4 months ago

Wales 0-3 England - World Cup 2022 Marcus Rashford Brace Fires Three Lions into the Last-16

Just 98 seconds. That’s all it was. The difference between England the sterile, the tame, and England marching into the World Cup knock-out stages, buoyant and energized again, Senegal standing between Gareth Southgate’s players and a place in the quarter-finals.

That’s tournament football for you. England struggled to break down Wales in the first-half when 11 men gathered behind the ball and sometimes in their own penalty area. And then in minutes 50 and 51, two goals and blessed relief. England were on top of Group B with seven points and a goal difference that eventually read +7. To put this into perspective, Holland qualified from Group A with seven points and a goal difference of +4, and nobody thinks Louis van Gaal is holding the team back.

Once again, Southgate made several big calls and they came right. Marcus Rashford, selected ahead of Raheem Sterling, scored twice and started the move for another. Phil Foden scored and won the free-kick that ultimately broke the deadlock. Jude Bellingham did look better with Jordan Henderson and Declan Rice doing the midfield dirty work. Kyle Walker got valuable minutes in his legs which will be needed if Kylian Mbappe awaits later next week.

But we’re ahead of ourselves already. This was about beating Wales and England were, frankly, a different class. The first-half was a mismatch without goals, the second a mismatch with them. Ultimately, the goalless draw with the United States was useful because it least England know what it is like to be in a match at this World Cup. The games with Iran and Wales – 9-2 on aggregate – were hardly preparation for Senegal at all.

It was only after Gareth Bale had been withdrawn that England scored but that is no reflection on Wales’ greatest player. He barely touched the ball. And whatever Rob Page had planned without him in the second-half was consigned to the dustbin with two goals in two minutes. That was Wales done and the number of substitutions Southgate made in the aftermath confirmed it.

And what lovely goals they were. For the first, Foden went straight at Wales back line, until eventually upended by Bournemouth’s Chris Mepham. With Kieran Trippier in reserve, England’s usual free-kick taker was absent. Rashford looked like he fancied it, 25 yards from goal. Danny Ward shifted his weight to the wrong foot, and Rashford lashed the ball over the war and into the far corner. The goalkeeper simply couldn’t scramble. It was perfect.

Wales were rocked and England, as good teams do, took advantage. Almost from the restart, Rashford dispossessed Ben Davies and played in Harry Kane along the right flank. Wales’ back line were all over the place and his cross was met by Foden at the far post, the simplest conversion. That was goal number 99 for England at World Cups and the century wasn’t long coming. John Stones played a long ball up, Rashford bamboozled Conor Roberts and struck a low shot that went straight through Ward’s legs. It was comfortable, in the end

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