ECONOMY

England v Iran: World Cup 2022 – live


Key events

The teams are out! England in white, Iran in red. The anthems. Mason Mount with a loyal rendition of “God Save the Queen”. Hey, some habits die hard. We’ll be off in a couple of minutes.

There’s more of your reaction to the armband fiasco, too. “It’s hard not to compare Ehsan Hajsafi’s risking his personal safety and freedom to criticize the situation in Iran with the European FA’s unwillingness to get a yellow card” – Zach Neeley.

“The only armbands needed today are those of the various Football Association’s performativity swimming around the shallow end of protest” – Jaz Evans.

“There are five substitutes allowed. Send on a squad player as ‘captain’ with the One Love armband, then sub them off after 30 seconds. Double the focus as the quickest substitution in World Cup history is made; and surely England don’t need to use all five substitutes in a 90-minute game against Iran? Just a thought, if the commitment is really there” – Iain Pearson.

More from Jacob. “It’s pretty cool inside. Not too hot outside either. It was way hotter at England v Croatia in London.”

Ten minutes to kick-off here. Stadium is far from full. Ticketing problems outside but at this stage my suspicion is that Fifa don’t particularly care about fans.

— Jacob Steinberg (@JacobSteinberg) November 21, 2022

As if this World Cup wasn’t already farcical enough, there are reports of ticketing problems at the Khalifa International Stadium. With kick-off fast approaching, the stadium is far from full, and some England fans have been queuing for over two hours to get in. Our man on the ground, Jacob Steinberg, reports that “the website has crashed, which means you can’t access e-tickets, so they are trying to give people paper tickets.” Shades of this year’s Champions League final with ticketing chaos outside. Jacob also adds: “I can confirm me and Barney Ronay have had to put headphones in as the sound system at this stadium is so loud. The woman with the mic is screaming into it, as if she doesn’t know how microphones work.”

The Iran team are playing with a backdrop of civil unrest back home. Their captain Ehsan Hajsafi has told a press conference: “My condolences to all the mourning families in Iran … we stand with them and share their pain … we must accept that conditions in our country are not right and our people are not happy … my people are sad and our presence here does not mean that we cannot be a voice for them or should not respect them … we owe our lives to our people and we are here to work hard, fight, show our best performance and score goals, and present them to the bereaved Iranian people … I hope that things will improve and everyone will be happy.”

The BBC’s Alex Scott is pitchside, discussing the 30-degree-centigrade conditions, but more pertinently wearing the aforementioned One Love rainbow armband in marvellously conspicuous style. On that subject, Gerry from Queens, New York City writes: “With all due respect to the captains/teams, I think it shows a lucklustre commitment to their activism to back down on the rainbow armbands. If you are really committed to bringing attention to this injustice, take the sanction: it would allow Fifa themselves to increase focus on politics of this issue if the refs show a card (or whatever else), and this discussion would be amplified many times over. Instead, players show us that at the end of the day fighting injustice is less important to them than sport: exactly the point Fifa was hoping we’s all take from this World Cup.”

Alex Scott wears the One Love armband at pitchside. Photograph: BBC

Gareth Southgate speaks to the BBC. “We’ve maximised the time. We’ve spent the first part of the week exciting people about being involved in the World Cup, and the latter part, since we got here, on the training pitch. And I’m really pleased with the way the players have approached everything. We feel this is a strong team, a strong way to start, and great depth to come in. We want to be positive and play on the front foot.”

Iranian fans hold up protest banners.
Iranian fans hold up protest banners. Photograph: Javier García/Shutterstock

… and as for the One Love armband brouhaha … “A lot of discussion has been going on without me involved, because I’ve been focused on the game. We’re wearing the Fifa armband that was decided on by the collected federations overnight, I believe. We are in the middle of that and are just trying to focus on the game, frankly.”

Harry Maguire gets the nod despite being a spare part at Manchester United these days. Raheem Sterling meanwhile is preferred to Phil Foden up front. A positive 4-3-3. James Maddison is out nursing his sore knee.

Iran’s star forward Sardar Azmoun begins his World Cup on the bench. The Bayer Leverkusen striker hasn’t played since injuring his calf at the start of October. Mehdi Taremi of Porto leads the line.

‘I know, I can’t believe it either’.
‘I know, I can’t believe it either’. Photograph: Carl Recine/Reuters

The teams

England: Pickford, Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Bellingham, Rice, Saka, Mount, Sterling, Kane.
Subs: Walker, Grealish, Henderson, Rashford, Pope, Phillips, Dier, Coady,
Alexander-Arnold, Foden, White, Ramsdale, Wilson, Maddison, Gallagher.

Iran: Beiranvand, Moharrami, Pouraliganji, Cheshmi, Majid Hosseini, Mohammadi, Noorollahi, Karimi, Hajsafi, Jahanbakhsh, Taremi.
Subs: Khalilzadeh, Ezatolahi, Ansarifard, Amiri, Niazmand, Kanaani, Ghoddos, Torabi, Gholizadeh, Azmoun, Abedzadeh, Rezaeian, Seyed Hosseini, Jalali.

Fifa are a shower (pt XXXVIII in an ongoing series). Shame all the associations didn’t stand their ground.

Preamble

Let’s warm up for the big one by going through our cognitive-dissonance drills. Everyone ready? Here we go, then. To cover isn’t to condone; to watch, listen and read implies no approval; to feel a pang of That Old World Cup Fever obligates nobody to feel any guilt or shame. This is Fifa’s burden to carry: enjoy the football, and don’t let them foist a single scrap of their terrible karmic load onto you.

But of course the enjoyment of football is a very nebulous concept, especially when you’re watching your team trying their best at a World Cup. And right on cue, here come England! Gareth Southgate’s side came fourth in 2018 and were a penalty competition away from becoming champions of Europe last year. On the other hand, they haven’t won in six, a sequence which includes their biggest home defeat for 94 years. They’re about to either make the final step to glory, then, or signal the end of a goldish era that promised pretty things and nearly delivered some of them.

They should be too good for Iran. But then everyone said the same about Scotland in 1978 and the USA two decades later. At the last two World Cups, Iran gave Argentina, Spain and Portugal a game. More pertinently, Carlos Queiroz’s 2022 version have recently beaten hipster-dark-horses Uruguay and African champions Senegal. They don’t concede too many, so given England’s recent net-finding travails – plus the Three Lions’ habit of starting World Cups slowly ­– Iran may fancy their chances of opening Group B by springing a surprise. Kick off is at 1pm GMT, 4pm at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha. انه يحدث! It’s on!





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