Get ready for those hot England takes and Wales’ World Cup wait is finally over after Qatar lose opener – The Warm-Up



Monday’s big stories Almost England o’clock

Assuming Twitter is around in a few hours’ time then get ready for a trending bar filled with the hottest takes when England’s World Cup campaign begins against Iran.

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Sometime around midday when the team news comes out, you’ll have “Why is Maguire” and “How can Sterling” both trending, so too the inevitable “now post the real team” replies.

Then you will get Trent Alexander-Arnold, Jack Grealish and probably Phil Foden too all trending by half-time, assuming that the trio do not start and are therefore being urged to come off the bench by every armchair manager around England.

Oh, and #SouthgateOut will probably trend from minute one, and gain traction with every minute England fail to break the deadlock against Iran.

How long will that be, exactly? Well, we’ll all be watching from 1pm to find out, shortly after the England players take a knee and with or without Harry Kane’s ‘One Love’ armband, something that should become clearer by kick-off.

England are the hot favourites to win Group B, but they have a target on their back, and face a trio of nations that would just love to beat them. Not only that, but it technically is the ‘Group of Death’ based on FIFA rankings, and so from around 1pm we may indeed find out exactly why.

Nevertheless, Gareth Southgate is eager to continue this “fantastic journey”, and after two near-misses he knows the importance of another strong run – and getting off to the best possible start.

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

Qatar struggle

When you’re the hosts of arguably the most controversial World Cup ever, a nation with a point to prove on the footballing stage, a squad that has trained together for months in preparation for this very moment, one that has been 12 years in the making, the last thing you want to do is get off to a poor start, especially knowing that no host nation has lost the opening match in any World Cup prior.

So, yeah. About that.

With Senegal and the Netherlands to come, this was seen as Qatar’s chance, an opportunity to show the world why they are the reigning Asian champions, but instead viewers were left pondering what domestic tier this team would actually be capable of competing in, having been utterly outclassed throughout the match as Ecuador ran out 2-0 winners.

For all the glitz of the opening ceremony, and following a build-up like no other, the reality has sunk in that this is a football tournament and that the very nation hosting the event are not entirely good at playing it.

To be the first host to lose their opener is bad, but let’s face it, humiliation could be around the corner. The Dutch in particular, whose head coach Louis van Gaal has openly criticised the awarding of this event and stressed “you have to play in football countries”, may be keen to give Qatar a hiding. And you wouldn’t bet against a tennis-set scoreline.

The smaller big games

Don’t worry, you’ll only hear 1958 and 64 years mentioned around 50 times this evening, and then at full-time we can finally say that Wales’ last World Cup match was… today!

And what a match it is. Seriously. We’ve been busy hypothesising the potential semi-final match-up between Argentina and Brazil, pondering an England-France quarter-final and salivating over Lionel Messi possibly meeting Cristiano Ronaldo in the final, but first and foremost this World Cup group stage is littered with fascinating encounters that are utterly impossible to call.

‘We’re really hyped for the game’ – Dest on USA’s opener against Wales

Wales against the USA? Who knows. Obviously, there will be plenty taking a punt, but Wales aren’t just here to make up numbers and this will be a crucial match for the make-up of Group B.

“We’re new to the tournament and there might be a few surprises along the way,” said head coach Rob Page.

“There’s no pressure on us, we’re going to enjoy it, we’re going to compete and I’ve said to the group: ‘We’re not here to make the numbers up, we’re here because we’ve earned the right to be here, because we’re a good team, and I want to go and show the world how good we are’.”

IN OTHER NEWSCloser to home, it was some return to the dugout for Emma Hayes, who was joined by 38,000 fans at Stamford Bridge as her league-leading Chelsea side beat Tottenham in the WSL yesterday.

Hayes had been away since undergoing hysterectomy surgery, but said it was like being back with “family” when overseeing the win.

She also raised an interesting point after this match was the latest to be played at a Premier League ground. Ticket prices.

“I really believe we have to increase the overall pricing structure if we’re to play more in these places, because there is a cost implication of doing it. And I think the audiences are there, not for every game but certainly for maybe eight games, 12 games a year,” she said.

“But we have to be more ambitious for ourselves. Is it too cheap to watch women’s football? I think it is, especially the top games.”

It is an intriguing notion, and with Hayes engaging in the discussion, one that will be taken seriously.

IN THE CHANNELS

Kudos to Ecuador! Buzzing off Bud Zero.

COMING UP

A World Cup triple header. England and Iran at 1pm, the Netherlands and Senegal at 4pm, then Wales and USA at 7pm. Follow the action on our website, and stay across the latest World Cup news here.

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