World Cup English

‘It’s a great start but we’re going to have to be better’ – Gareth Southgate

The Three Lions kicked off to a fine start winning their opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup by four goals in a 6-2 rout of Iran but manager Gareth Southgate is far from being complacent, stressing their need for further improvement if they are to have a successful tournament in Qatar.

England established a well-deserved, impressive four-goal advantage inside the opening 65 minutes on Monday afternoon through great goal efforts by Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling.

However manager Southgate was peeved that the England team allowed Iran to create more opportunities after that, availing Mehdi Taremi the opportunity to make it 4-1 before the Porto striker added another consolation from the penalty spot in the final moments to wrap the game up at 6-2.

Southgate said: “I’m a bit fed up with the end of it. To win by that margin, to play as we did for the majority of the game, we’ve got to be really happy – that’s the way the players have prepared, they looked ready and they dealt with the game really well.

“It was a sticky first half, lots of stoppages, but we were a threat throughout that, our pressing was really good, and our movement was really good, so I’ve got to be happy but we shouldn’t be conceding two goals at that stage of the game.

“We’ll have to be right on our game against the States. It’s a great start but we’re going to have to be better.”

England had begun commendably and were dominant as they surged into the lead through a Bellingham header on 35 minutes. This was then followed up with a fine strike from Saka before a classy Sterling finish delivered a convincing three-goal lead at the interval for the Three Lions.

Another composed strike from Saka’s brace came courtesy of another composed strike, making it four for England before Porto’s Taremi pulled one back for Iran.

Substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish then came on to keep the afternoon memorable for the Three Lions with further goals before a Taremi penalty in the 13th minute of second-half injury-time, after VAR helped award the spot-kick.

Far from pleased with the conceding of the two goals, Southgate added: “It’s a consequence of the scoreline and we had 24 minutes of added time across the game – that’s a long time to focus. We lost concentration and when we play at a slower tempo, we’re not anywhere near as effective.”

Although unable to keep a clean sheet, it was still a hugely impressive performance from England, as noticeably a number of their younger players shone, showing great promise for the immediate future.

Southgate concluded: “We’ve got some good players and today they really delivered. Our attacking players looked a threat throughout the game, I thought our defence for the first hour or so really controlled the game and were patient with their build-up. The midfield was excellent, both Declan and Jude, and our forwards looked a threat. That’s a great marker to put down.”