Doha: England coach Gareth Southgate admitted he was a happy man after his side kicked off their World Cup campaign with a 6-2 win against Iran on Monday, but he also insisted they would have to improve if they want to go all of the way in the competition.
England produced an impressive display, full of pace and movement and were rewarded by two goals from Bukayo Saka, along with efforts from Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish.
“To win by that margin, to play as we did for the majority of the game, we’ve got to be really happy. We looked ready,” said Southgate after the game, reports Xinhua.
“Our press was really good, our movement was really good and I’ve got to be really happy,” he added.
However, Southgate also demanded more from his side defensively.
“We shouldn’t be conceding two goals at that stage of the game. We’ll have to be right on our game against the States. It’s a great start, but we’ll have to be better. We lost concentration and when we play at a slower tempo, we’re not anywhere near as effective,” he warned.
19-year-old Bellingham also spoke after the game in which he opened the scoring with a looping header after drifting into the penalty area to meet Luke Shaw’s cross.
“I thought (my goal) had missed! It took ages to loop into the goal,” he admitted. “It was a brilliant ball from Shaw and a really proud moment for me,” he said.
“It’s a really good day for us. Six goals in a World Cup game is really impressive, regardless of who you’re playing.”
“We didn’t have anything clear for quite a while. But with more goals we opened them (Iran) up.
“It’s important we learn how to create chances against sides like that. But we’re a bit disappointed with the (Iran’s) two goals to be honest,” he noted, concluding that England would look for “two more wins” in the group and then take “that mentality into hopefully the rest of the tournament.”
England will play their second group game against the United States on Friday.
QUEIROZ’S LINE-UP BLAMED FOR IRAN’S LOSS
Football experts had already predicted a tough match for Asian powerhouse Iran against star-studded England, and their predictions proved right.
Portuguese manager of Iran Carlos Queiroz, who had described Gareth Southgate’s England as strongest since 1966, however, said his side could beat the powerful European team in the opener. Queiroz, whose choice of 11 starting line-up against England shocked all and conceded a 6-2 defeat, defended his men’s lacklustre performance in a news conference after the match.
In response to a question posed by a reporter about what he called the “wrong” starting line-up, Queiroz dismissed it and said, “what was wrong in this match was England players’ quality, speed, and rivalry. England’s quick play in the first 20 minutes helped it find the net twice, leaving us shocked.”
Touching upon the line-up, Queiroz said, “We have to watch the game again and see what occurred during the match and learn lessons from our review.”
But former striker of Iran, Khodadad Azizi, told Varzesh 3 website that Queiroz’s unexpected change in Iran’s line-up is to blame for the side’s poor performance against England.
Azizi said all substitutes fielded in the second half, Mohammad Hossein Kanaanizadegan, Ali Gholizadeh, Mehdi Torabi, Saeid Ezatolahi, and Sardar Azmoun, played satisfactory roles.
He called on Queiroz to choose the regular lineup for the next two matches against Wales and the United States. “Today’s loss is a big lesson,” the head coach said, hoping that his squad would pass through this tough day.
“We were plucky and fought and did what we could on the pitch,” said Queiroz, adding that “we have still two games in hand in the World Cup and would do our best to win them”.
Talking about England’s performance, the manager said his team learned a lot from their opponents.
“Our players are not as experienced as England’s footballers,” he said. “Today’s game will help us play better football in our next match. We are now better prepared for the match against Wales.
“The competitions are at the highest level and the ground has been prepared for us to do our job. We will try to emerge victorious in the next game. Concentration is what we need. It is important for us to learn lessons from what happened (today).”
Queiroz, who is now under pressure from Iranian fans and experts, blamed the current conditions for his men’s lack of concentration on the field and strongly criticised those in the stadium’s stands for not cheering the team, Varzesh 3 reported.
“We will not welcome those who try to disrupt our efforts with some issues that are not related to football,” said the head coach. “Let footballers play football, as they want to represent their country and make their people happy.”
He also regretted the unexpected incident in the early minutes of the first half that forced him to replace his No. 1 goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand with a broken nose.
Former Tottenham Spur manager Harry Redknapp talked to state TV IRIB’s Channel 3 during the break after the first half and said, “It was an easy match for England and Iran failed to react to back-to-back attacks.”
The top-notch expert said England would have scored more than three goals if the first half had lasted longer. Now, the Iranians have to wait and see what their team will do in the next two deciding games against Wales and the United States.