Gareth Southgate’s reign as England manager was under scrutiny with the national team’s record coming into the World Cup – but he silenced the doubters with a near-perfect tactical performance as they won their opening game.
England won 6-2 against Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium, with a brace for Bukayo Saka and goals for Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish.
While two goals for Iran courtesy of Porto striker Mehdi Taremi took some off the gloss from England’s comprehensive victory, it was still largely a tactical success for Southgate as they opened their World Cup campaign.
Gareth Southgate applauds fans after England opened their World Cup campaign with a win
Southgate you’re the one….again
Southgate joked that he knew social media would be saying ‘we’ve got all these talented players and they’ve put this numpty in charge.’
He was booed off at Molineux and the San Siro this year, but the old Atomic Kitten song was out again last night.From ‘getting sacked in the morning,’ it’s now ‘Southgate you’re the one/you still turn me on.’
Raheem Sterling, lacking Chelsea form, looked vulnerable, but for England, he’s Southgate’s go-to man. He didn’t disappoint, with the little feints and turns he’s been missing at Chelsea coming in abundance here.As well as a sharp finish for the third goal.
Raheem Sterling continued his strong England form with a goal in the 6-2 hammering of Iran
There was more momentum behind picking Bukayo Saka and two goals on his World Cup debut make in a shoo-in for the next game.Reverting to a back four for group stages against less threatening opposition makes sense.
It doesn’t always work though. Iran were resolutely back five – and that really isn’t easy to break down. There was an early worry that they weren’t moving the ball quick enough and Iran were getting back into defensive position easily.
But, a combination of Iran not being able to find their out men – Mehdi Taremi and Ali Jahahbakhsh – meant the pressure was relentless and when England started to move the ball quickly, they couldn’t cope.
From Russia with Love
In the Euros, England set pieces were desperately disappointing.This was more like Russia 2018, where they led the way. Despite having little preparation time, they seemed on top of their routines from the third minute, when Harry Maguire was seemingly wrestled to the ground by Rouzbeh Chesmi from a Kieran Trippier corner.
Harry Maguire impressed for England from early on, as set-pieces proved key to their success
It wasn’t just corners though.Twice, Trippier almost found Harry Kane from a free kick routine with clever runs peeling away down a blind channel – though that move will now be noted by all opposition coaches.
The seventh minute clash of heads which saw Ali Beianvand depart came after Tripper found Kane in that way and crossed, with the goalkeeper’s touch denying Sterling, who would have scored.