After host nation Qatar produced a 92-year first in the opening match, the 2022 FIFA World Cup truly gets underway on Tuesday morning (AEDT), with three games on the docket.
It kicked off with England thrashing Iran 6-2, before the Netherlands struggled to hit their stride before two late goals saw them past Senegal. Wales and the United States played out a thrilling 1-1 draw to round out the day’s action.
Watch the world’s best footballers every week with beIN SPORTS on Kayo. LIVE coverage from Bundesliga, Ligue 1, Serie A, Carabao Cup, EFL & SPFL. New to Kayo? Start your free trial now
Too soon for ‘It’s coming home?’ Poms smack rival for SIX as young Lions roar
‘Real bravery’: Iran players refuse to sing own anthem as protest leaves fans in tears
Touching scenes: England star makes good on promise to young fan with cerebral palsy
England make early World Cup Statement | 02:06
BALE BLASTS HOME PENALTY TO BRING WALES LEVEL
Wales skipper Gareth Bale smashed home an 82nd-minute equaliser from the penalty spot to secure a 1-1 draw against the United States.
Timothy Weah opened the scoring for the Americans in the 36th minute when he was put through on goal by a delicious through-ball from Chelsea star Christian Pulisic.
Yet the US were left to rue their lack of capitalising on the first-half dominance as Wales boss Rob Page adopted a change in approach.
The half-time substitution of Dan James for Kieffer Moore up front paid dividends, as Wales began to grow into the game.
The Welsh should have got on the scoresheet midway through the second half as defender Ben Davies’ flying header was saved acrobatically by American goalkeeper Matt Turner, before Moore headed just over the bar off the subsequent corner.
Yet there was no denying Bale from the spot after he was fouled.
The former Real Madrid ace blasted his penalty past a diving Turner who got a hand on the ball but it was not enough to keep it out.
Tiredness became to kick in towards the end of the game with several players going down with cramp, but no side was able to force through a winner.
ENGLAND MAKE STATEMENT WITH RUTHLESS WIN
The Three Lions made a scintillating start to their World Cup campaign as Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham inspired a 6-2 rout of outclassed Iran in Monday’s Group B opener in Doha.
Saka and Bellingham were England’s driving forces with dynamic displays that underlined their emergence as two of the game’s brightest young stars.
Bellingham, 19, shattered Iran’s hopes of frustrating England when he rose to head his maiden senior international goal in the first half.
Gareth Southgate’s side were in sparkling form at the Khalifa International Stadium and goals from Saka and Raheem Sterling put them in complete control before half-time.
Saka, 21, netted again after the interval and, although Mehdi Taremi struck twice for Iran, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish completed the demolition.
There will be far sterner tests to come for England as they bid to win their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup.
But this was a welcome step in the right direction for Southgate, whose team arrived in Qatar on a six-match winless run that triggered scathing criticism of the Three Lions boss and his perceived negative tactics.
ALL THE WAY? One photo shows just how strong England can be
‘Real bravery’: Iran players refuse to sing own anthem as protest leaves fans in tearsEngland ‘needed’ WC rout after woeful prep. But Poms still ‘have to be better’
Saka stars as the Three Lions roar | 01:03
“We needed that good start. We haven’t played the best coming into the tournament. There was a lot of talk and speculation about our form but we showed everyone how much quality we have and what we can do,” Saka told the BBC.
“It is amazing to get the win under so much pressure. But we have to be consistent because we have the next game coming up in a few days and we have to win again.” Saka missed the decisive penalty as England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy 16 months ago.
But the 21-year-old has bounced back at club level to help Arsenal top the Premier League and he justified Southgate’s call to start him ahead of Manchester City’s Phil Foden.
“I can’t describe the feeling, it is amazing. I am so happy and so proud. We got the win as well so it is a really special day,” added Saka.
“I feel in a good place. I feel the support and love from the fans, the coaching staff and my teammates.
“That is all I need. I feel ready to give 100 percent and I will continue to do that every time I put the shirt on.”
Jude Bellingham and Gareth Southgate, Head Coach of England, celebrate after their side’s victory during the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 Group B match between England and IR Iran.
Source: Getty Images
GUIDE: Everything you need to know about Socceroos’ 2022 World Cup campaign
SCHEDULE: Full World Cup fixture with AEDT times and when the Socceroos play
The only concern for Southgate was the sight of Harry Maguire being replaced in the second half after being checked for a potential head injury.
England play their second match against the United States on Friday and conclude their Group B fixtures against Wales on November 29.
Just hours before kick-off, England revealed captain Harry Kane would not wear a rainbow-themed ‘One Love’ armband after the Football Association and several other European countries dropped their campaign in support of LGBTQ rights.
Because the armband was not a FIFA-approved piece of kit, it was reported any player wearing it would be booked -- a risk England were apparently unwilling to take.
Concussed keeper allowed to play on? | 00:50
The match also took place against the background of turmoil in Iran after months of female-led demonstrations sparked by the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, a 22-year-old woman of Kurdish origin who was arrested by the morality police in Tehran.
Iran’s players refused to sing their national anthem in apparent support for anti-government protesters.
The team’s Portuguese coach Carlos Queiroz said the political unrest at home had taken a toll on the squad.
“It is not right to come to this World Cup and ask them to do things that are not their responsibility. They want to bring pride and joy for the people,” Queiroz told reporters.
“You don’t even imagine behind the scenes what these kids have been living in the last few days, just because they want to express themselves as footballers.”
Fans swarm as World Cup gets underway | 01:58
NETHERLANDS PIP AFRICAN CHAMPS AT THE DEATH
Late goals by Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen gave the Netherlands a 2-0 victory over African champions Senegal on Monday on their return to the World Cup stage.
With Senegal missing injured star man Sadio Mane and the Dutch without their main attacking threat Memphis Depay at kick-off, the Group A encounter in Doha looked set to end in a goalless draw.
But with just six minutes remaining PSV Eindhoven forward Gakpo got up in front of Senegal goalkeeper Edouard Mendy to head in a floated Frenkie de Jong cross from the left.
Substitute Klaassen then secured the victory deep in injury time, following up to score after Mendy had saved from Depay, who had also come off the bench.
The result leaves the Netherlands level at the top of the group with Ecuador, who beat hosts Qatar 2-0 in the tournament’s opening match on Sunday.
Louis van Gaal’s side play Ecuador on Friday, while Senegal now face a must-win contest against Qatar.
OPENING CEREMONY: Morgan Freeman dazzles in shock appearance
ON THE GROUND: A wild World Cup journey … and the $16 beer that saved it
‘WE WANT BEER’: Ecuador fans roast Qatar over beer backflip as fans storm out
Netherlands' forward #08 Cody Gakpo (C) scores his team's first goal as Senegal's goalkeeper #16 Edouard Mendy (2nd R) failed to beat him to the ball.
Senegal saw Bayern Munich superstar Mane -- who came second in this year’s Ballon d’Or -- pull out of the squad with a leg injury on the eve of the tournament.
His absence was clearly felt as the contest at Al Thumama Stadium -- played out to the backdrop of the non-stop drumming and dancing of the Senegal support, but also in front of a considerable number of empty seats -- never lived up to its billing.
Everton midfielder Idrissa Gana Gueye came closest to scoring for Senegal with a strike on the half-volley from the edge of the box that was beaten away by Netherlands goalkeeper Andries Noppert in the 73rd minute.
Noppert, the giant Heerenveen goalkeeper who was making his international debut, also excelled with saves from Boulaye Dia and Pape Gueye in the second half as the Netherlands played their first World Cup game in eight years.
The three-time runners-up were semi-finalists under Van Gaal in Brazil in 2014 before failing to qualify for the last World Cup in Russia in 2018.
The Dutch team was captained by Virgil van Dijk, who was making his debut at a major international tournament on the occasion of his 50th cap.
With Matthijs de Ligt and Nathan Ake alongside him, they were mostly comfortable at the back but had created little going forward before Barcelona forward Depay -- who scored 12 times in qualifying -- came on for the final half-hour.
With Depay not able to start after spending two months on the sidelines, it fell to former Tottenham Hotspur striker Vincent Janssen to spearhead the Netherlands attack but he failed to make a major impact.
Yet Gakpo finally broke the deadlock and, as Senegal pushed for an equaliser, Depay played his part in Ajax midfielder Klaassen’s goal that clinched the points in the ninth added minute
Controversy within minutes of opener | 00:30
USA v WALES - Preview and blog
Gareth Bale says he’s ready for a rough ride from the United States as he prepares for the “incredible” challenge of leading Wales into their World Cup game since 1958 on Monday.
Bale will captain Wales against the USA in their opening match on Monday, the country’s first at a World Cup since they lost to Pele’s Brazil in the quarter-finals 64 years ago.
“As a kid you dream of seeing Wales in a World Cup, but to actually be in the team that achieves it is an incredible feeling and an honour to be able to do it for our country,” Bale told reporters on Sunday.
“Everyone’s dreamt of it for such a long time. We’ve had so many close calls. For us to be the team to get over the line was incredible.
“But more importantly the best thing to grow football in our country, to inspire another generation. By doing that hopefully we’re going to have a stronger national team in the future.”
Bale’s Los Angeles FC team-mate Kellyn Acosta said last week that the US players would need to “kick” the Welsh skipper if necessary.
“I tried to avoid him kicking me the last two weeks before we came,” joked Bale. “It’s nothing new I’m used to getting kicked on the field, nothing’s changed. I’m sure it will be fair but difficult game and played in a great spirit.”
Wales made a shock run to the semi-finals at Euro 2016 and again reached the knockout phase at last year’s European Championship.
Qatar first host nation to lose opener | 02:57
Despite his struggles with injury and lack of match sharpness, the 33-year-old Bale was the driving force of a successful World Cup qualification campaign.
The former Real Madrid star has started just twice since joining Los Angeles FC in June, but Bale has a habit of rising to the big occasion and insists he is ready to deliver in Qatar.
“I’m right where I want to be. I’m here the night before the first game and I’m ready to go,” said Bale.”
“We’ve all been training hard the last week, adapting to the heat, the time zones, and we have no excuses now.”
Wales will be without experienced midfielder Joe Allen, who was ruled out of their Group B opener by coach Rob Page.
Allen, a mainstay in the Wales midfield at the past two Euros, has not played for Swansea since September because of a hamstring injury.
“He’s probably not going to make it if I’m being completely honest with you. We could’ve pushed him maybe but then if he breaks down he’s definitely out of the tournament,” said Page.
Follow USA v Wales in our live blog below!