At the end of a highly emotional football day, Jude Bellingham and Gareth Southgate hugged each other. There was a lot to process for the 19-year-old goalscorer from Borussia Dortmund and England's national coach after the 6-2 (3-0) victory over Iran at the start of the World Cup.
First the short-term and forced renunciation of the symbolic colorful captain's armband, then a World Cup record start with six own goals and a lot of turbulence within a few hours.
"It's a really good day for us. Six goals at a World Cup is absolutely impressive," said Bellingham, who scored his first international goal on his World Cup debut and started the goal celebration with his 1-0 lead. The debates about the "One Love" bandage seemed to have been suppressed for a short time at this point, when the hit "Sweet Caroline" was celebrated from the speakers and "God Save the King" from the ranks.
"We are very happy to start the tournament like this"
The Three Lions with captain Harry Kane, who did not have the controversial armband for diversity on his arm after the announced sanctions by FIFA, had started a World Cup in Al-Rajjan more clearly than ever in their history and so impressively showed their ambitions for the title after. "We needed that good start," doubles goalscorer Bukayo Saka told the BBC: "There was a lot of talk and speculation about our form but we showed everyone how much quality we have and what we can do. I'm so happy and stuff proud." The covert playmaker Kane, Saka and Bellingham played outstandingly.
For England it was the first win since March, in the summer there was not a single success in six Nations League games. More than two goals by Mehdi Taremi (65th/90th 13/penalty) were not possible for Iran. There were two more than ten minutes of stoppage time due to numerous interruptions.
England skilfully and routinely left the numerous political debates in the charged game behind. "It's a great start for us. It's exactly what we wanted. There are still things we need to work on," said Mason Mount, who was preferred to Phil Foden as an attacking midfielder. But the young BVB star Bellingham set the pace in the middle. "Gareth said we should enjoy it. This win takes some of the pressure off us," said Dortmund's key player.
The game was heavily political
Even before kick-off at the Chalifa International Stadium, which also hosted the World Athletics Championships in 2019, the game was strongly political and symbolic. While England failed to send their signal, those of the Asian underdogs were all the more visible - albeit on a different matter altogether. Some Iranian fans showed their solidarity with the protests at home by wearing shirts that read "Women, Life, Freedom". For weeks, Iran has been rocked by the worst protests in decades. The death of a young woman in police custody had triggered this, and the security apparatus reacted with harshness. The Iranian players were silent during the anthem, the fans made additional noise - this is also understood as a protest.
The sport and thus the first appearance of the vice European champion moved to the edge of attention for a long time. This was also the case after about ten minutes when Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand was down after a violent collision with a team-mate and had to be treated. The goalkeeper walked off the field after a total of around ten minutes of play and was later taken to the hospital for further tests.
Bellingham then provided relief, heading into the far corner after a well-placed cross from Luke Shaw. In addition to the strong conductor, the wingers Saka and Sterling in particular made a good pace - and also the goals that were well worth seeing, which Harry Maguire and Kane initiated. The game was decided at halftime, in the second 45 minutes it was all about the amount of the English opening success. Saka was served well again, moved in from the right and pushed in to make it 4-0. Taremi's brace and the wildcard goals Rashford and Grealish had little impact on England's clear victory.