Saka savours 'really special' start to World Cup after starring in Iran rout

PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Bukayo Saka savoured a “really special” start to the World Cup after scoring twice in England’s 6-2 thrashing of Iran on Monday.

The Three Lions came into the tournament without a win in six matches, leading to them being consigned to relegation in the Nations League.

But an emphatic Group B victory at Khalifa International Stadium on Monday got them off to a dream start, with Saka on target in each half as Iran were outclassed.

Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish also got on the scoresheet as Gareth Southgate picked up his ninth major tournament victory as England manager, surpassing Alf Ramsey's total.

Saka's stunning display comes after a disappointing end to his Euro 2020 campaign, when he missed a penalty in the shootout defeat to Italy in the final at Wembley.

The Arsenal winger hit back with a superb 2021-22 season, while he has helped the Gunners open up a five-point lead at the top of the Premier League heading into the break for the World Cup in Qatar.

Saka told the BBC: "We needed that good start.

"We obviously didn't play the best coming into the tournament, so there was a lot of talk and speculation about our form, but we showed everyone today how much quality we have and what we can do.

"I can't describe the feeling, it's amazing. I'm so happy, I'm so proud, and we got the win as well, so it's just a really special day.

"It's amazing to get the win in the end, but we have to be consistent because we have the next game coming up in a few days and we have to win again."

Saka's response to his Euro 2020 heartbreak was described as "impeccable" by club and country team-mate Aaron Ramsdale last week, and the 21-year-old feels at the peak of his powers, adding: "I feel like I'm in a good place.

"I have the support from the fans and I really feel the love from the fans, the coaching staff and my team-mates. That's all I need.

"I feel good and I'm ready to give 100 per cent. I gave that today and I'll continue to do that every time I put the shirt on."

Bellingham was outstanding and scored for the first time for the Three Lions in his first World Cup match to put his side in front with a header.

The 19-year-old quipped said of his goal: "[I] told you I was saving it, didn't I?

"To be honest, I thought it had missed - it took ages to loop into the goal. I told you I wanted to try and score more goals for [Borussia] Dortmund and for England last year.

"To get in there, in the right position, it was a brilliant ball from [Luke] Shaw, and I was just there to flick it away. It's a really proud moment for me."