Tunisia 1-2 England: Marcus Rashford dazzles from the bench, Jesse Lingard fluffs his lines

by Leo Nieboer

England won their opening World Cup game for just the third time in their history through an injury time Harry Kane header against Tunisia.

Gareth Southgate’s men begun brightly, their three-at-the-back system giving them a platform to move up the pitch quicker than the Tunisians could handle, and deservedly went ahead after 10 minutes.

Manchester City’s Kyle Walker needlessly gave away a penalty – converted by Ferjani Sassi – and England visibly shrunk thereafter, probing instead of penetrating, but eventually found a winner in the nick of time.

Jesse Lingard and Ashley Young both started their first World Cup game, while Marcus Rashford came on from the bench. How did they get on?

Jesse Lingard

The 25-year-old will rue a litany excellent chances he snatched at in Volgograd, where he could have announced himself at these finals with (at least) a couple of early goals: the first a close range effort which, if aimed a little higher or a little wider, would have put England ahead after three minutes; the second a miscue of a tantalising sailing ball over to the far post; the third a gentle lift over the keeper which hit the wrong side of the post.

The Lingard we saw at Manchester United last season would have put away at least one of those chances. Playing on the biggest stage, however, saw him snatch at his shots just a little too hastily, perhaps guilty of overthinking his efforts.

And yet he can look back on a nonetheless lively performance. He linked nicely with Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli during an ebullient first 25 minutes, moving the ball through the middle with speed and precision, darting forward to real effect. For the opening stages, Lingard was part of a central attacking vanguard which looked as lively as anything seen at this tournament so far. He can use this as a stepping stone.

Ashley Young

Man United supporters watched 38 performances at left-back from Young last season and there were times on Monday night when it felt like that number was more than enough.

He means well, Young. He has a good footballing brain and the right temperament for this level, which is why Southgate has chosen him to play ahead of Danny Rose. There is an air of calm about his game, a kind of knowhow, that has served him well this season.

But having the capacity to see and understand the game is one thing; executing the right pass and, in the English World Cup cauldron, avoiding descent into the realm of mundane predictability is quite another. Young too often did that, playing the obvious pass rather than one which would have asked questions of Tunisia – aside from the excellent corner he provided for Kane’s goal.

His steadiness will come in handy this tournament. But he will need to offer more going forward. Kieran Tripper’s performance on the other side has set a bar.

Marcus Rashford

England had long since descended into the demons of their past by the time Rashford was sent on by Southgate. The rhythm and zeal of the opening stages was long gone, replaced by the ambling neurosis of a team going through what it has done countless times before.

But Rashford, accompanied later by Ruben Loftus-Cheek, gave England’s performance the intracardiac injection it desperately needed with 20 minutes left. Again, it was the simple things which hallmarked the vitality of the youngster’s performance: carrying the ball forward, a mere desire to run behind the defence, passing with just a bit more zip.

It was, put simply, something different, and that’s why he was sent on: another gear, another flavour. It laid the platform for a dramatic finish – and perhaps placed him in contention to start against Panama.


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