Gareth Southgate told beating Iran will settle England’s nerves at World Cup

It's been such an unusual build up to a tournament, but it's still so important to get off to a good start against Iran.

The pressure will be on, especially after the disappointing results in the Nations League. In my day we faced criticism ahead of the 1982 World Cup – defensively people were worried about us. But in the end we only conceded one goal in five games and beat France in our opener.

The question of who partners John Stones in defence is complicated. I would probably go with Eric Dier – and yes he's made mistakes recently – but I think he's more match ready than Harry Maguire.

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Unfortunately in recent years we've often struggled against the supposed 'lesser' teams. Iran are no mugs – they beat Uruguay in September – but we should still be seeing them off. The team have to be positive going into the game.

And if you get the three points in the opener, it settles the nerves and the monkey is off your back as a player. In the camp they'll really feel it and the good vibes will filter through.

You then look at it and you probably only need one more win to get through. USA are a good side, but most of their players have been scattered around Europe.

Christian Pulisic is going to be the main man and I don't understand why he doesn't get more game time at Chelsea. He's got great pace, ability and can glide past players.

He will feel more confident in this USA side than he does for Chelsea and his teammates will be looking to him to make something happen.

England won't have to man mark him, but the players need to understand what an important cog he is in that team. You've got to stop him getting in the ball in those dangerous areas.

The thing with the USA is they do get better with every tournament they qualify for. In the last 20 years they've made massive strides and they do make it a tricky group to call.

Against Iran and the USA I'd be playing Trent Alexander-Arnold and James Maddison. We should have the bulk of the ball against both teams, so I'd want Alexander-Arnold for his attacking skills. He'll whip in balls to Harry Kane at any opportunity.

He might not be right for the knockout games, I get that, but these two games certainly suit him down to the ground. I know some people weren't sure about having Alexander-Arnold in the squad, but for me it was always a no brainer.

And with Maddison, he couldn't have done any more this season to make the squad. He's probably single-handedly dragged Leicester out of the relegation area – and his stats are better than any other equivalent English player.

It would be crazy for Southgate to not tap into that. What he brings is he wants the ball in areas between midfield and defence. He loves to take a risk and glide past people – he'll also win free kicks in dangerous areas.

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