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World Cup 2022: ‘England’s only problems right now are good ones’

This World Cup is only just getting started, but England are where we want them to be – comfortably into the last 16, and the only problems Gareth Southgate has right now are good ones.

It gets everyone buzzing when we play like we did in the second half against Wales. Yes, there are bigger tests to come, but let’s enjoy a good performance which sets us up perfectly for Sunday, and Senegal.

We talk about different sides having an identity, and that was a great example of what I want England’s identity to be: we had a high press, lots of energy and we were on the front foot.

That won’t work in every game, but we are a much better team when we play that way.

We looked lively in the forward positions and our midfield was strong, plus the defence did whatever was asked of them – the same as in each of our three games in Group B.

The team are full of belief, which is great to see, and we look like we are in a good place in every way.

I am happy with what I’ve seen – and excited about what is to come.

Foden and Rashford should start versus Senegal

It is fantastic for Southgate that he has so many options in our frontline, and choosing who should play is a nice problem to have.

We have got lots of attacking talent, so when any of them get an opportunity in this England team, they have to make the most of it.

When Southgate brought in Phil Foden and Marcus Rashford for the Wales game, he was basically saying ‘Over to you, I want to see what you can do’.

They certainly showed him that.

There are still arguments for Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka to play, and Jack Grealish too, but I would expect Foden and Rashford to start against Senegal on Sunday too – they definitely did enough.

Both Rashford’s goals were fantastic and I am so pleased Foden got on the scoresheet too. Lots of people, including myself, were shouting for him to play and he justified that with his performance.

Southgate got some big calls right too

I am delighted for Southgate that his decisions came off.

He gets plenty of stick for not making the right tactical or selection decisions, or using the right substitutes at the correct time, so we have to give him credit for being spot on against Wales.

He not only brought Foden and Rashford in on the flanks, but at half-time he decided to switch their positions around and it made a big difference – they looked happier like that, and they got our goals.

It was not just Southgate’s selection that worked, though. It was his tactics too.

We were measured and mature in the first half, but we upped the tempo after the break and got our reward. Once we went 1-0 up, the game was over, and it was just a question of how many we would get.

Goals are not a problem

This win was not down to individuals; the balance of the whole team was right.

I loved the energy Jude Bellingham gave us in midfield – he has got some engine on him. He kept driving us forward for more goals, and was always trying to get up there to get on the end of things.

We got our second goal by pressing Wales, virtually from the kick-off after the first goal, and the whole team did it together, high up the pitch.

Harry Kane still hasn’t had a shot on target at this World Cup, but he now has three assists, and his cross for Foden to score was ridiculously good – he put the ball exactly where he would have wanted it to put it away himself.

Rashford’s third goal was probably the one I enjoyed the most, because it happened at high speed and it was lovely to see him work it on to his left foot and put it away. By the time the Wales defender adjusts to his run, it is too late.

They were all really good goals, and scoring them is clearly not a problem – we are currently top scorers in the tournament with nine. From open play or set-pieces, other teams will be wondering how they can keep us out.

This is not the time to get carried away, but what we do have after that is some momentum and that is so important now.

I don’t think England would have been affected too much by their disappointing draw with the United States, but this performance had everything which was missing from that game and we can take all of it forward.

Senegal will still be dangerous opponents, even without the injured Sadio Mane, but I am really confident that England will have enough to beat them and reach the quarter-finals. –