England revived by Sterling and “lucky general” Southgate
England’s bold and largely unexpected win in Spain has resuscitated the team, given credit to its manager and suggested a far brighter future than might have been envisaged even after a better than expected World Cup.
Napoleon, it is said, when it was suggested that one of his generals be promoted to marshal, would always ask: “Is he lucky?” And it might be argued that in Seville at least, Gareth Southgate was lucky.
Lucky in as much as Raheem Sterling, who for all his unquestioned talents had not scored for England since October 2015, proceeded to score twice.
It had surely been something of a gamble to choose him, given the electric form shown as a late substitute in Croatia by 18-year-old Jadon Sancho, who has been sparking in the Bundesliga. But Southgate stuck in hope to Sterling, who rewarded him with two splendid strikes against the Spanish.
Essentially a gamble which paid off, I suppose you could say that had it not done so then Sancho could always have been brought on as a substitute. In the event, he wasn’t needed, though it is good to have him in prospect for many a future game to come.
Overall, the team surpassed itself in Spain, not only collectively but at an individual level.
Marcus Rashford, whose finishing had been so awry previously in Croatia, was suddenly and impressively effective,
scoring one goal in style and making another. Jordan Henderson and John Stones, both convincing in Croatia but suspended in Spain, were not missed.
At centre-back, Joe Gomez made an uncertain start in Seville but settled down to be a dominant force. Any doubts one had about Ross Barkley were emphatically laid to rest as his inspired pass paved the way to England’s third goal.
Harry Kane may not have scored but was crucially involved in two of the England goals and has plainly recovered the form which left him in the latter stages of the World Cup. Harry Winks surpassed himself in midfield, while Ben Chilwell asserted himself at left-back.
There wasn’t a single player who did not emerge with great credit. This was breakaway football at its best and when the 4-3-3 was varied defensively late in the game, that system worked too, under abundant pressure.
The team surpassed itself in Spain, not only collectively but at an individual level
Impressive...Raheem Sterling gets England’s opening goal in the 3-2 victory in Spain