England kicked their recent winless habit from the UEFA Nations League, and romped to a 6-2 victory over a rather hopeless-looking Iran team in their opening match at the 2022 World Cup. And it could’ve been been a lot worse, with the Three Lions looking far the better side from minute 1 to minute 90 (well, minute 114, given the combined 24+ minutes of stoppage time in the two halves.)
It was a somewhat subdued start, which perhaps reminded of the aforementioned disappointments, but England built a three-goal halftime lead, with all the goals coming in a ten-minute spell late in a half that also featured 14 minutes of stoppage time thanks to extended treatment for the Iran goalkeeper. (He would eventually come off with a concussion and/or a broken nose, and it was a joke that he was allowed to play on even for the one minute that he was.)
The former Manchester United assistant Carlos Quieroz, back for a second stint with Iran, set his team out to defend as deep as the pitch would allow, and for about 30 minutes, the plan worked quite well — thanks in part to frequent stoppages, including for the aforementioned injury. But then England finally put together a non-sideways passing move and Jude Bellingham looped a header into the far corner, from a Luke Shaw cross, to burst their dam just past the half-hour mark.
Bukayo Saka added a second a few minutes later after a corner — England (and especially Harry Maguire) were dominant on set pieces all game — and then Raheem Sterling, who had the secondary assist on the first goal, quickly added a third, finishing off a cross from Harry Kane quite fantastically. Would love to see that sort of finish in a Chelsea shirt!
Sterling’s day would end after 70 minutes, but not before setting up England’s fourth with some strong running in midfield, finding Bukayo Saka in the area who was given all the time in the world to pick his spot and get his second.
England then fell asleep for a moment (and Maguire picked up a concussion as well), and Mehdi Taremi made them pay with an excellent finish (though not quite the level of his UEFA Goal of the Year against Chelsea in 2021) to grab a consolation goal. Substitute Marcus Rashford quickly made it 5-1 with his first touches of the game, to nip any ideas of an historic comeback in the bud.
England pushed for a sixth, and would get it in the final minute, with three substitutes combining: Rashford releasing Callum Wilson, who would unselfishly set up Jack Grealish for a tap-in. Iran also got another one late on, a bit of a soft penalty awarded in the last second after a VAR check. And then the referee blew the final whistle at long last.
This game went on seemingly forever, and in some distant past, Mason Mount played 70 minutes from the start but did not get on the scoreboard. Conor Gallagher did not get on at all.
Next up for the Three Lions is a showdown with the USA on Friday. The US play Wales later today, after Senegal take on the Netherlands.