England got their World Cup off to a perfect start as they thumped Iran 6-2 at Khalifa International Stadium.
Gareth Southgate’s men were dominant in the first half as goals from Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling sent them through before Saka, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish finished them off after the break.
Within the first few minutes, England were appealing for a penalty when Harry Maguire was cynically dragged to the floor after a corner, but VAR had no interest in getting involved.
After a long delay in the first half following a head injury to Iran stopper Alireza Beiranvand, who was somehow allowed to continue before conceding defeat and leaving the field five seconds later, England had their first real chance of the game when Sakya’s cross found Mason. He got on the six-yard line, but the Chelsea player only found the side netting.
Maguire then hit the post from a corner before Bellingham’s header found the back of the net in the 35th minute.
England heaved a sigh of relief as they continued to dominate the game, with Saka adding a superb second when he struck a half-volley eight minutes later after being brought down by Maguire.
It was 3-0 straight from kick-off when Sterling headed in Harry Kane’s cross as the Three Lions galloped into the half-time break with a deservedly emphatic lead.
With the game already won, the second half was a bit slower, but England got their fourth just after the hour mark. It was Saka again as he danced past two defenders and slotted the ball into the back of the net.
However, the lead was soon back to three as Mehdi Taremi’s clever drive led to a lashing finish that rattled the underside of the post on its way to Jordan Pickford’s net.
However, any hope of a comeback was quickly extinguished as Rashford, his first strike after coming off the bench, mirrored Saka’s strike with an even finish.
Two more substitutes combined in the dying embers as Callum Wilson unselfishly squared the ball to Grealish, who tapped into an empty net to round off England’s score for the day.
Deep into the ten minutes of added time, Pickford produced a superb save to keep out Sardar Azmoun after beating the offside trap, before Iran were awarded a penalty following a VAR review following a questionable shirt-stretch by John Stones.
Taremi stepped in and tucked it away to add Iran’s second with the last kick of the game.
1. England (4-2-3-1)
GK: Jordan Pickford – 6/10 – Didn’t even have to pay for a ticket to watch this as a spectator. Shame about the Iran goals.
RB: Kieran Trippier – 7/10 – Played more as a centre-back in attack so didn’t get many chances to strut his stuff. Excellent from set-pieces.
CB: John Stones – 7/10 – Some excellent passing from the back line but switched off for Taremi’s strike and conceded a penalty somehow.
CB: Harry Maguire – 7/10 – Massive in attack and dominant from set-pieces, although he didn’t cover himself in glory with Taremi’s first.
LB: Luke Shaw – 8/10 – A glorious cross for Bellingham’s opener. Tournament Shaw is back.
DM: Declan Rice – 8/10 – Superb passing around the pitch to dictate England’s every movement.
DM: Jude Bellingham – 9/10 – Absolutely everywhere at both ends of the field. Dominant and thoroughly deserved his goal.
RM: Bukayo Saka – 9/10 – Really bright down the right wing and a banger of a goal.
AM: Mason Mount – 7/10 – Excellent work rate to link up England’s midfield and attack.
LM: Raheem Sterling – 8/10 – Justified Southgate’s faith with a well-taken goal and an assist.
ST: Harry Kane – 7/10 – Had to work incredibly hard to get involved, despite England’s impressive performance. Did a good job of forcing his way into the game and bagged a nice assist.
SUB: Jack Grealish (70′ for Sterling) – 7/10 – Tapped home with composure.
SUB: Marcus Rashford (70′ for Saka) – 7/10 – Scored with his first involvement. Efficient.
SUB: Phil Foden (70′ for Mount) – 6/10 – Enjoyed the same freedom as Mount in a game which was already over by the time he arrived.
SUB: Eric Dier (70′ for Maguire) – 6/10 – A quiet cameo.
SUB: Callum Wilson (75′ for Kane) – 7/10 – Nice and unselfish for Grealish’s goal.
Manager: Gareth Southgate – 8/10 – Set his side up with an attacking vigour and got the rewards he deserved.
2. Iran (5-4-1)
GK: Alireza Beiranvand – N/A – Forced off early on with a nasty head injury but should have been off about ten minutes earlier.
RB: Sadegh Moharrami – 2/10 – Had a really tough time against the combination of Shaw and Sterling.
CB: Morteza Pouraliganji – 4/10 – Struggled at the back, nearly giving away a penalty to Stones, but did his best to try and set Iran off in attack.
CB: Roozbeh Cheshmi – 1/10 – All over the shop at times. A foolish challenge on Maguire early on which somehow wasn’t punished, but he never looked like recovering his composure. Hooked at half-time, unsurprisingly.
CB: Majid Hosseini – 3/10 – Didn’t have much of a chance. His main involvement was being the head with which Beiranvand collided.
LB: Milad Mohammadi – 2/10 – Ran ragged by Saka before being hooked straight after the fourth goal.
RM: Alireza Jahanbakhsh – 3/10 – Picked up a yellow card and missed Iran’s only chance of the first half before being subbed at half time.
CM: Ahmad Nourollahi – 3/10 – Consistently chasing shadows as Rice and Bellingham danced their way around the midfield.
CM: Ali Karimi – 2/10 – One step further behind the pace and unsurprisingly withdrawn at the break.
LM: Ehsan Hajsafi – 3/10 – Guilty of not tracking back for England’s third. Stood there and chucked water at Beiranvand as he was on the verge of unconsciousness.
ST: Mehdi Taremi – 7/10 – Iran’s biggest threat could hardly get involved in the game, such was England’s dominance. Had two sniffs of goal and took them very well.
SUB: Hossein Hosseini (17′ for Beiranvand) – 2/10 – Did very little apart from pick the ball out the back of the net.
SUB: Ali Gholizadeh (46′ for Karimi) – 6/10 – Definitely improved things in the midfield battle and a nice pass for Taremi’s goal.
SUB: Saeid Ezatolahi (46′ for Jahanbakhsh) – 6/10 – Similarly impactful but the damage was already done.
SUB: Hossein Kanaani (46′ for Cheshmi) – 4/10 – More composed at the back that Cheshmi but couldn’t do much more.
SUB: Mehdi Torabi (63′ for Mohammadi) – 5/10 – Helped settle the midfield battle down.
SUB: Sardar Azmoun (77′ for Nourollahi) – 5/10 – Barely had any chances to get involved.
Manager: Carlos Queiroz – 3/10 – Set his side up with a clear vision of scraping a 0-0 draw but didn’t get anywhere near that. Clearly lost this uphill battle.