Marcus Rashford stepped up to the plate as the Manchester United forward scored twice to book England’s place in the last-16, as well as eliminate Wales from their first World Cup since 1958.
The first half of the game passed by without incident, and you could be forgiven for thinking that it was a repeat of the dismal United States game on 25 November. England controlled possession, yet they were unable to create any serious chances and trouble Danny Ward in goal.
Gareth Bale delivered perhaps his most anonymous performance to date, being hooked at half-time in a gamble by manager Rob Page. The decision did little to impact the Welsh performance, though, and England finally took the lead through Rashford’s stunning free-kick.
Rashford’s free-kicks have become somewhat infamous for their tendency to end up in the Solar System, and I admit I was worried when I saw him standing over the ball last night. However, the United forward duly proved me wrong - firing a Ronaldo-esque knuckleball into the far corner.
Phil Foden added a second just a minute later, before Rashford scored an impressive second. The game, and goals, were a welcomed remedy for the malaise that has surrounded the Three Lions following the USA debacle.
Marcus Rashford can use this tournament to put the heartache of Euro 2020 behind him. After missing a penalty in that infamous shoot-out against Italy, the young forward’s international career had hit rock-bottom. However, he now has the chance to rewrite the history books and score the goals that carry England to their second-ever World Cup final.
Draw Inspiration From Beckham
The Man United striker can look to former England captain David Beckham as inspiration. After being sent off in a fiery clash against Argentina in 1998, the midfielder became persona non grata in the eyes of the public, before atoning for his sins by scoring the decisive goal against the same opposition four years later.
Beckham then became one of England’s greatest-ever captains and retired from the game as a bonafide national treasure. If Rashford is serious about becoming an all-time English great, then he must use Beckham’s redemption as a template.
I have every hope that Marcus Rashford completes his turnaround from zero to hero as quickly as possible. Whilst he’s not anywhere near Beckham’s caliber yet, the signs look promising for the Manchester United mainstay.
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