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England vs. Iran final score: Bukayo Saka fires Three Lions to thumping win in World Cup opener

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England laid out an impressive marker for the tournament ahead on the first full day of action at the Qatar World Cup, Bukayo Saka their star man in a 6-2 demolition of Iran.

Though an injury and suspected concussion for Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand slowed the early momentum of the contest, it was not long before the Three Lions, set up in a more attacking fashion than many might have expected, broke through. Jude Bellingham became the second youngest England player to score at the tournament, trailing only Michael Owen, as he ghosted into the box to meet Luke Shaw's cross in the 35th minute. The floodgates were open and Saka soon doubled the lead. By half time it was game over for Iran as Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling combined for the third.

On a day where all of England's attackers (and a fair few defenders) sparkled, Saka was the undisputed star man and he drew level with Enner Valencia at the top of the early Golden Boot race with a wonderfully taken low drive. Had Gareth Southgate not made mass changes with the game well and truly out of reach for Iran, he might well have had a hat trick, though his replacement Marcus Rashford performed more than adequately. Kane dropped deep as is his wont and the Manchester United forward attacked the space he had vacated from the right, cutting onto his left and rolling the ball into the bottom corner. Their sixth was made on the bench, Callum Wilson unselfishly squaring for fellow substitute Jack Grealish to net his first goal on the biggest stage.

Level with Saka and Valencia on the scoring charts is Mehdi Taremi, who followed a thumping drive to take the scoreline to 4-1 with a cooly struck penalty in the 13th minute of added time, denying the Three Lions the chance to match their record winning margin at the World Cup. However, even as early as half time head coach Carlos Quieroz seemed to know the game was up, making three changes at the interval with one eye on the games to come against the USA and Wales. On this basis England will take a great deal of caching at the top of Group B.

Wonderkids give Southgate the dream start

This was just what England needed. For all their tournament success over the past four years their recent winless run in competitive games meant that their manager was leading his charges out with a sense of grumbling resentment, even some questions as to whether this could be Southgate's last at the helm. The fan's discontent was quelled somewhat by a progressive lineup but it was the performances of the youngsters who were trusted on the biggest stage that truly changed the mood.

Even before the breakthrough Saka was emphatically justifying his selection ahead of Phil Foden and others. Utterly fearless for a player whose previous tournament game had ended in heartbreak, he dovetailed dangerously with Kieran Trippier and always looked to up the tempo. His miscued early shot was the first time substitute goalkeeper Hossein Hosseini was tested and he provided a much better chance for Mason Mount. His goal came after Jude Bellingham, almost as bright from the outset, had opened the scoring but Saka's was the archetypal England strike.

A well-delivered corner was knocked down by Harry Maguire, justifying his presence in the England defense with his attacking work, before Saka's sweet volley deflected high into the net. Moments later the game was over, the old guard offering a reminder of the value of tournament experience. When the ball came to Kane down the right channel he needed only to hit the ball at the near post, confident that his team mate Sterling would be attacking that space. That he was.

By the time Saka drove in England's fourth those familiar videos from Boxpark Croydon were back, lunchtime beers soaring into the sky in delight. Chants of "Southgate you're the one" were heard mere months after the mutiny at Molineux. You could almost hear the rest of the planet willfully misunderstanding Three Lions all over again ("typical English arrogance"). Even from afar in Russia – and certainly up close last summer – the support of the nation proved to be a propulsive force for this squad. If they have won their country over again, this England team could be quite the contender.

Political events loom large on both sides

FIFA's desire for a World Cup free from politics was never likely to be fulfilled (and frankly it is a ludicrous idea when this tournament has been a vehicle for the projection of soft power since its inception), in pushing for everyone to be quiet about events in Qatar they may merely have increased the volume on the conversation.

Before the match England were informed they would not be able to make the statement they wished through the wearing of 'One Love' armbands; had Kane followed through on the plan of European nations to wear the item he may well have begun the game on a booking. Still, there was nothing FIFA could do to stop the Three Lions taking the knee, nor to compel Iran to sing along to the national anthem, in what appeared to be a sign of solidarity as their government crack down on dissent in the republic. It was not entirely popular among Iranian supporters though there were plenty that backed the display.

A sizeable banner bearing the legend "Woman, life, freedom" over the Iran flag was raised high in the stadium as well as smaller placards that included the phrase "Freedom for Iran". As is the case every four years, one of the biggest events in global television has proven to be a powerful medium for getting a message across. How ever could FIFA have known?

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A late penalty shout for Iran

It looks like a free kick from the right has brought Iran a penalty, John Stones sanctioned for grappling with Taremi. The referee heads across to the monitor. He points to the spot.

November 21, 2022, 3:13 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 10:13 am EST
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Ten minutes added on

Their national record is well within England's reach following this baffling amount of added time. The biggest margin of victory in a World Cup match is nine. They probably don't have enough time. Probably.

November 21, 2022, 3:04 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 10:04 am EST
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GOAL -- It's six again

And no sooner do I finish typing that previous post then Wilson gets in behind off a super pass by Bellingham. The Newcastle man cooly squares it and Grealish is on hand to make it 6-1, matching the record this team set four and a bit years ago against Panama.

November 21, 2022, 3:01 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 10:01 am EST
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The game is meandering on

England need one more to match their record World Cup win but they don't seem too bothered about finding it.

November 21, 2022, 3:00 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 10:00 am EST
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GOAL -- That didn't take long for Rashford

Kane wins the long ball and slips Rashford into space down the right. A brilliant chop inside with his right, a low placed finish into the bottom corner. England's four goal lead is restored and Rashford has his first goal at a major tournament.

November 21, 2022, 2:43 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:43 am EST
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Southgate rings the changes

Maguire takes a blow to the head and that's all that Southgate needs to unload his bench, though bizarrely not until the kick off has been taken and punted deep. Even after a throw in we continue with the Three Lions down to 10 men. Eventually -- after Iran blaze a half chance over the bar -- Dier comes on for Maguire whilst Rashford, Grealish and Foden replace Sterling, Mount and two goal hero Saka.

November 21, 2022, 2:41 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:41 am EST
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GOAL - Taremi gets a consolation for Iran

A really nicely taken goal from the Iranian No.9, who slips into space on the right side of the box and fires a shot high. It cannons back down off the crossbar and into the bottom corner.

November 21, 2022, 2:38 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:38 am EST
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GOAL! - Saka at the double

Level with Enner Valencia in the Golden Boot race, England's best player today looks like someone on another level in his World Cup debut. Cutting in from the right he takes his time, works for an angle and rolls the ball into the bottom corner.

November 21, 2022, 2:36 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:36 am EST
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Not really much to report

Shhhh, Shhhh
It's, oh, so quiet
Shhhh Shhhh
It's, oh, so still
Shhhh Shhhh

Very little to report with an hour gone.

November 21, 2022, 2:31 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:31 am EST
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A slow start

Kane goes down holding his ankles, not a sight any England manager or supporter would want to see even if he seems able to shake it off. Trippier will soon be nursing a similar wound after a stamp on his foot by Noorollahi, a reminder that perhaps the most significant thing at stake for both sides in the second half is the fitness of their players for the remainder of the tournament.

November 21, 2022, 2:23 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:23 am EST
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We're ready for the second half

A string of changes from Carlos Quieroz, who introduces Gholizadeh, Ezatolahiat and Kanani. Jahanbakhsh is among those to make way, perhaps for no other reason than him being on a yellow card. This game is surely gone for Iran.

November 21, 2022, 2:17 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:17 am EST
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Half time

My colleague tells me that England's win probability is 99.3 percent. That sets the odds of all life being eradicated on earth in the next hour at 0.7 percent. This is a dream start for Southgate's side.

November 21, 2022, 2:01 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:01 am EST
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We're still going

Into minute no.59 here and England have taken their foot off the gas since that third, happy to pop the ball around a stunned opponent. Still they menace at free kicks and corners, Maguire getting surprised when a Shaw delivery comes to him at the back post. He might have done better.

November 21, 2022, 2:00 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 9:00 am EST
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England in cruise control

Here's all the goals (so far) with England running rampant in Doha:

November 21, 2022, 1:53 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:53 am EST
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GOAL! - They're running riot

Kane's cross, Sterling's finish. This is quite the statement from the Three Lions.

November 21, 2022, 1:50 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:50 am EST
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GOAL! - Another for the young stars

Another cross, another goal. Maguire does well to knock the ball down towards the edge of the box where Saka lets fly with a volley. He hits it sweetly and even the deflection it takes can do little to deny him his first World Cup goal. And it's about to get even better for the Three Lions...

November 21, 2022, 1:47 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:47 am EST
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GOAL! - England breakthrough

Of course it's the young superstar, Jude Bellingham gives England the lead! Shaw's cross from the left is a good one after Sterling made space for him. No one has really spotted the No.22's late run into the box and Bellingham is on hand to flick the ball in at the near post.

November 21, 2022, 1:38 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:38 am EST
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Off the bar

Sterling wins England a corner with smart footwork and boy do the Three Lions look menacing when the ball goes dead. Trippier's delivery is perfect, allowing Maguire to attack the cross and show his strength, holding off his defender to guide a header against the bar.

November 21, 2022, 1:34 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:34 am EST
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Saka causing problems

Having had a rare shot on target a few minutes ago, Saka continues to probe dangerously, working himself into a crossing position down the right. He flicks one to the near post and Mount, who might have done better than volley into the near sidenetting.

November 21, 2022, 1:32 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:32 am EST
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Protests in the stands

Amid the women's right movement in their homeland, some Iranian fans have brought with them a huge banner bearing the phrase 'Woman, life, freedom'.

November 21, 2022, 1:29 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:29 am EST
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No, he's not

Iran make the World Cup's first concussion substitution as Hosseini finally comes on after Beyranvand goes down. With 20 minutes on the clock -- and probably the best part of 15 minutes to be added on -- Iran have started to up the tempo and just ask a few questions of the Three Lions. Hajisafi wins a free kick level with the box down the left flank.

November 21, 2022, 1:23 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:23 am EST
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He's going to carry on

After about five minutes of examinations, with substitute goalkeeper Hosseini ready to enter the fray, Beyranvand seems to have decided he is staying on the pitch. Whether that is a decision he has made on his own or with the agreement of the medical staff is hard to tell so far but it's really not a decision he should be making.

November 21, 2022, 1:16 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:16 am EST
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Early blow for Iran

Beyranvand goes to challenge for a teasing cross but takes a nasty blow to the face and has required several minutes of medical attention. He will almost certainly have to come off here.

November 21, 2022, 1:13 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:13 am EST
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Away we go!

A bright start from England, who are knocking the ball around midfield with composure and ease. They win an early corner and immediately threaten, Maguire going down. Cheshmi has his arms wrapped around him but nothing doing, even after VAR takes a second look. That is somewhat surprising.

November 21, 2022, 1:05 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 8:05 am EST
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The teams are out

Kick off is just moments away!

November 21, 2022, 12:57 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 7:57 am EST
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Empty seats abound

It's scarcely more than 10 minutes to kick off and there are signs of plenty of fans yet to make their way into the ground. It has been reported that there have been issues with the ticketing system and apps and that that is keeping supporters from getting into the ground. FIFA has acknowledged the problem, telling fans to check their emails in effect.

November 21, 2022, 12:49 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 7:49 am EST
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What to know about Iran

Dragan Skocic may have led them to qualification, writes Roger Gonzalez, but it's Carlos Queiroz who will be coaching them at the World Cup. The former Manchester United assistant who then went on to coach Real Madrid, Portugal, Colombia and Egypt, among others, returns to coach the nation he led from 2011-2019. This will be the third World Cup where he leads this national team after leading them in 2014 and 2018. They nearly got out of a group that included Spain and his native Portugal last time around. 

November 21, 2022, 12:30 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 7:30 am EST
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How to watch and odds

  • Date: Monday, Nov. 21 | Time: 8 a.m. ET
  • Location: Khalifa International Stadium -- Doha, Qatar
  • TV: FS1 and Telemundo | Live stream: fuboTV (Try for free)
  • Odds: England -325; Draw +370; Iran +1100 (via Caesars Sportsbook) 
November 21, 2022, 12:20 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 7:20 am EST
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Maguire the big call

He can't get a game for Manchester United but Harry Maguire always looks to be a better performer with the national team and he has won Gareth Southgate's trust today. Notably it's in a four man defense that he's starting, probably not a system we will see as often as the tournament wears on when one would expect England to gravitate to the three man backline where Maguire excels on the left hand side.

November 21, 2022, 12:14 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 7:14 am EST
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Here are the teams

It looks like a 4-3-3 for England, hardly a system in which Harry Maguire traditionally excels. But they really are going for it today, that's for sure.

England XI: Pickford; Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham, Mount; Saka, Kane, Sterling

Iran XI: Beiranvand; Pouraliganji, Cheshmi, Hosseini; Moharrami, Hajsafi, Karimi Nourollahi, Mohammadi; Taremi, Jahanbakhsh

November 21, 2022, 12:01 PM
Nov. 21, 2022, 7:01 am EST
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