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In Focus: Five key talking points from England 6-2 Iran
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Mitchell Fretton
Bukayo Saka scored a brace in the victory over Iran
Bukayo Saka scored a brace in the victory over Iran

England started their World Cup campaign in emphatic fashion by dispatching a lacklustre Iran side in a 6-2 victory.

Jude Bellingham opened the scoring, before Bukayo Saka doubled the Three Lions' lead, sending a volley in off the crossbar.

Raheem Sterling grabbed a third in the latter stages of the first half and Saka added a fourth with a smart finish just after the hour mark.

Iran pulled one back through Mehdi Taremi, his poked effort soared in off the crossbar, leaving Jordan Pickford with no chance.

Marcus Rashford hit back with a fifth before Jack Grealish put the icing on the cake, despite Iran's late penalty.

We take a look at five key talking points from the spectacle in Qatar.

Changing it up

Bukayo Saka was imperious in the win over Iran
Bukayo Saka was imperious in the win over Iran

Every expectation was that Gareth Southgate was going to set up with his favoured defensive formation of three centre-backs and two wing-backs.

However, the England manager opted for a 4-2-3-1 that saw Nick Pope, Eric Dier, the injured Reece James and Phil Foden drop out of the side that drew 3-3 to Germany last September with Pickford, Mason Mount, Saka and Kieran Trippier coming in.

A host of players including the likes of Bellingham, Saka and Declan Rice all made their World Cup debuts after putting in impressive performances for their clubs this season.

Southgate kept his word and stayed loyal to Harry Maguire and Mount despite their lack of domestic form — but neither looked out of place in the opener.

Getting going early

Although an injury to Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand extended the first half, the Three Lions made the most of the opening 45 minutes and looked in cruise control.

The midfield pivot of Bellingham and Rice were comfortable in possession and were linking up well with both Sterling and Saka in the wide areas.

The football really started flowing after the 30-minute mark and it led to an eventual opener courtesy of Bellingham.

Some slick one-touch passing saw England threaten and an excellent ball in from Shaw was met by the Borussia Dortmund midfielder, who looped his header over substitute Hossein Hosseini for his first senior international goal.

World-class wingers

Both Sterling and Saka grabbed goals in the victory over Iran and their positioning was key in providing a variety of options in attack.

Each looked to occupy a more central position when Harry Kane picked up the ball and drifted wide when Mount had possession in midfield.

Sterling's darting run was trademark for a player who has scored 19 times for England — linking up once again with Kane who did not even look up before delivering to the Chelsea forward.

Saka's Arsenal form seeped through in an England shirt, dispatching a perfectly timed volley in the first half before finishing low in the second half to put England 4-0 up.

Brilliant Bellingham

Jude Bellingham put in an excellent performance in England's victory over Iran
Jude Bellingham put in an excellent performance in England's victory over Iran

A standout performer for a dominant England was Bellingham who — despite playing in his first World Cup tournament — performed with the calmness of someone who had years of experience at international level.

His partnership with Rice was highly effective — the West Ham star specialised in winning the ball back before offloading to Bellingham, who drove forward with purpose and conviction.

Often bursting into the box, the former Birmingham maestro was able to pick out a key pass or unleash a shot on the Iranian goal.

He was unable to prevent Iran from scoring, but his contributions in the famous white shirt demonstrated that he will be a key part of England's setup.

Strength in depth

Southgate utilised the tournament in Qatar being the first World Cup to allow five substitutes in the game.

As the 2018 semi-finalists looked to close out a comfortable victory, Foden, Grealish, Rashford, Dier and Callum Wilson were all introduced.

And it took less than two minutes for Rashford to hit a fifth, demonstrating the true quality of England's squad.

With the game already put to bed, it gave the head coach a perfect opportunity to rotate and give others a chance to stake their place for the remainder of the tournament. 

England cruised past Iran in a comfortable 6-2 victory
England cruised past Iran in a comfortable 6-2 victory


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