Manchester City forward Phil Foden scored and set up another on his first World Cup start as England beat Wales to progress at Qatar 2022.
Phil Foden was beaming after playing a starring role in England’s World Cup win over Wales, but admitted he was aware of the pressure back home for him to start the game.
Foden came off the bench in England’s opener against Iran, but was an unused substitute in the frustrating 0-0 draw with the USA. England boss Gareth Southgate explained that bringing Foden on to play centrally wasn’t in his thinking as he doesn’t play there regularly for Manchester City, but insisted the 22-year-old would have a key role to play at the World Cup.
As the clamour grew for Foden to start in the final game against Wales, Southgate obliged and was rewarded by Foden’s goal immediately after Marcus Rashford’s free-kick opener – with the set-piece won by Foden.
Speaking to ITV Sport after the game, Foden said: “It’s up there as one of the highlights of my career so far, to start against Wales is such a big game. You can probably see by the smile on my face I enjoyed every moment of it.
“I heard a little bit of noise on social media that I should be playing but I just tried to keep my head down, don’t read too much into it, and when I get the chance, try to perform. In that second half I tried to show my attacking threat. I’m delighted to get on the end of Harry’s cross and score.”
Foden had a quiet first half against Wales, but swapped wings with Rashford at the break to move over to his favoured left-hand-side. The City man pointed to that tactical switch as the inspiration for his good performance, and hailed manager Southgate for making the change.
“I was happy to show that part of my game in the second half,” he said. “In the first half I didn’t really show my attacking threat. In the second half, Gareth managed to swap me and Marcus around so the second I got the ball I thought I was just going to drive with it. Luckily I managed to win the free kick and Marcus did the rest.”
Explaining his decisions regarding Foden and Rashford, Southgate said: “We wanted a little more thrust and threat in that final third, play forward a little bit quicker, and in the second half, once we got the two goals, we knew their spirit was probably gone. It’s been a tough tournament for them and we kept discipline and quality right the way to the end.”
“In moments I thought both of them were a bit quiet in the first half. We decided to switch wings which I thought might allow them to go on the outside but also the chance to come in and they responded really well. For them both to get the goals is great.”