On a visit to Leeds Trinity journalism department, Lewis Walsh writes up England’s victorious first game in the World Cup
England captain Harry Kane proved to be the hero in England’s 2-1 victory in their opening fixture of the World Cup, as he scored two memorable goals to secure three points for Gareth Southgate’s side.
The opening 30 minutes of the first half will have given England fans hope as chance after chance fell their way. It also proved that set-pieces could be the strong point for the side. Kane made sure to rifle home the rebound that came from the initial save made by Tunisian goalkeeper Mouez Hassan in the 11th minute.
Hassan was forced off by injury just five minutes after England’s opener, but his heroic efforts to limit England to one goal will have left many wondering just why he has spent this season on loan at Châteauroux in the French second division.
Following this spell of dominance, England became complacent Tunisia showed they were no pushovers.
In the 33rd minute, Columbian referee Wilmar Roldán made the controversial decision to award The Eagles of Carthage a penalty with the assistant of VAR after Kyle Walker allegedly obstructed a Tunisia player in the box. Before you could say ‘Same Old England’, Ferjani Sassi coolly converted his penalty to make it 1-1.
VAR is controversial at this World Cup and even the most ardent defenders will have found it hard to justify how it was used here. Many will have been wondered why it was used for the Kyle Walker penalty incident, and two incidents where Kane was wrestled to the ground by Tunisian defenders at corners.
As two incidents took place when the score was 1-1, it is easy to understand the frustration of the England fans.
Southgate’s appointment might have been questioned, but he will have won over a few doubters with the game-changing substitutions he made.
The introduction of Reuben Loftus-Cheek, who is deservedly in the squad following his successful season on loan at Crystal Palace, in place of Dele Alli, as well as bringing on Marcus Rashford for Raheem Sterling, proved to be pivotal for England. They began to get their mojo back after a tepid start to the second half.
Just as the media were preparing to sharpen for a poor result, Kane once again popped up. His goal this time came through a header after the ball was played to him by centre back Harry Maguire. Such a late goal spared England’s blushes.
England games tend to produce talking points, and their clash against Tunisia was no different.
Firstly, we already have a squad selection problem on our hands, as the cameos made by Rashford and Loftus-Cheek were more than enough for them to deserve a chance against Panama on Sunday.
But it would be a big call by Southgate to drop two of his star players in Raheem Sterling and Dele Alli, even if their performances were not the greatest.
Secondly, VAR could prove to be England’s Achilles Heel if it is used as it was yesterday. If FIFA want their experiment to be a success, there needs to be consistency. Sadly, when conversations should be dominated by optimism following the last-gasp goal, they will instead be littered with debates of whether this VAR system should really be used in England, as has been planned by the Premier League.
Either way, England showed they’ve got the spirit to go far in this tournament. Could 52 years of hurt end this summer?