By Suresh Nair
WHAT a surprise flying start for England as they hit the proverbial six with an unexpected 6-2 win in their opening World Cup match against Iran.
Six goals look super on paper. But conceding twice against 20th-ranked Iran doesn’t reflect well with England coach Darren Southgate who rightly urged his team to buck up.
Even former award-winning Singapore coach Jita, who saw the match in Qatar, said: “Iran lost their plot after the two goals they conceded. Perhaps they stumbled after the unfortunate circumstance of them having to replace the first-choice goalkeeper through injury may have contributed to the thrashing.”
He added that Iran’s backline also looked suspicious as they were “caught off guard on a number of times…the victory now puts England on a good platform but let’s see how they continue their journey”.
England, World Cup semi-finalists in 2018 and European Championship runners-up last year, came to Qatar on the back of a six-game winless run. But they quickly found their feet at the Khalifa International Stadium, totally dominating the match.
“By England’s standards and the players they’ve got, we know it hasn’t been good enough. But it’s a World Cup stage, you can see there was real fire in their stomachs to go out there and prove a lot of people wrong,” added Jita.
RISE OF TWO YOUNGSTERS
He commended two youngsters in 19-year-old Jude Belingham (Germany’s Borussia Dortmund) and 21-year-old Bukayo Saka (Arsenal) for their rise-to-the-occasion form which made the major difference in this rout. Both are now, not surprisingly, eyed by Liverpool!
And now for Iran, it begs the biggest talking point: Is there still an Asian-class football gap at the highest World Cup level? Pray you tell me please.
* Suresh Nair is an award-winning sports journalist who is also a qualified international coach and international referee instructor.
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