Merson backs Liverpool, Man Utd stars to start for England in World Cup opener


Paul Merson has named his preferred starting XI for England’s World Cup opener against Iran, which includes Trent Alexander-Arnold and Marcus Rashford.

It is now exactly two months until England’s first game of the 2022 World Cup against Iran in Group B.

The Three Lions will also come up against the United States and Wales in the group stages.


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Merson has picked the team he would like to start against Iran in November. Reece James is expected to be Gareth Southgate’s first-choice right-back, but he thinks that Alexander-Arnold “must play in the opener”.

The pundit has also left out Harry Maguire as he believes Kyle Walker needs to partner John Stones at centre-back:

“We’re playing Iran in the first game, which going to be hard,” Merson wrote for Sky Sports.

“It’s a nightmare start against a team that is used to being in hot weather. It’s their first game and they’re going to run around – it’s not like the third game of the group and they’re out. How many shocks do we normally see in the first round of games? You see loads.

“I don’t like playing four at the back – and in any other game I’d play three, but we have to break Iran down.

“Whatever happens, Alexander-Arnold must play in the opener. I definitely don’t think he’s a better player than James in terms of being an all-round player.

“But if you’re talking about a team like Iran who are going to put 10 behind the ball and you need to break them down, Trent has to be in the team for that game. He’s the best passer of the ball in the country, in my opinion.

“Jordan Pickford will be in goal, with Trippier at left-back because it might be a set play that wins it.

“Then I would have to put Walker at centre-back, because if you’re asking Alexander-Arnold to bomb forward then Walker has to play because of his pace. I would probably play John Stones with him.”

Rashford has made a great start to the new season under Erik ten Hag, but he missed out on a place in Southgate’s squad for this month’s internationals through injury.

Merson went onto suggest that Rashford should start against Iran alongside Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling:

“You don’t need two holding midfield players against Iran so there’s no need for both Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips,” Merson continued.

“So I’d play Rice in there, Mason Mount to the side of him with Phil Foden on the other side as we have to get him in the team. The front three will be Raheem Sterling, Harry Kane and Marcus Rashford – if he keeps on firing.”

He added: “It might be a big match but we should dominate this football game so I want as many players on the pitch that are going to hurt them. We can’t be playing sideways football, I want people who are going to commit players and put people through with eye-of-the-needle passes.

“As soon as we play against a top team and we start getting into the knockout stages, I think we have to play a three at the back. I don’t think we’re good enough against those teams to play four. If we do, I don’t think we’ll do anything at the World Cup.”

 





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