England sends statement with Iran blitz

Bukayo Saka
said England sent a statement of what it can achieve in Qatar after crushing Iran, 6-2, on Monday to launch its World Cup in style.

The Arsenal winger scored twice on his World Cup debut and Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish also struck to end a six-game winless run for Gareth Southgate's men.

"We needed that good start. We haven't played the best coming into the tournament. There was a lot of talk and speculation about our form but we showed everyone how much quality we have and what we can do," Saka told the BBC. "It is amazing to get the win under so much pressure. But we have to be consistent because we have the next game coming up in a few days and we have to win again."

Saka missed the decisive penalty as England lost the Euro 2020 final to Italy 16 months ago. But the 21-year-old has bounced back at club level to help Arsenal top the Premier League and he justified Southgate's call to start him ahead of Manchester City's Phil Foden.

"I can't describe the feeling, it is amazing. I am so happy and so proud. We got the win as well so it is a really special day," added Saka. "I feel in a good place. I feel the support and love from the fans, the coaching staff and my teammates.
"That is all I need. I feel ready to give 100 percent and I will continue to do that every time I put the shirt on."

Teenager Bellingham opened the floodgates with a deft header to score his first England goal.

"I told you I wanted to try and score more goals for Dortmund and England," said the 19-year-old Borussia Dortmund midfielder. "It was a brilliant ball from (Luke) Shaw and I was just there to flick it away. Really proud moment for me. It's a really good day for us. Six goals in a World Cup game is really impressive regardless of who you play against."

However, Southgate was left frustrated at the manner of Iran's two goals, scored by Mehdi Taremi. The Porto striker fired in off the underside of the bar to reduce the deficit to 4-1 and then converted a penalty with virtually the last kick of the game.

"I've got to be very happy, but we shouldn't be conceding two goals at that stage of the game," said Southgate, who was under pressure in the lead-up to the World Cup. "We're going to have to be right on our game against the (United) States (on Friday), it's a great start but we are going to have to be better."

The late goal denied England a record-equaling victory at the World Cup to match the 6-1 win over Panama in Russia four years ago.

"To win by that margin, to play as we did for the majority of the game, we've got to be happy," added Southgate. "The way the players have prepared, they looked ready. We felt they wanted to be that type of team and they dealt with the game really well."


© Agence France-Presse

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