Football has a masterstroke. Politically, the United States and the United Kingdom hold the long spoon toward Iran but the game of football has pitched Iran with one of the two powerful western countries for direct physical contact, which is good for international rapprochement.
The United States is pending in the same group. They are caught between fair play and competition.
Though, combative, the sport offered something beyond the 22 players or more who hoisted their national flags in Qatar. It is the platform of sports that engineers room for political opposites to ease into a new, exciting realm of cordiality.
Well, in this exchange between England and Iran, the object of attention was the rotund leather chased by 44 feet and 4 hands. Not the talk and perceptions about ammunition that often heightens the tension between Iran and western powers. Here, within the limits of rules and time, the two chased after opportunism.
The English pedigree was firmly in place more than the unknown, and the intentions of Iran were clear from the beginning. They were extra-cautious and packed their defense.
They knew England was going to attack and indeed that was the case for the first 15 minutes of this interesting fixture.
The initial strategy of the Persians appeared to work as their predators could not easily draw fissures and had to hustle in crowded compartments. That roadblock forced England to take to alternative plans, probably templated for specific scenarios.
Thus, England adopted the style of floating high balls into Iranian territory but it was early days yet, as to how that approach may be productive. Then from nowhere, Bellingham popped up with something Iran might not have estimated. Boommmmmm, it was a powerful header from the English forward, not from the foot where Iran appeared to have mapped a strategy.
From this stage, England settled into their traditional style which focused on getting the ball to the other end, without a play to the gallery.
This dismantled and perforated the defensive network of Iran. Even when Iran’s defensive composition was in place, the English got around it with powerful speculative shots to mesmerize their opponents in their own danger box.
They managed to squeeze shots through bottlenecks to score, the robust plan of their opponents regardless. That is how Bellingham, Saka (2), Sterling, Jack Grealish, and Rashford got their names on the scoresheet of England.
But Iran had some fighting spirit in them. They hit the back of the English net twice. Mehdi Taremi scored both goals. One in open play and the other from the spot kick. To wit, there were wild jubilations in the stands, in sharp contrast with the players who looked crest-fallen for going down so heavily. 6-2 was the final score.
With hosts, Qatar pummelled by Ecuador in the competition’s first match and Iran following suit at the hands of another powerhouse of football, skill has soared higher already in Qatar.
This only means the stereotypic advantage often associated with home grounds and regional familiarity, is dislodged and dumped away in 21st-century football.