World Cup 2018: Harry Kane rescues England as they beat Tunisia in opening match

Jason Burt
Harry Kane - Getty Images Europe

Harry Kane said he might well score three like Cristiano Ronaldo. People tittered. Instead it was just the two for the England captain as he struck the goals to gain England a precious victory in their opening Group G fixture against an obdurate, organised and occasionally cynical Tunisia. It mattered in terms of perception as well as points. These were Kane’s first tournament goals and he, and England, are up and running. What a contribution from the captain.

At times England wrestled with familiar failings. At times, Tunisia just wrestled and not least when it came to dealing with Kane who was dragged to the turf on at least two occasions inside the penalty area. The first probably was rightly not given, as John Stones already appeared to have committed a foul, but the second appeared a blatant penalty. Where was the video assistant referee (VAR)?

After being overwhelmed at set-pieces early on the Tunisians resorted to grapple tactics which seemed to have hauled England down into a usual sense of stifling frustration especially in an increasingly drifting second-half. The Tunisians swarmed around England like the midges and mosquitoes that plagued this stadium on the banks of the River Volga and so irritated the players.

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

That was until injury-time when Harry Maguire, who was also being regularly man-handled, finally found some space to meet a corner and flick the ball towards the back-post where Kane had drifted free and headed home. Except it was not as simple as that.

The forward could easily have sent the chance over the bar but he twisted his body, strained his neck and whipped it into the net in the tight space between goalkeeper and goal-frame. In fact both of Kane’s goals came from corners. Thankfully, unlike at Euro 2016, he was not tasked with taking them.

What a finish and what a finish to this match. In a city, formerly Stalingrad, where history hangs heavy, England had felt their own footballing history beginning to burden them once again after such a luminous start. Stay calm under pressure. Find a solution. They had been key messages from manager Gareth Southgate. And for once England eventually did just that.

Southgate had urged England to attack the tournament, attack the World Cup. They did that also until adversity and errors struck. But they overcame them. They, hopefully, removed a mental block in doing so. How wonderful would that be? This result means that, for the first time in five tournaments, since 2006 in fact, England have won their opening game. Next up it is Panama and then Belgium and a last-16 place should now be in their grasp. The 2,000 England fans inside this stadium sang and sang at the final whistle. What a relief.

Forward trio too good for Tunisia in opening 45 minutes
England have to rely on corners

There are issues. Defensively England remain far from assured with Ashley Young - whose place will be under threat from Danny Rose - and Maguire making some wrong decisions and the 3-5-2 under question while debate will re-open over the effectiveness of Raheem Sterling who appeared shorn of confidence after a woeful early miss and lasted barely an hour before being replaced by the far more effective Marcus Rashford while there was rich food for thought in the positive contribution of Ruben Loftus-Cheek who appears to have that bit of subtilty to unpick a packed defence.

There were positives also with Kieran Trippier outstandingly creative down the right flank, Kane predatory and Jordan Henderson fully justifying his selection as the midfield anchor.

In terms of attacking intent, in terms of chances created the first-half was among England’s most impressive 45 minute periods for decades - even if it was eventually let down by defensive frailty and weak finishing. England will rage about the penalty they conceded but, even before then, they should have been out of sight.

They missed chance after chance after chance and scored just once, striking the frame of the goal twice. They had to be more ruthless and it seemed they would be just that as Kane scored on 11 minutes as Stones met Young’s corner with a superb leap, an even more superb header and goalkeeper Mouez Hassen somehow clawed it out. Unfortunately for him it dropped to Kane who side-foot volleyed into the net from close-range.

Before that Hassen had kept Tunisia in it as he did well to divert Jesse Lingard’s deflected shot away for a corner. Even so Lingard had to score and had to score when he then miscued a volley into the side-netting. Sterling, also, had to score but scuffed wide the goal beckoning while after conceding Hassen could not carry on, having already hurt his shoulder, and departed in tears. The goalkeeper had also denied Maguire, clawing away his header.

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

The concern began to creep and England were caught out with Kyle Walker, foolishly, throwing his arm back as he contested a cross and catching Fakhreddine Ben Youssef in the face. The forward went down, claiming the offence and the Colombian referee Wilmar Roldan pointed to the penalty spot. Ferjani Sassi took seven steps back, strolled up and stroked his right footed shot into the corner of the goal. Jordan Pickford guessed right, got a finger tip to the ball but was beaten. It was coolly executed. A sassy penalty by Sassi.

England vs Tunisia Player ratings

Again focus had been lost by England. But they summoned a response with Maguire’s header headed out from on the goal-line and onto the bar. The rebound fell to Stones but he snatched at it and the ball rolled wide before Trippier cleverly set Lingard through and although he flicked his shot past substitute goalkeeper Farouk Ben Mustapha it struck the outside of the post.

England were inexperienced of course, with nine players making their World Cup debuts, and maybe it began to show as Tunisia defended ever deeper and were determined to hold on by any means they could. Time was running out but that was until Kane intervened. Ronaldo had scored those three goals for Portugal against Spain last week and Kane said he fancied vying for 'The Golden Boot' as the World Cup top-scorer. Good for him. Good for England.

 

10:45PM

Harry Maguire reaction

 

10:31PM

Sam Wallace on Gareth Southgate

Of everything Southgate has done with this England team - encouraging them to take risks, to ignore the usual fears and hang-ups - his autumn change to a 3-5-2 formation once qualification was over was fundamental to the whole plan.

Read more in Sam Wallace's article here.

10:31PM

To be honest, I'm not surprised

 

9:39PM

Kane scored two goals despite eating midges

"There were a lot more than we thought. We had a lot of bug spray on, before the game, and at half-time. I got some (flies) in the eye, some in my mouth."

Bluuuuuurgh.

9:38PM

Great news

 

9:37PM

Reaction

 

9:33PM

A bit of analysis

Fascinating match. I've not seen an England team so confident, calm in possession and adept at building play from the back who don't also revert to type in the final few moments and throw on 18 strikers to hump the ball long to.

Southgate's team built from the back and stayed patient. It moves the opposition around, makes them work hard and as soon as Rashford and Loftus-Cheek injected a bit of forward-thinking and pace to that second half, the movement and forward passing really caused problems.

The other thing to commend Southgate for is his clear focus on set pieces. Maguire was brilliant as a target in the box and had it not been for the intervening hands and wrestling skills of Tunisia's defence, England would probably have scored more.

Henderson was superb as a six, holding the line between the wing-backs during build-up and rarely roaming from his position.

Henderson

On the times he did attack, Alli and Lingard knew to watch the midfield and dropped back to maintain the shape.

This is a well drilled, organised and disciplined England and the benefit of that is the forwards can have way more fun, able to rely on a solid base further back.

9:25PM

Kane with his MOTM trophy

Credit: FIFA

I'm pretty sure there's no beer inside it. 

9:23PM

What a find this is

 

9:22PM

England fans going nuts

 

9:21PM

Kyle Walker

I think the entire squad is going to a press interview at this rate. Here's Walker:

"It shows the work we've put in, believing in ourselves, the system, got the goal which always feels better in the later stages.

"I think in the Premier League probably would have got away with it. Trips gave us a shout to leave it so I just tried to shield the ball.

"We created a lot of chances but we're not the finished article. There's two more important games we need to go and pick up points now.

"I'm not a big talker, I know everyone likes to have their own thoughts but I said I'll run.

"It's good. It's a pat on the back for us but there's two important games. We just prepare well and hopefully the points will come."

9:17PM

Southgate says

"I think the way we kept playing even though the clock was running down, we waited for good opportunities and I think we deserved the win. We had total control of the game second half, strong on set plays all night. Even had we drawn, which would have made life difficult, I would have been proud of the performance.

"We'll do well to make as many chances in a game in this tournament. The movement, the control from the back with the ball. Good teams score goals and [keeping the ball helped tire Tunisia].

"The squad have been brilliant, the team selection was so difficult and to bring the substitutes on and them make the impact they did, everyone's worked so hard to come together.

"We've given ourselves a great platform to build from, in particular the level of performance but there's a lot of work to do still. Panama will be a tough test in a different way. We can enjoy tonight, I hope everyone at home enjoys tonight.

"He's a top, top striker and I'm delighted for him. It's great we've got him in the team, he took his goals very well."

9:11PM

Harry Maguire with less of a 'by numbers' interview

"We thought the penalty was a bit soft.

"We stuck to our shape and knew we'd get the next goal.

"It was tough out there, really warm, started well but missed clearcut chances which you don't get at this level very often.

"We knew we'd get more but they changed the shape to match us to a three, more like a five. 

"It was as much a penalty as what they got. He's always going to get that chance, he's going to be a huge player for us.

"There were a couple of nervy passes in the first. It's a big occasion, my first game at this high pressure, you've got to focus, concentrate and I felt I grew into the game. 

"It's a massive three points but it's only three points and we've got another big game coming up."

9:07PM

Player ratings

Who stood out for you? Here's our verdict:

England vs Tunisia Player ratings

 

9:06PM

Matt Law's verdict

England 2-1 Tunisia | Did Southgate's big calls pay off?

 

9:06PM

Jordan Henderson says

"I thought we kept going. It paid off tonight with a big win. 

"I still felt positive, we wanted to get the game going again. We didn't maybe we were thinking about the chances we missed, in the World Cup you've got to keep going. In the second half we did that, kept fighting, didn't play as well but they defended deeper, a lot better as well.

"We said you can be friends off the field but on the field you're fighting your mate next to you, for each other. For the whole process we've said keep going to the final whistle and think that showed tonight."

9:03PM

Alan Shearer says

not a foul

"I would love one of the VAR people to come out and explain that. They told us before the start they were going to keep an eye on that."

9:02PM

This is how many chances it took England to win that

 

9:01PM

Harry Kane post-match

"I thought we played really well, could have scored a few more, credit to the lads we kept going, got to the last second and we're absolutely buzzing.

"We spoke a lot about togetherness, we've got a great bond off the pitch which is nice. 

"I think a few corners we had so much joy from corners, they were trying to stop us and hold us, that's football, that's the ref and it shows good character to do what we've done.

"I'm really proud. We've done a lot of work, it was tough, we got the nerves and excitement out the way. I'm so proud."

8:59PM

The goal in pictures

Credit: AP
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Credit: GETTY IMAGES
Credit: PA

 

england goal

 

8:57PM

Tunisia players leave the pitch in tears

The coaching staff get on the pitch and console an absolutely gutted team of Tunisians. They were so close to a point that could have given real hope of qualification there. Belgium didn't look too special earlier today so there is a chance but it's probably fair to write off Panama at this stage. 

8:54PM

What a time to win it

"Release!" is Martin Keown's rather-too-much information feeling at the final whistle. England showed real character to stay in that one, drawing that would have been a very pre-2018 England thing to do.

8:53PM

FULL TIME

That's it! England win and it's deserved. Two goals from Harry Kane seal the three points in a hard-fought win over a tricky Tunisia side. 

8:52PM

90 mins +3 - England 2 Tunisia 1

Lingard off, Dier off. Southgate is delighted, he was bouncing along the touchline when that goal went in. Interesting that Tunisia decided not to pick up Kane and put him on the floor this time.

8:49PM

GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAAAALLLLLLL!

IT'S HARRY KANE!

The corner is brilliant! Maguire heads it on and Kane is at hte back post - unmarked! Nobody hauls him to the ground this time and he turns the header into the goal from a few yards. It's a brilliant finish!

8:49PM

90 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

It's still all England. They do really well to pass to half way... and then run out of ideas. Or have they? Maaaaaybe. Loftus-Cheek wins a corner. Four minutes of added time to come.

8:48PM

89 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Loftus-Cheek has done well since coming on. He's in the box, turns his man and has options in the six yard box! He pulls it across goal and Rashford can shoot - but he leaves it! Lingard misses his kick. Rashford reacts furiously - he must have been given a shout to leave it. Dreadful call by Lingard if that is the case - he was surrounded.

Loftus-Cheek turns his man, gets to the goal line... and overruns it. Goal kick.

Martin Keown has suggested England have "under estimated the heat". A perilous situation indeed.

8:46PM

87 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Trippier hits a cross into the box, it's cleared by the first man.

Loftus-Cheek goes on a nice run but none of his striker friends seem to read it.

Tunisia are caught offside. 

8:44PM

85 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

I hate to say it but Rashford has done more in the last five minutes than Sterling did for most of the game. He's won a corner now.

OK. So. Here we have a thing. The goalkeeper has come to attack the corner and has literally punched John Stones in the head. The referee has given a free-kick to Tunisia. 

The goalkeeper punches a defender in the head and wins a free-kick. Am I going mental? Is this... is this... what is this? How is that a free-kick to the goalkeeper? I'm confused. Things don't look the same anymore. Am I through the looking glass? Inside the machine? Only time will tell my friends. And at the moment, Tunisia are wasting that time. Khazri walks off the pitch slooooooooowwwwwwwwwly to be replaced by Khalifa.

8:41PM

83 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

The free-kick is high to the back post... and Tunisia win a throw. Can they improve on this in the final 10 minutes? They've hardly had the ball in the England final third.

 

8:39PM

81 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Dele Alli off, Loftus-Cheek on. He should help with moving the ball around the Tunisia half. Henderson is fouled 35 yards out. Tunisia have defended really well tonight.

8:39PM

80 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Urgh. Young's free-kick is dreadful.

beckham

Over the bar, nowhere near. Poor. Etc.

 

8:37PM

78 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Alli goes for a one-two, gets wiped out, and it's a free-kick to England in BECKHAM TERRITORY! 

Young can hit these.

8:36PM

77 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Promising attack from England! Rashford moves into the box, fires it wide to Trippier. Blocked.

Rashford joins in again, twists, turns, twists, turns, and passes back to Henderson who hits a high pass to the back post... and Kane's attempted volley pass to Lingard produces nothing.

8:34PM

75 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Sliti is taken off, Ben Amor is on. He's more of a defensive midfielder than Sliti, who had a decent game tonight.

Credit: AP

The Tunisian goalkeeper Hassen is on the bench with his arm in a sling now.  

8:32PM

73 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Tunisia have had to deal with pressure for the last 20 minutes or so but could now decide to use some energy taking the game to England. Sliti strides forward, the space opens up... he shoots! 

It's awful. Like swinging at the ball with a golf club. He punts into the air and it flies wide.

8:30PM

71 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

England have been lifted immediately! Alli gets in behind the defence and is one on one! But the goalkeeper is awake and quickly smothers. Alli is said to be offside anyway.

He isn't. This referee has made some interesting decisions today.

8:28PM

70 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

First sub: Sterling off, Rashford on. Will he take this free-kick? It looks like Trippier and Young fancy it.

Trippier takes it... and it's wide.

Rashford is involved straight away! He carries the ball forward quickly and pokes it ahead of Kane... but a brilliant tackle by the defender takes it away from him.

8:26PM

68 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

 England have turned possession round even if they're not finding too many chances to really attack with it. Over the course of the game you'd probably say they've had the better of times.

England keep going backwards and sideways with their passing. Tunisia are defending with a low block and surrounding England players on the ball... and Kane has won a free-kick 25 yards out. 

8:24PM

66 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Henderson is forward now so Alli drops to the six position with Lingard deeper too. Walker carries the ball out, Pickford comes off his line to help with the passing, Young has to go backwards. The midfield are getting caught too high up the pitch and the passing is all going sideways.

8:23PM

64 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

England are running a little low on ideas now and Martin Keown has suggested the heat in the stadium might be the cause. 

Here's a promising move though. Sterling on the left, Young doesn't read the backheel and then as soon as he touches the back of the defender, it's a free-kick to Tunisia.

8:22PM

62 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

This time no England players are thrown to the ground at the corner and Kane keeps the ball alive at the goal line. England keep up the pressure and then Sterling is... there's a free-kick. Sterling's holding the back of his marker's shirt.

foul
not foul

 

8:19PM

60 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Good, patient passing from England in the final third. Kane can't get on the end of a cross from the right, Young tries an effort from the left, and Trippier then wins a corner after a brilliant long ball from Henderson finds him. Henderson's passing has been superb.

8:18PM

58 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Great running off the ball by Lingard. He spots Henderson is in danger of being overrun and drops back beside him to help the move. He doesn't get the ball but just being there gives security and an option to England.

linbgard run

 

8:15PM

56 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

England have Tunisia pinned back. It's a really high press and is making Tunisia work hard at the moment. Tunisia are so good with the ball though and manage to escape the first line of press.

Credit: JULIAN SIMMONDS

 In other news, a photographer has found a bat on the pitch. [Tyldesley] "But is there a Batman on the pitch? England could certainly do with one now!" [/Tyldesley]

8:12PM

54 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Ohhhhhhhh Khazri is in behind Maguire - who has been poor defensively tonight - and Pickford comes out his box to defend it! The referee blows for an offside (incorrectly) and ends the move. 

England get forward, Young's cross is cleared... England win a free-kick at halfway.

8:11PM

52 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Kane's been wrestled to the floor again. That's incredible. Honestly it's shocking - what is the VAR doing? This is infuriating to watch. England denied another huge shout at a penalty - if the player can't attack the ball because he's been thrown to the floor, surely it's a foul? Ah well.

The corner doesn't end well for England because both Henderson and Kane have been taken out of the game.

8:09PM

50 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Tunisia seem calmer, more composed at the start of this half. Aaaand Meriah has passed straight out for a throw. Curse of the... live blogger.

Tunisia moving the ball around really well here, England are having to work to cover the pitch and Tunisia are in the final third now. But Sterling's nipped in and the counter is on! 

Corner to England.

8:07PM

48 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Tunisia start well until a foul on Henderson gives England possession back. Sassi has a go at the referee for that decision too but it's a clear free-kick. 

England pass around the back for a while and Walker is on the right of the three centre-backs. Would there have been a penalty in the first half if Stones had been the central CB?

8:04PM

KICK OFF 2

Dele Alli is OK to continue! He's back. Sterling is having to bat away about a million midges from his face.

sterling grab

I realise it's hard to see them so I've highlighted the ones I can see easily in that photo. If you've ever been to Scotland in September, you will understand how annoying these things are.

8:03PM

Just a friendly reminder 

That after a VAR review, this is not a penalty. Please remember that I am a neutral observer here.

kane foul

 Anyway. Let's move on now, if we get another half as entertaining as that we'll all have a great time.

8:01PM

England's xG is promising

 

7:59PM

England must improve their finishing

It's all very well creating the chances but England - obviously - have to take them. Sterling's miss was a dreadful effort as was Stones' scuffed volley attempt inside the box as Tunisia were scrambling. Oh and Lingard's too. They were all bad at it.

7:56PM

This is an interesting decision

kane foul

 He's literally thrown him to the ground.

7:54PM

Rio Ferdinand blames Walker for the penalty

"If Walker's body position was right there wouldn't be a penalty. A centre-half facing his own goal is criminal."

7:53PM

Average shape

It's all about the running from England's central midfielders. You can see how they all seem to be in central areas on that average position and it's really causing damage. One of Lingard, Alli, Kane or Sterling run from deep positions in behind the defenders and a ball over the top or down the wing puts them into situations where England can attack. 

Look how many touches they've had in the Tunisia box already:

 

7:49PM

No flies on this one

But there were before the game...

That was really exciting. England created heaps of chances but as Alan Shearer has just said "at this level you have to score them".

7:48PM

HALF TIME

Oocha beasties. That was some half. England looked incredible for 20 minutes and then a bit of sloppiness and a silly foul has given their opponents a way back in. Sound familiar?

7:47PM

45 mins +2 - England 1 Tunisia 1

Henderson puts Pickford in a spot of bother but instead of staying calm, Pickford tries to launch the ball as many miles away as possible and ends up giving away a throw-in. England working their way forward in search of another goal before half time. 

Maaloul has had the ball hit off the side of his torso and has gone down howling. There's no way he's winded and Trippier goes across to find out what has actually happened to him.

7:44PM

45 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Maguire is England's most dangerous player at the moment! He heads a free-kick across the box and tees up Lingard for a sitter inside 12 yards. He fires over the bar. Awful. It turns out there's a deflection, so I withdraw my harsh criticism.

The corner is gathered low by the goalkeeper in the second phase of the set piece.

LINGARD IS IN AGAIN! Another pass over the top! One on one with the goalkeeper after a run from deep but his touch rolls agonisingly wide of the near post, hitting it instead of rolling in! So unlucky!

7:42PM

43 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

That shove on Kane in the penalty area is comical. I don't know what VAR are doing or whether I missed the seminar that first confirmed the collision of WWE and football into one super sport, but England should have a penalty. Happy to be proved wrong!

7:41PM

41 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

England win another free-kick in the Tunisia half. It's too far away to shoot, Trippier will take... but it's not up to much. Alli chases into the corner and wins back... and now there's a Tunisia throw. 

Credit: REUTERS

 

7:40PM

39 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Sterling wins a free-kick in the corner. Delph is getting ready to come on but Alli will be allowed to attack this free-kick first. Trippier hooks it in... and it's a panic in the box! 

Kane goes down in the area, it's headed across the box and onto the bar... Stones comes to swing a foot at it but gets it all wrong.

Oh my god how is that not a penalty. Kane was literally thrown to the ground by his man-marker there. 

7:37PM

37 mins - England 1 Tunisia 1

Well, well, well. Here we are. "You've got to be so careful in the modern game. I'm not sure I could play today!" says Keown.

Maguire's made another mistake! Tunisia have three men, a man over... but the ball doesn't go right to him and is played left instead. Khazri slips... and the move is gone. 

Dele Alli is going to have to come off.

7:35PM

GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAALLLLLL!

TUNISIA HAVE EQUALISED! 

Sassi steps up, does a little shimmy in his run up and slots it low and hard into the bottom left corner. Pickford is soooo close to it.

7:34PM

PENALTY TO TUNISIA!

Instant decision by the referee! The ball is hooked into the area and Walker whacks the forward in the face! VAR has reviewed it and it's a definite penalty... Walker is demonstrating he was putting his arms out wide like wings to work out his position.

Instead he's caught the striker in the face!

tunisia penalty

 

7:33PM

33 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

Sterling drops to take a pass to feet, fires it out to Trippier and gets a return pass. The ball is moved to the box, crossed low into the area... but the defender blocks at the front corner of the six yard box. 

Dele Alli is clutching his thigh and doing a bunch of stretching. Walker has moved to the central centre-back position.

7:31PM

31 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

Bronn has just gone absolutely nuts at the referee for daring to give a free-kick against him after rolling the ball up his arm like a basketball freestyler. I don't understand footballers sometimes.

This is a great spot for a free-kick. Trippier chips it to the back post and MAGUIRE IS THERE! But the goalkeeper saves confidently. England keep up the high press and win possession back but Tunisia find a way to break.

7:28PM

29 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

Great delivery by Khazri but it's headed away inside 10 yards. England survive! Tunisia seem a little braver now though and are starting to get on the ball and run with it. 

7:27PM

27 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

Pickford is quick off his line to close down a pass into space for Khazri. 

Maguire's been caught in possession though and suddenly Tunisia are all over them! The crowd gets excited and England panic! Maguire throws himself at the shot and deflects it behind. England completely switched off there. Poor. Tunisia corner.

7:24PM

24 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

The corner is taken by Khazri but misses everyone in the box. Sliti chases, beats Alli to the ball and then fancies a shot himself from distance... but launches it miles away. The ball's somewhere in the crowd.

Kane finds Young on the left, Young cuts inside and chips to Lingard at the back post. Oh my word he's unmarked... the ball lands at his feet! He must score! Lingard misses! 

I hate the cliche but that seemed like he too much time and didn't know what to with himself.

7:22PM

22 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

Credit: PA

 England are knocking the ball about beautifully and get men forward but Tunisia steal the ball and can break! But Young is quickly on the case and England win it back. 

I am so impressed by this performance so far. Martin Keown says "dare I say it, this is some of the best football we've seen at the tournament so far."

But now Tunisia have found a way to attack and it is down the right wing. Bronn gets all the way to the box and wins a corner. He's meant to be a centre-back and Young hasn't dealt with it well, leaving his position.

7:20PM

20 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

It's like a 3-3-3-1 formation really, or it is when Sterling drops slightly deeper. Will Tunisia do as Nigeria did and copy the shape for the second half? Or immediately? Because they're really struggling.

7:19PM

18 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

England's shape is working really well. Henderson, who I've doubts about as a six, is holding it all together in the build-up play.

henderson

He needs to keep this up all game long to ensure England's build up works from the back.

England - honestly - are playing really well. This is a fantastic move now, there's loads of running off the ball, there are numbers in midfield... and Henderson has a chance to shoot from distance after Trippier's cross is missed by all. He forces a decent save from the new goalkeeper.

 

7:16PM

16 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

After a lengthy break, Pickford hoofs the ball up the pitch and England win the second ball. Tunisia press them high up the pitch and force a goal kick as Walker has to try and ping it away rather than keep up the short passes.

7:14PM

14 mins - England 1 Tunisia 0

The goalkeeper has gone down again. Poor guy. That save was awesome. The physios attend to him as the substitute goalie gets warmed-up.

Hassen has to leave the pitch in tears, given kisses on the way by his taemmates. He's going to be replaced by Mustapha.

7:11PM

GOOOOOOOOOOOAAAAAAAAALLLLLLLL!

ENGLAND HAVE SCORED!

kane goal

Stones absolutely batters a header at goal and the goalkeeper somehow claws it out of the net with an incredible, strong hand. He can only pass it to Kane though, who makes no mistake. Will the goal be given to Kane or Stones? I think it might have been over the line!

 

7:11PM

11 mins - England 0 Tunisia 0

England win a corner as Kane finds space to take a shot from 20 yards. Young comes across to take it.

7:10PM

10 mins - England 0 Tunisia 0

The crowd are cheering Tunisia's passing but as Martin Keown has jsut said "Oh they can definitely play". And as I type that a pass goes straight out for a throw.

 

7:08PM

8 mins - England 0 Tunisia 0

What a start by England though. They look fired up and are moving really well. 

Hassen, the goalkeeper, still doesn't look happy with his... shoulder? Goalkeeping ability? The scenario he finds himself in? Something's up anyway.

Ben Youssef.F has gone down holding his chin as Young puts his forearm into his face. I'm not sure that's intentional but it definitely hurt. Will the referee review it? Nope. He is safe to wound more with his deadly elbow. Beware, sweet Tunisians.

7:06PM

6 mins - England 0 Tunisia 0

CHANCE FOR STERLING! Ooooohhhh he's missed an open goal.

sterling miss

It's OK though, he's offisde. Well, Lingard is. Even though he's not. If that makes sense. Lingard is played in on goal, passes across the box and Sterling is at the back post but makes a total mess of things. 

 

The goalkeeper's down on the floor receiving treatment but I'm not sure why. They're trying to fix his arm... but he didn't touch anything with it. Is he just trying to calm this down?

 

7:03PM

4 mins - England 0 Tunisia 0

Great pass! Alli is in down the right! He's in the box after a brilliant pass by Henderson but the cross is blocked and it drops for LINGAAAARD - SAVED! Great save by the goalkeeper and it's a corner!

Maguire comes up for the set piece and attacks the header... it's a free header, it bounces into the turf and the goalie scrambles to touch it away. Tunisia ball.

7:01PM

2 mins - England 0 Tunisia 0

Trippier tries a pass over the top into the right channel for Lingard but puts it out for a goal kick after England spend some time getting to know the ball. Tunisia build from the back... but Alli has stolen it in their half.

Kane loses possession... but now the goalkeeper has passed out for a throw-in. He looks nervous.

7:00PM

KICK OFF

AAAAARGH IT'S FINALLY TIME! England get the game started!

6:58PM

The referees

harry kane tunisia

Three are from Colombia and one is Costa Rican.

6:57PM

Singing check

I've checked every England player and each one is singing the national anthem. Well done. Passion wise... I have to say it's not great. All low register, no diaphragm, no great feel - I just don't believe it, you know? But maybe that's their style.

6:55PM

National anthems

 

6:54PM

Who's going to win?

The players are coming out onto the pitch! Here we go!

But there's time to put a bit of cash on it! And we even have some tips for you. Betting guide: prediction and tips for England v Tunisia 

6:53PM

Stay up to date

We've got some great little bits for you to play with and keep you up to date during the tournament. I particularly recommend joining our Whatsapp group so you can get news, updates and analysis sent to your phone!

World Cup whatsapp promo

 

6:49PM

Paul Hayward in Russia

"A distinct absence of royalty and government ministers on the VIP list in Volgograd, but English football is represented by Sol Campbell, David Gill and Lindsay Skoll, Britain's deputy ambassador in Moscow. And Arsene Wenger, an honorary Englishman."

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

 

6:48PM

The importance of England's wing-backs

Another clever little bit of problem solving from Southgate has been addressing the lack of a left-winger - that other English tradition. Wing-backs are the solution and having them has ensured that central attacking midfielders like Alli, Sterling and Lingard can play in the same team without being shunted out into ineffective positions.

If Nigeria had the ball on the right (in a recent friendly), Ashley Young pushed high up the left side of the pitch, if Nigeria were on the left, Kieran Trippier pushed forward.

In possession, the player opposite the side the ball is on pushes high and wide to offer a switched pass. Here's Young doing exactly that:

The full-back on the opposite side of the pitch to the ball pushes high to provide an outlet  Credit: England ITV 

The shape becomes a 3-1-4-2 at times as the wing-backs join in attacks, stretching the pitch and opening up space for the central midfielders to run into or pass into.

England in their attacking shape

And because they are wing-backs rather than wingers, Young and Trippier must hold slightly deeper positions, meaning they are usually in place to either receive a switched pass, free to attack space at the back post or simply act as a means of stretching the pitch.

England Ashley Young gif

During attacks in the final third, this means England have a heap of different runners all moving into similar positions - something incredibly difficult to defend against. Here's an example of the different runs England made during a dangerous attack against Nigeria. Young is the player free on the left.

England flood the box with multiple runners in attack  Credit: England ITV Nigeria 

6:46PM

That England training shirt though

Credit: FIFA

 I'm such a fan of this training top. And I'm Scottish. Can you imagine the confusion inside my brain? I'm saying this should be the actual England kit rather than the plain Jane one that they have.

Credit: FIFA

 

6:45PM

Gareth Southgate:  "The time for talking's finished"

Really looking forward to the challenge, looking forward to watching the players perform.

We've got some really good characters in the starting team and the squad itself. It's not just about tonight, first of all there's three games to get through but we're looking forward to tonight's match.

How will Tunisia approach this?

Well if it's what we've seen probably 4-5-1, they were very well organised in their last game against Spain, they use the ball very well so its a threat. To win any game in a World Cup is difficult so we've got to be at our best.

Who issues the rallying cry now?

It's me! I've got to come up with something else, they don't like to do it. The time for talking's finished, we've got to perform tonight.

6:40PM

Let's get pumped

Unfortunately, as far as I'm aware, Tunisia don't have quite as iconic a pop record to spur their players on. So in pursuit of balance, I will award them one of the greatest songs ever written:

 

6:35PM

The stadium

stadium for england game

The BBC have just shown footage of England players spraying themselves with bug spray. There are a heap of flies causing them bother and weirdly, according to Patrice Evra earlier, it really is a hindrance. He played in a game with flies everywhere but they only filled one half.

Matt Law has just sent me this:

The flies are already annoying Raheem Sterling, who is trying to swat them away while he warms up.

England's players have now got out the deet and are covering themselves in it to try to get rid of the flies.

6:31PM

Frank Lampard on the rivalry at club level having an effect on England squads

Lampard

"We're so competitive that the idea of coming to be a team is not so simple as Argentina who come from all over the world."

Alan Shearer

"I don't agree cliques made a difference. Spain had Real Madrid and Barcelona."

6:30PM

Rio Ferdinand on his past England managers

"There was elements of some of the managers that we didn't like. Tactically we were very rigid under Cappello too, 4-4-2. Gerrard, Lampard, Hargreaves, Beckham, Scholes we payed 4-4-2 without any ability to move and be fluid. The buck stops with us as players."

6:28PM

England are playing in red

Credit: FIFA

Tunisia get the white because they are technically the home team.

Credit: FIFA

 

6:24PM

Lampard on Southgate

"He's played a blinder so far!" says Lampard of Southgate's job with England.

Rio Ferdinand is impressed too:

"It was totally different when we played. It was us vs the press, we hated them, they hated us. Gareth was in those squads and now he's totally changed it and integrated them"

6:22PM

Tactics tactics tactics

Here's me talking about some of England's tactics and the importance of the wing-backs tonight. 

6:19PM

Matt Law updates from the stadium

"We are all covered in deet inside the Volgograd Arena, but it's not making much difference. The flies are everywhere!"

Sounds... really annoying. In case you weren't sure, deet is insect repellent.

6:12PM

Another nice England stat

 

6:11PM

Who are Tunisia's key players?

Youssef Msakni is Tunisia's star player, the main creator and the usual source of goals. He is injured and didn't make it to the World Cup, which is pretty sad. 

Without him, the job of creating scoring opportunities has to be shared by the rest of the team - but who's any good at that?

The best player actually available... is probably Wahbi Khazri, who had a decent season on loan at Rennes but when he's played for Sunderland he has been less than impressive. Certainly whenever I've seen him play I haven't though 'wow what a player' and you know that's legit because I support Aberdeen. Most players make me do that.

There really aren't any real standouts in the Tunisia team - they are strong as a unit but individually shouldn't cause too many problems. Traditionally England's problem has been the exact opposite. Let's see what happens!

6:05PM

Southgate's unfamiliar team

Southgate must be fairly pleased with what he's seen in training for this to be the case!  

6:03PM

The Tunisia team

I've finally managed to find the official Tunisia Twitter account. Here it is:

Tunisia

Hassen; Bronn, S.Ben Youssef, Meriah, Maaloul; Skhiri, Sassi, Sliti, Badri, F.Ben Youssef; Khazri

5:58PM

Jason Burt on England's chances

 

5:54PM

England fans 'outnumbered' 

England fans admit to feeling outnumbered by their Tunisian counterparts, but remain hopeful of a victory.

5:53PM

Inside the stadium

Credit: FIFA

The players are out on the pitch having a look around.

Credit: FIFA

 

5:49PM

England's team

England (3-5-2)

Pickford; Stones, Walker, Maguire, Trippier, Young; Henderson, Alli, Lingard; Sterling, Kane.

England formation

 

5:48PM

The team is in!

 

5:46PM

Team news should be here very soon

England Formation Builder

In the meantime you can pick your own starting XI. It'll very likely be a 3-5-2, which looks like a 5-3-2 in defence and a 3-1-4-2 in attack. I'd have Kane and Sterling up front, Alli and... maybe Lingard as AMC and then Delph at six. Rose left, Walker right and Cahill, Stones... and someone else in defence. Maybe Walker actually. 

5:43PM

Fans making their way into the stadium

Credit: GETTY IMAGES

How will the players' nerves be just now? So often they fall apart mentally at these tournaments but with that lovely looking sky maybe they'll be all relaxed and chill. Our man Paul Hayward has written this:  It's now or never for England - time to cure the World Cup chaos

5:37PM

The bus is here

HONK HONK HONK! [Tyldesley] "England have parked the bus successfully before the game, but will Tunisia do so during it?" [/Tyldesley]

 

5:36PM

My favourite Tunisia fact

It's where they filmed Tatooine scenes in Star Wars! [Puts on Clive Tyldesley hat] "But will England's players have the Force tonight?" [/Tyldesley]

Top 10 | Countries to star in Star Wars

 

5:32PM

Tunisia's World Cup record

World Cup record: Tunisia

 It's not great.

5:29PM

This is nice to see

I can't confirm but I'd imagine I think I'm safe in assuming a few people in England may have already gathered in lovely pubs too. Is it worth going early to get a seat? Personally, I quite enjoy the thrill of standing up, mostly because it ensures you can't spill a table of drinks when you go bezerk if your team scores.

5:23PM

Where is today's game?

That would be the Volgograd Arena, which is in - you guessed it - Volgograd, Russia.

World Cup 2018 stadium: Volgograd Arena

In real life, it looks like this:

Credit: PA

A bit like the Colosseum, if it had been made by enormous metal spiders. Or as though the designer found it in a book of absent minded doodles he'd made during his boring real job. 

5:18PM

Meanwhile, in Group G

Belgium are leading Panama after Dries Mertens' superb volley. You can read all about that over in Rob Bagchi's liveblog but come back for the England build-up. And Tunisia, of course.

As for both teams' future rivals, I'd say Belgium don't look all that, and Panama are nowhere near as poor as some may have expected. For Belgium, imagine Wigan but with some much better players. The system has massive gaps and England - assuming they got off to a decent start - should be able to deal with both them and Panama comfortably.

5:11PM

Jamie Carragher on Southgate

Carragher on Southgate

 

5:05PM

How will England approach this game?

I spent ages before the World Cup kicked-off researching several teams' tactical approach to these finals. Here's my take on England.

World Cup 2018 tactics: England's experimental phase and how Gareth Southgate can bring football home

 

5:00PM

It's England in a World Cup!

Hello everyone and welcome to our live coverage of England vs Tunisia, a massive first appearance of the 2018 World Cup for Gareth Southgate's band of merry men. And they do appear to be pretty happy this time - the tournament tactics have extended beyond what happens on the pitch. Nothing's been left to chance!

But England are going to need luck if they are to go far. Tunisia might not have the calibre of player you'd normally see steaming around the Premier League but as a team they're very capable and actually really talented on the ball. 

Southgate has made it clear in all his pre-match chats on camera that Tunisia move the ball well and are technically proficient and by all accounts, England's players aren't underestimating them either. The hope will be, for England fans, that they can stay composed, enjoy the game and show off some of their own silky skills. 

Credit: AFP

The big question though: are England any good? It's really hard to tell but as a neutral (Scottish...) I'd say they're a solid mid-level team on a par with someone like Denmark.

There's a lack of composure and vision in midfield and it means creating chances has to be done in a different way. Southgate's solution to this issue has been to up the tempo of passing, get attacking midfielders in advanced central positions where they can dart around in space and with three central defenders, a defensive shield.

They want to bypass the midfield and move the ball down the channels quickly, getting it into the box when in the final third and provide Harry Kane with ammunition to take a shot or two. He loves taking shots too.

The team news will be in soon and then we'll find out exactly how Southgate is approaching this one. The players know the team. Let's hope it's a good one!