RAYAN, Qatar ( Associated Press) – Marcus Rashford knelt down and pointed to the sky.
The England striker has just scored from a free kick against Wales at the World Cup, a goal that set up a 3-0 win on Tuesday that sent them into the last 16 as top of Group B.
He explained that his gesture was a tribute to a friend who had recently passed away after a long battle with cancer. It could also be a celebration of breaking into the starting XI for the Three Lions in Qatar.
“You dedicate yourself to football to experience moments like this. The big moments, the best moments,” said Rashford, who came off the bench for the first two matches in Qatar. Happy to qualify for the next round because I have big ambitions with this team and I think we are capable of playing much better than we did today.”
Rashford signed a brace at the Ahmed Bin Ali Stadium to finish on top of the World Cup scoring charts, tied with Frenchman Kylian Mbappe, Ecuadorian Enner Valencia and Dutchman Gakpo. Phil Foden, another Englishman making his Qatar debut, scored the second goal.
England will next face Senegal on Sunday. Wales were in key final position and bye after their first World Cup since 1958.
England manager Southgate responded to calls for a change following a 0-0 draw against the United States. He hit the key by setting up Rashford and Foden to give another dynamism to the attack.
“We were somewhat disappointed with the result against America,” said Rashford, who scored in the 6-2 win over Iran. “We could have played better and it was important to improve on our performance in the next game.”
England left the clash punctuated after the restart. Rashford opened the scoring with a free-kick finish in the 50th, and a minute later Foden added from an assist from Harry Kane.
Rashford signed off his double on 68 with a beautiful individual action inside the area. Welsh goalkeeper Danny Ward had an accomplice in goal after clearing the ball without much force.
The Manchester United striker has forgotten the penalty he missed in the shootout in last year’s European Championship final 12-leg loss to England. As well as dealing with injuries, his appearances with the club subsequently diminished.
More than one voice remarked that he was lucky to have made it into the 26-man squad for Qatar.
Southgate said, “He’s been through some tough times.” “I had to sit down and talk to him over the summer and clarify the things he needed to think about.”
Rashford enjoys a memorable night in Qatar, Gareth Bale bids goodbye through the back door.
The Welsh captain was replaced at half-time due to injury, but manager Rob Page believes the striker will continue to represent the country.
“He wants the best for the team. He understands it that way. If he had come back for the second half, he would have been in 70% condition. You can’t go out and play like that against a team of that level. ” Page said. “I don’t think it’s the last time we’ll see him in a Welsh jersey.”