‘I loved every minute’: Mason Mount relishing England role after Iran win | World Cup 2022

Wwelcome to the World Cup, Mason Mount. No, not the field of play but the post-match mixed zone, where the players have to file past representatives of the global media – a sometimes confusing realm where it is wise to expect the unexpected.

The Chelsea midfielder’s introduction came shortly after he had played his part in England’s stirring 6-2 win over Iran. “I’m from Portugal,” his questioner began. “I’d like to ask you what you think about the rumors regarding Chelsea and Cristiano Ronaldo?”

Mount’s face was a picture. Incredulity barely covered it. For the first time all day the 23-year-old did not know what to do, although it was not too long before he recovered his composure.

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This is a World Cup like no other. For the last 12 years the Guardian has been reporting on the issues surrounding Qatar 2022, from corruption and human rights abuses to the treatment of migrant workers and discriminatory laws. The best of our journalism is gathered on our dedicated Qatar: Beyond the Football home page for those who want to go deeper into the issues beyond the pitch.

Guardian reporting goes far beyond what happens on the pitch. Support our investigative journalism today.

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“Listen, I’m away with England so that’s all I’m focusing on,” Mount said. “I’ve just played my first World Cup game. And the experience I’ve just had is something that I dreamed of as a kid.”

It was a day when almost everything was picture perfect for Mount, one he will always remember, and it was impossible not to feel his exuberance, the sense of wonder. This is a player who has won the Champions League, but from the way he talked it was clear that he saw the World Cup as the pinnacle.

Harry Kane and Harry Maguire are expected to be fit for England’s game against the USA on Friday, but James Maddison’s knee problem kept him out of training again on Tuesday.

There was minor concern over Kane after the striker took a heavy blow to his right ankle early in England’s 6-2 World Cup thrashing of Iran on Monday, while Maguire was substituted after complaining of feeling unwell during the second half. However both players took part in a recovery session and should start when Gareth Southgate’s side face the US.

With England’s 11 starters against Iran going through a lighter session in the gym, most of the rest of the squad worked outside at the team’s training complex. However Maddison, who was not available against Iran, was absent. The Leicester midfielder has been nursing a knee problem and is a doubt to be involved on Friday.

England had 13 outfield players training outside. Callum Wilson, who came off the bench against Iran, took part in the indoor session but is fully fit.

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Kane and Maguire expected to be fit to face USA

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Harry Kane and Harry Maguire are expected to be fit for England’s game against the USA on Friday, but James Maddison’s knee problem kept him out of training again on Tuesday.

There was minor concern over Kane after the striker took a heavy blow to his right ankle early in England’s 6-2 World Cup thrashing of Iran on Monday, while Maguire was substituted after complaining of feeling unwell during the second half. However both players took part in a recovery session and should start when Gareth Southgate’s side face the US.

With England’s 11 starters against Iran going through a lighter session in the gym, most of the rest of the squad worked outside at the team’s training complex. However Maddison, who was not available against Iran, was absent. The Leicester midfielder has been nursing a knee problem and is a doubt to be involved on Friday.

England had 13 outfield players training outside. Callum Wilson, who came off the bench against Iran, took part in the indoor session but is fully fit.

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The way Mount played was as an enabler for Gareth Southgate’s system; leading the counter-press without the ball, sniffing out spaces between the lines when England had it. Southgate’s team were 4-2-3-1 out of possession, Mount pushing up in the No. 10 role, and 4-3-3 with it. That was when Mount became the left-sided No 8, Jude Bellingham in the corresponding role on the right and Declan Rice as the defensive midfielder.

The successful bonus about Southgate’s approach was the presence of an additional midfield runner in Bellingham. The 19-year-old was outstanding, bringing energy and incision. Mount also carried the ball to good effect, taking players on, drawing Iranian tackles and, quite often, fouls. His passing was sharp.

It was Mount’s awareness that made the difference. With Bellingham wanting to bomb forward and Harry Kane to drop back from his No 9 position to pick those passes and crosses, Mount had to find the pockets around them, to knit things together.

“Off the ball I was a bit higher to press and to have four up there to press,” Mount said. “Then on the ball … drifting to the left a bit more and Jude was a bit higher on the right with Dec [Rice] in the middle.

Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Jack Grealish of England celebrate Monday's dominant win against Iran.
Phil Foden, Mason Mount, Declan Rice and Jack Grealish of England celebrate Monday’s dominant win against Iran. Photograph: Eddie Keogh/The FA/Getty Images

“It was just trying to find that space behind their midfield because we knew they would jump and try to press our back four. We dealt with that really well. The rotations with our wingers and the full-backs, with ‘H’ [Kane] up top when he drops in and everyone is behind creating chances… it was such an enjoyable game. I loved every minute of it.”

England’s superiority was rooted in their dominance of the ball – 72% possession; 809 passes to Iran’s 224, 730 of which were completed. Southgate felt that the centre-halves, Harry Maguire and John Stones, provided the platform for England to get on the front foot and make runs in behind. They set the starting positions and their distribution was sound.

Stones had a 99% pass completion rate and Maguire stepped up with the ball at his feet to good effect, at times. It was Maguire’s pass through the lines that led to the opening goal, headed in by Bellingham after Luke Shaw’s cross from the left.

Maguire’s blot came when the Iran substitute Ali Gholizadeh slipped a pass in behind him for Mehdi Taremi to make it 4-1, and Stones gave away the late penalty for 6-2 after tugging at Taremi’s shirt for a split-second. The concessions visibly incensed the goalkeeper, Jordan Pickford, and led to a lecture from Southgate about focus.

Mount said: “The way we started the game on that high press and the way we played with the ball really set the tone. How we moved with the ball and the combinations that we played with is something we worked on during the previous five days we were here.

“But you see things about us needing to be more attacking… in the major tournaments you cannot afford to concede goals. That is when, going further, you start losing games. So you have to focus on that. That is what we have been doing as well. How defensively solid we can be.”

Mason Mount of England celebrates with family and friends after the win against Iran.
Mason Mount of England celebrates with family and friends after the win against Iran. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Danehouse/Getty Images

Mount did not want to talk about making any kind of statement to the rest of the tournament with the win; rather to turn the focus inwards. On a personal level, his season at Chelsea began slowly before his form spiked and then ebbed again. England, meanwhile, had labored under the cloud of their dismal Nations League campaign. They are back on the up.

“The previous six games [in the Nations League] … we didn’t have a win and so going into the Iran game, you can have that thought in your head that we need to get an early goal or else it could be a difficult one and a sticky one,” Mount said. “But the way that we trained and the desire to go out there and perform was top-class from all the boys.”

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