FIFA WC 2022: England’s Young Lions Roar The Loudest

FIFA WC 2022: England’s Young Lions Roar The Loudest

Southgate’s men may have cruised to a win thrashing Iran 6-2, but once again it was the young guns in the spotlight. England’s starting line-up had four U-24 players and it’s rather amusing to call them U-24 because of how long they’ve been around.

Also read: FIFA WC Qatar 2022: Preview

Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham, Mason Mount & Bukayo Saka all made the starting XI after Southgate handed them their World Cup debuts, and boy did they give the England fans a performance to remember for a while; England’s best-ever opening win at a World Cup.

Rice & Bellingham were deployed in a double-pivot in the 4-2-3-1 that Southgate set up as Mount slotted into the 10 and Saka to the wide right.

England Pass Map Network Against Iran: FIFA World Cup 2022
England Pass Map Network Against Iran: FIFA World Cup 2022

Declan Rice

Starting at the base; Declan Rice was the base from which England built their play. Rice dropped in front of the CBs and almost all of the play went through him. Not only was he the starting point of attacks, but he also was instrumental in breaking Iran’s possession in England’s half as a DM.

He registered a 95% passing accuracy and 10 recoveries from defensive midfield making quite the impactful start to his World Cup campaign. Rice may be having a hard time at West Ham but it just goes to show how talent shines through at every given opportunity.

Jude Bellingham

Where do we start with Bellingham? There was no blade of grass that was left untouched in the Khalifa Stadium by the youngster. It seems farfetched to think that he is only 19 years of age and yet patrolled the midfield like he’s been there forever. Bellingham was the definition of box-to-box.

From registering a 96% pass accuracy & 9 recoveries to becoming the second youngest goal scorer for England at a World Cup was just the icing on the cake. If you wanted a sample of why this kid is amongst the most wanted by the European elite, this game had it all. Ball winning, intelligence, work rate, offensive awareness, and the raw instinct for making runs into the box – it was a complete performance & one that announced his arrival to the world stage.

“He’s a throwback. He’s all action. He’s box to box. He’s like Gerrard & Lampard rolled into one. He can do it all..” – Jermaine Jenas on Jude Bellingham (via the BBC World Cup Daily)

Mason Mount

Mason Mount played a really underrated yet pivotal role in England’s game plan, and he did his job well. Deployed as a 10, he drifted to the left as Bellingham did to the right essentially making it a 2-1-4-3 on the ball. England were in that shape for large spells, given their 78% possession.

The youngster from Cobham may not have made it into any of the highlight reels but his role in overloading the left wing was instrumental to all of England’s exploits down the left & in turn created space for Saka, Bellingham & Trippier on the right.

Along with his movement, Mount’s work rate was excellent again for England as we’ve come to expect from him.

England vs Iran Stats NPxG & xA
England vs Iran Stats NPxG & xA

Bukayo Saka

The last time Saka was seen at a major international tournament, he was being consoled by Gareth Southgate after he missed a penalty in the final of the Euros. From that to this exceptional performance; Bukayo Saka has made himself a household name.

A star for Arsenal, and a starter for England; structurally, Saka held the width on the right and was given the freedom to come onto his preferred left foot. The Trippier & Saka combination on the right wing was hugely evident & worked well for England and the pair on their day can give any LB a run for their money.

Saka’s 2 goals from an xG of 0.21 and an xA of 0.15 reveal just how clinical and effective the Arsenal winger was in the game against Iran. Both his finishes were of the highest quality & he justified Southgate’s faith in him being picked ahead of Foden or Grealish.

Marcus Rashford & Jack Grealish

Although not as young as the rest, Rashford’s introduction was also telling & was an excellent substitution by Gareth Southgate. It turned into a masterstroke when he did what was expected of him and instantly scored a typical Marcus Rashford-esque goal.

Skidding past his defender, into the box, and slotting it away as neatly as you like; he came on in the 70′ & scored in the 71st, making an instant impact.

So did Jack Grealish & Callum Wilson who joined in the party combining for a goal and an assist respectively. Grealish’s goal probably meant a bit more as he dedicated it to the superfan named Finlay who has cerebral palsy. It was a touch of class from the City attacker and also showed the human side of the beautiful game for all fans watching across the globe.

Although it’s been just one game and there’s still a long way to go, England’s qualification seems secure. Their spine is exuberant, vibrant, and impactful despite their tender age & fans can only ponder the wonders they may go on to achieve at their peak.

Southgate’s revolution is bearing fruits and it’s resulted in something to celebrate for England fans not only at this World Cup but perhaps for years to come.

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