England ends up coasting to the knockout stage of the World Cup, while Wales fans may be wondering why their team was so passive.
1) In comparison to the global geopolitical machinations The other game between Iran and the USA is in this groupEngland vs Wales was never going be able to match it in genuine vitriole and antipathy. In the build-up to the election, various parties launched bricks at one another. That match, the derby in the desert didn’t quite feel like quite the monolithic occasion it might otherwise have done.
England were, barring an extraordinary calamity or disaster, just about through the next round. Wales were almost – but not quite – out. Jeopardy was thin in the ground.
2) Handbrake off, handbrake on, handbrake… off… ish? England strategically positioned somewhere between the two. The Iran game’s goal frenzy and the soporific performance by the USA match that ensued.
Jordan Henderson started, to add a little bit of spine to a central midfield that had looked panicky and skittish prior to his arrival from the bench in that frustrating draw, while Kyle Walker was in for Kieran Trippier, Marcus Rashford for Raheem Sterling, and…
3) …because Mr Gareth knows that Christmas is just around the corner and he’s definitely not a Grinch, Phil Foden for Mason Mount, especially for Dave Tickner, our very own.
The England team selection was a little like a supercomputer logarithm determining how dead rubber a match is if there are only four goals lost or worse.
4) It was surprising that Wales was so passive during the first period. Although England is known for being at their most dangerous on the break, there were moments during the first 45 minutes when it felt like Wales was playing for the draw. This would have not been enough to get them through to round 2.
5) There was some discussion about whether Wales could afford both Gareth Bale (excellent player) and Aaron Ramsey (somewhat past their peak). Rob Page responded to that question by starting them both. However, Bale had only touched the ball seven times by half-time, and just one was for a pass.
Brennan Johnson replaced Bale for Brennan Johnson in the second-half. It was suggested that Bale might have been injured near the end of the first. This might have saved Page from having to make an awkward decision.
6) Bale has already intimated in interviews this week that he doesn’t intend to retire from international football just yet, and his career with Wales deserves a better send-off than being subbed at half-time during a bit of a humping by England. Bale’s presence at the tournament was a reminder about who they were as a team. An out-of-form side that had become too dependent on their star to pull off the win. Something Out from There On an ever increasing basis.
Harry Kane scored no goals in his second consecutive evening, and was dismissed just after the hour. Kane is not just a goal-scorer. After Ten minutes later, he had slipped Marcus Rashford a perfect through ball. Danny Ward saved Danny Ward’s shot for what was the best chance in the first half. And before he departed for the evening with a third of the game still to play, he found the time to tee up Phil Foden’s goal to give England a comfortable two-nil lead. Amazing play from the centre.
8) This was a Man of the Match performance from Rashford, who didn’t allow the disappointment of his early missed chance to weigh him down.
Four minutes into the second he was first to the ball when England won a free-kick on the area, smacking his shot wide of Ward’s dive and in to give England the lead.
He nicked Ben Davies’ ball and fed Kane. Phil Foden converted Kane’s brilliant low pass across the penalty area.
Midway through the half, Rashford picked the ball up on the right, carried it inside and shot under Ward for his second and England’s third of the night. It was an excellent display – It was so poignant and beautiful, just as it happened.
9) The third goal was an encapsulation of the risks that Wales had to take once they’d fallen a couple of goals behind. Their initial reaction to this was fairly positive – Daniel James shot a foot wide and Kieffer Moore’s effort took a huge deflection off Harry Maguires’s slab of a head, forcing Jordan Pickford into some acrobatic contortions to pull off an excellent save. Wales was forced to move players forward and the goal that followed showed how severe the punishment when England caught you on the breaking.
10) It’s a strange world, in which playing someone with the obvious talents of Phil Foden against moderate opposition in a match which has been designated by the FA’s supercomputer as having a 61% chance of ending up a bit of a dead rubber, but that’s the strange place in which England find themselves at the moment.
The problem – and I should add that this is the first worldiest problem since being unable to decide whether to have brown or white bread for your avocado toast – is that England have about five or six excellent players for two or perhaps three positions. Foden did a good job against Wales. He This adds some spice and gives a hint of what might be coming. He also scored a goal. His desire to be in the next game’s first round will probably grow to fever pitch.
11) After all the talk of the Spirit of ’58, all those near-misses, and that enormous effort to get to Qatar in the first place, Wales supporters could be forgiven for asking: ‘Is that it?’.
It was not enough for Wales to make it through the group stage of the a. World Cup, and it’s not so much that they’re going home after three matches that is the surprise, it’s the way in which they did so. Their performances in all three matches were marked by a lack of confidence, which was stark contrasted with the support they received from the stands.
Their second match against the USA saw them play a more direct formation, but they lost against Iran and England because of their ineptness. While they conceded their goals against Iran at a late stage, it was justified on the basis of the previous game’s 97 minutes. Although it was hard to believe that Wales had conceded, Not required To remain in the match for long periods, a win is a win
Their supporters have good news: the expansion of the World Cup means that they likely won’t have to go another 64 years before they get another chance.
12) England scored 17 goals in their first two matches World Cup groups under Gareth Southgate. Eight goals in 2018 was a record, while nine goals in 2022 were the highest. England’s previous 17 goals scored in the group stages was the longest time they took. World Surprise! Cup finals can be surprising: The first was scored by Paul Scholes in 1998 against Tunisia.
England can’t win every game 5-0. No-one wins every game 5-0, and if you want an idea of how far Southgate has pushed England, there’s an obvious compare and contrast with the two tournaments prior to him taking charge: failing to progress from a World Cup group, for the first time since more than 50 years; then being beaten in Iceland for what will probably always be their most embarrassing result.
READ MORE: England 3-0 Wales: Rating the players as The Clamour works and Rashford thrives, but Henderson…
13) England supporters began singing The Gareth Southgate Song in the final stages of the match. It was all a long way removed from the boos that were ringing in the players’ ears as they left the pitch at the end of the USA game, but such is the nature of the position of England manager.
Music aside, Chesney Hawkes deserves a special mention for his special appearance at half-time inside the stadium. It was a much more appealing sound than trying to analyze what had been an extremely turgid first quarter of football.
14) Southgate remains England’s most successful manager since Sir Alf Ramsey. Although there are some concerns about Southgate’s sometimes cautious approach, they are not unfounded. Despite his impressive record, his distrust is surprising.
It’s difficult to deduce how many were calling for the England manager to be sacked after two games of a World Cup solely because saying the maddest things on social media gets you the most attention, but in these angry, angry times, it wouldn’t be out of the question if some of them genuinely did believe that this should have happened.
15) England look better playing attacking football, but it’s a big BUT. No-one is suggesting that they should just throw on all of their attacking players on in one go with Southgate shouting ‘DEFENDING IS FOR LOSERS’ from the sidelines, but it does sometimes feel as though England have a tendency to play to their weaknesses rather than their strengths.
At the start of the second half – possibly as a result of a tactical switch by the manager, possibly because the players were enervated by the dulcet tones of Mr Hawkes drifting through from the half-time show, it’s difficult to say for sure – England really came out on the front foot, as though they had a point to prove. They were already two goals ahead and the game was over in eight minutes.
16) England has met the minimum requirements for a manager, but the next round will be challenging. England has never played Senegal. The calibre of the players available presents a formidable challenge – for all that they miss Sadio Mane, Kalidou Koulibaly already feels like he should be a contender for team of the tournament – and Southgate will already be fully aware of the risks of going gung-ho against them. Even though evidence suggests that England plays better with the handbrake well, it may be back on for the next match.