World Cup - England

Gareth Southgate's attacking endeavour rewarded with Iran victory

Tom Gott
Southgate figured it out
Southgate figured it out / Matthias Hangst/GettyImages

England's World Cup campaign could hardly have started in a better fashion as Gareth Southgate's side secured a comfortable 6-2 victory over Iran.

It's a scoreline which does not flatter England, who were dominant from start to finish and more than good value for their six goals.

With a lineup that featured just four defenders and, believe it or not, only one right-back, England's lineup hardly resembled the sort of setup fans had grown accustomed to under Southgate.

Instead of going conservative, Southgate went for this game with the inclusion of box-to-box menace Jude Bellingham alongside Declan Rice at the base of his midfield duo, with Mason Mount given permission to flit between the lines.

It wasn't too dissimilar to the 3-3 draw with Germany during the summer, in which England went 2-0 down before removing the shackles and snatching a scintillating draw.

Bellingham was at the heart of that comeback against Germany and, yet again, he played a starring role here as England picked up an emphatic, albeit expected, victory over Iran.

England should be dominant against teams like Iran, but we haven't always seen that from the Three Lions recently. They were twice thumped by Hungary during the summer, while 2021 victories over the likes of Austria and Romania weren't nearly as enthralling as they should have been as England seemed to forget they were genuine tournament contenders.

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With the shackles off and players obviously encouraged to go out there and have some fun, England looked like a team who not only wanted to win games, but also send a statement to the rest of the world, and long may it continue.

This is the England we need to see this summer - an England side who are prepared to steamroll through the smaller teams and go toe-to-toe with the planet's heavyweights.

While pedal-to-the-metal attacking football won't be possible further on in the tournament as the quality of opposition steps up, England must not be scared to have fun and take the game to their opponents and Southgate must be ready to really go for this.

The boss has faced deserved criticism in the past for his lineups, but Southgate deserves plenty of praise for both learning from that Germany game and putting it into practice here, unleashing something closer to the true power of his side to kick this tournament off with a bang.