England vs Iran: Harry Maguire to start in World Cup opener as Gareth Southgate set to play 4-3-3

Harry Maguire will start England’s World Cup opener in a back four against Iran with Gareth Southgate set to play 4-3-3.

Southgate’s change of formation means there is space for an extra midfielder in the starting XI, with Jude Bellingham likely to make his first World Cup start.

Reports elsewhere suggest that Bukayo Saka will get the nod ahead of Phil Foden on the right wing.

Jude Bellingham is set to start his first World Cup game for England

Maguire’s inclusion is controversial considering he has made just one Premier League start since September but the Manchester United defender has been an integral part of England’s last two major tournaments.

The 29-year-old was key in the Three Lions’ 2018 World Cup semi-final run and was then named in the team of the tournament as England finished runners-up at Euro 2020.

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Whilst at the Abu Dhabi GP on Sunday, former Manchester United captain Patrice Evra and Manchester City boss Pep Guardiola give their thoughts ahead of the World Cup in Qatar

But starting Bellingham is less contentious with the 19-year-old enjoying an outstanding season at Borussia Dortmund with nine goals in 22 appearances in all competitions this campaign.

Maddison, Walker out of Iran match

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England manager Gareth Southgate gives an injury update on the team that will face Iran in the World Cup and confirms they will kneel as a ‘strong statement’

James Maddison and Kyle Walker will miss England’s opener at the Khalifa International Stadium in Doha.

Walker is still recovering from groin surgery, while Maddison has yet to train since arriving in Qatar after picking up a knee problem.

“Kyle Walker is a little bit short for this game but is progressing really well. We are ahead of where we thought he might be at this point,” Southgate said in his news conference on Sunday.

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Ahead of England’s opening game at the World Cup against Iran, we take a look at some of the best strikes scored by some of the Three Lions squad members!

“James hasn’t been able to train since we arrived so he will not be able to make the game tomorrow.”

Southgate continued: “Our challenge is to give our supporters a tournament that’s memorable. We have taken them on fantastic journeys in our lives to tournaments.

“Our country is also going through a difficult spell – not the same as some of the other countries around the world.

“But we’re in an economic recession and life has been difficult for a lot of our people so we want them to enjoy their football and have a journey with our team that brings some real happiness.”

England to take a knee before Iran opener

Harry Kane takes a knee ahead of England's Nations League game with Hungary
England players will take a knee before their World Cup opener with Iran

England will take a knee before their World Cup opener against Iran, Southgate has confirmed.

England made the gesture against racism and inequality in 33 straight matches when football returned after the Covid-19 shutdown.

England did not take a knee in September’s fixtures but they will make the gesture in Monday’s Group B opener and beyond at the World Cup.

“We have discussed taking the knee,” Southgate said. “We feel we should. It’s what we stand for as a team and have done for a long period of time.

“Of course, we understand in the Premier League that clubs have decided to only do that for certain games, big occasions, we feel this is the biggest.

“We think it is a strong statement to go around the world for young people in particular to see that inclusivity is very important.”

Premier League captains decided ahead of the start of this season to use specific moments to take a knee rather than making the gesture at every match.

The teams agreed to perform the act ahead of the opening round, dedicated ‘No Room For Racism’ matches in October and March, on Boxing Day and the final round, as well as the FA Cup and Carabao Cup finals.

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