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England’s opening World Cup match: How previous campaigns have begun

| 19.11.2022

The countdown is on to England’s opening World Cup match at Qatar against Iran on Monday when Gareth Southgate’s men are 1/3 to make a winning start.

Taking three points from their Group B opener is not essential if they are to reach the knockout stage but the Three Lions will be keen to impress.

Ahead of the meeting with Iran, we look back at how England’s World Cup campaign has begun at each tournament since Italia ’90.

England 1 Republic of Ireland 1 (1990)

England began what would turn out to be a memorable cup run with a 1-1 draw against the Republic of Ireland.

Kevin Sheedy levelled for the Irish after Gary Lineker had put the Three Lions in front. England’s 1-0 win over Egypt – their only win in the group – would be enough to see them top the pool ahead of Ireland and Holland.

England 2 Tunisia 0 (1998)

After failing to qualify for the 1994 World Cup in the USA, England settled back into World Cup life well by defeating Tunisia 2-0 in France.

Lining up in an unfamiliar 5-3-2 formation, they beat the Africans thanks to a headed goal from Alan Shearer and a scorcher from Paul Scholes from the edge of the box.

However, they did not finish top of the pool – an accolade that went to Romania, who remained unbeaten throughout the group stage.

England's opening World Cup match, England v Tunisia, World Cup 2022, football

England 1 Sweden 1 (2002)

Sven-Goran Eriksson’s side made an unconvincing start to the tournament in Japan and South Korea as they drew 1-1 with eventual group winners Sweden. Sol Campbell’s first-half header was cancelled out by a long-range effort from Niclas Alexandersson.

A narrow 1-0 win over Argentina and a goalless draw with Nigeria would be enough to see them squeeze through the group stage at the expense of the South Americans.

England 1 Paraguay 0 (2006)

England’s opening World Cup match at the 2006 tournament in Germany ended in three points, but it was hardly the most convincing of results.

A third-minute own goal from Paraguay captain Carlos Gamarra earned the Three Lions their first of two group wins.

England went on to top the pool thanks to a 2-0 victory over Trinidad and Tobago and a 2-2 draw with Sweden.

England 1 United States 1 (2010)

After suffering the ignominy of a loss to an amateur USA side back in 1950, England were keen not to lose to the States again.

Captain Steven Gerrard put them on the right path in Rustenburg, scoring the opening goal after only four minutes. But still to come was a terrible mistake from goalkeeper Robert Green, who allowed Clint Dempsey’s speculative effort to slip through his fingers.

Rob Green, England v USA

What should have been a routine stop turned into a moment of pure embarrassment, and one that will be replayed repeatedly in the build-up to their Group B meeting at Qatar 2022.

England would next play out an insipid goalless draw with Algeria before snatching a 1-0 win against Slovenia to qualify for the next round.

England 1 Italy 2 (2014)

England put on a thrilling display of attacking football, but they emerged from their trek into the Brazilian jungle with no points thanks to Mario Balotelli’s winner in the draining heat of Manaus.

Balotelli scored the decisive goal for the Azzurri five minutes into the second half after Daniel Sturridge had cancelled out a Claudio Marchisio effort.

Another 2-1 defeat against Uruguay followed before a goalless draw with Costa Rica saw Roy Hodgson’s eliminated after finishing bottom of their group.

England 2 Tunisia 1 (2018)

Harry Kane grabbed a last-gasp winner in England’s opening World Cup match four years ago and memories of that struggle should ensure there is no complacency against Iran on Monday.

Kane had also grabbed an early opener but that was cancelled out as Ferjani Sassi netted from a controversially-awarded penalty.

The England captain had several penalty appeals of his own turned down before his stoppage-time heroics meant the Three Lions opened a major tournament with a win for the first time since 2006.

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Andrew McDermott

Andrew is a sports betting content journalist at PA Media. He is a lifelong Huddersfield Town fan but when he isn't reminiscing about their Premier League days he is also a junior cricket coach and enjoys cycling.