Bukayo Saka more than justified Gareth Southgate’s faith in him during England’s win over Iran, and Arsenal boss Mikel Arteta may have contributed to his heroics.
The 21-year-old scored twice in the Three Lions’ World Cup opener as England cruised to a 6-2 win at the Khalifa International Stadium.
Saka justified Southgate’s decision to include him in his line-up at the expense of both Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford.
The Gunners academy graduate fired in two clinical strikes in either half with his dazzling display seeing him named as the man of the match.
Since missing the deciding penalty in the Euro 2020 final shootout defeat to Italy, Saka has become a key player for both club and country.
And the youngster has credited Arteta for helping him develop and become the footballer he is today.
Speaking to talkSPORT’s England correspondent Faye Carruthers on how much he grown in the last 18 months, Saka said: “I’ve grown in many ways.
“Of course I’ve got more big games under my belt, experience, more minutes.
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“And with each game you always learn more and more and when I have a coach at Arsenal and a coach here that are so supportive, so much tactical detail to help me in training sessions and on the pitch, there’s no way I was never going to improve.”
Saka also revealed he wanted to make Southgate proud against Iran after finding out he was to make his World Cup debut.
Commenting on his reaction to finding out he was to start, Saka remarked: “I was very excited, it’s a massive opportunity for me to start a game at the World Cup.
“It’s things of dreams, it’s not things that happen to every kid, so it was an amazing honour.
“I just wanted to make him [Southgate] proud and justify his selection and repay the faith that he’s given me.”
Saka also believes the emphatic victory has sent out a warning to England’s World Cup rivals.
He added: “It shows what we can do when we play at our best, that we do have quality to go forward, to defend.
“We’re a team that’s very good.”
And as for his brilliant brace, Saka said: “What a feeling! I can’t really describe how I’m feeling.
“One of the most special days of my life to have my family here.
“To score two goals at the World Cup, I don’t really know what to say because I can’t describe it. I’m just so happy.”
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