Key individual players were also analysed, plus the potential formations Southgate could consider. Read on to see who they chose and why... Neville: Why England must play with a back three "I'm going with a three at the back because I'm going with what Gareth has done in the last few games. I would be amazed if he switched it from that to a back four. He hasn't got a centre-back pairing that he trusts. Which two centre-backs do you put in and say you trust them? None of them are good enough, unfortunately. "One of the best ways to beat a team like Iran, USA and Wales is to stop counter-attacks and defend well. In international football, if you get counter-attacked, you're going to be in big trouble.
"Jack Grealish is a bold one but I always feel he is the one player who looks for Harry Kane when he gets the ball. Saka is bang in form so I feel he has to play as well. Rashford is going to be a wildcard coming on 10, 20 minutes into the game. But I would have Foden in behind Kane. "Carney backing Maguire "I wasn't confident with anyone I put in that centre-back position, but I went with Maguire because he has experience with tournament football for the opening game. Also his relationship with Pickford and John Stones.
"Then obviously Harry Kane's through the middle but there's a question over whether Raheem Sterling starts. He's another one that Southgate likes and trusts. He's done well for him and did well at the Euros, chipping in with some assists and goals. Raheem Sterling shone for England at Euro 2020 but has struggled since joining Chelsea "Against Iran, I think Southgate may err on the side of caution and play his more experienced players, and maybe that will get Sterling a place on the left.
I think he'll want to put John Stones and Harry Maguire together again - they obviously know each other's games. Maguire, as we all know, hasn't been playing for Manchester United so hopefully he can pick up the pace. But experience counts for a lot - he's been to a World Cup and the Euros. "The only other way is maybe playing Ben White on the right of the three if Kyle Walker's not there, but Ben's inexperienced and that would be a huge call.
"I think he'll go Kieran Trippier right-back, Luke Shaw left-back and Stones and Maguire in the middle. If Kyle Walker becomes available, things could change. "Jordan Pickford's the goalkeeper. I think it might be a 4-2-1-3 type of situation, with a No 10. It looks like Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham as Kalvin Phillips is still lacking in match fitness. You wouldn't want to be leaving Bellingham out - he's a superstar in the making and I think he could be one of the big successes of the World Cup. "It would be good if Bellingham and Rice could build up the type of relationship Phillips and Rice did. It's a slightly different dynamic but that looks good and hopefully will give the defence some protection. "Just ahead of them would be Mason Mount. He hasn't been hitting the heights at Chelsea but Southgate loves him. He's so versatile and he's such a good player that I'd put him in the starting XI.
I have to play Trent Alexander-Arnold because he's the best passer in the country. "I haven't put Foden in. It's one of those game where it's tight, we need to move the ball quickly. With Bellingham, Rice and Mount they move the ball quickly. The ones upfront dribble too much and I don't think that's going to beat teams. We need to play one or two touch football all over the pitch. "I think this is a real hard game. They've got one of the best coaches at the World Cup, who's going to get them tight and defending. Their best player is their centre forward and if we start getting carried away and pushing forward, he will hurt us. "Smith: Four-man defence and faith in Sterling "I think Gareth Southgate will go with four at the back.
"Maguire is only going for one reason because he's going to play. Southgate trusts him, he's his main man. Maguire doesn't let England down. "Playing for England is a lot different than playing Premier League football, international football is at another level. He's never let England down, he's going to have protection in Bellingham and Rice in front of him. I think he'll be alright. I think Gareth will say to Shaw on the left, 'Don't start bombing forward and getting carried away, we need to look after Maguire'. Image: Paul Merson's England XI to play Iran "I would have played Maddison but he hasn't been training so I put Mount in.
James Maddison, Callum Wilson, Conor Gallagher in England's World Cup squadHarry Kane: We're not afraid to say we can win World Cup | 'Poor form lowers expectations'Pick your England starting XI for World Cup 2022 | Every World Cup 2022 squad listed"If you have Bellingham racing forward from midfield, you have just Rice back there with potentially Harry Maguire and Stones, who can both get done by players in those channels, which the USA and Wales definitely have. It's critical in the games against the weaker teams, not just the better ones. "Alexander-Arnold and Shaw will be forward to make it a 3-4-3.
"Then on the right it's Bukayo Saka or Phil Foden. They're slightly different players. I saw Saka at Wolves and he does look tired, so maybe it'll be Foden for the opening game, but those two may share those duties on the right-hand side. Foden could even play on the left. "Carragher: Starting against Iran can help Maguire Harry Maguire has struggled for game time this season "Since England's last games where it went poorly for him, I think I said consistently for a few weeks that you can't play Maguire at the World Cup. But the closer it's got to it, I'm looking at other centre-back options and I'm not sure you can play them either. "Karen makes a great point that the relationship with Stones and Pickford, as well as Luke Shaw - who's a club team-mate - came into my mind. And the fact it was Iran in the first game, I think they're going to be really deep and defensive and maybe try the odd counter-attack.
"Will Gareth Southgate be thinking that he can get Maguire a game here, almost 90 minutes? You can't use a World Cup as almost warm-up games, but I look at that game and think another 90 minutes where he might not get as extended as he would do later on. "If every centre-back in the country is playing at the best we've seen them all play, Maguire is the best. That might be going back two years and he may not get back there ever again, but I don't think you can do what we've done at other tournaments with other centre-backs going in there.
World Cup 2022: England VS Iran Biglietti | Gratis - Dice.fm
"There's also another reason - I think he will play a back three in one of the last-16 or quarter-final games and he's only got five days before the tournament. He hasn't got time to be able to switch formations, he has to go with the one he's going to stick with. "He might change players, but you can't be flipping systems about… They played a back three in the last two matches in March and they've not played a back four for eight months now. He would've used the same system in March that he'll play in the tournament.
What TV channel is England v Iran on? Kick-off time, free live