, England’s 6-2 thrashing of Iran on Monday placed even more importance on the United States’ subsequent clash with Wales.,

FIFA World Cup 2022

23 mins ago

DOHA, Qatar — England delivered a warning to the rest of Group B by thrashing Iran 6-2 to kick off its World Cup campaign on Monday, placing even more importance on the United States’ subsequent clash with Wales

Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka (twice), Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish all got on the scoresheet, in an early indication that the widespread predictions of England being the dominant force in the group appear to be well-founded.

Gareth Southgate’s men raced into a 3-0 lead by halftime and barely broke stride, with the coach even able to rest key players such as captain Harry Kane, Saka, Sterling and Mason Mount midway through the second half, ahead of Friday’s meeting with the U.S. at Al Bayt Stadium. 

Highlights: England routs Iran

Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka were among the scorers as England made a statement with a 6-2 win over Iran.

Seen as one of the tournament favorites, England had nevertheless struggled for form leading into Qatar, failing to win any of its previous six games. However, there were no such concerns here, and they went close to equaling the national record margin for a World Cup victory, which came in a 6-1 triumph over Panama in 2018. 

The only thing that slowed England down was an early injury to Iranian goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand after a nasty clash of heads with one of his defenders, resulting in a lengthy delay and his eventual substitution under the concussion protocol. 

“We needed that good start,” Saka, who was heartbroken after missing the last penalty in England’s shootout defeat in the European Championships final, told the BBC. “We haven’t played the best coming into the tournament. There was a lot of talk and speculation about our form, but we showed everyone how much quality we have and what we can do.

“It is amazing to get the win under so much pressure. But we have to be consistent because we have the next game coming up in a few days, and we have to win again.” 

On 35 minutes, Bellingham broke the deadlock with a neat header, before Saka drilled home a low left-foot strike soon after and Sterling nipped in to make it three just before the interval. 

‘FIFA World Cup Now’ crew reacts to England’s win

Warren Barton and the crew reflect on the statement England made vs. Iran.

After the break, Saka continued his fine display, while subs Rashford and Grealish both gained some welcome confidence by adding to the tally. The only interruptions to the dominance came from a fine effort by Iran’s Mehdi Taremi with 20 minutes left — and a Taremi penalty deep into injury time. 

It can be argued that the onslaught placed added pressure on Gregg Berhalter’s young U.S. squad. The thinking behind qualification from World Cup groups is simple in theory, but scheduling adds complexity to things. If the U.S. and Wales play to a draw, it would perhaps be of greater value to the Welsh, as they play Iran next and would like their chances of building a lead on the Americans before the final round of matches.

Iran’s plight is already dire. At the 2018 World Cup, 12 of the 13 teams that lost their opening games failed to reach the knockout stage — and Iran’s minus-4 goal differential now poses another potential roadblock. 

Meaning that U.S. v. Wales is not necessarily an eliminator, but was beginning to feel like one. 

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and the author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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