England eliminate neighbour Wales in thrilling 3-0 victory

Rashford bagged a brace in the second half that saw an invigorated England take charge.

Wales v England is one of rugby’s most intense rivalries, but in football it has generally been a more one sided story. Tonight’s match can viewed in multiple ways: as a local derby, a one-way rivalry, or an FA Cup fourth-round tie in Fifa clothing.

The game doesn’t exist in a vacuum, which is one of the main reasons for the slightly odd mood. It’s inextricably linked to Iran v USA, a match which could determine whether Wales qualify and/or England top the group. Either way, Wales really needed a win here and an Iran victory there, but neither happened.

Wales cope

The first half was where Wales were coping; they managed to hold off an uninspired England.

The first chance went to England. Kane put Rashford through on goal with a lovely pass, perfectly in sync with Rashford’s off-the-ball run, but Ward charged a long way from his line to narrow the angle and block Rashford’s shot.

The England fans chanted “you’re going home in the morning”, despite a rather uneventful first half.

The other big chance of the half came when Bellingham and Walker exchanged jaunty flicks on the edge of the area, then Bellingham produced another to find Foden. He turned smoothly and spanked a rising drive just wide.

England up the gears

The English inspiration came at half time. Bale was subbed off injured and Foden and Rashford switched wings. Foden started off on a brilliant run infield from the left, swerving past three players before being fouled by Mepham. The resulting free kick was converted into the far post by Rashford.

They would get their second goal only minutes later. Rashford played a big part in the goal, robbing Ben Davies just outside the Wales area. Kane collected the loose ball and drove a devastating ball across the six-yard line. None of the Wales defenders could get to it, and Foden arrived beyond the far post to ram it gleefully past Danny Ward.

Then came the third for a complete shutout. It was Rashford again, as Phillips arrowed a sweet pass down the right wing to release him. He moved into the area, cut inside Roberts and belted a left-footed shot that went through the legs of the unsighted Ward.

In the closing minutes, it wouldn’t be Wales with the chances, but England who kept piling on. There would be four big chances missed by Foden, Rashford and Maguire.

But as Maguire smiled in the closing minutes after missing a sitter, there wasn’t much to be disappointed about for England.

England top the group after an ultimately comfortable victory and will now play Senegal in the last 16 on Sunday evening. It’s a sad end to a golden age of Welsh football – they defended well but again struggled to keep the ball.

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