England hit Iran for six in World Cup opener as fans endure ticketing ‘carnage’

England secured a comfortable 6-2 win against Iran to get their World Cup campaign up and running in Qatar, amid “carnage” off the pitch for some fans trying to enter the stadium.

Jude Bellingham’s 35th-minute header silenced the raucous Iranian fans inside the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha, before England extended their lead thanks to goals from Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling.

Saka’s second and goals from Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish sealed the win.

England v Iran – FIFA World Cup 2022 – Group B – Khalifa International Stadium
England’s Bukayo Saka celebrates scoring their side’s second goal of the game (Mike Egerton/PA)

Downing Street said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak congratulates the Three Lions for their “great start” to the World Cup after they displayed a “strong performance”.

But it was not all plain sailing off the pitch as several fans heading to the group B fixture endured ticketing problems as they attempted to enter the stadium, with some missing part of the game.

Concerns were also raised about the availability of food within the stadium and at the main fan park in central Doha.

With the 4pm local time kick-off approaching, some supporters were frantically refreshing the official ticketing mobile app on their phones in a bid to have their QR code load.

This left them enduring some stressful and frustrating moments, with a group of England fans also seen arguing with officials as they kept being told entry to the queue was closed and repeatedly moved down to another entrance.

One England fan said they should have “just used paper tickets” and criticised the organisation at the stadium.

A PA news agency reporter heading in with a ticket found their ticket app only started working about 60 seconds before they reached the front of the queue having failed to work in the previous couple of hours.

Fifa acknowledged some fans were experiencing issues while Free Lions, the Football Supporters’ Association team that provides travel and logistical advice to fans, also offered guidance.

Ali Azarian, 42, an Iranian-Brit based in Singapore, who said he had “divided loyalties” for the game, got into the ground around five minutes before half-time.

He said he arrived three hours before kick-off but the tickets “disappeared” from the Fifa app.

He told PA: “At the gate they wouldn’t let us in even though we had the email confirmations.

“They sent us over to some ticket liaison office, they then sent us to a Fifa tent where there were about 500 people.

“We queued up for ages, there was a lot of controversy because someone from Fifa came out and told people they could use the email to go back into the queue.

“Those folks left the queue and were told the same thing we were told and they came back so it was just carnage.

“We stuck with it, eventually they started writing manual tickets, they printed tickets and they manually wrote our seats down and then everyone was just sprinting to the ground.

“There were probably at least 100 people behind me.”

Brendan Ilkiw, 26, from the West Midlands and working in Doha, said the organisation for the fixture “wasn’t that bad” although he experienced some issues getting into one of the queues.

He said: “It probably took us 20 minutes, 30 minutes, security held it up, hopefully it’s just teething problems.”

Mr Ilkiw and Gemma Brucher, 34, from Hertfordshire and working in Doha, said their Fifa ticketing app stopped working.

Ms Brucher said: “Right to the last minute my ticket wasn’t ready.”

She said her heart was beating a bit faster, joking: “I thought they weren’t going to let me in but we got there in the end.”

Mr Ilkiw, asked if England can win the tournament, praised Bellingham and said: “I think so. On paper we’re there.”

England fan John Rowe, 52, of Workington, Cumbria, said of the team: “They’re like Santa Claus, they deliver, especially at this time of year.”

Mr Rowe said they arrived early after describing a Sunday trip to the Fifa fan zone at Al Bidda Park in Doha as “f****** crazy”.

Speaking outside the Khalifa International Stadium, Mr Rowe said of the Al Bidda Park visit: “There were young kids getting crushed, everything, we thought we’d come up early and beat the crowd.”

Wales play the US on Monday evening as they experience their first World Cup finals since 1958.

Paul Corkrey, from the Wales Football Supporters’ Association (FSA), said: “At the moment we’re hearing a lot of problems with fans saying their tickets are disappearing off of their phones when they click on them, and after seeing what happened at the England game my phone has been going off constantly for hours with people worried about not getting in.”

Kieran Jones, also of the Wales FSA, said: “It’s been a mess so far. Fifa changed their mind on having the beer in the ground, and you know that’s one thing, but then look at what’s happened today.

“People are being told to go to the ground and sort out their tickets if they disappear but the queues are long and only the supervisor can sort it out.

“Blaming the fans is not OK. It’s an electronic problem, it’s their system that’s the problem.

“But the fans have still been brilliant and taking it in their stride. They’re finding all the bars and hunting down those £12 pints.”

The ticketing issues came after England were accused of having “bottled it” by not wearing an anti-discrimination armband in their group B opener.

The Three Lions and Wales announced via a joint statement from other European nations who had signed up to the One Love campaign that the armbands would no longer be worn.

They said Fifa had been clear they would impose “sporting sanctions” if the captains of the teams wore the armband on the field of play, adding they would not risk yellow cards or more.

England fan Steve Wright, 43, from Derby, told the PA news agency: “I disagree with that.

“They’re just bowing to the oppression of the Qatari government.”

Shaun Rowland, 56, from Hertfordshire, also said: “They’ve bottled it, haven’t they?”