Harry Kane 8/10 as his brace delivers England World Cup win over Tunisia
Harry Kane was the hero as England struck late to beat Tunisia 2-1 in Volgograd on Monday. A bright start from Gareth Southgate's team looked set to come to nothing after Ferjani Sassi's penalty had canceled out Kane's opener, but in the 91st minute the Tottenham striker shook free to score a goal that ensured the Three Lions the perfect start to their World Cup campaign.
A very bright start, with the most fluid attacking football that England have played at a major tournament since Euro 2004, and a strong finish that spoke to the strength of character that Southgate has instilled in this young group.
Tunisia were able to slow England down and make them look worryingly uninspired for long stretches of an attritional second half. Kyle Walker and Harry Maguire also displayed some concerning lapses of concentration in defence.
Manager rating out of 10
8 -- Southgate picked the right team to start the game and although he bafflingly considered introducing Fabian Delph for the hobbled Dele Alli, he eventually made the substitutions that gave England the fresh impetus they needed to surge late.
Player ratings (1-10; 10 = best. Players introduced after 70 minutes get no rating)
GK Jordan Pickford, 7 -- Didn't have a huge amount to do as England dominated possession and Tunisia struggled to create from open play, but distributed the ball well enough when called upon. So close to making himself a hero when he guessed the right way for Sassi's penalty and got his fingertips to the ball. Showed no nerves.
DF Kieran Trippier, 7 -- An excellent outlet for England on the right flank, timing his forward surges perfectly and providing several dangerous crosses in their brightest moments. His free-kick deliveries -- he shared set-piece duties with Ashley Young -- were also consistently dangerous. Has developed good chemistry with Jordan Henderson and looks a very useful weapon in this system.
DF Kyle Walker, 6 -- His speed is most valuable to Southgate in the back three and he played one brilliant pass inside the full-back to free Trippier early on. Walker's instincts failed him, however, when he caught Fakhreddine Ben Youssef with a flailing arm to give Tunisia a penalty, even if the Al-Ettifaq forward sold the contact.
DF John Stones, 7 -- You wouldn't know to watch him here that he spent much of 2018 on Manchester City's bench. Made solid decisions with and without the ball, occasionally bailing out the shakier Maguire, and his bullet header forced the save that led to Kane's opener.
DF Harry Maguire, 5 -- Played the first half like a man very aware that he watched Euro 2016 as a fan from the stands, giving the ball away under pressure and misplacing passes. Grew a little in confidence as the match progressed, but his forays forward were less productive than Southgate will have hoped. Did, though, help flick on the ball for Kane's dramatic winner.
DF Ashley Young, 6 -- His best contributions were his corner kicks, which put Tunisia under huge pressure. In open play his crossing was less reliable than that of Trippier on the opposite flank, and there remains the nagging sense that better opponents will exploit his less-than-flawless positioning.
MF Jordan Henderson, 7 -- Justified his inclusion at the expense of Eric Dier with incisive passes in the opening minutes and repeatedly found Trippier in dangerous positions with sharp switches of play. Could be a little more wasteful with his shorter distribution under pressure, but overall a decent night.
MF Jesse Lingard, 7 -- England's most consistently dangerous attacker. The intelligent movement that has made Southgate such a fan got him into countless good positions and enabled him to strike the post in the first half, but as the team's intensity dropped off in the second his influence waned.
MF Dele Alli, 6 -- Slick early combinations with Lingard and Raheem Sterling suggested he was set for a big night, but he played most of the match at half speed after picking up what appeared to be a slight knock in the first half. Eventually substituted for Ruben Loftus-Cheek with 10 minutes remaining.
FW Raheem Sterling, 5 -- Not his night. His touch was poor, his finishing was wayward and his decision-making in the final third generally limited England's attempts to put the game away. Never stopped trying, but it was no surprise when he was replaced by Marcus Rashford on 65 minutes.
FW Harry Kane, 8 -- Took just 11 minutes to match Wayne Rooney's goal tally at World Cups and was hugely unlucky to be denied a penalty when he was wrestled to the ground at a corner in the first half. Provided a good focal point, commanding plenty of attention -- much of it comically cynical. The one corner he shook himself free, he won the game.
FW Marcus Rashford, 6 -- Showed plenty of energy and enthusiasm when he came on, injecting a little more urgency with the ball at his feet, but made a poor decision to dummy Loftus-Cheek's low cross for the marked Lingard when he should have shot himself.
MF Ruben Loftus-Cheek, N/R -- His power and pace added a different dimension to England's attacking play in the final 10 minutes and one low cross for Rashford deserved better than to fizzle out.
MF Eric Dier, N/R -- Brought on in the dying seconds as Southgate shored things up.
Liam is ESPN FC's Chelsea correspondent. Follow him on Twitter: @Liam_Twomey.