“A poignant moment for the truly exciting talent Rashford”

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Host Nation: Qatar Dates: November 20-December 18 Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC iPlayer, BBC Radio 5 Live, BBC Radio Wales, BBC Radio Cymru, BBC Sounds and the BBC Sport website and app. Day by day TV listingsFull coverage details

Marcus Rashford has taken a long and sometimes painful road to repair the confidence that seemed broken at times recently, but he looked like someone nearing the end of the journey as he inspired England into the last 16 of the World Cup.

Rashford struggled on the sidelines at Manchester United last season, a shadow of his exciting true talent, but there have been signs of recovery under new manager Erik ten Hag this season and England were the beneficiaries as they secured a 3-0 win -0 which also eliminated Wales at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.

He has hit the form that has made him United’s top scorer with eight goals this season in Qatar. The striker made an instant impact scoring moments after coming on as a substitute in the 6-2 win against Iran, and was the star of the show with two goals here to set up a meeting with Senegal on Sunday (19: 00 GMT). .

It was also a poignant personal moment for Rashford, as well as a celebratory one for England, as he said: “I lost one of my friends a couple of days ago. He had quite a long battle with cancer. I’m happy to have scored for him. He was a great supporter and a good friend of mine. He was someone who came into my life.”

Rashford started here as England manager Gareth Southgate shuffled his squad and performed with such distinction, as well as an end product, that he has put himself seriously in contention for a starting spot against the dangerous champions africans

Raheem Sterling, whose form at Chelsea has been indifferent, may be under threat, although Southgate is a huge admirer of what he brings to England and won’t rule him out without a second thought.

Regardless of what role Southgate decides Rashford will fill, his ongoing rehabilitation is perfectly on point for England as they topped Group B with few alarms and now prepare for the tougher tests ahead.

Rashford missed a chance in the first half when he played in for Harry Kane, he is yet to score in Qatar but was key to an early second-half England surge that saw them past Wales .

He showed confidence to power home a free-kick for England’s first goal and, after Phil Foden doubled England’s lead, the Manchester United striker was rewarded with another pace run into the heart of the Wales defense when goalkeeper Danny Ward let his shot go. his legs

It was an element of fortune, but no more than Rashford deserved, as he now has an England goalscoring record of 15 goals in 49 games, making 22 starts.

Rashford’s goal was England’s 100th at the World Cup and made him only the second Manchester United player to score three or more goals in a major tournament after Sir Bobby Charlton at the 1966 World Cup.

He said, after England moved on from the 0-0 draw with the USA, that they didn’t need this backlash to tell them they hadn’t played well. Here, the England fans gave an overwhelmingly favorable verdict on the 25-year-old as he received a lengthy standing ovation when he was substituted late on.

Moments like this are why I play soccer“said Rashford. “I’m very happy to go to the next round of the tournament because I have great ambition for this team. I think we can go further.”

Southgate is known for his loyalty, so he can still bring Sterling and Bukayo Saka back into his squad against Senegal, but Rashford couldn’t have done more to make his case. He has given Southgate the kind of headache every manager revels in.

The England manager received some family grief for conservatism after the draw against the USA, but the main priority was to reach the last 16, preferably top of the group. This has been achieved and Southgate’s selection was a winning formula on many levels.

Foden, whose no-show against the United States came as a surprise, got his chance here, as Southgate said he would at this World Cup. He justified his inclusion – and showed his talent – with a powerful run that set up a free-kick for Rashford’s opener and then showed his joy in being in the right place at the right time to sweep home Kane’s cross to the far post to make the 2. -0.

Rashford and Foden’s success came after Southgate switched wings at the start of the second half, another sign of the versatility and talent of England’s players.

And Southgate will be happy to get almost an hour out of Kyle Walker, so vital to England’s plans with his pace and flexibility, which also allows the manager to use him on the right-hand side of a three-man central defensive system . He has not played since undergoing groin surgery following an injury sustained playing for Manchester City against Manchester United on 2 October.

All in all, a very satisfying night for Southgate and England. The angst after the draw with the USA was replaced by a rendition of ‘Southgate You’re The One’.

The first part of England’s mission to Qatar has been completed. Now Senegal waits.

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