With a 6-2 victory over Iran, England began their World Cup campaign in impressive fashion, led by a brace from Bukayo Saka and contributions from Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, and Jack Grealish.
Before halftime, Sterling and Saka helped Gareth Southgate’s team build a comfortable 3-0 lead. Bellingham scored his first goal for England in the 35th minute.
Before Mehdi Taremi scored a consolation goal for Iran just beyond the hour mark, Saka put England further out of reach with a magnificent individual effort. However, replacements Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish added gloss to the Three Lions’ Group B debut despite a stoppage-time penalty from Taremi.
Before the game began, there were concerns with supporters’ tickets and a malfunctioning FIFA app.
The national anthem was not sung by any Iranian athletes. After Mahsa Amini died in September as a result of her arrest for wearing a headscarf inappropriately, many fans at home have accused the team of supporting the brutal governmental crackdown on popular rallies. Mahsa was arrested for wearing a headscarf incorrectly.
According to Reuters, state television in Iran did not show the players lining up as the national anthem played during its live broadcast.
Goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand’s collision with teammate Majid Hosseini dealt Iran its first defeat. Beiranvand initially continued to play before being carried off on a stretcher in the 19th minute.
Harry Maguire’s header from a Kieran Trippier corner nearly gave Southgate’s team the lead in the 32nd minute, but it ricocheted off the crossbar. They quickly broke the deadlock.
After that, Bellingham scored unattended on a lofted cross from Luke Shaw.
Before halftime, England jumped ahead with two fast goals. Saka’s excellent half-volley after a Maguire cross gave England a larger lead in the 43rd minute, and Sterling’s volley finish off a Harry Kane right-footed cross in stoppage time gave the Chelsea striker his first World Cup goal.
After the break, Iran tried to minimise their losses, but Saka punished them once again in the 62nd minute when he ducked past two defenders in the area and curled in a low shot with his left foot.
Three minutes later, however, Iran scored an improbable goal when Taremi took advantage of Maguire’s moment of doubt to sneak in and beat Jordan Pickford.
In the 71st minute, Rashford entered the game as a replacement and calmly scored his first goal in a major competition to restore England’s four-goal advantage. Late on, Grealish still had time to score thanks to selfless work from fellow substitute Callum Wilson. He turned home.
When Sardar Azmoun nearly added another solace for Iran. In stoppage time, he sprinted through, but Pickford made a fingertip save to divert his shot onto the bar. However, Iran was given a late penalty following a VAR review for a foul on Morteza Pouraliganji, and Taremi tapped home to give Iran some pride back.