Declan Rice believes the stern criticism England received ahead of the World Cup allowed them to play with “fire in our bellies” in Monday’s 6-2 thrashing of Iran.
Gareth Southgate’s team faced heavy scrutiny following their humiliating Nations League relegation in September, having failed to win any of their six games in the competition.
However, they cast aside any doubts over their form by recording England’s biggest win in an opening match at any major tournament.
Jude Bellingham, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford and Jack Grealish scored and Bukayo Saka added a double at the Khalifa International Stadium.
“There were doubts about us before the tournament and we wanted to prove a lot of people wrong,” Rice said.
“There has been a lot of talk about us not winning in our last six matches. By our standards, with the players we have got, we know that it hasn’t been good enough.
“But this was a World Cup stage, and you could see there was a fire in our bellies.
The start we wanted. More work to be done
— England (@England)
“People will say, ‘It’s only Iran’, but they have had some good results at past World Cups. In September, they beat Uruguay and drew with Senegal.
“It was a real positive performance, but we can’t get too ahead of ourselves. It’s the USA next and they are going to be another level up.
“First game, first win. We can’t ask for any more.”
England’s next Group B contest sees them take on the United States – who they have never beaten in a World Cup match (D1 L1).
However, the Three Lions have won eight of their 11 meetings with the USA (D1 L2) in all competitions, with their last defeat to the Stars and Stripes coming in 1993.