The whole nation was mightily relieved by around 9 p.m. on Monday night after England grabbed a late winner against Tunisia courtesy of Harry Kane in their World Cup opener.
After a bright start and going 1-0 up early on thanks again to Kane, England created many chances in the first half and should really have been out of sight. However, a controversial Tunisia penalty gave their opposition the chance to equalise and they took it. Kyle Walker was adjudged to have elbowed Fakhreddine Ben Youssef in the face while trying to shield the ball.
In the second half, the game was more reserved and pedestrian, perhaps due to the humidity in Volgograd and the Tunisians dropping even deeper to try and get a point. This made it difficult for England to break them down, but they kept persevering and playing their game, albeit not creating as many chances as in the first half. In the end, it paid off. Kane got his second goal of the game from a Kieran Trippier corner headed goalwards by Harry Maguire, and the Spurs striker made no mistake with a free header from just a couple of yards out.
It made for a good start to a World Cup campaign for England. The result should give this young team some confidence and settle them into the tournament. With minnows Panama up next, another win would put England into the knockout stages. We rated the Three Lions’ performance against Tunisia, here’s how they fared:
Jordan Pickford (Goalkeeper) – 6
Pickford didn’t have a lot to do, but everything he did do, he did it competently. He got close to the penalty by getting a hand on it, but couldn’t prevent it from going in. He kept the ball moving quickly when it was being played around the back.
Kieran Trippier (Right Wing Back) – 8
A very good night for the right wing back. Trippier was a constant threat on the flank, with some great deliveries both from open play and set pieces. He was assured defensively too against a tricky winger in Naïm Sliti, and when Wahbi Khazri drifted out to the left.
Kyle Walker (Centre Back) – 5
Walker was fielded in an unfamiliar centre-back role having playing there in the last few games under Gareth Southgate. The City right-back was pretty steady on the ball and threatened with a couple of trademark runs into the channels. Walker was somewhat unfortunate to give a penalty away though with a swinging arm as a result of trying to protect the ball.
John Stones (Centre Back) – 7
Confident on the ball, stepped out of defence into midfield to force the play effectively, and was an aerial threat in the opposition box. Stones’ thumping header led to Kane’s first goal. Culpable of a mistake in the past, he looks to be Southgate’s first choice defender. He hardly put a foot wrong.
Harry Maguire (Centre Back) – 6
Like Stones, Maguire is very good at stepping out of defence and charging through the middle of the pitch. That was often on display, although so were his occasional lapses in concentration and concession of possession in dangerous areas. They may have understandably been because of nerves, but overall he continues to impress on the big stage.
Ashley Young (Left Wing Back) – 6
Divides opinion by being in a left wing back position as he constantly cuts in on his right foot. This can become predictable and impact the timing of runs from the strikers into the box. Nevertheless, Young was an effective attacking option despite making some questionable defensive decisions.
Jordan Henderson (Defensive Midfielder) – 7
Played a variation of passes into the wide areas and kept the play moving. Almost scored with a fierce volley in the first half. Despite his high-energy, industrious presence, Henderson does sometimes need to look up a bit quicker, turn, and play passes earlier. There were times when the ball was played backwards and sideways when he had little pressure on him.
Dele Alli (Attacking Midfielder) – 5
Alli was looking dangerous with some good movements in and around the attacking third in the first half. He was also pressing well and linking up with the other attacking midfielders. Alli then got a knock which completely changed his game and he no longer looked like himself after that, but managed to stay on until the 80th minute.
Jesse Lingard (Attacking Midfielder) – 6
His work rate and effort cannot be questioned, and his movement into the channels and beyond the last man was excellent as it usually is. Lingard unfortunately didn’t have his shooting boots on as he missed a few chances that he normally would have buried for Manchester United. He faded a little in the second half like many others.
Raheem Sterling (Striker) – 5
Started the game brightly but Sterling was guilty of a couple of early misses which eventually dented his belief—resulting in him being substituted. One of those misses was similar to a lot of the goals he scored for Manchester City last season, where the ball was cut across the face of goal for Sterling to tap in at the back post. He fluffed his lines but thankfully for him the offside flag was already up.
Harry Kane (Striker) – 9
England’s main man. Scored two goals from close range by being in the right place at the right time. Would probably have had at least a hat-trick if the referee had seen the two penalty incidents in which he was hauled to the ground. Kane put the pressure on himself to win the tournament’s Golden Boot and has helped himself on the way to that target.
Marcus Rashford (Substitute) – 6
Made an impact when he came on with his pace and trickery. Rashford seemed to spark up a quiet second half and had a chance to score but left it to Lingard.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (Substitute) – 6
Loftus-Cheek showed some nice touches and tried to get in behind when introduced. Attempted to receive the ball between the lines.
Eric Dier (Substitute) – No Rating
Dier was brought on to see the game out with two minutes left. Didn’t touch the ball and wasn’t on long enough to rate.