Space for Henderson
Tunisia 1 England 2
England created enough chances in the first half to win their Group G opener against Tunisia twice. The key difference between the first and second-half performances was the space that Jordan Henderson was initially given – and then subsequently deprived off when in possession.
As Henderson initially received with minimal Tunisian pressure, defensive midfielder Ellyes Skhiri was forced to step out of shape and irritate Henderson as the ball arrived at his feet. By this point, however, Henderson had already played in either Deli Alli (above) or Jesse Lingard, both of whom superbly penetrated forwards between Tunisia’s full-backs and central defenders.
Alternative dropping movements from Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling also enabled England to build to feet, rather than play repeated balls in behind. Sterling in particular found good spaces to then feed Alli and Lingard, who continued to rampage forward from midfield.
Henderson’s impact was massively restricted in the second half, as Tunisia converted to a defensive back five and placed a narrow central midfield block to protect the space in front of the back line. This reduced Henderson’s time and space in possession, and his forward passing was less accurate as he was instead forced to aim for the wing-backs rather than central attacking players. This change did allow defenders Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker to drive forward in possession, with Maguire in particular making good progress on England’s left.