Dele Alli is hoping the quad complaint picked up in England’s World Cup win against Tunisia is not too serious.
The 22-year-old played 80 minutes of Monday’s 2-1 Group G clash in Volgograd, despite Fabian Delph being stripped and seemingly ready to come on in the first half.
Alli will have the quad issue assessed upon England’s return to the team base in Repino, with the midfielder hoping it will not rule him out Sunday’s match against Panama.
“Hopefully I am OK,” Alli said after the game. “It’s my quad.”
England manager Gareth Southgate will be hoping for good news after keeping tabs Alli’s issue against Tunisia.
“We had to keep monitoring Dele,” the Three Lions boss said.
“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.
“He had a half chance with a lovely ball Jordan Henderson played to him, lofted over the top.
“But we have good options on the bench and we felt to put the freshness of Marcus (Rashford) and Ruben (Loftus-Cheek) would both bring fresh energy but also a different sort threat to the one that we’d posed.”
Gareth Southgate was proud of his players’ spirit, togetherness and composure on a night when the England manager felt his side got a raw deal from the officials.
Just as the Three Lions’ World Cup opener against Tunisia looked set to end in a draw, Harry Kane glanced home in stoppage time to send the hardy travelling support wild.
The 2-1 victory saw England kick off a major tournament with a win for the first time since 2006 as poor finishing and peculiar officiating did not come back to haunt Southgate’s men.
“Even at 1-1 I was really proud of the performance,” the England boss said.
“I’ve talked a lot in the weeks leading into this game about performance being key. If we hit that level of performance, that’s the bit we can control.
“There were things within the game that we couldn’t control tonight, but we reacted really well to them.
“So, OK, if we had finished 1-1, there would have been a level of disappointment and I understand results back home would be viewed differently.
“But I think the performance was very good, we created a lot of clear-cut chances in the first half, as many as I remember us having. If there’s to be anything levelled at us it would be to be ruthless with those.
“But we recovered from a harsh decision and kept our composure, which pleased me.
“And in the second half we dominated the game and kept our patience and looked for good opportunities rather than just throwing the ball in the box and hoping. So we kept wave after wave of attack.
“At 1-1 , if we’d had to take 1-1, I thought we were disciplined enough defensively that we didn’t leave gaps and weren’t hit on counter-attacks, so I like the controlled manner we did that.
“And our attacking players were a threat all night. We’ve done a lot of work on them and I think we got just reward for that, so I was really pleased with what we did.”
Set plays provided England with both goals in Volgograd, where Southgate was aggrieved not to be awarded a spot-kick.
The VARs somehow ignored the manhandling of Kane after Ferjani Sassi netted from a penalty controversially awarded by referee Wilmar Roldan for a wayward arm by Kyle Walker.
“Well, I think if it’s a penalty at one end, it has to be one at the other,” Southgate said. “That would be the observation.
“I could see why, once the first one is given, that it wasn’t going to be overturned because it wasn’t going to be a clear and obvious error.
“If penalties are going to be given for that then it’s going to be an interesting tournament. I think there were similar offences at the other end of the pitch.
“In terms of Harry, if he doesn’t score tonight I’m sitting answering questions about his ability to score goals in tournament football.
“The only thing he hasn’t done now is score in August. He’s managed to move every other barrier, so for him I am delighted.
“But I know he will feel that the pride in leading his country to a win in a World Cup match is the most important thing.”
That happened fast – Tuesday heralds the start of the second round of games as a buoyant Russia march on to St Petersburg where they’ll face an Egypt side poised to throw in Mohamed Salah from the start.
The hosts could not have dreamed up a better script for their 5-0 thrashing of Saudi Arabia on opening night while Egypt, at their first World Cup in 28 years, were sunk by a last-gasp Uruguay goal on Friday.
SALAH SHOULDERS THE BURDEN
Russia boss Stanislav Cherchesov has boldly proclaimed his side are ‘ready to stop Salah and we will’. Save for a Sergio Ramos-style armbar, far better teams were unable to stump up any answers last season following his move to Liverpool.
That one answer may be enough. Russia will have watched very closely just how Neymar, still not at the peak of his powers after fracturing his metatarsal, was systematically roughed up by Switzerland on Sunday.
And it worked. Switzerland were cynical without being brutal and no player came close to seeing or deserving their marching orders for their skin-tight treatment of Brazil’s superstar.
With the greatest respect to Salah – he is no Neymar. Nor are his colleagues anywhere near the ilk of Philippe Coutinho, Willian and Gabriel Jesus.
Salah’s greatest weakness has always been his physicality and it’s fair to wonder if he can out-sprint those Russian homing missiles all game.
The Moscow Times’ front page screamed ‘Aging and inexperienced: Why Russia’s World Cup squad is doomed to fail’ ahead of the opening game against Saudi Arabia, which turned out to be a rather ingenious example of reverse psychology.
Few Russians were fooled, though. Despite the drubbing there are obvious flaws that will come apparent against Uruguay in the final group game, if not Egypt.
A seriously slow defence, an attack devoid of much inspiration save Aleksandr Golovin or the injured Alan Dzagoev and a squad that, as the excoriating headline suggested, lacks much experience outside the safe space of Russia.
Egypt are a considerable step up. Hector Cuper’s team is exceedingly well-drilled defensively and goodbye Mohammad Al Sahlawi, hello Mohamed Salah.
A second victory in two though would outstrip the most optimistic Russian’s expectations heading into the tournament and it’ll all but assure their place in the Round of 16. It doesn’t really matter if they’re first or second as it likely means elimination to either Spain or Portugal.
On Tuesday we’ll find out whether Russia are simply better than what their countrymen thought they were or if the Saudis made them look that way.
TWO MOHAMEDS, ONE GOAL
If Salah’s return to raise the game of his team-mates then Mohamed Elneny is the man who Egypt need to hang onto the Liverpool star’s coat-tails the most.
The Arsenal midfielder had not enjoyed the smoothest of build-ups to the World Cup as, stretchered off in tears against West Ham, he feared his summer over in April.
Those fears were put to rest quickly though the Uruguay clash was only his second start since that day and, while he was solid enough, did find himself overpowered at times in Ekaterinburg. That 90 minutes should have done his fitness a world of good.
According to Egypt legend Mido, fellow pundit Arsene Wenger told him after the game that Elneny “is loved by everyone, is always smiling and wished he had 20 players like him” when he was managing Arsenal.
The Pharaohs only have one Salah, and Elneny has an extremely important job in both shielding the defence and recycling the ball to their main man at every opportunity.