England’s mission to win their first international trophy since winning the World Cup in 1966 begins when they face Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Iran will feel they have been dealt a bad hand as they will have to compete against three teams that are within the top 20 in the FIFA rankings for a spot in the knockout stages.
But Team Meli will rely on their defensive resilience to grind out a positive result against the Euro 2020 finalists.
The current crop of England players is full of young, talented, and confident footballers, and their performances in international competitions have been encouraging thus far.
The Three Lions made it to the World Cup semifinals for the first time in 28 years in Russia before setting up a Euro 2020 final against Italy.
England are still trophyless in the post-1966 era, but Southgate’s troops have come the closest to ending that drought.
Many would point towards their dismal UEFA Nations League campaign and a winless run of six games heading into the tournament. But with the World Cup only weeks away, England players could be forgiven for their lapse of concentration.
Iran’s recent form
Iran will make their third successive World Cup appearance in Qatar 2022.
However, their participation became doubtful when Ukraine officially asked FIFA to expel them from the World Cup because of Iran’s pro-Russia stance in the Russia-Ukraine war.
Even a section of Iran’s own fans demanded to banish Iran from the competition because of Iran’s treatment of female fans.
Carlos Queiroz’s men wrapped up their World Cup preparations with a 2-0 loss over Tunisia.
The loss marked Iran’s third defeat in their last 22 matches, but Iran’s lack of threat in front of the opposition goal will be a cause of concern for Quieroz.
Not finding the net against fellow World Cup team Tunisia will not do much favour to boost the morale of Iran’s forwards.
Historically, Iran have scored 0.6 goals per match in the World Cup, which is the worst return for any World Cup teams which have played double digit number of matches in the tournament.
Man City fullback Kyle Walker flew with the team to Qatar, but he will not be available to play against Iran as he recovers from injury.
So, Newcastle star Kieran Trippier is expected to get the nod at right-back.
James Maddison missed a few training sessions, which indicates he might not be involved as well.
In their Euro campaign, Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips were England’s go-to midfield combo. Phillips is available for selection, but Southgate might hand Jude Bellingham his first World Cup start since the Man City man did not play much football after returning from a lengthy injury layoff.
Iran left their experienced midfielder Omid Ebrahimi at home as he sustained an unfortunate groin injury. But, Quieroz was unwilling to give up on Bayer Leverkusen striker Sardar Azmoun who has a calf muscle injury.
The England match will come too soon for Azmous, so Porto’s Mehdi Taremi will take on the scoring responsibilities.
Former Brighton forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh will also feature in the Iran attack.
Iran have never managed to win against a European opposition in the World Cup and it seems unlikely that will change on Monday.
England will bring too much firepower for Iran too hold off. Our prediction is a 3-1 win for England.
WATCH: Cristiano Ronaldo performs obscene gestures as fans chant Lionel Messi’s name
During the Saudi Pro League game between Al Shabab and Al Nassr, Nassr skipper Cristiano Ronaldo was seen making obscene gestures towards rival fans. The Shabab fans were chanting Ronaldo’s biggest rival Lionel Messi’s name. Not for the first time though, some Saudi football fans do prefer Messi over the Portuguese player. Meanwhile, during the game on Sunday, the Portugal international crossed all the limits as he made some obscene gestures.
Watch the video here
Al-Shabab fans chanting: “Messi, Messi”
— Troll Football (@TrollFootball) February 25, 2024
Talking about the game, the Yellow Brigade, Nassr won against Shabab. Ronaldo gave his team as he made the most of the penalty in the 21st minute of the game. However, in the injury time of the first half, Yannick Carrasco scored an equalizer before going into the break. In the first minute of the second half, Anderson Talisca gave a lead to Nassr. In the 67th minute, Carlos scored the equalizer for Shabab, and the game looked like ending in a tie before Talisca scored the match-winning goal in the 86th minute.
Meanwhile, the former Real Madrid player is set to face disciplinary action. As per the Saudi writer and television host, the disciplinary committee might take action.
“The disciplinary committee is facing the biggest test. We will wait and see. Everything has its limits, no matter how famous you are. This is how the major leagues are” Waleed Al Farraj, a prominent Saudi writer and television host, said on X.
Cristiano Ronaldo faced disciplinary action during his stint with Manchester United
A few months before the FIFA World Cup 2022, he threw a fan’s phone when he was part of the English club, Manchester United. He was banned for a few games which meant that he missed a few games for his current club, Nassr. However, the ban didn’t apply in the World Cup as he was available for selection during the tournament, in which his team lost the Quarterfinal to Morrocco.
Virgil Van Dijk’s late strike in extra time helps Liverpool beat Chelsea in Carabao Cup final
Liverpool emerged victorious in the Carabao Cup final in 2024. In a thrilling game which was full of twists and turns, Liverpool managed to beat Chelsea to clinch the cup. Jurgen Klopp’s men were awarded with the winner’s medal as they edged out Chelsea in a low-scoring thriller that went to extra time. The defence of both sides was good to watch.
The match had many edge-of-the-seat moments. In the first half, Liverpool attempted a lot of shots over Chelsea. While some were out of target, some were in the target, but stopped by the goalkeeper. Cody Gakpo was unlucky to find the ball hit the goalpost. The strike of the youngster went in vain as the first half did not witness any goal.
Liverpool’s skipper was brilliant in the game. He martialed his troops well and got the coordination going for a long time. He in fact nearly had a goal in the first half, only to be ruled out by the VAR, which was highly controversial. There is a debate for the legitimacy of the goal which was not given despite the help of the technology. Liverpool did not get carried away with the moment.
Captain brilliant Virgil Van Dijk steps up in crunch moments
Klopp deployed younger players as substitutes in the 2nd half. It helped Liverpool a lot as they were able to not just put pressure on Chelsea but also create a lot of chances. While none of them were converted to goals in the second half, they ensured that Chelsea’s players were in check. At one stage, the absence of Mohammad Salah in the middle was felt.
The match went to the extra time, where things got a bit closer. Chelsea attempted to score goals but ended up giving more advantage to Liverpool. The younger legs marked well and provided good assists to the forwards. The moment came in the 118th minute of the game, when Van Dijk netted the goal and helped Liverpool to win the prestigious title.
Virat Kohli picks his ‘Sporting GOAT’
Virat Kohli was asked to pick his ‘Sporting GOAT’ in a recent interview. The star cricketer was interviewed by Team Blue Rising who asked him to name the greatest sportsperson of all time. “Who is your Sporting GOAT?” asked the host to the star batter. Kohli did not hesitate to take the name of one of the greatest Football players as his pick for the question.
The Indian batter claimed Cristiano Ronaldo to be the greatest Football player of all time. “For me, it’s Cristiano Ronaldo,” said Virat in the interview. It came as no surprise to the fans, as Virat has always been a huge admirer of the star Footballer. Even in the past, the 35-year-old has expressed his admiration for the star player from Portugal.
In many instances, the Indian batter has claimed Ronaldo to be his favourite player. Ronaldo has been one of the best players the sport has ever seen. Many claim him to be arguably the greatest Sportsperson of all time. Virat has joined the list of those to claim him to be the greatest athlete in the sports world. Ronaldo has some records to back his claim for the title.
Legacy of Cristiano Ronaldo and Virat Kohli
The Portuguese Footballer has the greatest number of goals for an international team. He also has the greatest number of international caps for a player. The star player is the only player to win four major cups with two different clubs. He did it with Manchester United and Real Madrid. Cristiano has the second most number of Ballon d’Or titles (Five) after Lionel Messi.
Virat, on the other hand, is a great cricketer. He has the greatest number of hundreds for a batter in ODIs. Virat has the greatest number of hundreds in ODIs while chasing. He is also the highest run scorer for India in T20Is. Kohli has the most runs for a batter in the IPL. He has the greatest number of POTT awards for a player in the T20 WC and the ODI WC.
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