England hammers Iran thanks to scintillating attacking display
England got off to an incredible start at the World Cup as they hammered Iran 6-2 in their Group B opener and sent out a message to the rest of the tournament.
Gareth Southgate’s new-look side aren’t messing around.
Bukayo Saka scored twice, while teenager Jude Bellingham scored the opener and Raheem Sterling also got on the scoresheet before substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish added one each.
Iran scored twice through Porto’s Mehdi Taremi, including a penalty with the last kick of the game, but they were second best throughout and lost goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand early on after a nasty head collision which saw him subbed off.
The win puts England top of Group B ahead of their clash with the USA on Friday. Iran face Wales on the same day and Carlos Quieroz’s side need a huge improvement on this display.
Saka leads exciting new-look England
Bukayo Saka, 21, was at the heart of everything good England did. He scored twice, caused so many problems cutting in from the right and he set the tone from the start. England looked hungry, more dynamic, sharp and very comfortable in their new-look 4-3-3 formation. It seems to get the best out of Harry Kane dropping deeper to create and Saka, Sterling, Mason Mount and Jude Bellingham pouring forward from midfield.
This was a very balanced England display but in their other two group games their defensive unit will face sterner tests than this. Teams will look to sit back and soak up pressure which previously caused England problems as they were much more of a counter-attacking team in a 4-2-3-1 formation. This new setup allows England to win the ball back higher up the pitch and combine in the final third and with Rashford, Wilson, Grealish and Foden coming off the bench, what a great set of options Gareth Southgate has to choose from.
Stars of the show
Bukayo Saka: Scored twice and continued his dazzling displays for Arsenal at his first World Cup. So patient and direct on the ball.
Jude Bellingham: He is just 19 years old. 19. Dominated midfield, scored the all-important opener and so calm on the ball. Played the entire game and looked wise beyond his years.
How to watch England vs Iran live!
Kick off: 8am ET, Monday Nov. 21
Stadium: Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)
🔥 ¡SAKAAAAAA X2! 🔥— Telemundo Deportes (@TelemundoSports) November 21, 2022
⚽️ El futbolista de @Arsenal marca su DOBLETE y aumenta aún más la ventaja para @England 👊#ENG 4-0 #IRN
📱 @peacock ➡️ https://t.co/j95y0oo3hm
📺 Telemundo la casa de la Copa Mundial #Qatar2022#MundialTelemundo #ElMundialLoEsTodo #ENGvsIRN pic.twitter.com/SOSwBnKhSD
😍 The cross from Harry Kane is perfection. The finish from Raheem Sterling is superb. Jude Bellingham, of course, involved in the build-up too. England firing on all cylinders in their World Cup opener. #ENG 3-0 #IRN #ThreeLions pic.twitter.com/sy7OgSiZxA— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) November 21, 2022
CROSSBAR! Harry Maguire slams a header against the bar. What a header that was. So close to an opener for England.— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) November 21, 2022
Horrible collision as the Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand makes a brave save but collides with his own player. Very nasty injury to his nose. Lengthy break.— Joe Prince-Wright (@JPW_NBCSports) November 21, 2022
Key storylines, players to watch closely
Can England, as always, handle the massive weight of expectation hoisted on it by the nation, its media, and the power and prestige of a team largely constructed from Premier League giants? That’s the question for the Three Lions at every single tournament and it doesn’t have to get much deeper than that. Kane and Raheem Sterling are the attacking stars but Phil Foden and Declan Rice have firmly staked their claims as part of the next generation. Will Jordan Pickford prove an effective star between the sticks? In terms of injury news, both Kyle Walker and James Maddison aren’t fit enough for the opener against Iran, while Southgate picks Harry Maguire to start despite his lack of minutes at Manchester United. Bukayo Saka starts in attack, while teenager Jude Bellingham partners Mason Mount and Rice in midfield.
Iran knows how close it came to shocking the world when it beat Morocco and lost 1-0 to Spain before drawing Portugal 1-1 to finish group play in 2018. This is the last chance for a number of players from a very good generation that includes Mehdi Taremi, Karim Ansarifard, and Alireza Jahanbakhsh. Watch out for 27-year-old forward Sardar Azmoun (Bayer Leverkusen) does not start after an injury and captain Ehsan Hajsafi (AEK Athens).
England quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 5
World Cup titles: 1 (1966)
World Cup appearances: 15
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA
Coach: Gareth Southgate
Key players: Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Declan Rice
Iran quick facts
Current FIFA world ranking: 20
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 5
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC (Won Group A)
Coach: Dragan Skocic
Key players: Ehsan Hajsafi, Sardar Azmoun, Mehdi Taremi