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

Harry Maguire will start in a back four against Iran in England's World Cup opener; Maguire has made just one Premier League start since September; Jude Bellingham makes World Cup debut as Gareth Southgate opts for a 4-3-3 formation; Bukayo Saka to start ahead of Phil Foden

Harry Maguire started both of England's final two Nations League games
Image: Harry Maguire has started just one Premier League game for Man Utd since September

Harry Maguire will start England's World Cup opener against Iran in a back four, with Gareth Southgate set to play a 4-3-3 formation after his first XI of the tournament was confirmed.

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

Bukayo Saka has also been given the nod ahead of Phil Foden on the right wing, joining Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling in a front three.

Jude Bellingham is at his best as an attacking No 8, says Jamie Carragher
Image: Jude Bellingham will 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.

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.

England's starting XI vs Iran

Pickford, Trippier, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Bellingham, Rice, Mount, Saka, Sterling, Kane.

Also See:

Subs: Walker, Grealish, Henderson, Rashford, Pope, Phillips, Dier, Coady, Alexander-Arnold, Foden, White, Ramsdale, Wilson, Gallagher.

Continuity rules for Southgate

Sky Sports' Nick Wright:

"No surprises in Gareth Southgate's team and that's just how he likes it. This is a manager who puts chemistry and continuity first. To be fair to him, it's an approach which has served England well at the last two major tournaments.

"His line-up to face Iran features only two changes from the one that played against Italy in the final of Euro 2020, with Bukayo Saka and Jude Bellingham the new faces and Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips the men to drop out.

"In fact, if it wasn't for the Manchester City pair's injuries, Southgate might well have named the same exact team he did at Wembley back in July of last year.

"Harry Maguire's selection is sure to cause debate but Southgate will be hoping stability serves him well again as he leads England into his third major tournament as manager."

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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

'Positive selection from Southgate'

Sky Sports News senior reporter Rob Dorsett:

"It's pretty much as we expected with regards the England team news.

"Gareth Southgate has gone with a 4-3-3 formation which is positive against an Iran team he expects to sit back.

"England will have most of the ball and will be expected to do most of the running.

"Because he's gone with a flat back four, that allows him to have an extra midfielder. Jude Bellingham's name will stand out from this starting XI.

"He makes his World Cup debut at the age of 19. He's athleticism and ability to break the lines make him key."

England will not wear OneLove armband at World Cup

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Rob Dorsett and Kaveh Solhekol analyse why England, Wales and other European nations have decided not to wear the OneLove armband at the World Cup in Qatar.

England will not wear the OneLove armband at the World Cup in Qatar, with the U-turn announced just three hours before their opening match against Iran.

The FA and Harry Kane had been adamant they would wear the armband as a message of anti-discrimination and support for the LGBTQ+ community.

But on Monday morning, FA CEO Mark Bullingham said England had been exploring whether there is "another way to show our values" after FIFA threatened to book any captain wearing the OneLove rainbow armband in World Cup matches.

Less than an hour later, a statement released by the Football Associations of England, Wales, Belgium, Denmark, Germany, The Netherlands and Switzerland confirmed they would not wear the armband.

Read more on the story HERE

England to take a knee before Iran opener

Harry Kane takes a knee ahead of England's Nations League game with Hungary
Image: 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."

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