Gareth Southgate: 'It's a great start but we're going to have to be better'
England may have won their opening match of the 2022 FIFA World Cup by four goals but manager Gareth Southgate stressed they still need to improve if they are going to have a successful tournament in Qatar.
The Three Lions established a deserved four-goal advantage inside the opening 65 minutes on Monday afternoon, through goals by Jude Bellingham, Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling.
But England allowed Iran to create more opportunities after that, meaning Mehdi Taremi was able to make it 4-1 before the Porto striker added another consolation from the penalty spot in the final moments to ensure the game finished 6-2.
Southgate said: “I'm a bit fed up with the end of it. To win by that margin, to play as we did for the majority of the game, we've got to be really happy - that's the way the players have prepared, they looked ready and they dealt with the game really well.
“It was a sticky first half, lots of stoppages, but we were a threat throughout that, our pressing was really good, and our movement was really good, so I've got to be happy but 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're going to have to be better.”
England had started brightly before a lengthy delay due to a clash of heads between Iran’s goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand team-mate Majid Hosseini.
But the Three Lions continued their dominance and took the lead through a Bellingham header on 35 minutes.
A fine strike from Saka and a classy Sterling finish gave Southgate’s men a convincing three-goal lead at the interval.
Another composed strike from Saka made it four before Taremi’s goal pulled one back for Iran.
Substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish then ensured it would be a memorable afternoon with further goals before a Taremi penalty in the 13th minute of second-half injury-time, after VAR helped award the spot-kick.
On conceding the two goals, Southgate added: “It's a consequence of the scoreline and we had 24 minutes of added time across the game - that's a long time to focus. We lost concentration and when we play at a slower tempo, we're not anywhere near as effective.”
But despite being unable to keep a clean sheet, it was still a hugely impressive performance from England, where a number of their younger players shone.
And Southgate said: “We've got some good players and today they really delivered. Our attacking players looked a threat throughout the game, I thought our defence for the first hour or so really controlled the game and were patient with their build-up. The midfield was excellent, both Declan and Jude, and our forwards looked a threat. That's a great marker to put down.”
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