England took the first step in bringing the World Cup home with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Tunisia in Volgograd. A last-minute header from the new captain, Harry Kane was enough to break the 1-1 deadlock and sink Tunisian hearts.
Southgate’s men started brightly and could’ve easily had a host of goals, Jesse Lingard came close inside 5 minutes when his shot from the edge of the 6 yard box was somehow tipped wide by Tunisia’s keeper, Hassan. But training routine after training routine clearly played off when John Stone’s towering header bounced off the bar for Harry Kane to smartly convert on the 11th minute.
England were looking fluid and positive throughout the half, with Lingard, Alli and Sterling dancing around the Tunisian defence creating an array of chances- Lingard had an effort roll onto the post and Stones looked sure to convert when the ball came to him on the penalty spot.
Going forward England looked fast, fierce and a force to be reckoned with, but there were moments in which they looked rocky at the back, almost inviting the Tunisian forward’s to run at them and then not being sure what to do when they did, but the back line of Walker, Stones and Maguire left Pickford with very little to do.
This confidence was shattered after Tunisia were gifted a penalty towards the end of the half, Kyle Walker’s stray hand clipping the Tunisian forward was deemed out of order by the referee, and Pickford could only get a hand to the resulting penalty.
Intensity was lacking at some points in the second half, the combination of the heat and the amount of midge’s on the pitch left both squads looking lacklustre, but Southgate’s decision to bring on Reuben Loftus-Cheek and Marcus Rashford lit up the game as both of them played hell with the Tunisian defence and looking by far England’s best chance of scoring.
It looked like it wasn’t to be for England as the game trickled over the 90-minute mark, especially when replays of multiple set pieces saw Harry Kane being wrestled to the ground by the Tunisian defence. One attempt at a tackle was only missing 3 taps on the floor with the shoulder’s pinned for Tunisia to bring home the WWE Championship with them but the referee refused to use the VAR system to check it over.
But as ever, Harry Kane was on hand to convert a Harry Maguire header into the back of the net to put England 2-1 ahead. It’s coming home.
After the game, Kane told BBC that it was “smashing. So proud of the lads, it’s tough but I thought we played really well first half and deserved to be ahead… but that’s what these games are about, it’s World Cup and it goes to the last second… we’ve done a lot of work on the training field and were itching to play. It’s tough, the World Cup is tough, especially the first game, but we out played them.”
Southgate echoed Kane’s thoughts, saying “we’ve got this result over the last few weeks, not just tonight. That’s down to everyone who’s trained so hard and worked so hard together.”
England play Panama next on Sunday, and you can tune in to see Colombia vs Japan and Russia vs Egypt tomorrow.