England win the opening game of a tournament, and for once it feels good! The expectations keep being lowered for the England national team in modern international tournaments, so the Three Lions snatching a late 2-1 win in the opening game against Tunisia – with so many positives to draw upon – is a welcome change. Here are my observations:
Harry Maguire is excellent with the ball at his feet
The Leicester City defender is such a big guy that watching his massive frame marauding deep into the opposition half can be a shock, but blimey he’s got very good control! I’ve seen him a couple of times in live games at the King Power this season and been very impressed with his mobility – to use a cliché, “he’s got a great touch for a big man”.
With a back three now the accepted setup for the England defense, Kyle Walker and John Stones seem certainties. But surely now Maguire has cemented his place ahead of Cahill after the Tunisia performance? His composure – and confidence – moving the ball forwards is rare for an English defender. I expect Pep Guardiola will come knocking soon.
Harry Kane wants to win – and score – badly
What a trait for a striker to have! Kane’s single-mindedness played a massive part in both his goals against Tunisia, and nobody would be surprised if Kane wanted the Golden Boot as much as the World Cup itself. I love that about him, and I think that’s why he’ll leave Tottenham eventually – his personal ambition will outgrow their success if they don’t win things now.
In this England team, Harry Kane is a real force and deservedly captain. This World Cup so far seems like a battle of who can break down stubborn defences, and when England eventually did make the breakthrough it needed a goalscorer like Kane to apply the finishing touch that a lot of big teams have failed with so far.
J-Lingz creates things
Jesse Lingard has to be a starter. He was at the heart of everything good England produced and while he was wasteful at times – he could’ve scored a couple himself – his creativity behind Kane put Dele Alli to shame.
His reading of the game for the first half hour was great and he found himself on the end of a lot of forward passes from midfield, in scoring positions that he needs to take advantage of to become a certain starter in the first 11.
Trippier’s delivery is a weapon
With the game looking like a frustrating and familiar result until Kane’s last-minute winner, it was reassuring to see how effective England were at getting the wing-backs forward and whipping crosses into the box whenever possible. Kieran Trippier’s delivery in particular stood out.
His range of crossing was so varied – in how early he released the ball, the speed, the angle of the cross – that he was far from predictable for the opposition to read, and every ball looked like a real threat. It was only England’s lack of clinical finishing in the box that prevented Trippier from having a hatful of assists to his name.
Gone are the dark days of Euro 2016 when Kane would be taking corners – Trippier’s dead-ball delivery is far too good and it’s great to know that if the opposition want to defend deep and frustrate, we’ve got an answer to that.
My player ratings
Pickford 6; Trippier 7, Walker 5, Stones 6, Maguire 7, Young 6; Henderson 6, Alli 5, Lingard 6; Sterling 5, Kane 7 (MOTM)