Former Birmingham City midfielder Jude Bellingham played a huge role as England ran riot in their World Cup opener, thrashing Iran by six goals to two. Having dominated the midfield throughout, Bellingham was one of the best players on the pitch - and he even grabbed a goal.
The boyhood Bluenose, who now plays his club football for German side Borussia Dortmund, scored a fine header to get the goal-fest underway. The 19-year-old rose highest to convert Luke Shaw’s cross and became the second-youngest England player to score at a World Cup, behind Michael Owen.
It was his first-ever senior international goal - and it kicked off a dominant display for Gareth Southgate’s side. No wonder that pundits didn’t take long to react to his fine showing. “Oh my word what a performance, incredible,” Premier League legend Alan Shearer told BBC Sport. “Well done Gareth Southgate - some big calls made [including starting Bellingham] - and they’ve worked for him.
“His goal - it’s a really clever header, he times it well and he has the ability to put it in the corner. It was a complete performance from a very exciting player - he did everything, he tackled the ball, scored a goal, ran well. It really was a special day.”
Meanwhile, former England hero Rio Ferdinand said: “How confident and composed he is - the authority he plays about goes well beyond his years. He’s a fabulous footballer. We talk about the greatest midfielders of England in our generation - none of them were doing what he is at his age.
“It’s fabulous to see, the way he conducts the play. For a young player, he’s even looking to add to his game [by wanting to score more] and that’s incredible. You normally do that at 23, 24 - not 19. Everything he does is brilliant. He’s the complete player.”
With 113, Bellingham made the fourth-most touches out of any player on the pitch against Iran. The midfielder scored one goal, completed two dribbles, made three tackles, and was successful with 96.8% of his passes. England’s next World Cup Group B clash is against the USA, on Friday, November 25.