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England and Wales braced for World Cup openers

For England, it’s been a four-year wait. For Wales, it’s been a little longer. Sixty years longer, in fact.

The 2022 World Cup’s opening day featured just one match – Ecuador’s low-key win over hosts Qatar – but the action will be cranked up on Monday when Group B rivals England and Wales begin their respective campaigns.

The Three Lions, who face Iran (13:00 GMT on BBC One and iPlayer), have been desperate for another crack at football’s biggest prize since falling at the semi-final stage in Russia four years ago.

But when the Wales players walk out on to the pitch at Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium to face the United States (19:00), it will be the realisation of a 64-year dream.

Simply put, it’s set to be a massive day for both nations.  The World Cup has the power to bring a country to a standstill.  On Monday, extended lunch breaks are sure to be taken.

Office televisions are likely to have the football on. And yes, some schoolchildren may be lucky enough to watch the match between lessons.

Nobody will want to miss England’s opener against Iran.  While Gareth Southgate’s team attracted criticism after being relegated in the Nations League, England have captured the country’s imagination in their last two tournaments.

After finishing fourth at the 2018 World Cup, they came agonisingly close at last summer’s European Championship, losing to Italy on penalties in the final at Wembley.

“We have taken our supporters on a fantastic journey over the last few years,” said Southgate.  Now, Southgate and his players want to take England fans on another journey as they bid to end 56 years of hurt in the World Cup.

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

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