England good, FIFA not so good, Iran poor

Surely nobody predicted a 6-2 win for England yesterday (but bloody well done if you did) and they were good value for their comprehensive win. My 3-0 prediction was blown out of the water before half-time, but as they have often done recently, they lost focus after the hour-mark and conceded a couple of goals, although the second was via a very soft penalty.

Nevertheless, it was a great way for the Three Lions to open the World Cup against an Iran side that showed nothing of the form that’s lifted them into the world’s top 20. It was a great shame that hundreds of fans missed the start thanks to FIFA’s ticketing app breaking down at a crucial time. Let’s hope there’s no repeat – while it’s clearly not good enough, these things do happen and it does seem as if they’ve at least owned up to the error.

I feel like I’ve been writing/tweeting about football’s slowness to catch up with other sports and how they deal with head injuries in a much safer and appropriate manner for years and the issue came up again after that early clash of heads which eventually saw 14 minutes of added time in the first half.

As somebody who suffered multiple concussions in my own hockey-playing days (one of which effectively ended my time in the game) it seems crazy that at the highest level there seems to be a complete lack of common sense or application of basic medical practice. It’s all the more alarming now we know so much more about the risks of head injuries and the links between concussions and dementia, for example, are better understood.

England were never seriously headed though, and two players stood out for me in particular – Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka. Both looked like they belonged on the highest stage despite their youth and relative inexperience. Much tougher tests await of course, starting with USA on Friday, but if England don’t win this World Cup, building a team around those two bright talents could easily reap rewards in the years to come.

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