Action on the pitch burst into life on the second day of World Cup 2022 as England and Wales' campaigns got underway in Qatar, while controversy off it continued to rage on.
England faced Iran in a pulsating game filled with goals, VAR checks and contentious issues; the Netherlands had to find a way past Africa Cup of Nations champions Senegal in their Group A encounter, while Wales and the USA faced each other in a competitive match to conclude the day.
With that being said, here's a look at the main talking points from day two of action at the Qatar World Cup 2022.
One Love campaign crumbles amid FIFA threats
Hours before England’s opening game against Iran was due to kick off, captain Harry Kane still had no idea if he would be wearing a ‘One Love’ armband or not.
Eventually, a joint statement from seven European nations committed to wearing the multi-coloured armband, including England and Wales, announced that they were abandoning the campaign. (opens in new tab)
FIFA’s threat to book captains who wear the armband – which, remember, was created to “promote inclusion and send a message against discrimination of any kind” – had the intended effect.
The federations backed down, saying “we cannot put our players in the situation where they might be booked or even forced to leave the field of play”.
It’s not a good look, yet again, for FIFA, and the Football Supporters’ Association were among those to quickly hit out at Infantino.
"Today we feel contempt for an organisation that has shown its true values by giving the yellow card to players and the red card to tolerance,” read a statement.
"Never again should a World Cup be handed out solely on the basis of money and infrastructure. No country which falls short on LGBT+ rights, women's rights, workers' rights or any other universal human right should be given the honour of hosting a World Cup."
But the federations themselves also came in for fierce criticism, with many fans furious that the threat of a yellow card was enough to stop them from taking a stand.
The threat of a yellow card doesn’t stop players diving, fouling or abusing referees but it has stopped them showing solidarity with those who are threatened with death for being in love. What an absolute fucking farce.November 21, 2022
Concussion protocols are flawed
You didn’t need to be a doctor to see that Alireza Beiranvand should've come off after the Iran goalkeeper was left looking dazed and unsteady, with blood streaming down his face, following a nasty head clash with his team-mate.
But somehow, the Iranian was allowed to continue after a lengthy period of treatment. It didn’t take long for him to request to be taken off himself, but the fact it got to that stage in the first place was astonishing.
According to FIFA’s Concussion Protocol: “If there are signs or symptoms of damage to the brain, or a concussive injury is suspected despite the absence of signs or symptoms, the doctor/therapist should remove the player from the pitch for a more detailed examination (using a concussion substitute if available/required)”.
It’s little wonder, then, that people were upset (opens in new tab). Chris Sutton called the procedures “an embarrassment” and said “football authorities do not care about their players”.
Jonas Baer-Hoffman, the general secretary at FIFPro, the global football players’ union, said it was “further proof concussion protocols are not up to task”. There’s clearly still a long way to go.
Football’s concussion procedures are an embarrassment. Where is the if in doubt sit it out procedures… I’ll say it again the football authorities do not care about their players…November 21, 2022
We still have no idea how good England really are
After a dismal Nations League campaign in which England were relegated to a lower tier, Gareth Southgate faced huge pressure to turn things around - unfortunately, he didn't have the luxury of any warm up games. He simply had to ensure England turned up against Iran in their opening tournament match.
Announcing a surprising 4-2-3-1 formation, Southgate opted for a more attacking team than the heavily predicted five-at-the-back he seemingly prefers. Their attacking play certainly looked brilliant, but conceding two sloppy goals gives cause for concern.
Of course, winning 6-2 isn't a bad thing. Anything but. However, the manner of the victory against a really poor Iran side - notwithstanding their FIFA ranking of 20th - makes it especially difficult to gauge where England are at in terms of performance.
Iran's defence seemed at sixes and sevens for the majority of the game, but the fact they managed two goals of their own could be a concern. Indeed, Southgate wasn't totally happy with the performance, alluding to the fact that his players cannot afford to switch off in future games.
"We lost concentration but when we play at a slower tempo, we're not anywhere near as effective," Southgate said.
"Our defence in the first hour or so controlled the game. The midfield were excellent both Declan and Jude and our forwards looked a threat. I'm a miserable so-and-so, I should be more excited but I've got to keep this team on the right track!"
Moreover, with England 4-1 up, Southgate decided to swap half of the outfield players in five minutes in the second half - the starting team will likely stay the same against the USA on Friday, but a lack of a challenge from Iran doesn't make it clear who will come off the bench should England need a goal.
Senegal lacking a clinical edge without Sadio Mane
The Africa Cup of Nations champions approached World Cup 2022 full of confidence, their team strong across the pitch, from goalkeeper right up to the front line.
However, injury to Sadio Mane just weeks before the beginning of the tournament left Senegal without their talismanic figure, the leading light in a team of shining Senegal stars.
Instead of Mane leading the line against the Netherlands, Aliou Cisse had to select Salernitana forward Boulaye Dia to lead the line, with Watford's Ismaila Sarr and Monaco's Krepin Diatta providing support from the flanks.
Creating chances certainly didn't pose Senegal many problems, either. Sarr, Dia and Idrissa Gana Gueye all had chances to put the Indomitable Lions ahead when the scores were level, but their lack of cutting edge meant they couldn't find the net.
The Netherlands eventually capitalised on Senegal's misfortune, scoring two late goals to dispatch them in their opening game of Group A, leaving Senegal to wonder what might have been - with Mane, they'll've been confident of converting at least one of their chances.
Wales won't go home without a fight
Playing in their first football World Cup in 64 years, Wales' first-half against USA was certainly one to forget. Timothy Weah put USA 1-0 up heading into the break, with the nation performing much better than Wales looked capable of.
Christian Pulisic looked like he had a stranglehold on the game, while Tyler Adams and Brenden Aaronson controlled possession in the centre of USA's midfield. Indeed, Aaron Ramsey or Harry Wilson couldn't get the ball under their spell, and Wales struggled to make an imprint on the game.
However, the tide changed in the second-half, and USA failed to kill Wales off. Kieffer Moore came on and impacted the game very positively from a Welsh perspective, and, with Gareth Bale, they'll always have a chance of a moment of magic.
Roared on by their considerable support in Qatar as well, neither Iran nor England will be relishing playing against Wales for the other two group games. Fresh legs off the bench with intensity and pace in the shape of Sorba Thomas and Brennan Johnson certainly help, too.
Should they manage to make it out of the group, you can bet your bottom dollar Wales will never give up, no matter the score. Not many teams will want to face them in the knockouts, that's for sure.
Thank you for reading 5 articles this month* Join now for unlimited access
Enjoy your first month for just £1 / $1 / €1
*Read 5 free articles per month without a subscription
Join now for unlimited access
Try first month for just £1 / $1 / €1