England had to huff and puff but they eventually knocked Tunisia’s wall down in Volgograd on Monday evening.
The Three Lions were heading towards a disappointing 1-1 draw when, in the 91st minute, Harry Kane turned home from close range.
It was all that England deserved following a dominant performance in which they showcased some lovely, positive football in the first half.
Yet the Three Lions laboured in the second half and the arrivals of Marcus Rashford and Ruben Loftus-Cheek were important.
Raheem Sterling didn’t produce his best display in an England shirt and Southgate made the right call to replace him with the Manchester United attacker with 20 minutes remaining.
Whether this means Sterling is benched for England’s next match, against Panama on Sunday, remains to be seen.
It was a topic that was discussed by the pundits on ITV after the 2-1 win.
Neville on Sterling v Rashford
In the opinion of Gary Neville, Southgate should stick with Sterling instead of bringing Rashford in so as not to knock the Manchester City star’s confidence.
“I think Loftus-Cheek showed promise when he came on,” Neville said.
“I think in terms of Marcus Rashford, there will be questions always about Raheem Sterling.
“We covered him before the tournament but I think it would be sensible to continue to persist with him because if you go with him in the first game, then I think you [play him in the second match] to give him the confidence that you believe in him.
“Marcus came on and did well.
“There’s no rush. You’ll need these players, Gareth has mentioned that.”
Neville makes a lot of sense.
Panama shouldn’t pose a major threat to England and it’s a great opportunity for Sterling to impress.
Southgate spoke about his attacking options at full-time, insisting he will always be looking for his substitutes to make a difference.
“The way we’ll change the game is by bringing on a different profile of players, who carry a different sort of threat,” the England boss said.
“When you are attacking, you need some structure to your play.
“You can put attacking players on in various positions, but you can lose shape and be counterattacked.”
Whether from the bench or in the starting line-up, each of Southgate’s players has a part to play in Russia.
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