DOHA, Qatar (AP) — When Bukayo Saka and Marcus Rashford last walked off the field at a major international soccer tournament, they were bombarded with racist abuse.
Three goals for England in the team’s opening match at this year’s World Cup was their immediate riposte.
Saka scored two before giving way to Rashford, who added another in the second half of England’s 6-2 rout of Iran on Monday.
The jubilant scene at the Khalifa International Stadium was in contrast to the tears shed following England’s penalty shootout loss to Italy in last year’s European Championship final. Saka and Rashford both failed to convert from the spot and were targeted on social media.
The win also provides encouragement for coach Gareth Southgate, who has faced the most troubled period of his England tenure over the last year. In a difficult buildup to the tournament in Qatar, he was booed after a 4-0 loss to Hungary in June and was humiliated by his own fans when they chanted, “You don’t know what you’re doing.”
Hundreds of fans missed the start of Monday’s match because of an issue with digital tickets. When they eventually made their way to their seats, they witnessed an utterly dominant display from England.
Jude Bellingham’s first international goal opened the scoring in the 35th minute.
Saka then got his first of the match in the 43rd and Raheem Sterling added another in first-half stoppage time. Saka scored his second shortly after the hour, but Mehdi Taremi pulled one back for Iran in the 65th minute.
Rashford struck six minutes later to extend England’s lead to 5-1, and Jack Grealish also stepped off the bench to score a sixth in the 90th. Taremi added another for Iran from the penalty spot deep in stoppage time after John Stones was penalized for holding Morteza Pouraliganji’s shirt in the box.
The game was delayed for several minutes in the first half when Iran goalkeeper Ali Beiranvand clashed heads with a teammate. He was eventually taken off the field on a stretcher with the score still 0-0.
His replacement, Hossein Hosseini, was left with the unenviable task of facing England’s potent attack.
The match had a total of 29 minutes of stoppage time, 15 minutes in the first half and 14 in the second.