Gareth Southgate on the impact of Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and England's fans against Wales
Having played for and managed the Three Lions at multiple major tournaments, Gareth Southgate knows the impact England’s fans can have. It is why the manager used his post-match interview to hail the Three Lions faithful after their vocal support during the 3-0 win over Wales.
With an emphatic 6-2 win over Iran and a 0-0 draw against USA already secured at the 2022 FIFA World Cup, England went into their game with neighbouring Wales knowing a draw would be enough to secure their progression to the last 16.
But two impressive finishes from Marcus Rashford and a goal from Phil Foden ensured the Three Lions progressed to a last-16 tie with Senegal on Sunday in style.
Southgate said: “I've played in front of England crowds like that, it's an amazing feeling when you go to a tournament and you see them in such numbers when you consider how far they've had to travel.
“It’s a very special night for them, it's a nice night for us, a big game that comes with a lot of additional pressure but I thought we dealt with that really well. We were calm and showed our quality.”
England were completely dominant in the first half against Wales on Tuesday night but struggled to create many clear-cut openings.
But their patience paid off when Rashford scored a stunning free-kick five minutes after the interval and Foden added another a minute later.
Rashford then scored his second as the Three Lions topped Group B on seven points ahead of the USA, who finished two behind after their 1-0 win over Iran.
Southgate said: “I thought in the first half we really controlled the game but we didn't create enough clear chances, just Marcus's one where he ran in behind.
“We wanted a little more thrust and threat in that final third, play forward a little bit quicker, and in the second half, once we got the two goals, we knew their spirit was probably gone. It’s been a tough tournament for them and we kept discipline and quality right the way to the end.”
Southgate made four changes to his starting XI, as Rashford, Foden, Kyle Walker and Jordan Henderson all came into the side.
Both Rashford and Foden showed moments of quality in the first half but both made an even greater impact – and scored their goals – after Southgate asked the two forwards to switch flanks at the break.
When asked about Rashford, Southgate said: “It's great for him. He's trained really well and has been impressive since he came back in with us. He could have had a hat-trick. The free kick, that's what he's capable of - it's an incredible strike.”
Southgate continued: “In moments I thought both of them [Foden and Rashford] were a bit quiet in the first half. We decided to switch wings which I thought might allow them to go on the outside but also the chance to come in and they responded really well. For them both to get the goals is great.”
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