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Bale strikes as Wales end 64-year exile; Poms smack rival for SIX as Dutch grab late win: WC WRAP

Bale strikes as Wales end 64-year exile; Poms smack rival for SIX as Dutch grab late win: WC WRAP

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.

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England's early World Cup Statement! | 02:06

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.

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“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.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.
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

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.

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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.”

Wales' forward #11 Gareth Bale scores his team's first goal.
Wales' forward #11 Gareth Bale scores his team's first goal.Source: AFP

BALE BLASTS HOME PENALTY TO BRING WALES LEVEL

Gareth Bale rescued Wales with a late penalty to snatch a 1-1 draw with the United States in their World Cup Group B clash on Monday in Qatar.

Welsh skipper Bale lashed home an 82nd-minute spot kick after earning the penalty moments earlier when defender Walker Zimmerman crashed into the former Real Madrid star.

It cancelled out Tim Weah’s superb first-half goal for the Americans which had threatened to ruin Wales’s return to the World Cup after a 64-year absence.

Bale’s equaliser triggered roars from a large and raucous contingent of Wales fans in a crowd of 43,418 fans at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on the outskirts of Doha.

Until that moment it looked as if Wales were heading for a defeat, struggling to break down a skillful and energetic US squad that is the second youngest at the tournament.

Wales were outplayed for long periods of the first half, with manager Rob Page’s decision not to start towering centre-forward Kieffer Moore depriving them of an attacking outlet.

Instead it was the US who made all the early running, with Chelsea’s Christian Pulisic a constant darting menace.

Bale and his teammates celebrate.
Bale and his teammates celebrate.Source: Getty Images

The positive early play almost resulted in a goal after just nine minutes when Sergino Dest played in Weah down the right.

The Lille winger’s cross caused panic in the Welsh area as Joe Rodon powered a header that cannoned off goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey’s midriff.

The danger was not over as Pulisic gathered and crossed for Norwich striker Josh Sargent, who beat Rodon easily but headed just wide.

The early US exuberance led to a flurry of cards for the Americans early on, with Dest and Weston McKennie both booked in quick succession for a pair of wild tackles on Neco Williams.

The relentless US pressing game meant Wales were unable to construct anything in midfield, where Aaron Ramsey and Ethan Ampadu were rarely afforded time or space.

The breakthrough came on 36 minutes. Good hold-up play by Sargent near halfway sent Pulisic accelerating towards goal before picking out Weah who had darted in behind goal.

The son of African football icon George Weah showed terrific composure, dinking a cool finish with the outside of his right foot over Hennessey for a goal that was no less than the positive US opening deserved.

Bale ends 64-year drought for Wales | 00:55

Wales were in disciplinary trouble again soon afterwards, Bale earning a yellow card for clattering into Yunus Musah on 40 minutes.

Chris Mepham joined the Welsh captain in the book after hauling Pulisic down near half-time.

Page brought on Moore at half-time for Daniel James and the substitution immediately started to have an effect.

Tottenham’s Ben Davies almost headed Wales level on 64 minutes but was denied by US goalkeeper Matt Turner with an acrobatic parry over the bar.

Moore powered a header just over from the ensuing corner.

The US dropped deeper and Wales pressed more aggressively as they chased an equaliser.

On 80 minutes Ramsey surged down the right and cut back for Bale, who shielded the ball and tempted Zimmerman into a wild lunge.

Qatari referee Abdulrahman Al-Jassim pointed to the spot and Bale stepped up to save Wales.

Wales face Iran on Friday in their second Group B game while the United States face England, 6-2 winners over the Iranians earlier on Monday

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.

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.
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.Source: AFP

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

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