Qatar World Cup: England vs Iran, Senegal vs Netherlands and USA vs Wales

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Who is playing at the Qatar World Cup on Monday?

England vs Iran (14h CET)

England will hope to leave their stuttering form behind as they begin their World Cup campaign on Monday afternoon against Iran.

While they reached the Euro 2020 final and the last four of the World Cup in 2018, their results have been poor recently. 

Iran, who are expected to adopt a defensive approach against England, will be looking to showcase a “fantastic, unique fighting spirit and a winning mentality” in their matches at the tournament, according to their coach Carlos Quieroz.

The team’s preparations to face England have been done in the shadow of a tense political situation back home, where large swathes of people have risen up to protest for women’s rights. They were sparked by the death of Mahsa Amini, who died after being arrested by Iran’s morality police for allegedly breaking rules around head coverings.

Political issues are also affecting England. Captain Harry Kane insists he will wear a “One Love” armband to show support for the LGBT community in Qatar, where homosexuality is illegal. Authorities insist no one will face discrimination.

Senegal vs Netherlands (17h)

The Netherlands begins with one of its toughest-looking group fixtures against African champions Senegal. 

They will have to do it without the services of Memphis Depay, who was the team’s top scorer during the World Cup qualifying campaign.

Senegal, too, will be missing a key player: former Liverpool forward Sadio Mane.

“He can break open a match and Senegal will really miss him – but the same applies to us, we are missing our top scorer and king of the assists,” said Dutch boss Louis van Gaal, 71, who announced last year he has prostate cancer and has been receiving radiation treatment.

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Van Gaal has been critical of awarding Qatar the World Cup but refused to answer political issues ahead of Monday’s game. 

USA vs Wales (20h)

Former Real Madrid star Gareth Bale is expected to lead Wales against the USA as his country makes their first World Cup appearance in 64 years. 

“Schools are going to stop to watch our games,” said Bale, beaming. “Kids are going to miss school — fortunately for them. 

“So it’s just one of those moments that is a massive piece of history in our country, something that we’ve all wanted for a long time.”

With a population of just over 3 million, Wales is the smallest FIFA member nation to qualify for this year’s World Cup — host Qatar received an automatic berth.

They face a USA side returning to World Cup action for the first time since 2014.

Only DeAndre Yedlin, a 29-year-old defender, remains from the American team eliminated by Belgium in the second round eight years ago. 

Yedlin, Christian Pulisic, Kellyn Acosta and Tim Ream are among just four holdovers from the group that flopped to the field in anguish after the crushing loss at Trinidad in CONCACAF qualifying in October 2017 that ended the streak of US World Cup appearances at seven.

What happened at the World Cup on Sunday?

The large swathes of empty seats in the second half summed up the Qatar soccer team’s disappointing start to its first-ever World Cup.

The night started with more than 67,000 mostly Qatari fans filling the cavernous Al Bayt Stadium, enjoying an opening ceremony that showcased the tiny Arab emirate to a global audience 12 years after winning the right to host soccer’s biggest event.

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It ended with Qatar’s overmatched team trudging off the field, its unwanted place in soccer history secure and many of its dismayed fans having long disappeared.

The controversy-laced tournament opened Sunday with the 2019 Asian Cup champions getting outplayed in a 2-0 loss to Ecuador, ensuring a host team lost its opening game for the first time at a World Cup.

“I would say we felt bad (for our supporters),” Qatar coach Felix Sanchez said. “I hope in the next game they will be prouder.”

Ecuador captain Enner Valencia scored both of his team’s goals in the first half of a one-sided game that wound up being a damage-limitation exercise for Qatar on one of the biggest nights in the nation’s history.

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