Alli has had his critics and struggled with injury but battled manfully against Croatia

Dele Alli’s World Cup was never really allowed to get going, as he did not fully recover from an injury suffered in the first half of England’s opening game against Tunisia.

The Spurs playmaker battled on through that encounter but the issue was clearly not resolved when he returned against Colombia and despite the fact he scored against Sweden, the world did not get to see Alli at his finest this summer.

Against Croatia, he was yet again plagued by an injury that looked to hamper his ability to sprint, and asked to shuttle relentlessly across the pitch to close down Šime Vrsaljko as England’s wingbacks were pinned back by Ante Rebic and Ivan Perisic.

As England were swamped in midfield, Alli won headers, challenged for second balls and did his best to keep tabs on Luka Modric, while doing his utmost to show his quality on the rare second half occasions when he could get himself on the ball.


That glorious first half should also not be buried under the heartache of what came after, and Alli was at the heart of a sweeping England display that really should have seen them put the game out of sight before the interval.

It was him who won the free-kick, so expertly dispatched by Kieran Trippier to allow the country to drown itself in beer once more as England found themselves in dreamland after just five minutes.

It was also Alli’s combination play with Jesse Lingard that created England’s most dangerous moments of that dominant first half; his pass to the Manchester United man was prodded to Harry Kane for the double chance he should have gobbled up before teeing up on England’s number 7 for a shot from the edge of the box which he should have put on target.

Clearly not in peak condition, Alli took on the challenge of a midfield battle with two of the world’s finest technicians and should emerge with plenty of credit.