England 'belief' carried us to World Cup win against Tunisia - Southgate
VOLGOGRAD, Russia -- England manager Gareth Southgate hailed his team for their 'belief' in the game plan after Harry Kane headed home his second goal in stoppage time to seal a 2-1 win over Tunisia in their opening World Cup Group G match on Monday.
England made a superb start at the Volgograd Arena when Kane lashed the home from close range in the 11th minute, but the lead lasted only 24 minutes before Tunisia drew level from the penalty spot through Ferjani Sassi.
That was how it stayed as England struggled to break down the resilient north Africans, before they finally found a way through the massed defensive ranks when Kane swivelled to head home in added time.
While Kane took the plaudits, his manager was more interested in England's cool heads under pressure as they refused to deviate from their measured possession game that Southgate has tried to hone.
"No matter what system we play, the important thing is when you are attacking you still have structure in your play. What pleased me was that we kept the control and composure," Southgate told reporters.
"Maybe tonight we could have run out of time. But I believe the best teams in the world have that belief in what they are doing and in the end they break teams down."
That was exactly what England did, but they needed Kane to be at his predatory best.
The Tottenham Hotspur striker had not scored at a major tournament after drawing a blank at the last European Championship, but Southgate labelled him a "top, top striker" after his man-of-the-match display.
"If he doesn't score tonight I am sitting here answering questions about his ability to score goals in tournament football, so for him I am personally delighted but I know the pride he will feel in leading his country to victory tonight will be the biggest for him."
After Belgium thrashed Panama 3-0 in the other Group G game on Monday, the pressure was on England to deliver only their second win in their last nine games at World Cups and first since 2010.
"It's a massive boost, a massive bonus, we kept going. We kept fighting and got the late goal and a big win," England midfielder Jordan Henderson said.
"I felt positive at 1-1, the pace did drop off a bit. We had to keep creating chances, we didn't play as well second half but they defended deep. Winning the first game is always massive."
One potential concern for England could be the fitness of Deli Alli, who pulled up in the first half, but continued to play on until the 80th minute.
"Hopefully I am OK," Alli said after the game. "It's my quad."
Southgate added: "We had to keep monitoring Dele. He was feeling a little bit of an issue just before half-time, but he felt he could carry on and I thought the runs that he was making and the way he was pressing the ball was still causing a problem."