World Cup 2022: England and Wales brace for tournament openers

World Cup 2022: England and Wales brace for tournament openers

Jude Bellingham and Aaron Ramsey
Jude Bellingham (left) and England take on Iran at 13:00 GMT on Monday, while Aaron Ramsey (right) and Wales take on the United States at 19:00
Host country: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Daily TV programsFull coverage details

For England it has been a four-year wait. It’s been a little longer for Wales. Sixty years longer even.

There was only one game on the opening day of the 2022 World Cup: Ecuador modest victory over hosts Qatar – but the action will be cranked up on Monday when Group B rivals England and Wales begin their respective campaigns.

The Three Lions, who take on Iran (13:00 GMT on BBC One and iPlayer), are desperate for another win at football’s biggest trophy since falling to Russia in the semi-finals four years ago.

But when the Welsh players take the field at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium to take on the United States (7pm), it will be the realization of a 64-year-old dream.

Simply put, it’s going to be a huge day for both countries.

Southgate wants to take English fans on a new journey

The World Cup has the power to bring a country to a standstill.

There are certainly extensive lunch breaks on Mondays. Office TVs probably have football on. And yes, some schoolchildren may be lucky enough to watch the game between classes.

No one will want to miss England’s opener against Iran.

While Gareth Southgate’s team faced criticism following relegation from the Nations League, England have captured the nation’s imagination in their last two tournaments.

After finishing fourth at the 2018 World Cup, they came agonizingly close at last summer’s European Championships by losing to Italy on penalties in the final at Wembley.

“We’ve taken our supporters on a fantastic journey over the last few years,” said Southgate.

Now Southgate and his players want to take England fans on a new journey to end 56 years of World Cup pain.

“Our country is going through a difficult time right now,” Southgate added. “Life has been difficult for our people – we are going through an economic recession – and we want a journey that brings them real happiness.”

“As long as we give 100%, our country will love us for that”

When Wales were knocked out in the quarter-finals of the 1958 World Cup by a 17-year-old Pele and eventual winners Brazil, few would have predicted it would take them 64 years to stand on football’s biggest podium for a second time.

An estimated 3,000 Wales fans have traveled to Qatar. Those who could not be there must create atmosphere in living rooms and bars throughout the country on Monday evening.

Yes, World Cup fever has gripped Wales – and captain Gareth Bale is feeling it.

“Schools are going to stop to watch our matches [Wales’ second group match, against Iran, kicks off at 10:00 GMT]. It’s one of those moments that is a huge piece of history, something we’ve wanted,” said Bale, who also captained Wales at Euro 2020.

“We have the support of the nation at home no matter what. As long as we give 100%, our country will love us for it.”

Bale, who said his first memory was France ’98, added: “The most important thing was to grow football in Wales and inspire another generation, to get more kids playing football.

“By doing that, hopefully we’ll have a stronger national team in the future and hopefully in 20 years someone will be here who will say we’ve inspired them.”

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