England put an end to the World Cup opener curse after Harry Kane’s stoppage time winner ensured England started the tournament with a victory, with Tunisia looking more than likely to take their share of the points in Volgograd.
After failing to capitalise on a plethora of first-half opportunities, a penalty – awarded using VAR – was given to Tunisia, and Ferjani Sassi equalised from the spot, heaping pressure on Gareth Southgate’s outfit deep into the second half.
There were a number of changes made to the squad since the preparation friendly against Costa Rica, with one absentee particularly noticeable in long-spells throughout the game, in the form of Manchester United star Marcus Rashford.
Following a sensational long-range goal in the previous game, the 20-year-old was left out of the starting line-up, and it can be argued that the side missed both his clinical edge in the first-half and his direct running for large periods of the second.
The latter is pretty indisputable as his late cameo – 22 minutes from time – was full of the directness and purpose that England were missing in the quest for a second goal.
And England fans have taken to Twitter to demand that Rashford be picked to start in the next clash, against Panama on Sunday:
You would think that after he came on vs Iceland and did more in 4 minutes than any other player on the pitch we’d be smart enough to start him by now….
— Ethan Darnell (@EPJDarnell) June 18, 2018
You have to start the next game ??
— Pablo O Brien (@Pablo___93) June 18, 2018
Came in late Southgate should start you ahead of sterling
— That_Man U_Cutie (@CillaCurlcy) June 18, 2018
Changed the direction and pace of game when you came on Marcus was the game changer alongside ruben loftus cheek. Great team performance just the start on we go.
— Andrew Peacock (@19andy88) June 18, 2018
You made a difference Rashy. Should of started over Sterling and I said that before kick off… and Sterling’s performance proved me right…
— T.Pen15 (@dubzyonthewing) June 18, 2018
Made a difference when you came on lad, need to show that confidence you showed at Elland road though, untouchable.
— Gaz Jones (@Gaz_jones) June 18, 2018
I liked the attitude of this Rashford, wanted to take on the whole Tunisia team. Having you on the field made the whole opposition sit back to cope with your threat. @MarcusRashford you are hot, keep up the good work @ManUtd ???
— Mr Ezeonyi Johnpaul (@kaka_johnpaul01) June 19, 2018
You need more time on the pitch, definitely gave us a spark when you came on. Hope you get a start v Panama.
— Swampy?NUFC????? (@swampthing_71) June 19, 2018
Well played mate. A real positive to the game when you came on. Feel proud
— Chris Matthews (@chris_maffy1) June 18, 2018
Should of started
— Lee Fisher (@leesfisher) June 18, 2018
Class act you are. Give us that little bit extra needed to get us over the line. Top top player ??
— Tom Brown (@tombrown_7) June 19, 2018
There seems to be a consensus among England supporters that Rashford should be considered a starter over his city rival Raheem Sterling, in the free centre-forward role behind captain Harry Kane, as the Manchester City man failed to really impact the game, bar a promising opening 20 minutes.
Despite the jubilant end to the game, the warning signs are there and adjustments will have to be made to ensure success in future games against teams operating at the highest level.
The star-studded Belgium squad are in red-hot form at the moment, and Southgate has some tinkering to do to before the Three Lions are ready for the step-up in opposition.