Today at the World Cup: England make impressive start and Bale seals Wales draw

England made an impressive start to their World Cup campaign on Monday as Gareth Southgate’s side thrashed Iran 6-2 at the Khalifa International Stadium.

Gareth Bale’s late penalty secured Wales a 1-1 draw with the United States in the other game in Group B, while there was also victory for the Netherlands over Senegal.

Here, the PA news agency rounds up events in Qatar.

Saka shines for emphatic England

Saka puts England 2-0 up (Adam Davy/PA).
Saka put England 2-0 up (Adam Davy/PA)

England’s rout of Iran saw Southgate’s men register three times in each half, with Arsenal forward Bukayo Saka notching a brace in his first major tournament appearance since his penalty shootout miss in last year’s European Championship final defeat to Italy.

Teenager Jude Bellingham opened the scoring with his maiden Three Lions goal, and Raheem Sterling and substitutes Marcus Rashford – another who missed a penalty in the Euros final – and Jack Grealish also netted.

Mehdi Taremi scored twice, firstly to make it 4-1 and then a consolation penalty deep into stoppage time, for an Iran side that poignantly stood in silence during the national anthem in a stand of solidarity with those being mistreated, imprisoned and killed protesting in the country for gender equality.

Bale Wales’ saviour

Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring from the spot against the United States (Nick Potts/PA).
Gareth Bale (left) drew Wales level in the 82nd minute against the United States (Nick Potts/PA)

Wales secured a point on their long-awaited return to the World Cup thanks to star man Bale’s spot-kick with eight minutes of normal time remaining at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

The skipper converted the penalty, awarded when he was fouled by Tim Ream, past Matt Turner to take his international record to 41 goals in 109 games, a joint caps record for the men’s team as he moved alongside unused substitute Chris Gunter.

That cancelled out Timothy Weah’s 36th-minute strike for the US in what was Wales’ first match at a World Cup for 64 years.

Armband U-turn

Harry Kane with the 'One Love' rainbow armband (the FA/PA).
Harry Kane with the ‘One Love’ rainbow armband (FA Handout/PA)

Hours before the first of those matches kicked off, it emerged that European nations including England and Wales had decided against wearing the ‘One Love’ armbands their captains were going to don after FIFA threatened them with sporting sanctions.

The rainbow-coloured anti-discrimination armband had been set to be a strong statement in a country which criminalises same-sex relationships, but the fear of players picking up bookings saw teams make a late U-turn.

England captain Harry Kane – who instead wore FIFA’s ‘no discrimination’ armband, which is not rainbow coloured – said: “We’re disappointed. We wanted to wear it, that decision was taken out of my hands. I turned up to the stadium with the armband that I wore and I was told I had to wear that.”

There was condemnation of FIFA’s decision by the Football Supporters’ Association and Kick It Out, while ex-England defender Alex Scott wore the rainbow armband in a pre-match segment on the BBC.

Other controversies

Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand after suffering a collision (Mike Egerton/PA).
Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand suffered after a collision (Mike Egerton/PA)

Another talking point just before the England game was ticket problems for their fans – when the contest kicked off there were swathes of empty seats in the stadium, with FIFA’s ticketing app having failed, delaying entry and creating large queues as supporters tried to gain access.

There was then further controversy early on in the match as Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand collided face first with team-mate Majid Hosseini and was initially allowed to continue playing before leaving on a stretcher.

The decision to let Beiranvand – who Iran boss Carlos Queiroz said had suffered a “serious concussion” – play on was branded an “utter disgrace” by brain injury charity Headway. FIFA said its “comprehensive concussion protocol”, which is based on a “suspect and protect” credo, had been implemented in relation to the player.

Dutch delight

In Group A, the Netherlands defeated Senegal 2-0 thanks to late goals from Cody Gakpo and Davy Klaassen.

Gakpo put Louis Van Gaal’s men in front in the 84th minute and substitute Klaassen added a stoppage-time effort as the Dutch matched the score from Ecuador’s win over Qatar in the group’s opening match on Sunday.

Messi on his fitness as Ronaldo makes surprise appearance

Lionel Messi in action for Argentina (Mike Egerton/PA).
Lionel Messi says he has ‘no issues whatsoever’ ahead of Argentina v Saudi Arabia (Mike Egerton/PA)

Lionel Messi had stressed he was in “good condition” ahead of Argentina’s Group C opener against Saudi Arabia on Tuesday.

The 35-year-old captain told a press conference: “I’m very well physically, good condition. I have no issues whatsoever. I heard there were rumours about having to miss part of the training, or training apart from the team because of a blow – no, it was just precautions, nothing strange or out of the ordinary.”

There was also a surprise press conference appearance by Portugal skipper Cristiano Ronaldo as he made his first public comments since his criticisms of Manchester United in an interview with Piers Morgan.

In quotes reported by the Daily Telegraph, the 37-year-old, whose team face Ghana on Thursday in Group H, insisted the matter had not overshadowed Portugal’s World Cup preparations, saying: “The atmosphere is excellent, no problems, we are completely focused.

“You can help by not talking about me. I’m completely bullet-proof and iron-clad. If you ask other players about Cristiano Ronaldo, I would be upset.”

On the timing of the interview, Ronaldo added: “Timing is always timing. I don’t have to worry about what others think. I talk when I want to. The group is very bonded together. I have no doubt this recent episode, it won’t shape the team.”

Tuesday’s games also include defending champions France – who had Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema withdraw from their squad due to injury – taking on Australia in Group D.

Picture of the day

Bale (bottom left) celebrates with his team-mates after his penalty (Nick Potts/PA).
Bale (bottom left) celebrated with his Wales team-mates after his penalty (Nick Potts/PA)

Tweet of the day

Who’s up next?

Group C: Argentina v Saudi Arabia (1000, ITV1), Mexico v Poland (1600, BBC One)

Group D: Denmark v Tunisia (1300, ITV1), France v Australia (1900, BBC One)