Until Harry Kane’s toe connected with a Kyle Walker cross in the third-minute of stoppage time, England had created just two clear chances in a mind-numbingly dull World Cup qualifier with Slovenia – the resulting shots on both occasions failing to even reach the goalkeeper as committed and organised defenders put their bodies in the way.
But amid what laid a justifiable claim to being the worst England match of all time, which naturally puts it in the running for the worst football match of all time, there was one notable plus point for the Three Lions – the promising performance of teenage attacker Marcus Rashford.
Aside from Harry Kane, the 19-year-old entered the international break enjoying arguably the best form at club level of any player in the squad. Having surpassed many expectations to hold down a starting berth at Manchester United this season, Rashford’s bagged two goals and three assists from seven Premier League outings this term.
And the Red Devils prodigy brought the confidence he’s gained from domestic form into England’s drab encounter last night, providing occasional bright sparks of ingenuity in an otherwise poor performance from Gareth Southgate’s side.
Indeed, Rashford created the most chances of any player on the pitch while winning five free kicks, completing two dribbles, launching 12 crosses into the box and having three efforts at goal – one of which truly highlighted his confidence as the youngster attempted to chip Jan Oblak.
His shot was cleared by a defender but having come just after half time, it quickly galvanised a Wembley crowd that were left apathetic after an event-less first 45 minutes. That showed the effect Rashford can have on not only the team but also ever-underwhelmed England spectators, by lifting them off their seats just when the players need them most.
Considering how tough England may well find the tournament and the negativity surrounding the Three Lions at the moment, Rashford’s ability to inject the tempo, flair and excitement fans crave could be vital for Southgate ahead of the World Cup, keeping often-disillusioned supporters engaged by providing a rare cause for optimism.