England vs Tunisia Match Analysis and Player Ratings

England vs Tunisia Match Analysis and Player Ratings
england goal
Image from the Telegraph
Not the prettiest of wins but England won't care as they won their first World Cup game since a Defoe winner against Slovenia in 2010. Germany lost to Mexico, Brazil drew with Switzerland, Spain drew with Portugal but England claimed their victory over Tunisia as they drew level on points with Belgium after their 3-0 win over Panama (with only goal difference separating the team). England's lineup was almost clear as crystal with Pickford the clear favourite to start, thr back five was also clear with Trippier, Walker, Stones, Maguire and Young all guaranteed starters. Henderson and Lingard were also likely starters and Alli also made the lineup over Loftus-Cheek despite his poor form. Sterling and Kane led the line up front both looking to score their first World Cup goals.

England started positively and easily could have scored within five minutes after Henderson's incisive pass played Alli in, who's deflected cross fell to Lingard and the United star's shot was brilliantly saved by Mousez Hassen. The resulting corner was brilliantly whipped in by Kieran Trippier and Maguire leapt high enough to head the ball towards goal and once again Hassen was forced into another excellent save. The goalkeeper looked like he was in discomfort after the save but could do nothing for the opening goal. Young delivered a glorious ball for John Stones who was completely free and launched a bullet header towards the top corner of the Tunisian goal. The Manchester City defender was denied by a stunning save from Hassen but following up was the skipper, Harry Kane to score on his World Cup debut. Hassen was still having problems with his shoulder and with quarter of an hour on the clock he was forced off the pitch and in his place Mustapha came on. Regardless of the change in 'keeper, England kept pressing for a second goal and almost found it through Jordan Henderson who forced a good save from Mustapha. The Three Lions should have doubled their lead through Lingard but somehow he couldn't find the net. After Kane pinged the ball to Ashley Young, the United defender linked up with Lingard with a fantastic cross but England's no.7 scuffed the shot with the side of his foot and it bobbled wide. 
almost save by tunisia
After a stunning save, Kane followed up with a simple finish and opened the scoring
(Image from the Telegraph)
The vulnerability of a 1-0 lead was exposed clearly when Maguire was caught in possession and after some scarily poor defending, the ball went out for a Tunisian corner. Less than ten minutes later, Tunisia were gifted a way to settle the scores though VAR who gave the African side a penalty for a foul by Kyle Walker who elbowed Ben Youssef and was given a yellow card for his troubles. Up stepped no.13 Ferjani Sassi and as cool as you like, placed the ball past the fingertips of Pickford and equalised for Tunisia and the first goal scored for an African side at the World Cup 2018. Not soon afterwards England was denied a clear penalty by both the referee and VAR for some reason after Kane was virtually rugby tackled to the floor and a much better claim than Tunisia's ten minutes ago. Just before the end of the half, Lingard was through again from a glorious ball over the top from Trippier but Lingard's dinked effort over Mustapha clipped the outside of the post as it trickled out for a goalkick. The half ended disappointingly for England after a poor mistake granted Tunisia a penalty and countless missed opportunities for England throughout the half prevented the Three Lions from building on their lead, not to mention the unexplicably rejected penalty call for Harry Kane. 

kane foul
Just how was this not a penalty?!
(Image from the Telegraph)
The second half started sluggishly, clearly with the heat and humidity of Volgograd seeming to affect the squad severely. Alli looked completely shattered and seemed to ghost through the team barely having an impact. After seven minutes of the second half the referee made another ridiculous error in judgement as a similar appeal from England was denied as Kane was thrown to the ground again and once again, nothing was given! Another bad call made by the linesman as Khazri was incorrectly flagged offside after running past Harry Maguire, who has been very poor defensively. After a tame freekick from Kieran Tripper it was time for a change with twenty minutes to go, as Rashford replaced Sterling and almost at once, England looked rejuvinated. Rashford caused a lot of problems and even Alli looked better after earning a freekick with ten minutes to go. After one wingback took a freekick, the other - Ashley Young - decided to take this freekick but the same result occured as the poor shot gently floated over the bar. At last Alli was removed and Loftus-Cheek came on, looking to prove something. Loftus-Cheek and Rashford energised England and the latter won a corner with five minutes to play. Once again, a baffling decision from the referee, who seemed to have given Tunisia a freekick after Mustapha punched John Stones in the head...is it just me or was something just not right today? Just before the added time could be declared, Loftus-Cheek danced into the box and drilled in a cross and Rashford must have got a call from Lingard as he missed the ball and Lingard scuffed the shot. Loftus-Cheek wins another corner as the board went up for four added minutes and Tripper took charge of this freekick. It was another glorious delivery from the Tottenham defender and Maguire leapt the highest to tee up the skipper, who nodded the ball into the back of the net from a couple of yards out to give England the lead and the winning goal in a hard fought game. 
Kane goal
A Kane brace hands England a narrow win against Tunisia
(Image from the Telegraph)
It was a tough game for England, which was not made easier by defensive errors and certainly not made easier by the shocking calls by the referees and VAR. In the end the result is all that counts and England move on to their second game against Panama and aim to get six points on the board going into their final game against Belgium. The questions that need answers are whether Alli and Sterling should be dropped for Loftus-Cheek and Rashford who changed the game up. Secondly, should Maguire be swapped for Cahill? Although he was impressive in attack, he was poor defensively and could have conceded more goals had Tunisia been more clinical. 

PLAYER RATINGS:
Jordan Pickford (6) - Just missed the penalty but did nothing else wrong as he had nothing else to do really.

Kieran Trippier (8) - An outstanding performance, he created a lot of chances and his corners were impressive. Only his ninth England cap but seemed one of the most experienced players on the pitch.

Kyle Walker (5) - Silly penalty to concede. Why did he move his arm back like that? Other than that did nothing else to impress. 

John Stones (7) - The best of the back three, an excellent header forced a stunning save from Hassen which rebounded to Kane to open the scoring. He played incisively to create attacks and get England going. 

Harry Maguire (4 and 8) - A four for his defensive performance but an eight for his attacking play. He was so poor at the back but his driving runs and leaping headers from corners were threatening and set up the winning goal. Cahill offers the same offensively but has more defensive experience and ability. Perhaps something to consider for the future. 

Ashley Young (7) - Some good crosses and his corner set up the first goal. Often was stretched in defence but did well in attack. 

Jordan Henderson (7) - Some very good passes in the first half an hour and last fifteen but there was a long period of time when he was just playing safe and not affecting the game at all. Needs to be more consistent to stay in the side.

Jesse Lingard (6) - Got into good positions and covered the pitch three times over. Should have scored at least twice but deserves his place in the next game. 

Dele Alli (5) - Unlucky at times but also very sluggish after picking up a knock in the first half. He has not performed well for England of late and had an indifferent season for Tottenham as well. Might be an idea to rest him and play Loftus-Cheek against Panama and test the Chelsea youngster's ability for 90 minutes. 

Raheem Sterling (4) - He missed an open goal early on despite the chance being ruled offside regardless. This summed up his game in a nutshell. He showed glimmers of his skill and pace but has never really shown his Man City form for England. 

Harry Kane (9) - Right place, right time. He scored two tap ins but he won't care one bit. He may have scored a brace but should have won England a brace of penalties if not for the poor refereeing decisions. A true leader's performance. 

SUBS:
Marcus Rashford (7.5) - Looked lively and energetic. He was dynamic in his play and should start against Panama on Sunday.
Ruben Loftus-Cheek (8) - Won the corner from which the winning goal was scored. Was energetic as soon as he came on and looked the part of an England starter. 
Eric Dier (n/a)

MAN OF THE MATCH: HARRY KANE

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