World Cup - England

Gareth Southgate critical of England's defending despite Iran thrashing

Sean Walsh
Southgate thinks there's room for improvement
Southgate thinks there's room for improvement / Clive Brunskill/GettyImages

Gareth Southgate has admitted that while he was impressed with England's attacking play in their 6-2 victory over Iran, he was concerned by the standard of defending they showed down the stretch.

The Three Lions raced into a three-goal lead in the first half of their opening World Cup group stage match before adding another three in the second.

However, they did concede twice to Mehdi Taremi - the first an emphatic sucker-punch before adding a controversial late penalty - with Southgate keen to point out that England will need to improve at the back and late in games.

"I'm a bit fed up with the end of it, really! To win by that margin with how we played for the majority of the game, we've got to be really happy. That's the way the players prepared, they looked ready, we want to be that type of team and they dealt with the game well. It was a sticky first half with lots of stoppages but we were a real threat throughout that. Our pressing was good, our movement was really good," Southgate told BBC Sport.

"I've got to be happy, but we shouldn't be conceding two goals in that stage of the game. We'll have to be right on our game against the [United] States. It's a great start but we're going to have to be better.

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When asked to explain why England's defending dropped off, Southgate replied: "I think it's a consequence of the scoreline a bit, we had 24 minutes of added time across the game, it's a long time to focus but we just lost concentration. When we play at a slower tempo we're not anywhere near as effective.

"We've got some good players and today they delivered. Our attacking players looked a threat throughout the game. I thought our defence in the first hour controlled the game and possession, patient with build-up. The midfield was excellent, both Declan and Jude. Our forwards looked a threat and that's a great marker to put down."

Southgate was also quizzed on the likes of Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham taking the onus off of Harry Kane continually find the goals for England.

"It's great [for them]," he said. "What I particularly liked was at the end for Jack Grealish's goal where Callum Wilson squared it, could have been selfish but was really thinking of the team. I'm a miserable so-and-so and should be more excited but I've got to keep the team on the right track. We will have to be better."