England forward Harry Kane trains on the eve of Iran match
England forward Harry Kane trains on the eve of Iran match

England targets fast start against Iran in Group B opener

Under Gareth Southgate’s watch, England has been agonisingly close to winning major silverware for the first time since 1966 – first with a semi-final finish at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and then losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

DOHA: England could not have done a better job of lowering expectations than by going six competitive matches without a win heading into the World Cup, but when it kicks off against Iran on Monday, a nation will start dreaming again.

Under Gareth Southgate’s watch, England has been agonisingly close to winning major silverware for the first time since 1966 – first with a semi-final finish at the 2018 World Cup in Russia and then losing to Italy on penalties in the Euro 2020 final.

There is a nagging sense that those near-misses might be as close as England come and that opportunities have passed by. But, despite a woeful run of results, England has arrived in Qatar as one of the teams more likely to be crowned world champion.

For that to happen, a fast start will be essential and a Group B opener against Iran offers that opportunity, even if it would be dangerous to underestimate a team managed by Carlos Queiroz.

In its six-game winless run in the Nations League, England lacked creativity and goals and was occasionally chaotic in defence, especially in the 0-4 home defeat to Hungary.

A thrilling 3-3 draw with Germany in its final game before the World Cup renewed some optimism and Southgate’s squad certainly looks equipped to control a group which will also pitch it against the United States of America and Wales.

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