Thousands of fans head for Doha as England and Wales start World Cup campaigns

Thousands of England and Wales fans will watch on in Doha as both nations begin their bids for World Cup Qatar 2022 glory.

Millions more supporters are expected to tune in back home as England open their group B campaign against Iran on Monday afternoon before Wales make their first appearance at the World Cup finals since 1958 against the US.

Both teams will be hoping to get off to a winning start and pick up points in their second games later in the week before facing each other next week for their final group stage fixture.

Almost 2,400 Three Lions fans applied for tickets for the Iran game via the England Supporters’ Travel Club and Wales expect more than 2,500 of their supporters to have made the trip.

Their ranks are expected to be swelled by fans in the region, with shuttle flights from Dubai and taxi trips from Saudi Arabia among the options for those heading to the tournament.

Rich Moran, 37, from Sleaford in Lincolnshire, said England should “go quite far” in the tournament if boss Gareth Southgate makes the right decisions on team selection and tactics.

Mr Moran, speaking in Doha, told the PA news agency: “We’ve got the players to definitely win it, 100%.

“Quite a lot of the young players have had the taste of Euro 2020, so they know what to expect now, they’re not exactly fresh at it.”

He added: “They can handle the pressure. At the last World Cup against Croatia we switched off for two minutes and conceded two silly goals, as long as they don’t switch off again we should go all the way.”

Asked if the alcohol ban at stadiums was an issue, Mr Moran replied: “No, to be fair when I go watch Newcastle play I don’t buy beers there, so it doesn’t bother me.”

Elfyn Jones and his son Iestyn Morgan-Jones, from Aberystwyth in North Wales, said they were enjoying their stay in Qatar.

Mr Jones told PA: “Everyone has been very kind, pleasant and helpful, and it’s been nice to experience it and see people from all over the world.

Harry Kane
Harry Kane and co start against Iran (Martin Rickett/PA)

“We’ve been dune buggying and walked along the Corniche, and we’re going to visit the cultural centre before the opening ceremony.

“We’re both just looking forward to the match against USA now.”

Tom Cuffy, 25, will be among the second wave of England fans heading out later in the week and will use the shuttle flight service from Dubai to reach Qatar.

Manchester City fan Mr Cuffy, who lives in Dubai, said: “I’m absolutely buzzing, my first World Cup.

“I know a lot of people are moaning about it but being in Dubai has proven to be quite well-timed, everyone is really buzzing here for it, it’s a really good vibe for it.”

Mr Cuffy said he felt the squad was “spot on”, adding: “(Southgate) has chosen a squad that’s done well in the last two tournaments and ones who he can trust.

“You’ve just got to back them again. They’ve given us a couple of summers of good times, I don’t see us winning it but if we can get to the semi-finals I think that would be brilliant.

“But looking at some of the teams, I think it’ll be tough to get past the quarters to be honest.”

Jack Adcock, 25, who lives in Bolton and will be in Doha for two of England’s group games, said he is hopeful England will make the final.

Wales manager Rob Page
Wales manager Rob Page is planning for the opening game (Jonathan Brady/PA)

He joked: “I’ve got my work’s Christmas-do on that Saturday before the final and at the moment I am a 50/50 – I’ve told them I’m meant to be at the final and I’ll be flying out, and everyone at work says: ‘We’ll see you at the work’s do, we’ll order your meal already’.

“And I’m going ‘no, I wouldn’t be so sure’, it’s been a running joke in work for the past month of whether I’m going to be there or not.

“I would absolutely love to not be at the work’s do because I will be at the final, but they’re not convinced.”

Former athlete Colin Jackson, who is an ambassador for Wales in Qatar, told PA he was most looking forward to “beating England”.

England and Wales go head-to-head at Al Rayyan Stadium on November 29.

Wales First Minister Mark Drakeford told reporters in Doha that the country should “dare to dream” and that he was optimistic about the national team’s chances of getting out of the group stages.

“The beauty of sport is that on the day, any team can win any game,” he added.

Controversy has surrounded the build-up to the tournament, with the Gulf state’s record on human rights and treatment of migrant workers under scrutiny.

Several LGBT+ supporters have opted not to travel to the gulf state where homosexuality is still illegal.

England players have also faced calls to use Monday’s game to raise awareness of anti-government protests in Iran.

These were sparked by the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini, who had been detained by police in the capital, Tehran, for allegedly not adhering to the country’s strict Islamic dress code.