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Football Reporting


England 1-0 Romania: 5 talking points as Marcus Rashford spot on in unconvincing win

Marcus Rashford, on the day he wore the armband, stepped up for England as they produced another far from convincing display against Romania.

The Three Lions will have failed to strike fear into any of Europe’s heavyweights with Wednesday’s performance and on Sunday afternoon they again failed to deceive.

Gareth Southgate started with a relatively inexperienced side at the Riverside and they mustered just one effort on target in the first-half.

Jadon Sancho was a rare bright spark, hitting the woodwork, and Jack Grealish too showed why he is surely a guaranteed starter.

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England upped the ante somewhat in the second-half and a mazy Grealish run result in a penalty, which Rashford cooly converted.

Jordan Henderson, who returned from an injury layoff, looked to end his international goal duck when the hosts were awarded another spot kick, but he was denied.

Sam Johnstone needed to produce an excellent save as Romania sought an equaliser.

Here are five talking points from England’s win.

Marcus Rashford scored England's winner before Jordan Henderson missed from the spot
Marcus Rashford scored England’s winner before Jordan Henderson missed from the spot

1 Its still not clicking

England were far from convincing four days ago and they’ve done little to prove they can bring together what, on paper at least, is a star-studded squad.

Southgate has a host of attacking stars at his disposal with Phil Foden and Mason Mount the only main men who’ve been absent over the past week.

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Despite that though England started with Dominic Calvert-Lewin, a man whose enjoyed his most prolific season to date, and Jadon Sancho and Jack Grealish, two men who’ve been touted with £100m moves.

For all that quality personnel though England were unable to mount regular attacks with their best moments coming as a result of individual quality.

2 Loads of right-backs, to no right-backs

So Southgate started the week with four right-backs, then it went down to three following Trent Alexander-Arnold’s forced withdrawal.

Yet he started against Romania without a conventional right-back as Ben Godfrey filled in.

It leaves us no closer to knowing who will start in that position for England against Croatia on June 13.

Kyle Walker is the favourite but Reece James or Kieran Trippier could just as easily usurp him in the pecking order.

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That said, Trippier played at left-back on Wednesday night. Clearly Southgate wants to keep Europe guessing.

Jack Grealish was, again, a standout performer
Jack Grealish was, again, a standout performer

3 The club connection

England’s squad depth is such that small margins and little advantages could prove crucial for certain players.

Luke Shaw is certainly in a left-back battle whilst Rashford too faces plenty of competition for a start in attack.

The Manchester United forward started on the left and looked particularly sharp. His performance also allowed Shaw to flourish and there’s no doubt their regular interaction paid dividends.

The left-back travelled with the ball impressively into the attacking third and he utilised his left winger effectively.

Going forward that combination looks to be promising and serves to highlight the value of familiarity at international level.

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4 A worthy exercise?

Warm-up games before a major tournament are something of a conundrum. Sort of a hybrid between testing out players, trying combinations but making sure your big names are sufficiently revved up.

We can all take a punt at guessing Southgate’s first starting XI and get around eight of the names right.

His line-up against Romania though seemed to consist largely of players on the periphery which begs the question – why?

Either he’s seen enough in training to believe they are ready or he’s being slightly naive.

Of the back five only Shaw is likely to start, but Ben Chilwell could easily play ahead of him.

Kalvin Phillips may only play if Jordan Henderson remains sidelined. In attack, perhaps only one, maybe two, of the four names who started will play against Croatia.

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England players will take the knee throughout the summer
England players will take the knee throughout the summer

5 The knee continues to divide

No matter the England boo boys, the Three Lions will continue to take the knee.

Beyond the selection conundrums the question over whether players would take the knee was the hot topic in the lead up to Sunday’s game.

Jeers reverberated around the Riverside Stadium on Wednesday night against Austria as the teams performed the gesture.

Southgate though insisted that his players would continue to do so despite the boos and even MPs having their says.

Against Romania there were audible boos before the game but it was quickly drowned out by applause.

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