England showed there is life in the team that lost the Euro 2020 final with a 6-2 win over Iran.
Yes, playing against Iran in your first World Cup game is fortunate. You could even criticise England for conceding two goals.
However, the manner of the victory was instructive. The narrative around England has been that the team is at the end of it’s cycle under Southgate.
Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka scored the first two goals to show that there is another layer emerging.
It was a wonderful game for Bukayo Saka in particular to score his first world cup goals and get going in the tournament.
The last time most people saw him in a three lions shirt was when he missed the penalty to give Italy the Euro 2020 final win. To impose himself on his first world cup game like that shows that he and England are not chastised by the experience.
Similarly, Jude Bellingham scored his first goal for England in a performance that showcased his talent on the world stage. He has been playing incredibly well, but in Germany where most people don’t pay attention to him.
Far from miserly old Southgate sticking with the guys he knows, the England boss has successfully brought through two of the team’s next stalwarts to start performing at the right time.
Obviously, both the U.S and Wales will pose more of a threat in England’s group. If they progress, there will be much, much sterner challenges ahead.
However with the win, they’ve put themselves in an advantageous position to qualify for the knockout stages. This team knows how to manage tournaments, and they’ve given themselves the opportunity to play themselves into this one.