Match 1: England vs Iran
After their recent form its safe to say there were levels of scepticism among many England supporters going into the World Cup, many of whom may have been silenced after their emphatic 6-2 victory over Iran. Gareth Southgate raised some eyebrows by starting Harry Maguire, a player whose position in the team, let alone starting XI had been highly debated by fans. England’s young star Jude Bellingham got things going by opening the scoring after the half hour mark, heading in Luke Shaw’s cross. England struck twice more before half time with the Harrys supplying assists. Maguire set up Bukayo Saka’s goal and captain Harry Kane’s cross found Raheem Sterling who volleyed the ball into the back of the net. The match was more or less wrapped up going into half time, but England still had more in them, and Iran were desperate to score.
Saka claimed a second goal in the 62nd minute beautifully set up by Raheem Sterling, Saka picked up the ball, controlled it and fired it into the top left corner. With the score line starting to get embarrassing for Iran Gholizadeh collected the ball on the edge of the box, passed it through to Terami who slot the ball past Pickford into the top left corner.
England scored another 2 goals, with a great display from their substitutes, before 90 minutes as Kane passed the ball to sub Marcus Rashford who picked his way past the Iranian defence to get the ball in the back of the net. England’s 6th goal was beautifully set up by Callum Wilson, who, after running the ball into the box found Jack Grealish who calmly put it past the Iranian keeper.
There has been rather a lot of additional time in the World Cup matches so far and this game was no exception. In a rather controversial VAR call (imagine that!), which was more controversial for the decision to go to VAR, than the tackle itself, after a tackle on Maguire earlier in the game was not reviewed, Iran were give a penalty in the 103rd minute. Terami coolly slotted the ball past Pickford to end the match 6-2 in England’s favour.
Match 2: England vs USA
The most accurate description of this match would be underwhelming, after a dream start with a 6-2 win against Iran everyone thought while the USA would be a challenging team for England to play, England would ultimately win.
A 0-0 draw was a score line that perfectly summarised the match, neither team fully pressing in the final third. It was a jaded performance from the Three Lions who were fortunate that the USA did not capitalise on their mistakes and never found the back of the net.
England may have not played their best game, but that takes nothing away from the USA’s performance, they outplayed England on the pitch and were able to stop Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham from carrying the ball towards the goal and causing scoring opportunities.
England did start to build slightly during the second half, with a few more opportunities and dangerous moments including a header from Harry Kane and a last-ditch free kick for England in the dying moments of the game which ultimately came to nothing.
Christian Pulisic was the stand-out performer of the match, the “Lebron James of Soccer” as he was once dubbed was the main force in the USA team, leading his team forwards and continuously encouraging the USA supporters. He was unfortunate to hit the crossbar in the first half after his attempt on goal beat Jordan Pickford but hit the woodwork. With this result and Wales losing 2-0 to Iran the group was still pretty open going into the final group-stage match.
Match 3: England vs Wales
England and Wales are an old rivalry that runs deep between both countries. It was a must win for Wales, coming off a draw with the USA and loss to Iran in which their first-choice keeper received a red card. Wales needed to win and have Iran and the USA draw, or to beat England by 4 goals in order to make it through to the last 16, while neighbours England only needed to not lose by 4 goals to make it through.
England were the more dominant team off the bat and spent the first half pressing the Welsh defences and testing Matt Ward. Despite England outperforming Wales in in the first 45 minutes they went into half-time level at 0-0.
Who knows what Gareth Southgate said to the English players at halftime, but they came out all guns blazing in the second half, moving the ball faster and finding the back of the net after 5 minutes. Phil Foden was brought down outside the box, giving England a free kick in a dangerous area. Marcus Rashford stepped up to take it, firing the ball over the wall and past Ward into the back of the net.
It was a second half made in Manchester as within 60 seconds England had scored again. Harry Kane crossed the ball through to Phil Foden who was able to slot the ball in the back of the net doubling England’s advantage.
With England outperforming Wales, Southgate was able to make some changes to give a few players some world cup minutes, including Calvin Phillips and Trent Alexander-Arnold. Moments later Phillips pass found Rashford on a run towards the goal, he ran the ball into the box and danced around the Welsh defence, putting the ball in the back of the net, through keeper Wards legs.
With the USA’s 1-0 win over Iran in the other Group B game both England and the USA have qualified for the last 16, while it is the end of the line for Wales and Iran. England will play Senegal on Sunday 4th December, while the USA with face the Netherlands on Saturday 3rd December.