Opening games at major tournaments are often cagey affairs but after some initial early nerves, England starred in a 6-2 rout of Iran. Unfortunately, the game was linked with more off-the-field issues as the Three Lions captain Harry Kane was unable to wear the OneLove armband as FIFA threatened to caution players wearing it. Some fans also struggled to get in on time due to problems with their ticketing applications.
The game began badly for Iran when goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand had to be replaced by Hossein Hosseini. Beiranvand had collided with his own teammate and was clearly concussed but tried to play on. Faith was not shown in Hosseini as his manager Carlos Queiroz was reluctant to replace an unfit Beiranvand.
Jude Bellingham at just 19 years old gave England the lead as he headed in from a Luke Shaw cross in the 35th minute. Bukayo Sako doubled their advantage with a strike from the edge of the box into the top corner. His goal was assisted by Harry Maguire who the Iranians could not handle from set pieces, they tried to Rugby tackle him to the ground and he had also hit the crossbar when it was still goalless.
Two of England’s old guard linked up to make it three before halftime as Kane crossed in for Raheem Sterling for the finish.
Saka got his second in the second half through a deflected effort which rolled into the net. Gareth Southgate‘s side was controlling the game but Iran got one back as Mehdi Taremi fired one in off the underside of the crossbar. Maguire who had played well despite not getting much game time for Manchester United recently had to come off shortly afterwards for Eric Dier.
Substitute Marcus Rashford produced a great run before sliding the ball in for England’s fifth goal. Then Callum Wilson unselfishly squared his pass to Jack Grealish who tapped in to make it six. Taremi got his second from the penalty spot in the 103rd minute as a very late consolation.
Saka speaking to the BBC after his brace was in a great mood, “I feel in a good place. I feel the support and love from the fans, the coaching staff and my teammates. That is all I need. I feel ready to give 100% and I will continue to do that every time I put the shirt on.”
England is often criticised for not being positive enough. However, even the most pessimistic England fan will be feeling optimistic after today’s performance. It was not perfect with the side conceding twice but major tournaments are about peaking at the right times and there is a long way to go.
England’s next match is against the USMNT on Friday, November 25, with kick-off at 7 pm.
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