Southgate hails 'completely different' Rashford transformation from Euro 2020 to World Cup

Photo by Alex Livesey - Danehouse/Getty Images

Gareth Southgate labelled Marcus Rashford at the World Cup as a "completely different player" to his England performances during the delayed Euro 2020.

The Manchester United forward missed a spot-kick in the penalty shoot-out in the European Championship final defeat to Italy before a wave of online racial abuse was targeted at Rashford, Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho.

Rashford appeared out of form following the Euro 2020 heartbreak but impressive club performances for United ahead of the November break saw him secure a place in Southgate's 26-man squad for Qatar.

The 25-year-old scored as a substitute in the 6-2 victory over Iran and celebrated a brace after starting in Tuesday's 3-0 win over Wales to send England through as Group B winners.

That made Rashford the first United player to score three goals at a major tournament for England since Bobby Charlton at the 1966 World Cup, leading Southgate to hail the striker's transformation.

"It has been a challenge for him. I went and saw him before the season and had a long chat with him, he had some clear ideas on what he needed to do," the England manager said of Rashford.

"With his club, he's been happy with his performances this year and it showed on the training ground with us.

"We've got a completely different player here than we did at the Euros, he could have had a hat-trick in the first half as he was getting in all the right areas. He deserved his goals."

No player at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium enjoyed more touches in the opposition box (eight), shots (six) – just one fewer than the entire Wales team managed – or attempts on target (four) than Rashford.

His excellent showing offers Southgate a selection dilemma heading into Sunday's last-16 clash with Senegal, with Phil Foden also scoring after Raheem Sterling and Bukayo Saka dropped to the bench.

Southgate's decision not to use Foden at all during the drag goalless draw against the United States drew criticism, but the manager welcomed the headache he now has.

"You need goals from all areas, it is a problem for opposition teams if the threat is coming from other areas of the pitch," Southgate added.

"We have talked about that a lot, across the three games pretty much all our forward line have got off the mark with goals or quality assists.

"That is a good place for the forwards to be, they need that confidence, competing for places is where we want to be because then everyone knows they have to deliver.

"You want those sorts of decisions, we need strength in depth. Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips both got minutes, you never know when we are going to need certain players."

England reached the semi-finals at the World Cup in Russia in 2018 before going one better at the Euro 2020 three years later, but Qatar marked the first time the Three Lions have topped their group at FIFA's global competition since 2006.

Southgate remains buoyed with confidence as he believes England are a much-improved side to the one that fell to defeat against Croatia in 2018's last four.

"Compared to Russia there's a different mentality and a different belief," he continued. "In Russia, it was more like could we just win one knockout game, but there's more confidence now.

"We have more experience, I'm not sure if we're ahead of where we were [at the Euros]. But we have achieved our first objective.

"Against Senegal, who have some top players playing in big leagues across Europe, we know on the rankings we will be favourites but they are a very dangerous team."