Harry Kane’s brace kickstarted England’s 2018 World Cup campaign with a victory over Tunisia, ending the Three Lions’ two tournament drought without a victory in their opening game.
It was not a straightforward contest, despite taking the lead in the 11th minute. Kane was alert to capitalise on a rebound after John Stones was denied by Mouez Hassen. England spurned a number of opportunities before Tunisia equalised through Ferjani Sassi from the penalty spot. Gareth Southgate’s men appeared to be beading towards a frustrating draw, but Kane headed home in stoppage time to secure the three points for his team.
In one match, Kane has already scored more World Cup goals than Wayne Rooney, and is within striking distance of Michael Owen and Bobby Charlton on four strikes. One of the biggest question marks heading into the tournament was whether the Tottenham forward would be able to translate his form to the big stage. Although it is only one game, Kane has proved that Southgate made the correct decision to hand him the armband as he dragged his team to victory, displaying the clinical edge in the final third that evaded his team-mates in the first half especially in Volgograd.
The manner of England’s performance was perhaps more pleasing to Southgate than the result. The leading contenders for the World Cup have proved that they’re all beatable in the early stages of the competition. Germany were beaten 1-0 by Mexico in their opener, while Brazil, Argentina and Spain were all held to draws.
The Three Lions were an outside chance, to begin with, and on the basis of the opening round of fixtures, they have as a good an opportunity as anyone to win the tournament. England could be worth at least a flier punt, therefore, it could be a good idea to look at Timeform free bets today to determine the best value, including a £20 risk-free bet from Paddy Power. There are no certainties in Russia as even Brazil were humbled in their opener by Switzerland, playing out a 1-1 draw.
Key players have already played their role in the opening round of matches. Cristiano Ronaldo took centre stage for Portugal against Spain, scoring a brilliant hat-trick to earn the Selecao a point. Diego Costa was equally important for La Roja as he notched a brace. Romelu Lukaku also scored twice in Belgium’s win over Panama in the opener, continuing the theme of leading men playing vital roles for their respective sides.
Surprisingly, two of the finest players in the world, Neymar and Lionel Messi, were extremely underwhelming in their bows in the 2018 World Cup. Neymar looked off the pace in Brazil’s draw against Switzerland, while Messi missed a penalty in Argentina’s 1-1 draw against Iceland. If the tournament is going to be decided by the stars in the final third of the pitch, then the two South American sides need their key men to come to the fore. Argentina are blessed with Sergio Aguero and Paulo Dybala alongside Messi, while Philippe Coutinho and Gabriel Jesus are supporting Neymar. Should their leader fail to fire, then it’s up to their subordinates to take the initiative.
Germany should be extremely concerned by their start to the tournament. For all their talent, they do not have an out-and-out proven goalscorer in their side. Timo Werner has the potential to become a superstar in the mould of Miroslav Klose, but it may be a tournament too soon. Thomas Muller appears to be struggling from the effects of being moved into a wide area at Bayern Munich. When Die Mannschaft were at their best, he was playing in a central role. Moving their key man back into the middle could be a solution to get them up and back to the Germany the world knows.
The opening shots have been fired in the World Cup and some of the big guns have started firing. Should the tournament play out in this way, we’re set for an interesting time over the next couple of weeks. Strangely enough, there’s optimism for England fans as Kane can match the best in the world in front of goal, giving Southgate hope of a successful time in Russia.