England routs Iran to open Group B play at World Cup

Bukayo Saka England Iran World Cup
England’s Bukayo Saka , right, celebrates with teammates after scoring his side’s fourth goal against Iran during the World Cup group B soccer match between England and Iran at the Khalifa International Stadium, in Doha, Qatar, Monday, Nov. 21, 2022. (AP Photo/Martin Meissner)

If you listen closely, you’ll start hearing reverberations of “It’s Coming Home” from across the pond after England ransacked Iran 6-2 in its opening match of Group B play on Monday at the 2022 World Cup. 

Bukayo Saka scored two while England tied a program record with six goals in a World Cup match — they did so against Panama in 2018 — including three for the Three Lions within a 10-minute stretch of the first half alone.

Following a 15-minute delay within the game’s opening moments after Iran keeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a head injury — and a Harry Maguire post in the 33rd minute — England got rolling through 19-year-old midfielder Jude Bellingham. In the 35th minute and left unmarked, the Borussia Dortmund youngster headed home a pinpoint cross from Luke Shaw home.

He became the first teenager to score in a World Cup for England since Michael Owen at the 1998 tournament in France.

Eight minutes later, Bukayo Saka volleyed home a stunner with his left foot off an England corner — a tally that undoubtedly felt good for the 21-year-old Arsenal talent that missed the decisive penalty in the Euro 2020 final against Italy. 

Within a blink, Raheem Sterling made it three a minute into first-half stoppage time, stabbing home a searing delivery from Harry Kane with the outside of his right foot just 10 yards from goal.

It couldn’t have gone much worse for Iran — a team predicated on defense that was cut open for an early goal and was then forced to chase the match for an extended first half that featured 14 minutes of stoppage time after Beiranvand’s injury.

Saka got his second of the day in the 62nd minute when the Iran defense simply went to sleep, allowing the forward to work onto his favored left foot before simply passing the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net despite five defenders being in the vicinity.

Just three minutes later, Mehdi Taremi pulled one back for Iran when he cannoned home a chance off the crossbar which basically came out of nothing to provide the smallest of consolation prizes. He would nab a second with a penalty in the 103rd minute (extended extra times will become commonplace at the World Cup).

England struck right back after making wholesale substitutions, including striker Marcus Rashford, who scored on his first involvement in the 71st minute to restore a four-goal advantage. 

Jack Grealish put the cherry on top of the Three Lions’ day in the 90th minute as the benefactor of a Callum Wilson pass to create a wide-open chance. With acres of space down the left side, Wilson thundered down the flank and could have very easily gone for the shot, but he laid it off to the Manchester City midfielder.

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