England thrashed Iran 6-2 in their opening group B match at the World Cup 2022 at the Khalifa International Stadium in Qatar on Monday. Bukayo Saka and Mehdi Taremi scored a brace each for England and Iran, respectively.
However, Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish also found the net for the English to make the final scoreline resemble that of a tennis match.
Gareth Southgate’s men will next face the US on Friday night. On that note, we take a look at three things that stood out in the match:
England dominated the game, but took a while to break the deadlock
England, who started the match with their customary 4-2-3-1 formation, dominated ball-possession from the very outset, but could not get the much-coveted opening goal during the initial half an hour.
Despite starting with a 4-2-3-1, England’s formation became 4-1-4-1 for the most part in the first half, as Bellingham often ventured forward and primarily stayed inside the opposition half as Declan Rice played as the lone holding midfielder. Two holding midfielders were not exactly needed against a subdued opposition.
England were primarily reliant on their left flank to deliver crosses into the Iran box, as Luke Shaw and Sterling combined well there. Harry Maguire’s towering presence was often a major threat for the Iranian defense while dealing with aerial balls played into their box.
As Iran’s first-choice goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand was left with a bleeding nose after colliding with one of his teammates while dealing with a Harry Kane cross, he had to be substituted.
A few minutes after the substitution, Maguire’s header from a corner rattled the crossbar and then Shaw delivered yet another cross to the box from the left that was met by Bellingham for his first goal for the Three Lions.
England cut Iran to ribbons with their aerial deliveries into the box
The goal opened the floodgates for the English and they started looking hungry for more. Mason Mount started as the no. 10, but it was Bellingham who impressed upfront with his ball-control and quick passing.
Needless to say, the first goal boosted his confidence. England’s second goal also came from a corner as Shaw’s delivery was first met by Maguire, who continued to be an imposing figure in the Iran box, before the ball went to Saka.
Saka hit the ball first time with a brilliant volley off his left foot to score his first goal in a World Cup. Bellingham and Saka thus became the second and third youngest goal-scorers for the English in World Cups after Michael Owen in 1998.
England then compounded Iran’s misery as Kane’s delivery from the right was volleyed home wonderfully by Sterling. The Iranian defense kept looking clueless against aerial balls as Carlos Quieroz’s men could only register attacks sporadically.
For England, Kane impressed with his work-rate yet again as he was tireless in the way he dropped down and helped creating moves.
England piled on Iran’s misery through their counter-attacks in the second half
Iran showed more positive intent in the second half as their forwards pressed high more often and tried to put the English defense under pressure.
However, it was England who scored again as Sterling got the ball from a counter-attack and played a pass to Saka, who cut inside through the inside-right channel before unleashing a left-footer that found the net.
Iran struck back a few minutes later as Taremi shot first time after receiving a pass to beat Jordan Pickford. Southgate then introduced the likes of Rashford, Phiil Foden and Grealish in place of Saka, Mount and Sterling.
Rashford scored 26 minutes after his introduction as Kane yet again dropped down and collected the ball from another counter-attack before playing a pass to the former, who dodged past Iran’s goalkeeper to score his first World Cup goal.
Grealish then scored England’s sixth after receiving a pass from Callum Wilson, who had replaced Kane, to mark a wonderful performance by the English youngsters.
However, Taremi again managed to reduce the deficit from the spot after Iran were awarded a penalty in the dying minutes of the match. It was a heartening sight for the Iranian supporters to see their side getting on the score-sheet after an insipid and subdued performance in the first half.