach Gregg Berhalter in a room filled with the entire team.
“I know you’re the underdog, but I tell you what man, you got some of the best players in the world on your team,” Biden said in a video posted by the team on Twitter.
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Following FIFA’s threat of yellow cards for any players wearing the “OneLove” armbands during the World Cup, the federations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland have asked their captains not to wear them. The Netherlands, England and Wales open play Monday.
“We can’t put our players in a position where they could face sporting sanctions including bookings, so we have asked the captains not to attempt to wear the armbands in FIFA World Cup games,” the federations said in a joint statement Monday.
“We were prepared to pay fines that would normally apply to breaches of kit regulations and had a strong commitment to wearing the armband. However, we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play.”
FIFA said Monday that all captains are now allowed to wear its “No Discrimination” armbands. The armbands for that campaign, which was not supposed to begin until the quarterfinals, are blue, with the red outline of a heart around a soccer ball and the words “Football Unites the World.”
MORE:World Cup teams ask captains not to wear ‘OneLove’ armbands after dispute with FIFA
Is it coming home?
England has a history of going into tournaments confident and leaving with its tail between its legs, though, recent success has turned the tides in its favor. The Three Lions came in fourth in the 2018 World Cup and second in the 2020 European Championship. But the men are still searching for their first major trophy since winning the World Cup in 1966.
Captain Harry Kane is two goals away from surpassing Wayne Rooney’s all-time goalscoring record. Meanwhile, Iran has a quality forward of its own in Mehdi Taremi. The striker, 30, plays in Portugal and has 13 goals in 18 games.
Time: Monday, Nov. 21 at 8 a.m. ET
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium in Ar-Rayyan, Qatar
How to watch: FOX and Telemundo or stream on fuboTV and Peacock