Copy of 2022-11-21T151725Z_749979448_UP1EIBL16GZWS_RTRMADP_3_SOCCER-WORLDCUP-ENG-IRN-REPORT-1669044692895
England's Jude Bellingham was the star man against Iran during the Group B match at Khalifa International Stadium, Doha, Qatar. England won 6-2. Image Credit: REUTERS

Dubai: The moment the first went in, a brilliant header from Jude Bellingham, you got the feeling it would be case of how many England would get. Six was the answer.

Gareth Southgate’s side looked exceptional from the first minute. Their use of width during the first half - something that is always important when facing teams that sit deep such as Iran - was particularly impressive. More than 80 per cent of England’s attacks came down the flanks. Full-backs Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier spent more time in the Iran half than their own. Shaw set up the first and he has now been involved in 11 goals in his past 19 appearances for England. He has three goals and eight assists and those are stunning numbers for the full-back.

England’s passing and moving was especially pleasing. They showed their superiority by outclassing Iran in every area of the pitch. Bellingham, the young superstar in the midfield, was mixing up his play ever so well by dropping deep at times and pushing on at others. His display in the middle of the pitch, ably assisted by Declan Rice and Mason Mount, made Iran look ordinary.

Time to shine

He was outstanding at the Khalifia International Stadium. I thought he should have been playing in the Euros but now is his time to shine. He has been doing the business for Borussia Dortmund in the Bundesliga week in week out and his game has improved in every area. His forward runs are going to be very important during the tournament and if he can maintain this standard then Southgate and co will be feeling very confident.

Bukayo Saka - another young Lion finding his way in this England side - scored an absolute belter, lashing in a left foot volley after a corner was headed down to him by Harry Maguire. And then the third was even better, a brilliant team move involving Bellingham and Kane before Sterling finished with aplomb.

Change of shape

England were in full control even though Iran had clearly set up to try and frustrate them. When the inevitable change of shape came in the second half it made no difference. England were hungry for more goals and struck three more blows courtesy of another from Saka and one each from Rashford and Grealish.

I genuinely feel this World Cup is Southgate’s moment. It is the culmination of everything he has done since he was appointed England manager in 2016. He took the team to the World Cup semi-finals four years ago. Then he got them to the final of Euro 2020. He has stubbornly stuck with players like Maguire who many felt should not have been in the squad due to his lack of game time at Manchester United in the Premier League. But the centre back was rock solid and didn’t let his manager down.

This was a huge statement by England. They not only got six fantastic goals but they ticked all the other boxes too.