World Cup: Dominant England top group and send Wales home | Football
England stormed into the World Cup knockout stages with a dominant 3-0 win over Wales, eliminating their neighbours in the process.
The Three Lions laboured to a goalless draw with USA last time out but rediscovered the form that helped them thrash Iran 6-2 in their opening game of the tournament to top Group B and send Wales home.
The win will inspire confidence that England can go all the way in Qatar and win their first World Cup since 1966, with Gareth Southgate’s side facing African champions Senegal in the last-16 on Sunday.
For Wales, they leave their first World Cup since 1958 with one point and one goal from three group games. USA join England in qualifying from Group B after beating Iran 1-0.
Southgate made four changes to the team he picked to face Iran and USA, with Kyle Walker, Jordan Henderson, Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden coming in for Kieran Trippier, Mason Mount, Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka.
There were three changes for Wales, with the fit-again Joe Allen replacing Harry Wilson in midfield and both Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey retaining their places in the team.
After a cagey opening 10 minutes, Rashford had a superb chance to put England ahead as he latched onto Harry Kane’s through ball, but Danny Ward – starting in place of the suspended Wayne Hennessey – rushed out to smother the Manchester United forward.
While largely nullifying England, Wales barely advanced into the opposition half and lost Nottingham Forest defender Neco Williams to an apparent concussion before half-time.
But the Three Lions began to threaten as the half-time interval approached; Foden rifling over after a superb move down the right and Rashford failing with a spectacular effort at a bicycle kick.
It took Wales until the fifth minute of injury-time to have their first shot; Joe Allen, making his first start in Qatar, blazing high and wide from a rare Welsh attack.
Wales were without talisman Bale in the second half – the suspicion is the 33-year-old was struggling with an injury – and found themselves behind on 50 minutes as Rashford drilled a brilliant free-kick into the top corner.
England took full control just one minute later as Rashford won the ball high up the pitch and Kane’s superb cross was met at the far post by Foden.
Wales, now needing three goals to stand a chance of progressing in Qatar, did their best to get back into the match and Kieffer Moore tested Jordan Pickford with a deflected effort.
But England’s second-half dominance continued and Rashford scored his second of the evening – and England’s 100th at the World Cup finals – as he carried the ball forward, cut inside and powered an effort past Ward.
The Old Trafford academy graduate almost bagged himself a 30-minute hat-trick as he again found space in the box, but this time Ward was able to get down to deny England a fourth.
Wales looked for a consolation goal as Bournemouth striker Moore twice failed to hit the target from promising positions, but the disappointment from the Welsh contingent inside the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium was palpable as they slipped to a deflating defeat and an early World Cup exit.
It could have been even worse for Rob Page’s side as John Stones smashed over from close-range late on, but England were not overly concerned as they celebrated a morale-boosting win and turn their attentions to the knockout stages.
More to follow…
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