ENGLAND swept Iran aside with ease to get their World Cup campaign off to the perfect start.
Jude Bellingham scored England’s first goal of the World CupRichard Pelham / The Sun
Bukayo Saka scored twice in the 5-1 win over IranRichard Pelham / The Sun
The irresistible Saka added another after the break and both Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish came off the bench to net, with two Iran consolations through Mehdi Taremi.
And the 6-2 victory, Gareth Southgate will hope, should set the tone for the next two group games.
Repeat performances in the games against USA and Wales would see the Three Lions breeze into the knockouts, with Bellingham’s expert looping header adding more millions to his transfer value.
Here’s how SunSport’s Dan King rated the Three Lions…
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Jordan Pickford – 6
Tough to judge him in a game in which he didn’t have a save to make.
But his long distribution was not the best, even when not under pressure. Almost punished for dallying on ball early in second half.
Dived the wrong way for Taremi’s stoppage time penalty.
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Kieran Trippier – 7
Got forward from the start and dead-ball deliveries were a regular threat.
Was guilty of some loose passes, however, and one almost let Iran in twice in the second half.
Must be sharper against better opponents.
John Stones – 7
An understated but important performance that gave others the chance to shine.
Solid at back, stepped into midfield to help keep the ball moving quickly as England established and maintained dominance.
Harry Maguire – 8
Should have earned penalty, hit the bar, started move for first goal, won header for second.
But just as you thought, ‘Take that, haters!’, lost his man for Iran’s goal – although seemed to have knock on head.
ReutersHarry Maguire was superb before having to come off injured[/caption]
Luke Shaw – 7
Once England sorted out the congestion down the left, he came into the game.
Lovely cross for Bellingham’s goal and well-worked corner that led to the second.
His left foot will be key to England’s hopes.
Declan Rice – 7
Main role was tidying up but made important interception at 1-0.
Loose header led to Iran’s best first-half chance.
Jude Bellingham – 9
Gave a brilliant mature performance in his first tournament start.
Glided round the pitch like a boss, running with the ball and running the game.
Great header to break the deadlock, crucial role in the third.
Mason Mount – 7
Fought Sterling for space early on but then found his groove.
Shot into side-netting before playing part in opening goal and kept popping up where Iran didn’t want him to be.
Like Saka, took some kicks.
Bukayo Saka – 9
At it from the start, working hard to make things happen against opponents happy to stay in their own half.
Brave on the ball and in taking the fouls that followed.
Lovely finish for his first, deserved deflection for second.
Saka celebrates after scoring his secondRichard Pelham / The Sun
Raheem Sterling – 7
Started slowly, but played his part in Mount’s chance and Bellingham’s opener before ending his personal goal drought in fine style.
You could see the confidence returning as he surged to play Saka in for his second.
Harry Kane – 7
Insisted he was happy to be provider as well as scorer and he wasn’t kidding.
An unselfish display, often back to goal and dropping deeper to help bring others into the game.
Teed up Sterling and Rashford’s goals.
Marcus Rashford (on for Saka, 70 mins) – 7
Scored before the stadium announcer had even finished announcing England’s four subs. Cool finish. Almost had a second.
Jack Grealish (on for Sterling, 70 mins) – 7
Like Manchester City colleague Foden, kept the ball well but didn’t go for the jugular. In the right place to get the sixth.
Phil Foden (on for Mount, 70 mins – 6
Fine pass gave Rashford another chance. Neat and composed, with the odd dangerous touch around the box.
Eric Dier (on for Maguire, 70 mins) – 6
Let Iran in soon after coming on but fortunately the shot was off target.
Callum Wilson (on for Kane, 75 mins) – 7
Useful experience as he made his major tournament debut and unselfishly squared for Grealish to score.