Saka starts for England as Maguire retains place for Iran clash

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England’s players stand during the national anthem before the start of their Qatar 2022 World Cup Group B football match against ran at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha on Monday. AFP

Gareth Southgate handed Bukayo Saka a place in England’s starting line-up and kept faith with struggling defender Harry Maguire as the Three Lions kicked off their World Cup campaign against Iran in Doha on Monday.

Arsenal forward Saka, who missed the decisive penalty in England’s Euro 2020 final shoot-out defeat against Italy, got the nod from Southgate instead of Manchester City’s Phil Foden and Manchester United’s Marcus Rashford.

Saka’s selection for the Group B game comes after his impressive form for Arsenal helped the Gunners climb to the top of the Premier League prior to the World Cup.

Mason Mount and Raheem Sterling filled the two other creative attacking places behind England striker Harry Kane.

With few other experienced defensive options, Southgate retained Maguire at centre-back despite his dismal form and lack of playing time for Manchester United this term.

John Stones played alongside Maguire at the heart of England’s defence, with Kieran Trippier at right-back and Luke Shaw at left-back.

Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham formed England’s two-man central midfield as Southgate’s men look to end a six-game winless run leading into the tournament.

Iran were without key striker Sardar Azmoun after the Bayer Leverkusen star failed to recover from a calf injury that has kept him out since October.

Mehdi Taremi, the Porto striker who has impressed on the Champions League stage, was partnered by former Brighton forward Alireza Jahanbakhsh in the Iran attack.

England (4-2-3-1)

Jordan Pickford; Kieran Trippier, John Stones, Harry Maguire, Luke Shaw; Declan Rice, Jude Bellingham; Bukayo Saka, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling; Harry Kane

Coach: Gareth Southgate (ENG)

Iran (3-5-2)

Alireza BeIranvand; Morteza Pouraliganji, Rouzbeh Cheshmi, Majid Hosseini; Sadegh Moharrami, Ali Karimi, Ahmad Nourollahi, Ehsan Hajsafi, Milad Mohammadi; Alireza Jahanbakhsh, Mehdi Taremi

Coach: Carlos Queiroz (POR)

Referee: Raphael Claus (BRA)

Agence France-Presse

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