By Jack Webb
England will face Senegal in the last 16 of the World Cup after Marcus Rashford scored twice in a comfortable win over Wales in Doha which put them top of Group B.
The on-form Manchester United forward was one of England’s standout performers this evening, his finest moment being a powerful free kick just after half time.
Rashford was one of four new players in the starting XI following England’s lacklustre performance against the USA last Friday.
Southgate faced repeated criticism from fans and pundits alike for his side’s supposed failure to control the previous game.
To rectify this, he also introduced much-praised Phil Foden, experienced Jordan Henderson, and Kyle Walker, who was finally declared fit to start following a lengthy injury.
The changes initially worked, England starting the match better in possession compared to Friday’s game.
Wales, in contrast, appeared happy to sit back early on, staying compact and deep in their 4-2-3-1 formation.
The Three Lions’ early dominance came with a big chance for in-form Marcus Rashford, who’s shot was bravely stopped by Danny Ward following a through ball from Harry Kane.
Another chance came for Southgate’s side in the 19th minute, Harry Maguire unable to head the ball towards goal following a well taken free kick from Luke Shaw.
Shaw’s delivery continued to prove a threat, Henderson unable to control another pinpoint accurate ball into the 18-yard box.
Maguire continued to prove a surprise threat, gliding past the Wales defence before shooting well wide.
Maguire, often considered more impressive internationally than at club level, has netted seven times for The Three Lions, six of them being headers.
Welsh full-back Neco Williams was withdrawn early in the 35th minute , still suffering the effects of being caught by Rashford’s powerful shot.
Williams, an ever-present for Premier League club Nottingham Forest, has been praised for his performances following the recent death of his Grandfather.
The attacks in the first half were overwhelmingly created by Southgate’s side, Wales unable to register a shot until the 39th minute.
Robert Page’s side instead had to deal with some lovely one-touch play from England, Foden being unlucky not to convert from the attacking play.
The Three Lions’ dominant possession continued into stoppage time, albeit unable to convert the numerous corners awarded over the previous 10 minutes.
The first big chance for Wales came just before the end of the half, a shot from veteran Joe Allen from outside the box curling wide.
But, despite England’s first half promise with 74% possession, they went into halftime goalless with their opponents.
Pages’ side made a change before the second half, captain Gareth Bale making way for Brennan Johnson due to a suspected injury.
Bale, who has been named Welsh player of the year a record SIX times, failed to make an impact in the first half.
The first goal came unsurprisingly from England, Rashford breaking the deadlock with a stunning free kick in the 50th minute.
Rashford, one of the four players introduced by Southgate for today’s game, has netted twice so far this tournament.
Their lead doubled two minutes later, fellow-inductee Foden tapping in the ball from close range following a low cross from Kane.
Foden, who has won four Premier League titles with Manchester City, has scored EIGHT goals at club level so far this season.
England’s first three changes came all in the 57th minute, one of those being Callum Wilson in place of Harry Kane, who was expected to be given a breather during today’s game.
This is Wilson’s second appearance in the tournament, the first being in the 6-2 win against Iran, in which he scored his first England goal.
Southgate’s side began to slow down around the hour mark, appearing content with their two-goal lead.
The first booking came for the losing side in the 61st minute, experienced Aaron Ramsey booked for a rough challenge on Henderson on the halfway line.
England’s fourth change came four minutes later, Shaw making way for fellow full-back Kieran Trippier.
Trippier, who assisted Shaw’s goal in the 2020 European Championship Final, won La Liga with Atletico Madrid at the end of the 2020/21 season.
Rashford added his second in the 68th minute, cutting inside and blasting the ball through Ward’s legs.
Rashford’s brace marked England’s 100th goal in the World Cup finals.
Despite his performance, he was the fifth substitution in the 75th minute, being replaced by Manchester City record signing Jack Grealish.
Another change was made by Page’s side six minutes on, Rubin Colwill coming on for Allen, who went off with a suspected hamstring injury.
Wales continued to do little to threaten the winning side, registering ONE shot on target by the 90th minute.
Meanwhile, their opponents could have added a fourth, John Stones squandering a chance following a corner in stoppage time.
It appeared that both teams played with an attitude of acceptance regarding the score.
And with the match ending 3-0 to England, The Three Lions finish top of group B with seven points, facing Senegal in the Round of 16 on Sunday.
Meanwhile Wales have ended the group bottom with a single point, going home with Iran, who lost 1-0 to the United States.
What’s next for England?
- England face Group A runners-up Senegal at the Al Bayt Stadium.
- The match will take place at 19.00pm GMT, with coverage likely beginning at one hour beforehand.
- The match is yet to be confirmed to be on BBC or ITV.
- The winners of Sunday’s game will face the winners of match 52 (winners of Group D vs runners-up Group C).
Can England advance to the quarter-finals?
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