RE: England make big World Cup statement as Jude Bellingham shines in 6-2 win vs. Iran
England make big World Cup statement as Jude Bellingham shines in 6-2 win vs. Iran
DOHA, Qatar – England kicked off their 2022 World Cup campaign with a 6-2 thrashing of Iran, thanks to a brace from Bukayo Saka and goals from Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, and Jack Grealish.
Bellingham scored his first England goal in the 35th minute, and Sterling and Saka helped Gareth Southgate’s side build a comfortable 3-0 lead before halftime.
Before Mehdi Taremi scored a consolation goal for Iran just past the hour mark, Saka put England further out of reach with a brilliant individual effort. However, after Taremi’s stoppage-time penalty, substitutes Rashford and Grealish added gloss to the Three Lions’ Group B opener.
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1. England make a football statement, Iran make a political one
Gareth Southgate’s team made a footballing statement as they cruised to a great victory on a day that started with a fight over anti-discrimination One Love armbands as England sought to make a political message. Just three hours prior to start, England decided against the gesture, putting captain Harry Kane in danger of receiving a yellow card because FIFA would not offer the seven countries planning to wear the armband special permission.
However, the argument and the 10-minute delay caused by Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand’s concussion and subsequent attempt to continue playing before calling for his own substitution in an absurd and perplexing display of the purported protocols had little impact on England’s performance. What on paper appeared to be a difficult match at the Khalifa International Stadium became a relative breeze thanks to three goals in an 11-minute flurry.
Even yet, England knelt before the game in a continuation of the anti-racism message they sent at the postponed European Championship last summer. In contrast, the Iranian athletes did not participate in the national anthem prior to the game. The death of a 22-year-old woman while in the care of Iran’s morality police, which sparked the protests that have lasted more than two months, has led to one of the most audacious challenges to the country’s clerical leaders since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, though no one from their camp has officially confirmed the cause.
2. Bellingham justifies the hype to give England hope
Jude Bellingham’s emergence as a central midfielder, who can provide dynamism and ingenuity to a position England has lacked for years, is the biggest change in his England team since the team’s journey to the Euro 2020 final last year. The 19-year-old was therefore under a great deal of pressure as he made only his ninth international debut and became the third-youngest player to start an England World Cup game on Monday.
Not much could have gone more smoothly. After 35 minutes, Bellingham rose deftly to masterfully drive a magnificent header past Luke Shaw for the opening goal. This was the pinnacle of a first half in which he successfully completed all 40 of his attempted passes, 10 of which came in the final third. His goal made him the first player born in the twenty-first century to score at a World Cup. With his forward motion and connection to Kane, Bellingham played a key role in England’s third goal, which Raheem Sterling finished first-time at the near post.
Bellingham already appears to be crucial to providing England’s attacking players with the kind of support they need. There is still a long way to go, but this was a very encouraging start that undoubtedly got the attention of the big teams interested in signing the Borussia Dortmund star, including Liverpool, Manchester City, and Real Madrid.
For the second World Cup in a row, England scored six goals in one game. Getty Images/Justin Setterfield
3. Change of system sees England put best foot forward
When Gareth Southgate plays a back three, some argue that England is too cautious, but when they play with a back four, they are typically more aggressive. Southgate’s perspective is influenced by England’s consistent tournament struggles before his appointment in 2016 — losing the ball in midfield and being too predictable in open play, to name just two examples — and he frequently prefers the security of an additional central defender to help counteract these limitations.
Although there is a growing argument that this group of players is talented enough to be trusted to play without the inherent caution, Southgate’s side brimmed with flair and invention, so the decision to deploy England in a 4-3-3 or 4-2-3-1 shape here rather than the 3-4-3 used in previous matches was the right one. A tightly packed and well-drilled Iranian team, albeit one that was unduly committed to defending until the game was lost, was simply unable to compete, and the breadth of attacking skill at Southgate’s disposal was demonstrated by the goals scored by substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish.
Mehdi Taremi scored a fine consolation goal on 65 minutes before adding a second deep in stoppage time for a penalty awarded on VAR review, but the demand for Southgate to release the handbrake will only increase in the wake of this. There were still some defensive issues.