Jude Bellingham instantly displays why he can dominate this World Cup for England





It was the high point of Bellingham’s night but this was a performance of more than simply scoring your first international goal. It was one of substance too.

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder’s first half was literally perfect – he ended it with a 100 per cent pass completion rate, despite Iran’s best efforts to disrupt England’s long spells of possession.

Bellingham maintained that perfect record until nine minutes after the re-start, when a driving run to the byline almost saw him produce a clear-cut chance.

He had by that point already played a key part in England’s third, as another burst through traffic in the middle of the park provided space to slip in Kane, a cute, toe-poked pass opening a new avenue of attack, just as he seemed to be getting crowded out.

It was moments like that where Bellingham reminded the Khalifa International Stadium that, despite still being an adolescent, he is England’s closest thing to a complete midfielder. His shirt number tells you that much.

No 22 may come a long way down Southgate’s 26-man squad list but it is the number Bellingham wears at club level and was the only one that Bellingham was ever going to wear at this tournament. As a teenager coming up through Birmingham City’s academy, a disgruntled young tyro wanted more opportunities playing as a No 10. His coaches had other ideas. They thought he was doing himself a disservice. He was a No 4, a No 8 and a No 10 all in one. He was, in other words, a No 22.

It is an idea that followed Bellingham throughout his career, all the way to Westphalia. Last season at Dortmund, he was deployed in several different midfield roles – as one of the double pivots in a 3-4-3, as the shuttling player on the outside of a diamond, or as one of the No 8s in a 4-3-3.

Bellingham looked the closest thing to England’s complete midfielder

Southgate is known to flit between systems himself, took note of this tactical versatility and it is perhaps no coincidence that since displaying such tactical flexibility, he seems to have moved ahead of Kalvin Phillips in the pecking order to partner Declan Rice.

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And with all respect to the midfield pairing that led England to a first major tournament final in 55 years, Bellingham’s ascension to starting status offers something different, something that Southgate’s England had perhaps needed.

At the turn of the year, the 19-year-old’s only competitive 90 minutes had come against San Marino. He has now started six of England’s last seven. He could still be there a decade from now. Welcome to the age of Jude Bellingham, est 2003.

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