So they did it! England got their World Cup campaign off to a winning start thanks to Harry Kane’s late header. With the possible exception of hosts Russia no country needed a win in their opening game more than England. It wasn’t just the need to get the 3 points but the need to exorcise the ghosts of previous tournament failures, whilst Gareth Southgate has rightly won plaudits for the atmosphere he’s created in recent weeks but it would have counted for nothing without results.
You don’t need me to tell you what happened but in summary…England flew out of the traps with Kieran Trippier and Ashley Young creating width with Jordan Henderson starting attacks from deep positions. Jesse Lingard missed a glorious chance in the opening minutes but England didn’t have to wait long for their endeavour to be rewarded: Young’s corner caused mayhem in the box, John Stones got a powerful header to it and Hassen made a brilliant initial save before the ball fell to Kane to guide home from close rang 1-0 after 11 minutes.
England continued to dominate with Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard missing presentable chances. But after a tough 30 minutes Tunisia started to get a toe-hold in the game and as England started to get in a muddle playing out of the back they grew in confidence. Then on 34 minutes came the moment of controversy: a speculative cross into England’s box was left by Kyle Walker but his flailing arm was judged to have fouled Fakhreddine Ben-Youssef and the referee pointed to the spot. Ferjani Sassi converted and Tunisia were level. England continued to press and the VAR controversy deepened when Harry Kane was wrestled to the ground on a corner but both the referee and the VAR panel missed the incident. England did force another opening on the stroke of half time with Lingard again breaking free but his toe poke trickled just the wrong side of the post: 1-1 at half time.
England struggled to maintain the high tempo they’d set in the first although they remained in control with Khazri’s long-range effort their best attempt on goal. But they continued to niggle and frustrate England with yet another WWE move bringing Kane to the ground whilst the VAR team maintained radio silence. As the game entered its final phases Southgate brought on Ruben Loftus-Cheek & Marcus Rashford with both making an impact, the former with his clever passing and movement, the later with his pace and direct running. Young ballooned a central free-kick over the bar but England continued to press with Trippier, Loftus-Cheek and Walker overloading the right side of Tunisia’s defence. And a minute into injury time England go their reward when Trippier’s corner was flicked by Harry Maguire onto Kane who buried a close-range header 2-1 and job done.
Pickford 6- Little to do but his distribution is a key asset for England.
Walker 5- Struggled even before givign away a penalty, improved and added to the attack late on but not his best night.
Stones 7- Nervy early on but his distribution was excellent as England rolled the ball from back to front and got an assist for Kane’s first goal.
Maguire 6- A tentative start but Maguire pushed forward as England pressed and got the assist for the winner.
Trippier 8- Excellent! never troubled defesively he was a constant thorn in Tunisia’s side with his pace and pin point crossing.
Henderson 7- Unlucky not to score with a flashing drive and kept England ticking over from deep midfield- exactly what he’s needed to do!
Alli 6- Picked up a knock early but stayed on and pressed well in the first half before being withdrawn early.
Young 6- Great from corners less so free-kicks. Pincjed the ball off Tunisan attackers when needed and offered an option down the left (albeit cutting inside.)
Lingard 7- Pressed, harried , created and missed a lot of chances.
Sterling 5- Not the disaster his detractors would claim but little end product as his pace was nullified by Tunisia’s deep defensive line.
Kane 8.5- Man of the match, had two chance scored two goals- the first Englishman to claim a brace at a World Cup since Gary Lineker against Cameroon!
Rashford 7- continued to push his cliams for a start with his creativity and speed- should have scored with a late chance.
Loftus-Cheek 7- Pulled the Tunisian defenders left & right with his bix of tricks, could he start against Panama?
Dier n/a- late appearnce to keep the lead.