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England vs Iran: Tactics Breakdown & Key Takeaways


England vs Iran: Tactics Breakdown & Key Takeaways

England romped to a 6-2 win over Iran to kick-off their World Cup campaign. To say it was a statement victory would be an understatement.

It may have only been Iran but this is a team that topped their World Cup qualification group with 25 points from a possible 30. They conceded just four goals across ten matches. Carlos Queiroz’s men recently beat a Uruguay side containing Fede Valverde, Rodrigo Bentencur, Darwin Nunez and Luis Suarez while also drawing with AFCON champions Senegal. 

This was supposed to be a difficult game for Gareth Southgate’s side but it was anything but. England roared into a 3-0 half-time lead. It was a frustrating opening 30 minutes with Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffering a head injury that delayed the game by the best part of 15 minutes. But once the first goal went in, the floodgates opened. 
Jude Bellingham nodded home after 35 minutes, ghosting in the area to direct Luke Shaw’s cross into the far corner. 

Bukayo Saka then rifled in a superb volley after Harry Maguire headed the ball down to the Arsenal man. Raheem Sterling then prodded a Harry Kane cross beyond the substitute keeper to give England a commanding lead as the referee called time on an extended first half. 

Saka danced past the Iran defence just after the hour mark to double his tally before substitutes Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish got in on the act. If we’re being honest, England didn’t really have to get out of second gear. 
It was all too easy for those in white but a big win all the same. 

Formation & Tactics

Southgate made the bold call to switch to a 4-3-3 shape with Bellingham deployed alongside Declan Rice and Mason Mount in midfield. In previous competitions, the England boss has favoured a 4-2-3-1 with a double pivot made up of Rice and Kalvin Phillips. The pair would sit and allow the four others to influence things in the final third. Against Iran, however, the England boss switched it up and used a midfield three but asked both Mount and Bellingham to support the front three, making it an attacking five. 

It paid off. 

England had five players in the area as Bellingham nodded in the opener and it would’ve been exactly what Southgate envisaged. 

In the second half, the shape morphed into more of a familiar 4-2-3-1 shape but at that point, the game was won. 
Expect to see similar shapes in the next two group matches, with both the USA and Wales expected to put the onus on the Three Lions to break them down. It is much easier to do so when you have five genuine goal threats on the pitch in a fluid 4-3-3. Once England have a lead, they have the players to shore things up in a more structured 4-2-3-1.

It makes a lot of sense. 

Key Takeaways

A big talking point in the aftermath of the victory was the fact England scored six goals and yet Harry Kane failed to get on the scoresheet.  The bigger talking point was that the skipper failed to even attempt a shot. 

The Three Lions managed 13 with Saka attempting the most (3). Rashford made the most of his time on the pitch, attempting two shots, while Harry Maguire was the only other player to attempt more than one effort on the day. 

For some teams, this would be a great concern. But this is a positive sign as it shows England are evolving as a threat. Kane is one of the best goalscorers in the world but he is also one of the best all-around forwards. The Spurs talisman didn’t manage to carve out an opportunity for himself but did assist two of the goals. 

England vs Iran WhoScored Map

Harry Kane’s touch map vs Iran courtesy of Whoscored

He didn’t see much of the ball, attempting just 13 passes, but had quite the impact on the scoreline. To go alongside his two assists, he also created the space for the opener. He holds his position towards the back post and initially occupies two defenders. This allows Bellingham to attack the area towards the near post, as seen in the screenshot below. 

England vs Iran (BBC)

Image via BBC

Kane could’ve easily look to get across the defender and hit that space but in the build-up, he notices Bellingham supporting the attack so holds his position and England benefit. It highlights how even when he isn’t directly involved, he can have an impact on the scoreline. 

If the Three Lions are tapping into Kane the creator, others need to get into goalscoring areas and that is exactly what happened against Iran. There is more depth to this England team with more ways to win a game. It can only be a positive.