AL RAYYAN, Qatar: England marched into the last 16 of the World Cup as Group B winners after Marcus Rashford's double and a Phil Foden strike justified their first starts of the tournament in a 3-0 hammering of an outclassed Wales on Tuesday (Nov 29).
Wales, who needed an unlikely four-goal victory in a fixture they had not won since 1984 to reach the knockout rounds, defended deeply and frustrated England in a subdued first half at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
But they caved in after the break as Gareth Southgate's side, who will face Group A runners-up Senegal in the next round on Sunday, took their goals tally in the group to nine.
Wales could have reached the last 16 with a victory if the match between Iran and the United States ended level but any hope of that scenario unfolding evaporated rapidly once Rashford smashed home a free kick five minutes after the break.
A minute later Manchester City's Foden, another of the four changes Southgate made to his starting lineup, converted from close range after a fine low cross from Harry Kane.
Wales, whose talisman Gareth Bale was substituted at halftime having made no impact, looked crestfallen as their first World Cup for 64 years fizzled out.
England continued to dish out the punishment though and Rashford made it 3-0 with a surging run in from the right before shooting through a crowd and past Ward's legs in the 68th.
Manchester United's Rashford, whose place in the squad was uncertain a few months ago due to form and injuries, is now the tournament's joint-top scorer with three goals alongside Kylian Mbappe (France), Enner Valencia (Ecuador) and Cody Gakpo (Netherlands).
England's 0-0 draw with the United States, who finished runners-up in the group with five points to England's seven after beating Iran 1-0 on Tuesday, had brought them back down to earth after an opening 6-2 rout of the Iranians.
But they will go into their last-16 clash full of confidence, especially as they are showing they can score goals even when the hard-working Kane, who was given a rest when he was substituted just before the hour, is not finding the net.
"It's a great feeling," Rashford said. "We were a little bit disappointed after the USA result and it was important to have a good performance the next game. It was just about killing the game off early and taking the chances ..."
For Wales, their return to the World Cup has been all too brief for the fans who were given little to cheer in their three matches as they finished bottom with a point and only one goal.