England vs. Iran: Harry Maguire to start in World Cup opener, with Gareth Southgate planning a 4-3-3 formation.
Harry Maguire will start in a back four against Iran in England’s World Cup opener; Maguire has only made one Premier League start since September; Jude Bellingham is expected to play as Gareth Southgate opts for a 4-3-3 formation; and Bukayo Saka is expected to start ahead of Phil Foden, according to reports.
Southgate’s formation tweak allows for an extra midfielder in the starting XI, with Jude Bellingham expected to earn his World Cup debut.
According to reports, Bukayo Saka will start ahead of Phil Foden on the right wing.
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.
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.
“Southgate will start the World Cup with a flat back four, with Harry Maguire in the heart of the defense and John Stones alongside him.”
“That opens up a space in midfield and allows him to play 4-3-3, and 19-year-old Jude Bellingham is looking increasingly likely to make his England World Cup debut in the starting XI.”
“He’s performed admirably in huge games in the Champions League as well, and he appears to be in terrific condition.” What he brings to England is a box-to-box midfielder who neither Declan Rice, Kalvin Phillips, nor Mason Mount can provide.
“That energy and agility Gareth Southgate feels might be very critical as they try to break down a tenacious Iranian defense that we expect to sit very, very deep and deploy a fairly low block against England.”