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Bukayo Saka hits a brace as England rout Iran 6-2 to begin World Cup proceedings

All eyes were on England and Iran as the players walked out from the tunnel and on to the field. England had backtracked on their initial promise of wearing the One Love captain armbands after fears of sanctions that their captain Harry Kane would get booked in the very first minute. 

Meanwhile, the Iran players held their ground and refused to sing the national anthem on the account of solidarity with the protestors and showing their defiance of the regime back home.

Many fans have accused the squad of siding with the violent state crackdown on popular protests after the death of Mahsa Amini in September following her arrest for wearing a headscarf incorrectly.

Those present at the Khalifa International Stadium, too, booed the anthem when it was played ahead of kickoff. State footage in Iran removed the footage of the players lining up in its live showing. 

On the pitch, however, it proved to be a big mismatch as England annihilated Iran 6-2 thanks to a brace of goals from Bukayo Saka while Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, and Jack Grealish also got on the scoresheet for England.

Iran suffered their first concern when goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand suffered a head-on collision with his teammate Majid Hosseini. Requiring medical assistance, Beiranvand initially tried to shrug it off and carried playing on, before going down again and needing to be stretchered off the pitch in the 19th minute. Hossein Hosseini came on as a concussion substitute instead.

Borussia Dortmund teenager Jude Bellingham scored his first goal for England to break the deadlock in the 35th minute of the contest after heading home a delightful cross from Luke Shaw. Bukayo Saka then doubled their advantage with a wonderful first-time volley off Harry Maguire’s cushioned header. Meanwhile, Raheem Sterling got on the end of a Harry Kane low cross to make it 3-0 in favor of England heading into the half-time break.

The second half became an exercise in damage limitation for England manager Gareth Southgate. However, Saka further stretched their advantage with a wonderful run and side-stepping the attempted challenges of two defenders before slotting the ball into the net calmly.

Iran found a goal out of nowhere as striker Mehdi Taremi ghosted in behind Harry Maguire and beat goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. Their joy was short-lived though as Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish came off the bench to put the game to bed.

Sardar Azmoun almost pulled off another consolation goal for Iran but his shot took the fingertips of Pickford and went behind for a corner. Iran received a penalty in the dying embers of the game which Taremi converted to reduce the margin of victory and make it 6-2 on the night.