I enjoyed the first half of England’s World Cup opener. They came out and looked in control in Volgograd. They created a few clear chances in the opening 10 minutes and could have killed the game off if they were sharper in front of goal.
They showed a lot of maturity for such a young squad in the opening 45 minutes, but that started to fade after the break. They allowed Tunisia to lift their confidence by giving them more time on the ball. The tactic was probably used so they could capitalise on the space behind the defenders when they pushed up the field, but it didn’t happen for Southgate’s men for most of the second half.
The game went a bit limp for most of the second half and as time ticked on it was looking like Tunisia were going to snatch a point. Bringing on Rashford and Loftus-Cheek was a great move though, and it gave the game the intensity it had lost. When they came on you could see they wanted to do business.
This is what they really missed because to beat a team you have to have some players that can beat the opponents with a dribble and a pass. The passes were there in the first half but not many players were beating their man with the ball. Having Rashford who plays with such confidence makes a big difference. These players perform like they want to prove a point.
But so far everyone knows the star of the show in Russia is the man who scored a hat-trick, Cristiano Ronaldo. He was at his best again. A Penalty, a left-footed strike and then an amazing free-kick to finish off and earn a point for Portugal against Spain. Some people say he can’t do it against big teams but they don’t come any bigger than Spain at the World Cup, so that should silence the critics.
Sometimes I listen to the comparisons of Ronaldo and Messi and think Cristiano must really love the competition because it drives both to become better players. When you are that good you always want to come out on top. That’s why I didn’t like it when I saw the little magician miss his penalty against Iceland – if he has a great game we know Ronaldo will push for an even greater one. At this point Ronaldo is on top and he is feeding off both the fans who love him and the ones who don’t. It looks like the more people go against his way of thinking the better he performs.
Now my eyes are on Neymar because he should be stealing this World Cup show. After being out for so long he should be full of energy and ready to take the tournament by storm. He had an ok game against Switzerand but we haven’t seen him play the way we love to watch yet. Regardless of him being kicked so much, it does not help him when he goes down so easily. He is an amazing player and his team needs him to be focused on getting them the wins.
England and France are the only two big nations to get off to a winning start so the second round of games will be very interesting with the pressure on!