After the dreadful draw with USA, England boss Gareth Southgate needed his side to step up against Wales this evening. And they did exactly that, with Marcus Rashford netting a brilliant brace either side of a strike from Phil Foden to give the Three Lions all three points. It was a straightforward night for England in the battle of Britain and, now, a contest with Senegal in the round of 16 awaits…
The first half of England’s match with Wales was a forgettable affair. Devoid of imagination and short on creativity, the Three Lions appeared to be stuck in USA mode.
But then the interval came and Southgate’s side came out roaring, putting an end to the illusion that this was going to be a tight, evenly-matched contest.
Rashford opened the scoring in the 50th minute, curling a free-kick past Danny Ward to break the deadlock. Cue wild celebrations from those wearing white around the Al Rayyan Stadium.
Foden made it two moments later, with the Manchester City star tapping home from close range after some excellent work from Harry Kane in the build-up.
And Rashford then bagged his second goal of the game in the 68th minute, finishing low having been played through by Kalvin Phillips on the City star’s return from injury.
So straightforward was England’s win in the end, Southgate was even able to make changes with plenty of time left on the clock.
And, in doing so, he effectively confirmed his favourites and those who he believes will be key as the Three Lions look to go all the way this winter.
In the 57th minute, off came Kane.
Goals are evading the Tottenham hitman so far this tournament but it was an impressive performance nonetheless, with the 29-year-old’s assist for Foden particularly memorable.
Callum Wilson came on in his place and was unlucky not to score himself.
At the same time as Kane coming off, Southgate decided to withdraw Kyle Walker from the proceedings with the Manchester City defender still feeling his way back from injury.
Walker divides opinion but, in the eyes of Southgate, he’s a key player. Certainly he did his chances of starting every match from now on no harm, stifling the threat of Daniel James during the contest prior to coming off.
One minute later, Declan Rice was told his day was done.
The West Ham star has always had Southgate’s backing and, with Kalvin Phillips injured and Jude Bellingham still learning, is the rock in the Three Lions’ midfield.
And Luke Shaw made way for Kieran Trippier in the 65th minute.
The Manchester United star is operating at the peak of his powers these days, having endured a slow start to the campaign, and will be integral as the Three Lions look to go all the way.
Southgate still had two subs left at his disposal towards the end. And he took off Rashford, though that only seemed to be because the United star had been suffering with cramp prior to coming off.
Kane, Rice, Shaw and Walker all seem to be favourites for Southgate as he looks to steer England to World Cup glory this winter.
Based on this evidence, it’s possible they can go all the way. Based on their second half performance, at least.
Next up for England will be a last 16 clash with Senegal, who battled their way to a narrow 2-1 win over Ecuador earlier in the day.
It will be the first meeting between the two teams, meaning they’ll be going into unknown territory when they face off on Sunday night (7pm).