World Cup 2018: Plenty of positives - but some negatives - for England after win

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Highlights: Tunisia 1-2 England

Reporting from Volgograd

England's World Cup campaign got off to the start manager Gareth Southgate demanded and required as they turned back the tide of recent history to beat Tunisia in Volgograd.

Harry Kane's stoppage-time winner delivered England's answer to Belgium's earlier win against Panama and gave them their first opening-game win at a major tournament in 12 years.

England needed the victory to build on the platform of good PR and the positive mood at their Zelenogorsk training camp and, most importantly, to ensure they were not instantly on the back foot here in Russia.

So what were the two key sides to this England performance?

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'You go until the last second' - England captain Harry Kane

Southgate has plenty to build on

This was a match where victory was England's minimum requirement - and the manner in which it was achieved echoed one of Southgate's key pre-match messages.

He insisted England must have the in-built resistance to settle matches in "the 93rd or 94th minute if required" as he attempts to build street-wisdom into a relatively inexperienced squad.

And England will have delighted Southgate with how they battled through dark periods in the second half - when the fire of their first half had been largely extinguished by an increasingly stubborn Tunisia - to grind out the win.

It was a trait that earned England what could be two vital points in the final equation and avoided old faults being revisited had Tunisia earned a draw they barely deserved.

England and Southgate will also be grateful to Kane, the man Southgate made captain with instructions to literally lead from the front by example and with goals.

Kane's two goals here were perfect illustrations of the calm and the predator's instinct that mark him out as special, and took his England record to an outstanding 15 goals in 25 games.

Lingard shoots
England's six shots on target in the first half was the most of any side at this World Cup

In Kane, Southgate has a man who can make a difference and make any defence anxious - precious commodities at any time, but especially at a World Cup.

If the second half became more of a war of attrition as Tunisia defended deeper, Southgate has every right to be delighted about so many aspects of England's first-half display as well as the victory.

England have been slow starters too often on this stage, but they tore into Tunisia from the first whistle with not the slightest hint of World Cup stage fright, passing with fierce intensity and a movement that left the opposition bewildered.

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Watch how Match of the Day studio reacted to Harry Kane's winner

Southgate's England have the attacking weapons to create chances and, if they can add a clinical edge to some of the excellent first-half approach play, they will be an increasingly dangerous proposition.

One of Southgate's predecessors, Fabio Capello, often spoke about the weight of the shirt as a burden to England's players, but there was no sign of this in the opening exchanges.

There were bonuses elsewhere for Southgate, especially in the performance of Tottenham right-back Kieran Trippier, who gave a consummate performance as a defender but also going forward, where he was a constant threat in open play and at set-pieces.

As Southgate looks for creative forces, there was an impressive cameo from Ruben Loftus-Cheek, tall, powerful and elegant with the freedom of expression to receive the ball and take chances with it.

It must, of course, all be put into the context of a poor and negative opponent in Tunisia, who should have been history by half-time - but Southgate will have found plenty to admire here.

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'A great platform to build on' - Southgate on 'deserved' England win

England still have flaws to fix

England and Southgate know they were three minutes away from very different emotions - and perhaps a very different inquisition - before Kane stepped in to make his decisive contribution.

While Southgate basks in the afterglow of such an important win, he will also know there is much to ponder and then work on as England head back to their Zelenogorsk training headquarters.

Their approach work was not backed up by end product as Tunisia were carved open time and again, only to be let off the hook by a combination of the woodwork and rank bad finishing.

It was against this backdrop that Tunisia somehow found themselves back in the game as opposed to several goals behind after they equalised against the run of play through Ferjani Sassi's disputed penalty.

Raheem Sterling (right)
Raheem Sterling (right) missed an easy opportunity in the opening quarter of the match

Jesse Lingard is usually assured in front of goal and can still be relied on, but there is no escaping the brutal truth that Raheem Sterling's England goal record is wretched and must improve soon.

As Kane's record of 15 goals in 25 games can be rightly lauded, Sterling has scored only twice in 39 internationals and has not scored in his past 21.

Sterling is a popular figure in England's squad, and has a fund of goodwill behind him and a manager who believes in his talent, but when the statistics are so unflattering it only ratchets up the pressure to deliver, and quickly.

England's defence has also still not answered lingering questions about how it would cope when faced with an attack of the highest quality, which will eventually happen if they progress at this World Cup.

Harry Maguire is a serious danger as an attacking threat but can be slack in possession. He got away with it against Tunisia when he erred in the first half but may not against Belgium, Brazil or Germany.

While Kyle Walker has made a decent fist of his transformation to part of a three-man defence, was it his lack of experience that forced him into a very strange position as he flailed an arm in the direction of Syam Ben Youssef to concede a penalty?

England are now in the fortunate position of emerging from a reality check with three points intact - the opposite has happened to too many teams previously.

Southgate, a measured and mature individual, will not be blind to these flaws and he will know they must be addressed, with Belgium lying in wait in Kaliningrad in the final group game - a match now set up to decide the winners of Group G.

The good news for England and Southgate is that this can all be done with a vital victory secured.

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Harry Kane heads last-gasp England winner