Gareth Southgate praised England’s “ruthlessness of execution” after they beat Senegal 3-0 in the World Cup last-16 to reach the quarter-finals.
Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane, and Bukayo Saka scored with Phil Foden grabbing two assists in a game where teenager sensation Jude Bellingham starred.
Speaking after the match, Southgate admitted he was pleased with how ruthless England were in front of goal, something they had lacked in the game against USA in the group stages as they were held to a goalless draw.
“I think the ruthlessness of our execution,” Southgate replied when asked what he was most pleased with. “But the way the team worked off the ball and without the ball, I think in the end we were a bit sticky with the ball in the first 25, 30 minutes.
“Senegal had a lot of energy, they pressed well, their shape was good, and really our best opportunities came from winning the ball from them, and I thought Jude and Hendo in particular were outstanding in that aspect of the game.”
World Cup 2018 top goal scorer Kane netted his first goal of the tournament after he blanked in the previous three outings, and Southgate was pleased that it would help silence his critics and end any question marks over the forward’s inclusion.
“Yeah [it was important for Kane to score],” Southgate said. “Well, any centre-forward wants to be off the mark, and of course, for him, it stops all the questions.
“I thought he started to find a bit more space in the second half and his link play was better as well, so important for him and for us.”
Henderson and Bellingham ran the show from midfield and both played a part as the former helped steer England into the lead with a neat, slotted finish beyond Chelsea goalkeeper Edouard Mendy.
When asked whether getting the midfield duo into forward positions was something they’d worked on, Southgate replied: “Well, they’re both forward-running, forward-thinking midfield payers.
“Hendo doesn’t get many for us but I think he’s been outstanding. He’s such a leader, he knits the team together, around the camp he’s brilliant and his performances have been top drawer for us.
“We’ve got some super young players and we feel its been right to give them their opportunity. Jude, Phil [Foden], Bukayo tonight in particular, so they’re heading in a good direction and these games are brilliant life experiences for them.
“I think the progress they’re making is phenomenal,” Southgate added when asked whether the trio of young talent are further ahead in their progression than he expected.
“The team have made a very complicated game tonight look straightforward and that wasn’t the case, but because of the mentality and attitude we’ve made it look that way.”