England vs Wales: Party atmosphere at Wembley before kick off
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After a drab draw against USA last time out, England’s lions found their roar again. Marcus Rashford bagged a brace and Phil Foden struck to give Gareth Southgate’s side all three points at the Al Rayyan Stadium, ensuring they top their group in the process. Now, the 52-year-old has a selection dilemma on his hands involving four players…
England weren’t at their best in the first half of their clash with Wales, sparking fears a repeat of their goalless draw with USA would be on the cards.
Yet Rashford broke the deadlock in the 50th minute with a stunning free kick and, from that moment on, the Three Lions were in cruise control.
Foden, bafflingly overlooked for the draw with USA despite the tedious nature of that game, then doubled England’s lead by tapping in from close range after some fine work from Harry Kane.
And Rashford added gloss to the victory with just over 20 minutes left on the clock, shooting low into the bottom corner to spark wild celebrations from those wearing white inside the ground.
Before the game, Southgate had made changes in an attempt to spark his side into life.
And Rashford and Foden made the most of their opportunities, with both players on the scoresheet and among the best performers as last year’s Euro 2020 finalists regained their swagger.
Now, their fine performances have given Southgate a selection dilemma. A good one, mind.
He will have to choose whether to stick with his goalscoring heroes for their match with Senegal on Sunday, or bring Bukayo Saka and Raheem Sterling back into the fold.
It would be particularly harsh to leave Saka out, especially given his sensational form for Arsenal and the way he flourished against Iran on matchday one.
But Foden, on his first start of the tournament, was a constant threat down the left on England’s attack and certainly staked his claim for a starting berth.
Both players are gems, ones that represent the future of this England side – as well as the present.
And it’ll be interesting to see what Southgate decides now that Foden, who he overlooked to confusion against the USA, has delivered on the biggest stage of all.
Likewise with Rashford.
For a long time, now, Southgate has relied on the brilliance of Raheem Sterling to unlock defences. Certainly, the Chelsea star was one of the best performers for his side as they reached the final of the European Championships last term.
But there’s no denying Sterling’s form has regressed at an alarming rate ever since leaving Manchester City for Stamford Bridge back in the summer.
He did, to his credit, score as England cruised to victory over Iran at the beginning of the tournament.
Yet Sterling isn’t the player he was and Rashford was so mesmerising and majestic down the left that, surely, the Manchester United star has become undroppable.
It has been a rough year for Rashford, who toiled along with the rest of the Red Devils squad amid a miserable season under Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Ralf Rangnick last term.
But he’s come out the other side and has been rejuvenated at club level ever since the appointment of Erik ten Hag back in the summer.
Rashford has also been struck by personal tragedy, too. Speaking after his side’s win, he revealed a close friend of his had lost their life to cancer.
“I lost one of my friends a couple of days ago. He had quite a long battle with cancer,” he said.
“I’m pleased I scored for him, he was a big supporter and good friend of mine. He was someone who came into my life.”
Southgate, meanwhile, paid tribute to his team for getting the job done. He stated: “I thought in the first half we controlled the game but didn’t create enough chances.
“We wanted more thrust and threat, to play forward quicker.
Once we got the two goals, we knew their spirit was gone, it has been a tough tournament for them.”
On Rashford, he then added: “It’s great for him, he has trained really well.
“He has been impressive since he came back to us, he could have had a hat-trick. That free kick is what he is capable of, it’s an incredible strike.
“In moments I thought both of them [Rashford and Foden] were quiet in the first half, so we switched wings.
“They responded well, for both to get goals was great.”
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