England hammer Iran in strong start to World Cup

© Carl Recine, Reuters

England made a scintillating start to their World Cup campaign as Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham inspired a 6-2 rout of outclassed Iran in Monday's Group B opener in Doha.

Saka and Bellingham were England's driving forces with dynamic displays that underlined their emergence as two of the game's brightest young stars.

Bellingham, 19, shattered Iran's hopes of frustrating England when he rose to head his maiden senior international goal in the first half.

Gareth Southgate's side were in sparkling form at the Khalifa International Stadium and goals from Saka and Raheem Sterling put them in complete control before half-time.

Saka, 21, netted again after the interval and, although Mehdi Taremi struck twice for Iran, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish completed the demolition.

There will be far sterner tests to come for England as they bid to win their first major trophy since the 1966 World Cup.

But this was a welcome step in the right direction for Southgate, whose team arrived in Qatar on a six-match winless run that triggered scathing criticism of the Three Lions boss and his perceived negative tactics.

"We are really pleased to start in this way. Iran are usually very difficult to score against, so it's a credit to our players, their movement and the quality of their finishing," Southgate said.

England play their second match against the United States on Friday and conclude their Group B fixtures against Wales on November 29.

Iran's players refused to sing their national anthem in apparent support for anti-government protesters.

(AFP)


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