Prior to the start of play on Tuesday, England had almost definitely advanced to the knockout phase, but the pressure to perform well in its last encounter of group play was still intense. The pressure to win, certainly, and the pressure to not lose, of course, but more so the pressure to imply that it was capable of a magnificent and majestic showing in this World Cup after a lacklustre performance in its last matchup
The first half on Tuesday was unpleasant, ineffective, and, more to the point, goalless. This was because the Welsh dug back on defence, happy to discourage and deny rather than create and produce. The encounter four days earlier between England and Scotland was also goalless. Then, as so many players wearing red jerseys crowded into the penalty area, a magnificent free kick was taken, and with it came a goal, the first of three that England so sorely needed.
The victory against Wales allowed England to finish first in Group B and secure a spot in the knockout rounds of the competition. This should result in a more advantageous draw for England in the elimination phase. Its reward is a match against Senegal, who came in second place in Group A, and it avoids playing the Netherlands, which sees itself as a contender in the same way as England does. Senegal finished in second place in Group A.
However, England has a far better record than the Dutch in recent years in terms of their performance in international competitions. England made it all the way to the finals of the European Championship in 2017, and they reached the semifinals of the World Cup in Russia in 2018. Its players and its manager, Gareth Southgate, are older and probably wiser, and he had a grasp of what they were missing in an underwhelming performance against the United States on Friday.
Because of the 0-0 draw, Southgate was forced to make adjustments to a team that lacked speed and creativity. He added players with more of an offensive flair. As a result, Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden were brought in. The first goal was scored on that magnificent free kick, and the second goal was scored following a deft cross from Harry Kane. Both goals were scored at the beginning of the second half. In Qatar, Wales, who was competing in the World Cup for the first time since 1958, was eliminated without a win after an additional goal scored by Rashford in the 68th minute.
Despite the fact that they are both part of the same country, the United Kingdom, England and Wales participate as independent countries in all other competitions. Their meeting on Tuesday marked another landmark moment in a competition that has lasted for centuries, both in terms of sports and culture. England came out on top in terms of soccer, and it appears that they also prevailed in terms of royal matters, as the Prince of Wales voiced his support for the Three Lions.
In honour of the event, there was red everywhere: on the faces of England’s players, in the spectators at Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, and in the box where the match was being played. There was so much red in the box. Rashford managed to get England’s lone shot on target during the first half despite England having the majority of control of the ball. Wales packed five, six, or seven players in there at once. Danny Ward, England’s goalkeeper, made the save to preserve the game scoreless, even if only momentarily, before England started showing its dominance again and over and over again.