The expectations about England at World Cup 2018 may have been low. However, the Three Lions were still expected to defeat Tunisia in their opening game on Monday night.
Gareth Southgate’s team did eventually overcome the North African side 2-1 courtesy of a stoppage-time winner from captain Harry Kane. The win was achieved despite a sometimes-bemusing referee display and some Oscar-winning theatrics from some of the Tunisia players.
Impressive first 20 minutes
In the opening 20 minutes of the game, England took the lead but also missed some guilt-edged opportunities. The likes of Dele Alli, Raheem Sterling and Jesse Lingard combined superbly at times, as the Three Lions produced a vibrant attacking display.
The performance was probably what Southgate had in mind when he picked his team. The only thing that was missing was a second goal and the unambitious Tunisian punished Southgate’s with one of their few attacks in the first period.
In truth, England could and should have been three or four goals up before the break. However, the finishing was poor at times and it could have proven costly in the second period, as they did not create the same amount of chances.
Second half display disappointing
Tunisia produced a far improved defensive display in the second period. The North African side looked far less open at the back and England had to work harder to eke out goalscoring opportunities, which they struggled to do.
They were always going to have to be patient against the tough Tunisians. As the clock ticked down it looked likely that their opponents would get the result they hoping for prior to the game.
They stayed in the game and England’s stars failed to shine, whether it was the heat or they just run out of ideas, they looked unlikely to score that all-important winning goal.
It looked set to be another disappointing opening game at a major tournament for the Three Lions, something that has now become familiar to England fans.
However, England showed great resilience to keep going and Kane’s equaliser eventually arrived in stoppage-time. England never makes anything easy, so it might be unsurprising that the winner did not come until so late.
The performance was the typical rollercoaster of watching the English national team. There was joy, hope and despair all in one match, typical of the team with so much potential, yet so little international experience.
Positives to take from the game
Gareth Southgate was not a popular appointment as England boss. I think I even wrote an editorial criticising the former Middlesbrough boss calling him Mr Beige around the time of his appointment.
I am not going to claim he is the best coach in the world. However, he does seem to have a clear idea of how he wants his England team to play. Southgate also seems to have allowed the players to relax and prepare in a way that will not stifle them.
He has also done well to manage expectations really well. He is realistic and knows that fans are realistic about the team. There were definitely more positives to take from the game for everybody involved with England than negatives.
The positives are obviously the attacking display in the first 20 minutes and also the resilience showed to score the late winner. England teams in the past may not have scored that winner, as the Three Lions had previously only ever won three of their opening games at World Cups.
England faces Panama next at the World Cup on Sunday, a game the Three Lions are odds of 1/6 to win. A victory would more than likely be enough to seal progress to knockout stages of the competition for the Three Lions, which is the first priority.
The win will have come as a massive relief to everybody in the England camp. The Three Lions will be taking the tournament one game at a time, but a win was vital in their opener to keep the recent positive momentum going.
Did England deserve to beat Tunisia on Monday night?
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