England have beaten the No.1 ranked team in the world!
That statement would carry so much more weight if the occasion wasn’t a glorified friendly and if the rankings weren’t practically meaningless, but tickets for the hype train are free so climb aboard. It’s coming home, don’tcha kno’.
Rankings or not, Belgium have been roundly recognized as one of the best collections of players on the international scene in the last half-decade, and while yesterday they were without Eden Hazard and had Simon Mignolet in goal instead of Thibaut Courtois, if we assume that the players care enough to put in their best effort, beating them is certainly an accomplishment. To do so by coming from behind just adds to that sense of accomplishment.
Ex-Chelsea man Romelu Lukaku opened the scoring from the penalty spot just past the quarter-hour mark, thanks to a Spursy tackle from Eric Dier, but that was canceled out before half-time by a penalty from the spot at the other end, this one converted by Marcus Rashford after Jordan Henderson was felled by a tap on the shoulder. Must’ve been a Vulcan nerve pinch.
England played fairly conservatively, but showed enough impetus in the second half to push for a winner, and got the requisite bit of luck when Mason Mount’s shot deflected just the right amount to loop unerringly into the top corner. Can’t win the lottery if you don’t buy a ticket, right? And by lottery I mean big hugs from Declan Rice.
The goal was just the cherry on top of Mount’s overall performance in fact, with the 21-year-old midfielder earning “top player” plaudits from Gareth Southgate and the Man of the Match award from the broadcasters.
Mount himself was obviously chuffed with his first international goal at Wembley, but gave credit for the win to his teammates.
“It is a special achievement. It doesn’t matter how they go in! I just found myself in a bit of space in the box and only had one thing on my mind, to try to get it out of my body and shoot. [It was a] big deflection but you will take them.”
-Mason Mount; source: Evening Standard
Mount was the only Chelsea player involved in the match, with Michy Batshuayi an unused substitute on the Belgium bench, Reece James the same on the England bench, and neither Tammy Abraham nor Ben Chilwell getting named in the matchday squad. Chilwell’s still dealing with an illness (not COVID-19) while Abraham was probably just one too many to include (Jadon Sancho did get the recall).
Elsewhere on a busy day in the Nations League, Croatia beat Sweden, 2-1 (Mateo Kovačić played the first hour), while France and Italy were both involved in 0-0 draws against Portugal and Poland, respectively. N’Golo Kanté, Jorginho, and Emerson all played full games while Olivier Giroud got 75 minutes or so, plus a lovely gash on his head. We also had starts for Andreas Christensen and Ethan Ampadu, both playing center back and keeping clean sheets. Chelsea loanee Armando Broja, 19, also made his first start for Albania, in a 0-0 draw against Kazakhstan.
Teams will have one more game coming up midweek before the players get to return to their clubs, hopefully injury-free.