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.
Follow all the action from Qatar on our live blog below:
England vs Iran
Kick off is 1pm GMT at Khalifa International stadium
Iran have never beaten European opposition at the World Cup
England players will take knee before kick off with Iran
England will not wear OneLove rainbow armband against Iran after Fifa sanction threat
England XI: Pickford: Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham, Mount; Saka, Kane, Sterling
Iran XI: Beiranvand, Moharrami, Hajsafi, Mohammadi, Jahanbakhsh, Pouraliganji, Taremi, Cheshmi, Karimi,Hosseini, Nourollahi
England - Iran
Time to write a new chapter
12:00 , Michael Jones
How far can England get in the World Cup?
Time to unite. Time to write a new chapter. pic.twitter.com/ahjmgY60jL
— England (@England) November 21, 2022
England vs Iran line-ups
11:57 , Michael Jones
England XI: Pickford: Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham, Mount; Saka, Kane, Sterling
Iran XI: Beiranvand, Moharrami, Hajsafi, Mohammadi, Jahanbakhsh, Pouraliganji, Taremi, Cheshmi, Karimi,Hosseini, Nourollahi
England vs Iran prediction
11:53 , Michael Jones
Iran will likely sit back and look to frustrate England, hoping for a draw or even a platform to snatch a narrow win.
The Three Lions should, however, have the quality to break down Iran; it may just be a matter of whether they can create an opening early or later in the game.
If England strike early, Iran will be forced to change tack, which could well see them torn apart.
England 4-0 Iran.
Who will start for England
11:49 , Michael Jones
England and Iran have arrived at the Khalifa International stadium and the team news will be coming out soon. Harry Kane will not be wearing the OneLove armband for England but will here be in the starting line-up (yes).
Who will join him?
England vs Iran early team news
11:45 , Michael Jones
England will be without midfielder James Maddison and defender Kyle Walker for Monday’s game versus Iran.
Maddison has not trained with the squad in Qatar as he nurses a knee problem picked up playing for Leicester last weekend, while Walker is still recovering after groin surgery.
Iran are hopeful Sardar Azmoun will be fit for their tournament opener but the forward has not played since suffering a calf injury at the start of October.
Latest World Cup odds
11:42 , Michael Jones
The latest odds from Betfair show that England are the odds-on favourites to win today’s clash with Iran and the Three Lions have moved up to third favourites to win the whole tournament alongside Spain and France.
Harry Kane also leads the way as the potential golden boot winner ahead of Kylian Mbappe and Lionel Messi as the, somewhat, friendly group fixtures may allow him to tally up the goals.
Here are the latest odds via Betfair:
England vs Iran match odds
World Cup 2022 winner
Spain, England, France: 8/1
World Cup 2022 Golden Boot winner
Harry Kane: 7/1
Kylian Mbappe: 15/2
Lionel Messi: 9/1
Lautaro Martinez, Cristiano Ronaldo: 16/1
Memphis Depay: 20/1
Enner Valencia, Vinicius Junior, Richarlison, Olivier Giroud: 25/1
Phil Foden ready to play central role as England’s secret World Cup winner
11:38 , Michael Jones
There are reasons for that. “You have to learn to play with different players and what they like best – running behind or wanting balls to feet,” he says, while taking a break from Al Wakrah’s temperatures in the mid-30s and sitting down in the vast, air-conditioned sports hall that forms part of England’s World Cup base camp. But there’s also a belief he has had “enough experience” to know those little details by now.
Widely regarded as the most naturally gifted English player of his generation, Foden is yet to consistently display his undoubted ability in an England shirt. Since making his debut, he has only scored twice. Both came in one game, a routine 4-0 win over Iceland, exactly two years ago today.
Reactions to One Love armband controversy
11:34 , Michael Jones
Plenty of people have been having their say on the FA’s decision to stop England from wearing the One Love armband after FIFA announced sporting sanctions for any team who wears the rainbow armband.
Reactions across social media have ranged from anger at FIFA to disbelief and shock that the FA would bow down so quickly if they genuinely wanted to make a stance in support of inclusivity.
— Ruth Davidson (@RuthDavidsonPC) November 21, 2022
The idea that FIFA will tell refs to book players for wearing a rainbow armband is ridiculous even for FIFA and the Ridiculous Even For FIFA bar is one that is very rarely cleared.
— David Baddiel (@Baddiel) November 20, 2022
Imagine how powerful the image of Kane wearing a rainbow armband and being yellow carded by a FIFA branded referee would be.
The FA should not buckle under the pressure.
Wear the armband. 👊
— Joe Thomlinson (@joethomlinson) November 21, 2022
Wear the armband, England, and show that you stand for something
11:30 , Michael Jones
In the final hours before England vs Iran, the Football Association and other federations were attempting to come up with some other gesture to replace the OneLove Armband over the course of the World Cup.
It’s a wonder what form that will take given this kind of time period. It took them months to come up with something as pathetically meek as the armband, and it was then rendered utterly powerless under the slightest pressure from Fifa.
The federations released a statement saying they can’t put the players in a situation where they are at risk of sanction - and particularly one that affects performance - but what is the purpose of a protest if there is no sacrifice, no risk? That is what it’s supposed to be about.
Here, support of the LGBTQ+ groups who do not feel welcome by Qatar apparently isn’t worth a booking.
‘Today we feel betrayed’: Fans group furious after Fifa force armband U-turn
11:25 , Michael Jones
Fifa has issued its own armbands to be worn by the 32 competing nations instead, and the FSA issued a furious statement in response, paraphrasing the bizarre ‘Today I feel gay’ speech from Fifa’s president Gianni Infantino on Saturday.
Sportswashing and spectacle as Qatar’s World Cup of conflicts kicks off
11:19 , Michael Jones
As Lionel Messi and the Argentine squad arrived in Qatar this week, driving through a £220bn infrastructure project built on “modern slavery”, there was unmistakable excitement. The players can’t quite believe the World Cup is suddenly here again. “Another chance” at victory and immortality. It was much the same in the England camp, where the 14 players who have never been to the competition were almost just saying to each other: “It’s the World Cup!”
And one like no other, for reasons far beyond the fact that it is starting in November.
The disrupted calendar has at once made this World Cup one that has suddenly come out of nowhere and yet also weighed over the game for more than a decade. It is a mere week’s preparation that goes back 12 years.
That apparent contradiction appropriately reflects so many conflicts running through this World Cup.
Kalvin Phillips reveals gym accident that almost cost him World Cup place
11:13 , Michael Jones
The Manchester City midfielder underwent shoulder surgery in September before putting himself through gruelling double sessions in a race against time to make England’s squad for Qatar.
While Phillips had played just 14 minutes of competitive football before Gareth Southgate’s squad announcement, he made the cut and jetted out to the Middle East with his 25 team-mates last week.
‘They only talk about who won’: Eric Dier dismisses style concerns in favour of on and off pitch progress
11:07 , Michael Jones
The Tottenham Hotspur defender has won his place back now, coming in from the cold just in time for a World Cup in scorching temperatures, but he was overlooked for the last major international tournament. Before his return to the set-up in September, Dier’s most recent call-up had come 18 months earlier, not long before the run to the Euro 2020 final that he watched from the sofa.
Not that Dier is bitter, though. Far from it, in fact. “People ask me if I was upset that I didn’t go to the Euros and I say well it was obviously the right decision because they got to the final,” he jokes. And if Southgate’s stock has fallen somewhat in the time since, one of this World Cup squad’s most experienced internationals finds that criticism unfathomable. “Firstly, I think it’s crazy talk,” he says.
Gary Lineker divides fans with World Cup opening speech
11:01 , Michael Jones
Gary Lineker opened the BBC’s coverage of the Qatar World Cup to criticise the host country’s record on human rights and treatment of migrant workers, as the build-up to the first match of the tournament was dominated by a discussion of off-field concerns.
Lineker, who will lead the BBC’s coverage of the tournament, starting with the first match between Qatar and Ecuador, used an opening monologue to highlight the issues that have made the World Cup “the most controversial in history”.
A segment was included with BBC news correspondent Ros Atkins that examined Fifa’s decision to award the World Cup to Qatar amid allegations of corruption, as well as an interview with the BBC’s international editor Jeremy Bowen.
Lineker also opened a discussion on workers rights and Qatar’s discriminatory LGBTQ+ laws with pundits Alan Shearer, Alex Scott and Ashley Williams - who all expressed disappointment and concern at the hosting of the tournament in the country and criticised Fifa.
Alex Scott explains why she's at World Cup despite controversy surrounding LGBTQ rights
10:56 , Michael Jones
Hollow gestures from Fifa and footballing associations
10:51 , Michael Jones
In response to the One Love controversy, Fifa have said that they are bringing forward their No Discrimination campaign so that players can wear that armband in the group stages.
There's no other way of putting it, really. The armband was the federations' single but very meek gesture about all of the various issues around this World Cup.
To back down because of a yellow card would be weak, unless they did something bigger.
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) November 21, 2022
Remember his name: How Briton Zac Cox died working on England’s first World Cup venue
10:47 , Michael Jones
If English football administrators were desperate to avoid controversy about labour issues in Qatar during the World Cup, then the choice of venue for the team’s first match has put paid to any such hope.
On Monday lunchtime, when Harry Kane leads out England’s team for the game against Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium, he will do so in a venue touched by tragedy.
Khalifa, named after a previous Emir of Qatar, is the country’s national stadium. Of the eight venues where games will be played at the World Cup, Khalifa, built in 1976, is the only one to have been refurbished rather than built from scratch.
It was the first stadium to be made World Cup ready. It was also the venue for the World Athletics Championships, and where Liverpool beat Flamengo to win the Club World Cup final in 2019, and it is just a short trip down the usually congested Al Waab Street from where current Barcelona boss Xavi cut his managerial teeth at Al Sadd.
Have England already missed their chance for World Cup glory?
10:42 , Michael Jones
As England flew out to Doha this week, the “buzzing” players immediately got back into old groups, but not cliques. This squad “isn’t built like that”. There’s a real team spirit, and sources both inside and outside the camp sincerely say you’d struggle to find a group more united at this World Cup. It might be England’s best advantage over everyone else.
It might also, however, hint at a growing weakness.
The group’s togetherness comes from the fact a core of the squad have been together for so long, their bonds fortified by the joy of an uplifting journey. This World Cup squad actually only features five names that are different from the original 26 for Euro 2020, before two enforced changes.
It raises two major questions that are going to frame England’s entire World Cup:
England fans hunting beer ‘taken to Sheikh’s palace to meet lions’
10:38 , Michael Jones
The supporters recounted their incredible story during an interview with talkSPORT inside a fan park.
“Last night we met one of the Sheikh’s sons and he took us back to the palace, he showed us they have lions and everything,” one man said.
A second fan added that they were “on the hunt for beers” when they were taken to the palace to see monkeys and other exotic birds.
Armband controversy another display of exclusion from FIFA
10:33 , Michael Jones
The LGBTQ+ community has had reservations about this World Cup ever since it was announced that a country, where homosexuality is illegal, was going to host the tournament.
FIFA have reiterated that they want the World Cup to be welcoming to everyone but the LGBTQ+ community has been ignored yet again with the insistence that One Love armbands - which promote inclusivity and support for this community - must not be worn during the World Cup games.
In the past few days Qatari World Cup ambassadors have said that homosexuality is a disease of the mind, FIFA president Gianni Infantino gave a divisive and extraordinary press conference and now sporting sanctions are being imposed on teams who wear the rainbow armband.
FIFA’s words say one thing and their actions another.
England defender Eric Dier calls for football to be ‘cherished and looked after’
10:29 , Michael Jones
England defender Eric Dier believes it is essential football is “cherished and looked after in the right way” after saying it would be wrong to ignore off-field matters in Qatar despite it dampening players’ World Cup excitement.
The Gulf nation’s human rights record, treatment of migrant workers and oppressive LGBTQ+ laws have dominated the build-up to the 22nd edition of the tournament.
FIFA president Gianni Infantino took aim at European critics of Qatar on the eve of the World Cup in an extraordinary press conference that finished just before defender Dier spoke to the media.
Like his England team-mates and other players at this World Cup, the 28-year-old faced questions about issues in the host country beyond the football itself.
Everything wrong with the Qatar World Cup
10:23 , Michael Jones
Out of the many facts and figures circulated about Qatar’s problems, there is one realisation that should stand above everything. It is a disgrace that, in 2022, a country can host a World Cup where it has lured millions of people from the poorest countries on earth - often under false pretences - and then forced them into what many call “modern slavery”.
And yet this has just been accepted. The World Cup carries on, an end product of a structure that is at once Orwellian and Kafkaesque. A huge underclass of people work in an autocratic surveillance state, amid an interconnected network of issues that make it almost impossible to escape. “It’s all so embedded,” says Michael Page of Human Rights Watch.
Many will point to similar problems in the west but this isn’t the failure of a system. It is the system, global inequality taken to an extreme. “The bottom line is that these human rights abuses are not normal for a World Cup host,” says Minky Worden, also of Human Rights Watch.
‘We feel betrayed’ FSA responds to One Love armband decision
10:20 , Michael Jones
The Football Supporters’ Association has tweeted their response to the news that England, Wales and other European nations will now not wear the One Love armband saying that they feel ‘betrayed’ by FIFA for imposing sanctions on teams trying to support inclusivity in football.
Here is the full statement:
James Maddison misses England training on eve of World Cup opener with Iran
10:17 , Michael Jones
James Maddison appears to be a major doubt for England’s World Cup opener after missing training on the eve of the Iran clash.
Gareth Southgate’s side kick-off Group B at the Khalifa International Stadium on Monday.
Maddison was the only player absent from training at England’s Al Wakrah Sports Complex base on Sunday afternoon.
The 25-year-old missed the Three Lions’ previous two open training sessions on Thursday and Friday due to what the Football Association called load management.
Maddison went off in the first half of Leicester’s win against West Ham last weekend with a knee complaint but said scans on the issue were fine.
England will not wear OneLove rainbow armband against Iran after Fifa sanction threat
10:12 , Michael Jones
Three Lions captain Harry Kane was due to wear the rainbow armband in a country where same-sex relationships are criminalised but the Football Association confirmed in a statement that they had backed down with Kane potentially set to be booked before the game even got underway.
In a joint statement, the FAs of England, Wales Belgium, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Switzerland - who had all been due to wear the armbands - stepped back from the previous decision:
Gareth Southgate determined to bring World Cup joy to England fans
10:07 , Michael Jones
Having reached the semi-finals in Russia four years ago and finished as Euro 2020 runners-up, the Three Lions are among the favourites to triumph this winter in Qatar.
But the heat is on Southgate after England were relegated from the Nations League top tier during a six-match winless run they will hope to end in Monday’s Group B opener against Iran.
Clashes against the United States and Wales quickly follow as his players look to join Sir Alf Ramsey’s 1966 heroes as the only Englishmen to have ever won a major international trophy.
European federations decide against wearing One Love armbands
10:03 , Michael Jones
FIFA’s threats of sporting sanctions have cowed seven European football associations into backtracking on their desire to wear rainbow One Love armbands during the World Cup to support inclusion in football.
The FAs of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland released a joint statement this morning saying:
“FIFA has been very clear that it will impose sporting sanctions if our captains wear the armbands on the field of play. As national federations, 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.
“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.
“We are very frustrated by the FIFA decision which we believe is unprecedented – we wrote to FIFA in September informing them of our wish to wear the One Love armband to actively support inclusion in football, and had no response. Our players and coaches are disappointed – they are strong supporters of inclusion and will show support in other ways.”
England and Wales will not wear OneLove armbands
09:53 , Michael Jones
England and Wales won’t wear the OneLove armbands in Qatar after Fifa threatened to impose sporting sanctions on nations who decide to do so.
“We cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play,” reads a statement from the Football associations from England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland.
England and other federations will not now wear the OneLove armbands.
— Miguel Delaney (@MiguelDelaney) November 21, 2022
Who are England’s best penalty takers? Shootout records and predicting order for World Cup
09:46 , Michael Jones
Remember the last time that we were on the eve of a major international tournament, England had learned how to do penalty shootouts? They had finally won one at a World Cup – beating Colombia in the last-16 in 2018 – then another in the Nations League a year later. Not only that, they had overcome this long-held hang-up thanks to the man responsible for the most painful penalty miss in English football’s history.
Correction: the most painful penalty miss in English football history up to that point. If Gareth Southgate’s failure to convert from the spot in a European Championship semi-final back in 1996 prolonged the many years of hurt, then Bukayo Saka’s miss in last year’s final was perhaps their most heartbreaking moment – particularly for such a young player, particularly when so close to winning a first major tournament in 55 years.
Southgate had enjoyed success in shootouts thanks to an approach based around practice, planning and research but defeat to Italy was a reminder that this is neither a game of pure skill or pure luck. You need both. And if Marcus Rashford’s spot-kick had been a couple of inches to the right, putting England 3-2 up with two to take, that night may have gone differently.
When will England play in the World Cup? Full schedule and fixtures
09:40 , Michael Jones
England face a showdown with neighbours Wales at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
Spain and Germany have been drawn in a tough-looking Group E with Japan and either Costa Rica, while Portugal meet Ghana, Uruguay and South Korea in a well-balanced Group H. Hosts Qatar will kick-off the tournament against Ecuador, before taking on Senegal and Netherlands.
The tournament Qatar begins on 20 November as 32 teams aim to reach the final and become world champions on 18 December. Because of excessive summer temperatures in the Gulf state, the Qatar World Cup will be the first to be staged in winter rather than summer.
England banking on goal machine, Harry Kane, to finally capture elusive silverware
09:35 , Michael Jones
Whatever combination of players Southgate selects elsewhere in his team, the one constant is that the 29-year-old Kane can be relied upon to put the ball in the back of the net.
Kane scored 80 seconds after coming on as a substitute against Lithuania on his England debut in 2015 and has 51 goals from 75 appearances for his country - a ratio that puts him firmly in the ‘world class’ category.
He won the golden boot in his first World Cup tournament in 2018, bagging six goals as England progressed to the semi-finals before losing to Croatia.
Who is Qatar World Cup official Raphael Claus?
09:29 , Michael Jones
Brazilian referee Raphael Claus will be making his World Cup debut when he takes charge of England’s opening match against Iran today.
The 43-year-old is one of 36 referees at the Qatar tournament will officiate the Group B clash as the Three Lions begin their campaign.
Claus has previously refereed matches at the Copa America in both 2019 and 2021, so he does have experience of major international tournaments.
He has been a professional referee since 2010 and has been named referee of the year in Brazil’s top-flight, Serie A, on three ocassions.
England could ‘step back’ from OneLove rainbow armband with Harry Kane at risk of yellow card
09:23 , Michael Jones
England face Iran in their first game in Group B on Monday afternoon and while the FA is prepared to accept a fine for wearing the armband, the threat of Kane being booked before the game gets underway could cause a rethink.
FA chief executive Mark Bullingham told BBC Radio 4 on Monday morning: “It is a very live situation and there are discussions that are carrying on. We are working through those issues right now.”
Mehdi Taremi: Iran’s goal machine once banned by Fifa and leading the line in Qatar
09:17 , Michael Jones
Since featuring for Team Melli at the last World Cup - and missing a late opportunity against Portugal to take Iran into the knockout rounds for the first time - the 30-year-old from Bushehr has turned into a scoring machine.
Taremi established himself as one of the most talked about players in Iran before Russia 2018 but until then he eschewed advances to move to Europe to stay much closer to home.
In 2016 he signed a contract with Turkish side Caykur Rizespor before deciding to stay with Tehran-based Persepolis, a decision that was to cost him four months of his career in 2017 when he was banned by Fifa for breaching that agreement.
England and Wales set for opening fixtures in Qatar
09:11 , Michael Jones
England and Wales face their opening games of the World Cup 2022 on Monday (21 November), with Three Lions captain Harry Kane hoping to put their recent bad form behind them as they head into the tournament in Qatar.
Gareth Southgate’s team face Iran in their first Group B fixture, while Gareth Bale will captain Wales against the USA.
England ready for ‘dog of a game’ against Carlos Queiroz’s well-drilled Iran in World Cup opener
09:06 , Michael Jones
The England squad spent a significant part of the eve of their opening World Cup 2022 game discussing whether or not to take the knee. There was some debate, as well as the need to navigate “Qatari politics, Iranian politics”, according to Gareth Southgate.
It again illustrated how different this World Cup is, and has undeniably played into a more muted build-up back home. Even this opening match is against an Iranian team that might have been banished from the tournament under a different Fifa regime. Gareth Southgate doesn’t think any of this is an issue for his players, though.
“I haven’t felt the need to get them up for it.”
They’re well versed in these big games. So much so that they deeply feel they have the experience now to go a step further and win this World Cup.
Hapless Qatar’s World Cup could be over before everyone else’s even began
09:01 , Michael Jones
There is a story that encapsulated the haplessness of the England cricket team at the time. They hosted the 1999 World Cup and contrived to be knocked out of it before their official song was released.
The Qatar football team may be able to empathise. In effect, they have been eliminated from their own World Cup before 30 teams have kicked a ball. Not mathematically and, officially anyway, their destiny may remain in the balance when they face the Netherlands in their final group game. But the reality of being pooled with Senegal and the Dutch meant an opening date with Ecuador assumed still greater proportions.
Qatar had waited 12 years for this. They had spent £220 billion. They had given their players a six-month training camp to prepare, facing everyone from Linfield to Lazio, Croatia Under-23s to Chile. And if they began a World Cup with optimism, perhaps it was eroded inside four minutes.
Fifa applying pressure over armbands
08:56 , Michael Jones
A number of European countries, including England and Wales, announced their decision to wear the rainbow coloured OneLove armbands at the World Cup to support inclusivity and LGBTQ+ rights. It’s a simple gesture but one that would be a strong message especially as the tournament is being held in a country that outlaws homosexuality.
Fifa have hoped to stop this in various ways. They’ve launched five armband campaigns or their own, threatened the participating countries with fines and are now rumoured to be applying sporting sanctions - in the form of yellow cards - to players who do not comply with their wishes.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmund has hinted that Danes now might not wear the OneLove armband saying: “It’s not up to the players but they should not have to go onto the pitch with a yellow card already.
“Sporting sanctions are not right. All the countries will take a decision.”
Most likely teams will wait to see what punishment, if any, England captain Harry Kane gets during England’s match vs Iran this afternoon yet this is becoming yet another controversy in a World Cup littered with them.
Inside the £220-a-day containers fans will stay in at World Cup in Qatar
08:52 , Michael Jones
The 6,000 containers - each costing over £220-a-night - can accommodate up to 12,000 football fans during the event, with a number of communal areas.
Footage shows each 16-square-meter room is equipped with a number of appliances, including two single beds, a wardrobe, a pantry, a toilet, an electric fan and an air conditioner.
This fan village is located near the city’s Hamad international airport, and is about a 20-minute drive from the nearest stadium.
Qatar ‘gripped by football fever’ despite early fan exodus, insists World Cup chief
08:48 , Michael Jones
One of the chief organisers of the Qatar World Cup believes the country is “gripped by football fever”, despite many local fans walking out early during the hosts’ defeat to Ecuador.
Empty seats became increasingly visible in home sections of Al Bayt Stadium from half-time onwards, and by the final 15 minutes the ground was virtually deserted except for the exuberant Ecuadorians.
However, Nasser Al Khater, the chief executive of FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022, insisted the country is excited to be hosting the finals, which were so controversially awarded back in 2010.
“Qatar 2022 is finally here and we celebrated with a mesmerising opening ceremony, passion in the stands and exciting football on the pitch,” he said.
FA CEO speaks out about OneLove armbands
08:44 , Michael Jones
FA CEO Mark Bullingham spoke on BBC radio 4 today about England deciding to wear the OneLove armbands despite Fifa issuing fines to countries who do so.
“We’d be prepared to pay the fine because we think it’s important to show our support for inclusion.” he said, “If the sporting sanctions threat is real, we need to look at that, step back back & work out if there’s another way we can show our values.”
Bullingham added that discussions are still ongoing with Fifa over any possible sporting sanctions - including a yellow card for captain Harry Kane - saying:
“There are discussions carrying on. We’re very keen to wear the armband, we want to do it. But obviously we would need to consider the implications.”
England and Wales to risk Fifa fine by wearing pro-LGBTQ+ armbands in Qatar
08:37 , Michael Jones
While the governing body says it will respond in “due course”, the squads that plan to wear the armband – intended to show solidarity with LGBTQ+ groups given punitive Qatari laws – expressed surprise that they had not received a response less than 48 hours before the World Cup was due to start, especially since questions went in weeks ago in some cases.
This has led to debate within the federations whether to wear them, especially since it risks a fine.
Some, such as France, are taking it to mean they cannot wear the armbands. Others believe the lack of response so far means they can wear them without punishment.
Players from the Wales and England squads are nevertheless insistent they should wear them.
What does Harry Kane’s World Cup armband mean?
08:33 , Michael Jones
Kane sported a rainbow armband in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community in England’s final games before the World Cup, and he is due to wear a OneLove band at the first ever winter World Cup.
The English Football Association (FA) has joined nine other European federations, including the Football Association of Wales (FAW), in supporting a season-long OneLove campaign against discrimination.
Kane and the captains of the eight other countries who have qualified for the World Cup will wear the OneLove armband in Qatar, where same-sex relationships and the promotion of such relationships are criminalised.
England and Wales prepared to defy Fifa and wear OneLove captain’s armband
08:28 , Michael Jones
England and Wales will defy Fifa and wear their OneLove captain’s armband despite the world governing body launching their own social awareness campaign.
Harry Kane and Gareth Bale are among the seven captains that will wear the armband, along with the skippers of Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, Germany and Switzerland.
The campaign is designed to highlight discrimination against the LGBTQ+ community in Qatar and concerns over the welfare of migrant labour.
France had also been expected to participate but captain Hugo Lloris has decided against taking part, in order to “show respect to Qatar”.
England players will take knee before World Cup game with Iran, says Gareth Southgate
08:23 , Michael Jones
Premier League footballers first carried out the anti-racism gesture in 2020, with England doing the same in subsequent international fixtures.
“We’ve discussed taking the knee and we feel we should,” the former England midfielder, 52, said at a press conference on Sunday (20 November).
Today at the World Cup: Qatar fall flat while England opt to take knee
08:18 , Michael Jones
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:
Qatar World Cup opening ceremony showed the BBC can do both sport and politics
08:13 , Michael Jones
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”.
Gareth Southgate’s biggest problem? The England manager has made the impossible job look possible
08:07 , Michael Jones
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.
The night qualification for the 2018 finals was secured, with a 1-0 victory over Slovenia, that feat was a footnote. Headlines instead related to bored supporters throwing paper planes onto the Wembley pitch.
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.
England vs Iran
08:01 , Michael Jones
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.