In England’s first game of the 2022 World Cup, Iran couldn’t handle the energy and exuberance of the acclaimed England squad. That showed up on Monday. Gareth Southgate’s men ran rampant through a helpless Iranian defense.
The headline stars for England were the youngsters on the pitch celebrating their World Cup debut. Jude Bellingham and Bukayo Saka have revealed why they are among the hottest properties in world football.
Bellingham leads England youth at the World Cup
Bellingham, still only 19, gave England an unassailable lead. Even more impressive is that he displayed a maturity that transcended his teenage years. Put simply, his performance showed why a host of leading European clubs are looking to him.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise either. Ever since he made his Birmingham City debut at 16, everyone has been calling him a star. The anticipation doubled when he joined Borussia Dortmund for $35 million within a year of playing his first professional game. Bellingham then developed into a physical force capable of hitting Dortmund in the heart of their midfield. This season he has scored nine goals in 22 games despite playing an important role.
Such is his growing influence that he has been named captain of his club in the UEFA Champions League. As a reminder, he’s still only 19.
His energy is contagious. He never stands still and pushes his teammates forward. Bellingham’s touch and awareness of the ball belies his age. It’s arguably more like someone who has at least 50 caps to their name.
England have had a number of players in the past who announced themselves with goals in the world’s biggest competition. The performances prepare them for future success. Even then, Bellingham’s progress is astounding and rightly causes a stir. When the final whistle blew in Qatar on Monday, everyone who had seen him play said, “I told you so”.
After all, many believe England cannot become world champions without Jude Bellingham.
Young Gunner fires for England
A little further up the field for England, another youth star started this World Cup with a bang. That was the scorer of two of the six against Iran, Bukayo Saka. While his style is more flamboyant than Bellingham’s, they share traits that set them apart from many others their age. You are always ready to learn. Also, each has a humility that enhances their position as two of the brightest talents in the competition.
This almost analytical but hardworking nature is something that emanates from Saka. He’s a star who got over an immense disappointment just over a year ago. He failed for England at the last hurdle of the European Championship. Saka saw his penalty, England’s last chance to stay alive in the final against Italy, saved by Gianluigi Donnarumma. The save against Saka denied England their first major title since 1966.
Instead of wallowing in self-pity, Saka grabbed his hands and worked hard on his game. Hidden persistence saw him named England’s Player of the Year in 2021. On a more consistent basis, he’s a key reason for Arsenal’s success this season. With the Gunners at the top of the league, the 21-year-old forward has four goals and six assists in 14 Premier League games.
Now Saka has made over 100 appearances for Arsenal in all competitions. He has also won 20 caps for England in the last two years. So if his current form continues, he will become the hottest commodity in English football.
PHOTO: IMAGO / Pressinphoto
Guide to the 2022 World Cup
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