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England start strongly and Welsh dragon roars – 2022 World Cup Day 2

The 2022 FIFA World Cup continued to cause controversy and bring more questions than answers on its second day of action, when England opened their campaign in style.

Not content with the ignominy of already enabling the lowest ebb for human rights football has faced, FIFA today refused to let seven team captains wear the ‘OneLove’ armband during this winter’s tournament.

The news broke early in the morning, with the direct implication being that either Harry Kane would be the first-ever player at a World Cup to be booked for wearing an armband, or that England would lead a painful backtrack.

Tragically, it was the latter.

The Football Association, along with their counterparts in Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, the Netherlands and Switzerland, had a meeting with FIFA officials – which could have taken place so much earlier, but for utter ignorance on FIFA’s part – and were forced to give up the armbands.

If they hadn’t already drawn their line about what they stood for, FIFA left no doubt with this weak decision.

‘No Discrimination’ is fine, but ‘OneLove’ is going too far, apparently.

It really is utterly ridiculous.

Ironically, the politics didn’t end there on day two. Probably the most historic moment of today came just before kick-off in Al-Rayyan.

Sending a powerful message about the wrongs that their government have committed by killing protesters and limiting subsequent demonstrations, Iran’s players refused to sign their national anthem.

This was evidently a moment of tremendous courage for them, not knowing what the response would be in their homeland.

One would forgive them if it overshadowed their game preparations in any way.

That’s how I would describe it if being kind, because they didn’t perform on the pitch at all against England.

Coach Carlos Queiroz had the Iranians set up in an extremely deep-lying 5-4-1, which belied the attacking quality they possess.

Of course, they were also unfortunate to lose first-choice goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand to injury early in the contest.

The manner in which Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and then Raheem Sterling scored before half-time was all too easy, although England had to be credited for never letting their stranglehold on the game slip, which created such unstoppable pressure.

After the eventual half-time, the result was a foregone conclusion, yet it was at least engaging to see Saka further announce himself, Marcus Rashford create a redemption arc and Jack Grealish arrive on the World Cup scene, amidst a muted brace for Mehdi Taremi.

The action elsewhere on day two was hard to describe concisely.

Senegal and the Netherlands – two of the most outwardly likeable teams in this tournament – offered up pretty bland football for 80 minutes, until Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen wrapped up a win for the Oranje.

Everybody probably expected more out of both teams, but with Senegal lacking star man Sadio Mane and the Dutch in a bit of a muddle – burdened by such great quality without the linking parts – it was a painful watch at times.

USA vs Wales was a nice contrast, in that it was tight throughout but genuinely exciting to boot.

Given the scale of England’s win, both knew this would be the most important match of their group, and they offered everything they could to win it.

America’s relatively new-look side took the first half, but the Welsh demonstrated trademark grit in the second to ensure the honours were shared.

That was enjoyable, as it showcased the best of both sides – their attacking talent.

They will both have to battle for points against England, and it could well go down to goal difference at the end of the group, in which case it would be fascinating to see who goes through.

Tomorrow, this World Cup heats up even more.

On one of the busiest days of the tournament, we have Group C and Group D kicking off concurrently, and an exciting day of Argentina 4-0 Saudi Arabia, Denmark 2-1 Tunisia, Mexico 1-1 Poland and France 2-0 Australia ahead.

Hope you didn’t have plans!

Feature Image Credit: BBC iPlayer

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