James Maddison, Kyle Walker Not to Play in World Cup Opener


England coach Gareth Southgate has confirmed in his pre-game press conference that neither Leicester City midfielder James Maddison nor Manchester City veteran defender Kyle Walker would be available for England’s 2022 World Cup opening match against Iran later on Monday.

Maddison misses the game with a knee injury that he picked up in the last Premier League game before the World Cup finals, while Walker is putting the finishing touches to his recovery from a knee operation in early October.

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“Kyle Walker is a little bit short (of fitness) for this game, but is progressing really well. We are ahead of where we thought he might be at this point,” Southgate said of the defender, while commenting on Maddison that he “hasn’t been able to train since we arrived, so he will not be able to make the game tomorrow.”

Iran coach Carlos Queiroz warned that England’s young players, such as Phil Foden would be an important threat for his side, reports Xinhua.

“This new generation that Gareth Southgate is bringing for the national team is, in my opinion, probably the most competitive English national team that I have seen since 1966,” said the man who was assistant at Manchester United, before joining Real Madrid in 2003.

“I worked with the generation of Rio Ferdinand, Paul Scholes, David Beckham, all those guys, but this national team is really, really different, because they make a realistic approach to any single game, which makes them very dangerous,” commented the Portuguese.

WALES MIDFIELDER ALLEN TO MISS WORLD CUP OPENER

Wales’ midfielder Joe Allen will miss their World Cup opener against the United States, head coach Rob Page has said. The 32-year-old midfielder, who capped 72 times for Wales, has not played a competitive match since September due to a hamstring injury.

“He is probably not going to make it, to be completely honest,” Page said. “We could have pushed him but if he breaks down then he is out of the tournament.”

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Talking about situation in Group B, Page told reporters that Wales could be the underdog.

“When you look at England and the USA, naturally people will talk about them as the top two and then us and Iran,” Page said.

“We’re new to the tournament and there might be a few surprises on the way. There’s no pressure on us,” he added.

During the press conference, captain of Wales Gareth Bale said he was preparing for the big challenge of leading teammates into World Cup games.

“Everyone dreamed of it for such a long time. We’ve had so many close calls. For us to be the team to get over the line was incredible,” said the 33-year-old.

Wales will play the United States in Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Monday evening in their first World Cup match in 64 years.

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