England progress to round of 16 after dispatching resiliant Morocco.
Goals from Wayne Rooney, Leighton Baines and Daniel Sturridge helped England progress into the round of 16 after beating Morocco 3-1.
England needed to beat Morocco to progress into the round of 16 as they were level on points with them in 2nd place, with just goal difference seperating both teams. Morocco had impressed throughout the group stage after drawing 2-2 with Italy and beating Qatar 4-1, it looked set to be a nervous affair.
England impressed after drawing 1-1 with Italy in their previous game, with their work defensively being very impressive. Wayne Rooney scored yet again in that game and increased his tally to 4 goals in 2 games. Pre-match, Hodgson told the press that Everton youngster Ross Barkley will be starting against Morocco.
England XI vs Morocco
(4-3-3)Hart; Walker, Cahill, Jagielka, Baines; Gerrard(c), Jones, Carrick; Barkley, Sturridge, Rooney.
Subs: Ruddy, Caulker, Wilshere, Lallana, Henderson, Oxlade-Chamberlain, Shaw, Welbeck, Rodriguez, Sterling, Clyne, Foster.
Morocco XI vs England
(4-4-2)Amsif; Chreiten, Benaita, Abdelhamid, Bergdich; El Aduoa, Obbadi, Belhanda, Kharja(c); Amrabat, El Arabi.
Subs: Leglib, Achenteh, Jebbour, Bellarabi, Morabit, El Ahmadi, Labyad, El Hamdaoui, El Assas, El Zhar, Sinouh.
Hodgson stook by his word and gave Ross Barkley his first ever start in the World Cup, and made two other changes, he recalled Steven Gerrard back into the starting XI after he had fitness issues at the expense of Jack Wilshere and called up Daniel Sturridge and removed Adam Lallana from the starting XI to freshen up the team.
England kicked off and tested out the pitch by playing some passes around the back, with the recalled Steven Gerrard coming deep to collect the ball and try and find his team-mates who were forward, however Morocco had their defence well covered and took away any danger that came in their way.
England tried to open up the narrow back four when young Ross Barkley turned past Obbadi and ran at the back four, he expertly took the ball past Abdelhamid and fired his shot which was tipped away by Amsif to deny the debutee a first goal, however his work impressed the England crowd and when he got the ball, he applauded him and gave him lots of confidence.
Morocco gave England a very nervous moment as the skillful Belhanda was able to wriggle out of Gerrard's challenge and play the ball into Amrabat, who took the ball on his chest and fired it low and hard to Joe Hart's left, but the reliable England number one watched the ball the whole way and held the ball with care and immediately tried to find Daniel Sturrdige who mis-controlled the ball out for a Morocco goal kick.
Then England produced a piece of brilliance, Ross Barkley was able to find space to run at the Moroccan back four, he played a delightful weighted ball to Sturridge on the right, Sturridge turned, looked up and saw the advancing Wayne Rooney, he played it to Rooney, Rooney returned the ball back to Sturridge and continued his run, Sturridge then chipped the ball over Benaita and found Rooney who struck the ball on the volley to give England a deserved lead.
Involved: Ross Barkley(above) played the most passes then any other player on the pitch, 100.
England finished the half strongly and doubled their lead when Rooney gained possession, played it forward to Barkley who was able to time his run well and beat the offside trap, he was one-on-one with the goalkeeper from a tight angle and un-selfishly played the ball across the 6 yard box for Leighton Baines to tap in.
Morocco restarted the game and tried to keep hold of possession but they struggled due to England's pressing game which put Morocco under pressure, and Gerrard was able to steal the ball 30 yards out and tried to test the goalkeeper but his shot went agonisingly wide but it was a sign that England were still in control.
Not much happened throughout the second half with Morocco trying to break down England's defence but failing each time and England kept a neat and tidy passing game around the back to frustrate the Moroccan players, causing them to lunge in and get booked for unnecessary tackles, which again wasted more time.
Mind-reader: Michael Carrick(above) broke down more phases of play than any player in the whole competition.
However Belhanda gained possession in the 88th minute and went on a darting run past three England players, he cut inside Kyle Walker and ran towards the 6 yard box when Cahill brought him down and gave away a penalty.
Belhanda stepped up and expertly tucked the ball past Joe Hart to give Morocco some hope and make England very nervous for the last few minutes.
You would think England would drop back and defend but Daniel Sturridge broke the offside trap after Rooney picked him out and went past the goalkeeper to tuck the ball in the back of the net and send England through into the last 16.
Roy Hodgson's Post Match Comments:
"The lads were great out there today and fully deserve to be 1st in the group. It's been a very good group stage for us and now we look ahead to possibly more tougher opponents and hopefully if we perform as well as we have done throughout this group stage, we could advance further in the competition."