Gareth Southgate declared that England have reached the World Cup knock-out stages in better shape than when they were World Cup semi-finalists in Russia, four years ago.
Marcus Rashford inspired England to a 3-0 victory over Wales – with two second half goals which took him to joint-top of the Golden Boot table. He dedicated them to a friend who passed away from cancer a few days ago.
Southgate, whose side will play Senegal next, said that his squad had more self-belief than the one who qualified for the round of 16 in Russia, where they beat Colombia on penalties.
He said: ‘I think there is a different mentality. More belief. In Russia, we were just thinking, “Can we win a knockout game?” Now there is more confidence and more experience of knockout matches.
‘We are pleased the first objective is achieved. The spirit of the team is good we have got most of the team on the pitch which is fabulous for the dynamic – and no yellow cards which is good.’
Speaking more closely on England’s win over Wales, the 52-year-old manager said:
‘We had complete control of the game in the first half but didn’t create enough clear chances. We were a little bit out of balance and we thought we could reverse Marcus and Phil’s sides. Players make those decisions work.’
Southgate continued: ‘Watching lots of games the big players have stepped up. And our forwards didn’t do that in the first half but in the second half they really did.
‘You need goals from all areas. It is a problem for opposition if the threat is coming from other areas of the pitch. It is competition for places and people have to deliver.
‘You can see with his [Marcus Rashford’s] club there has been happiness in his performances. We have a different version completely to the player we had in the Euros last summer.’
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