Micah Richards has praised the character of after he was named man of the match in England’s win over Iran.
England kicked-off their campaign in by thrashing Iran 6-2, with Saka scoring his country’s second and fourth goals, both of them stunning strikes.
They were Saka’s first major tournament goals, and came just 18 months after the Arsenal forward was subject to a tirade of racial abuse following the European Championships.
Saka, along with and Jadon Sancho, missed their penalties in England’s shootout final defeat to Italy at Wembley, and subsequently received horrible online abuse, followed by widespread messages of support from within the football community and the general public.
Since then, the 21-year-old has gone from strength-to-strength on the pitch, helping Arsenal to the top of the Premier League before the season was paused for the World Cup.
And after a standout performance in Qatar, Richards hailed the strength of Saka’s character to bounce back from what happened last summer.
‘He’s started the season brilliantly for Arsenal and he’s brought that to the England squad – wonderful,’ the former England and Manchester City defender told the BBC.
‘Having gone through that little bit of adversity and then having the character to bring it round and then perform like this, just shows you what sort of player and character he really is.’
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Post-match, Saka was jubilant, saying: ‘I can’t describe the feeling, it is amazing. I am so happy and so proud. We got the win as well so it is a really special day.
‘We needed that good start. We haven’t played the best coming into the tournament. There was a lot of talk and speculation about our form but we showed everyone how much quality we have and what we can do.
‘It is amazing to get the win under so much pressure. But we have to be consistent because we have the next game [against the USA] coming up in a few days and we have to win again.
‘I feel in a good place. I feel the support and love from the fans, the coaching staff and my teammates. That is all I need. I feel ready to give 100% and I will continue to do that every time I put the shirt on.’
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