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England crush Iran 6-2

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DOHA:

England 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.

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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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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.

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.

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Iran’s players refused to sing their national anthem in apparent support for anti-government protesters.

Having reached the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 before losing to Italy in the Euro 2020 final, England are desperate to take the last step to silverware in Doha.

Southgate had urged his team “play on the front foot” and they responded in style, after initially finding their rhythm disrupted by a long delay when Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand smashed into team-mate Majid Hosseini.

Despite being in no state to continue amid fears of a concussion, the bloodied Beiranvand played on before finally being substituted.

England eventually penned Iran deep inside their own half and Bellingham delivered in the 35th minute.

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Sterling found Luke Shaw on the left flank and his cross was perfectly weighted for Bellingham, who looped a fine header into the far corner.

Playing for Birmingham in the Championship just two years ago, the Borussia Dortmund star’s goal made him England’s second youngest scorer at a World Cup behind Michael Owen.

Eight minutes later another of England’s gifted prodigies doubled the lead.

Maguire headed down a corner and Arsenal forward Saka swivelled to lash a superb left-foot finish into the top corner.

Sterling put the result beyond doubt with his first goal at a World Cup in first-half stoppage time.

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Bellingham fed Kane, whose pin-point cross was volleyed home by Sterling with the outside of his boot.

Saka made it four in the 62nd minute when he shuffled across the Iran area before stroking his shot past Hossein Hosseini.

Taremi fired into the roof of the net to reduce the deficit three minutes later.

Rashford’s cool finish in the 71st minute, 49 seconds after he came on, was followed by Grealish’s 90th-minute tap-in.

Taremi struck from the penalty spot with the last kick of the game after a shirt pull by John Stones, but the margin of victory reflected England’s total dominance. 

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Uruguay held by South Korea in goalless stalemate

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DOHA:

Uruguay faltered in their World Cup opener against a lively and energetic South Korea after they were held to a 0-0 draw in Group H on Thursday in a contest where both teams struggled to find the clinical edge.

Clear-cut chances were rare for either side at the Education City Stadium and although Uruguay created more goalscoring opportunities, neither team were able to register a shot on target.

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Uruguay captain Diego Godin was denied by the woodwork while South Korea forward Hwang Ui-jo blasted over the bar with the goal at his mercy, leaving both teams to rue missed chances before group rivals Portugal and Ghana meet later on in the day.

Uruguay’s first sight of goal came in the 19th minute through Federico Valverde, who connected with Jose Maria Gimenez’s pass and took a touch before firing a half-volley towards goal, but his ambitious attempt went just over the bar.

The South Americans had begun to find their footing when South Korea, having been patient so far, disrupted their rhythm and launched a counter-attack from a Uruguay corner before the half-hour mark. Son Heung-min picked up the ball on the left flank and cut inside, skipping past two Uruguay defenders before curling a right-footed effort towards goal, but left back Mathias Olivera was able to clear it away. South Korea should have taken the lead in the 34th minute when Moon-hwan Kim fizzed the ball into the penalty area and into the path of Hwang in front of goal, but the forward could not keep his composure and sent it over the crossbar.

The closest Uruguay came to scoring in the first half was just before the break, when centre back Godin rose highest to power a header from Valverde’s corner but it bounced off the left post and away from goal. Gimenez made a crucial tackle to deny Son five minutes after the restart after a flowing move from South Korea, while Jung Woo-young blocked midfielder Rodrigo Bentancur’s powerful strike at the other end. Uruguay saw more of the ball but found few chances to break through the South Korean defence until the closing stages, when Valverde unleashed a thunderbolt in the final minute of regulation time that struck the top of the post.





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World Cup fans in Qatar introduced to Islam

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DOHA:

The Katara Cultural Village Mosque in Qatar’s capital of Doha has become the focus of attention for World Cup fans who want to get to know about Islam.

Multilingual male and female preachers at the mosque explain the religion and tolerance of Islam to tourists.

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Electronic boards about Islam in more than 30 languages at the door are positioned to allow visitors to view them on their phones. And booklets introducing Islam in different languages ​​are distributed to those who want them.

The Ministry of Awqaf and Islamic Affairs in Qatar also launched a pavilion to introduce Islam and its teachings during the World Cup 2022.

Also read: Batshuayi fires Belgium to World Cup

World Cup fans encounter hadiths — words, actions or habits of Prophet Muhammad — on the walls of streets, describing the importance of good deeds.

The opening ceremony of the FIFA World Cup 2022 was last Sunday at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor.

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The tournament’s official mascot, La’eeb, whose name is an Arabic word that means super-skilled player, along with the flags of all 32 participating nations were waving on the field.





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Ronaldo and Brazil enter World Cup fray after Swiss win

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DOHA:

Cristiano Ronaldo will aim to put his painful Manchester United divorce behind him at the World Cup on Thursday as Brazil also make their bow following a win for Switzerland in the early kick-off.

Ronaldo’s preparations for what is likely to be his last World Cup have been overshadowed by his sudden departure from Old Trafford this week after he lambasted the club in a TV interview.

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The Portugal superstar’s form this season has been poor but he is still hoping for a final shot at glory in Qatar after leading his team to the Euro 2016 title.

The 37-year-old, whose club future is uncertain, is aiming to become the first player in history to score at five World Cups.

Portugal coach Fernando Santos said his men were entirely focused on their opening Group H match against Ghana despite the distractions of the media circus surrounding their captain.

“The players are absolutely focused, with a great spirit, convinced about what they have to do, what their objectives are and realistic about the challenges they are facing,” he said.

“Winning a competition of this magnitude is difficult.”

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World Cup favourites Brazil launch their bid for a record-extending sixth global crown against a dangerous Serbia side.

Brazil boast a frightening array of attacking talent including Paris Saint-German forward Neymar and Real Madrid pair Vinicius Junior and Rodrygo.

Coach Tite will be wary of his Group G opponents after witnessing shock defeats for Argentina and Germany already in Qatar.

“In my opinion these players (attackers) will help Neymar because they can divide up the responsibility and create space for him,” said veteran Brazil skipper Thiago Silva.

“The atmosphere in the squad is super-healthy,” he added. “The mixture of young players and more experienced ones creates a great connection.”

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Serbia appear a more dangerous proposition than four years ago, when they also faced Brazil in the group stage but lost 2-0 and exited in the first round.

“We are afraid of nobody in the world, not even Brazil,” said Serbia coach Dragan Stojkovic, who hopes prolific Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic will be fit for the match at the Lusail Stadium.

Switzerland and Cameroon, also in Brazil’s group, kicked off Thursday’s action in Qatar, with the Swiss winning 1-0 courtesy of a goal from Cameroon-born Breel Embolo.

The forward struck three minutes into the second half at Al Janoub Stadium as Switzerland secured a vital three points.

Granit Xhaka and Remo Freuler worked the ball out wide on the right to Xherdan Shaqiri, whose low cross into the area was swept home by an unmarked Embolo, who chose not to celebrate against his birth country.

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“It’s quite special for him because of his links to Cameroon — I’m very happy he’s playing for us,” said Swiss goalkeeper Yann Sommer. “He’s always right there when you need him.”

Defeat condemned Cameroon to their eighth straight loss at World Cups — a miserable run stretching all the way back to 2002.

Son Heung-min was named in the starting line-up for South Korea’s Group H opener against Uruguay at 1300 GMT even though he was wearing a mask after suffering a fracture around his left eye earlier this month.

Uruguay coach Diego Alonso selected Luis Suarez up front, with fellow veteran Edinson Cavani on the bench.

Germany coach Hansi Flick said no member of his team was safe after their shock 2-1 defeat against Japan on Wednesday.

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The four-time champions, who next face Spain, are facing a nightmare scenario of a second consecutive group-stage exit after their early departure in Russia in 2018.

“You can understand that we are discussing every matter of personnel and every position,” Flick said.





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