England 2, Wales 1: What We Learned From Euro 2016 Group B Tie

Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge at Bollaert-Delelis stadium, Lens, June 16. Sturridge scores the winner for England against Wales in group B. PAUL ELLIS/AFP/Getty

England took a step closer to qualifying for the knockout rounds at Euro 2016 Thursday with a last-minute goal from Daniel Sturridge putting England atop group B.

Roy Hodgson's side had to come back from a goal down after Gareth Bale scored a first-half free-kick from distance for Wales.

But the England manager's half-time substitutions turned the game around with Liverpool striker Sturridge netting a dramatic late winner.

Bale breaks English hearts

It would appear that the very presence of Bale lining up a free-kick sends goalkeepers knees trembling.

On Saturday, it was Slovakia goalkeeper Matus Kozacik beaten easily from the dead ball, and here it was the usually reliable Joe Hart.

Despite the distance of the free-kick, Hart set up a wall that, ultimately, appeared to block his view. The Manchester City man desperately scampered across his line but, despite getting a hand to the ball, Hart was beaten.

England has become all too used to goalkeeping clangers over the years, but Hart has been a safe pair of hands. His blushes, in the end, were spared.

Vardy and Sturridge vindicated

Criticism was levelled at Hodgson for his substitutions against Russia, but here he acted early and he acted positively.

Jamie Vardy was given his chance, coming off the bench at half-time alongside Daniel Sturridge for the underwhelming Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane.

Daniel Sturridge
Daniel Sturridge at Stade Bollaert-Delelis, Lens, June 16. Sturridge scored England's winner against Wales in group B. Dan Mullan/Getty

The Leicester City striker brought pace and menace to the England frontline. Just 11 minutes after coming on he got his goal, capitalizing on a misdirected Welsh header that he volleyed past Wayne Hennessey for the equalizer.

Sturridge's participation in the England squad made headlines, with questions over his fitness. But through sheer perseverance, the Liverpool striker ensured England's chance of progress to the round of 16.

Despite the presence of defenders around him, Sturridge drove through the Welsh backline and forced the ball past Hennessey. Cue the Sturridge dance.

Rashford cameo

In bringing on the 18-year-old Manchester United striker, Hodgson enabled Marcus Rashford to become the youngest player to feature for England at the European Championships.

It wasn't, perhaps, quite so dramatic as his double goalscoring debut for United back in February, but the appearance alone signifies how far he's come in just four months.

Rashford offered an alternate style for England down the left. He got on the ball and caused concern for Wales center-back Ashley Williams, as he drove into the box.

Although it wasn't his time to shine, at 18, Rashford will wear the three lions for years to come.