The ‘new’ England’s maiden voyage in Russia 2018 has thrown up many positives, more excitement and several curiosities besides Harry Kane’s heroics. This was the first time coach Gareth Southgate had watched his young charges play in a game of any magnitude, something he eagerly made clear he was looking forward to on Sunday.
A modern formation with a three-man backline, quick-witted wingbacks and more flair in midfield than England have treated fans to in some time all left those vocal supporters in Volgograd keen to see what the Three Lions have up their sleeves for Panama.
England’s victory against Tunisia, however, was underpinned by the homegrown model for success of set pieces. With 90 minutes on the clock, the game was won in a very English way. A predatory No9, primed in the penalty area for a sequence which Premier League coaches preach ruthlessness in using and the utmost care in defending; the corner kick.
“We have seen already in this tournament that the margins are so fine, so set play becomes a bigger thing for us to highlight,” Southgate said. “We’ve worked on that and tonight we got a reward for it.”
Tripping up opposition
Kieran Trippier’s forte has always been delivery, which is Southgate’s motivation for playing him at right wingback, with Kyle Walker in a more central role. When he is not cutting off the channels to opposition fullbacks, he’s delivering crosses into dangerous areas. Can he live up to his new nickname of ‘the Bury Beckham’?
Dominance is key
Set pieces give England a base to score from, and there may be several players lying in wait to finish. Harry Maguire and John Stones can equal Harry Kane’s aerial threat in the box for corners, while Jesse Lingard battled to get on the end of Trippier’s deliveries. Clever decoy runs from Kane and Raheem Sterling kept Tunisian defenders on their guard.
Who’s on duty?
Trippier is first choice, but Manchester United fans sent a rallying call to Jose Mourinho to put Ashley Young back on corner duty after his fairly solid deliveries in Volgograd. England supporters will dream of seeing Eric Dier recreate his free-kick goal against Russia in Euro 2016, but could Jordan Henderson, who earned the nod ahead of Dier last night, attempt a free-kick or two?