Marcus Rashford inspired England to the victory required to top Group B and ensure it was despair for Wales as they exited the tournament after a bitterly disappointing World Cup campaign.
Wales either had to beat England and hope Iran and USA finished in a draw or chase the most unlikely result of a four-goal margin of victory at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium.
England, who now face Senegal in the round of 16, ensured no storyline was ever a serious consideration as they dominated throughout and took full control after an uneventful opening 45 minutes.
Wales manager Rob Page made the bold move to replace Gareth Bale at half-time, despite the tall talisman having had just seven touches in an anonymous display, but all hope the tactic of shock would work was wiped out as England scored twice within six minutes of the restart.
Marcus Rashford fired a free-kick past Danny Ward after Ethan Ampadu fouled Phil Foden after 50 minutes, with the Manchester City midfielder then scoring his return to the England squad moments later by turning the cross of Harry Kane at the far post.
Wales were demoralized and outclassed as they knew they were returning from Qatar and Rashford added their second in the 68th minute, with a big assist from Welsh keeper Ward allowing a ferocious shot to slip through his legs .
England progress smoothly
It took England some time and a hopelessly lackluster first half to kick things into high gear, but once they did they were then able to invade Wales, who finished this World Cup in a shy way.
And Rashford went on to make a big impact at this World Cup, with his brace here after scoring with virtually his first touch in the 6-2 win over Iran in England’s opener.
He missed a good chance in the first half when played by Kane, but his free-kick was emphatic and the second a reward for his willingness to penetrate the Wales defense quickly. He nearly scored a hat-trick only for Ward to block his shot at the near post.
Rashford must now be given serious consideration for a starting place when England face Senegal’s tough test as the knockout stage begins.
Manager Gareth Southgate has made four changes to his side which performed so poorly against USA, with Rashford, Foden, Jordan Henderson and Kyle Walker in form again for Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, Mason Mount and Kieran Trippier.
This not only helped England run out of easy winners, but gave members of the squad valuable playing time, especially Walker, who is such an important part of Southgate’s plans but missed the end of the game. Premier League to undergo groin surgery.
England and Southgate achieved their first priority of qualifying for the last 16 while top of their group, with two solid wins over Iran and Wales coming either side of that dismal USA performance .
It represents a job satisfactorily done by England – now they must take the next step against the dangerous African champions.