England V Iran Review
November 23rd, 2022 | Football
England Match Review: Relentless Three Lions score six in Group B opener
England have got their World Cup campaign truly up and running with a dazzling 6-2 win over Iran. Iran, currently managed by former Manchester United assistant manager Carlos Queiroz, had not conceded more than two goals in a game for three years. This stat alone shows how impressive the Three Lions were as they managed to score six goals against a usually solid Iran team.
We have often seen England deploy back-three formations in the past, but Southgate set England up in a fluid 4-3-3 system, which straight away means another midfielder or attacker can be played. The personnel chosen were also attack-minded, with full-backs in Luke Shaw and Kieran Trippier both offering a lot going forwards, and a midfield of Declan Rice basically holding the midfield by himself with Jude Bellingham and Mason Mount roaming ahead of him. Then it was an impressive front-three of Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka.
England had 79% possession in the match. We’ve seen England have possession in plenty of matches before, but it was how positive and purposeful they were when they had the ball that meant they threatened as much as they did. All the England players, even the likes of Pickford and two centre-backs Harry Maguire and John Stones, played with so much confidence and had a really good understanding of where their team mates were. England’s build up play was impressive and they were happy to zip the ball around and await their opportunities. The thing that impressed me most was England’s movement in the final-third, which kept moving the Iran defence around and creating space for players to operate in. The Three Lions were relentless in possession, but they were also relentless when they did not have the ball. England pressed well and won the ball back on quite a few occasions. This desire to win the second ball was really good to see, especially with the Qatar climate in mind.
The word I keep coming back to is “relentless”. This is how England played both in and out of possession. I believe this desire and hunger to win the ball back, play, create and then score goals was the reason we won in the manner we did.
Apart from the goals themselves there are other things to take from aspects of the game.
England looked threating in set-piece situations, interestingly often going without swingers on the corners, which is something you do not see as much nowadays. This threat will be important going forwards in the tournaments, especially in games against, with all due respect to Iran, tougher sides, where games can be decided by fine margins, like a set-piece.
The subs made also highlighted the depth in attack that Gareth Southgate has available to him. I can’t think of many teams at club or international level that can make a triple substitution taking off Mount, Sterling and Saka and bringing on Foden, Grealish and Rashford. All of these players are big names from big football clubs and would probably start for the majority of international teams. The fact that they impacted like they did, with Grealish and Rashford both scoring, is a positive and shows England’s options from the bench. Callum Wilson is not necessarily as big a name, but he too impacted the game when he came on and got an assist. We may not see as much of Wilson as the other players mentioned, but he looks like a good option to have on the bench.
Obviously England conceded two goals which is something that has to be learnt from, but for a lot of the game Iran posed very little threat. The first goal has to be looked at, analysed and learnt from, but the penalty conceded, in my opinion, is a poor decision by VAR. But having said that, if minimal contact inside the box is going to be given as a penalty, we need to try and find ways to deal with that.
Overall I think it’s a really encouraging performance and result from England and one that will no doubt remind people that the Three Lions are a threat and are here to compete.
Jack is at university studying sports journalism. He writes these articles for work experience.