As England sealed its position in the final 16 of this year’s World Cup by defeating Wales, certain positives reinvigorated fans’ optimism. The main talking points following the 3-0 victory which sent LAFC forward Gareth Bale and his countrymen home from Qatar, focused around the inclusion of Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden.

Those comments were certainly justified too. Both played only bits and parts in Gareth Southgate’s team over the first two games. Foden and Rashford both came on as a second-half substitutes in the 6-2 demolition of Iran. The Manchester United player made an immediate impact. He slotted home England’s fifth goal of the game. His reward was another 12 minutes as a sub in the 0-0 draw with the USA. Meanwhile, Foden stayed on the bench.

However, ahead of the clash against Wales they were both placed in the starting line up to devastating effect. Rashford netted twice, his goals coming sandwiched either side of Foden’s first World Cup goal for his country. Yes, England can defend well, as that stalemate with USA shows. But they showed, as top scorers so far, they’re a more effective team when they play on the front foot.

 It is no surprise that both players made their mark. After all, their English Premier League performances this season have been impressive. Rashford looks like he’s back to his best, hitting nine goals for his club before heading to Qatar. As for Foden, he’s integral to Pep Guardiola’s plans. He appears to be a key cog in City’s bid to not only win the Premier League again, but find a first UEFA Champions League title.

Senegal are no surprise package

Both players will be key for Southgate as they look to progress beyond Senegal in the round of 16 on Sunday. The African nation are looking to make it to their third World Cup final visit one to remember and at least reach the quarter final for the second time in their history. Their manager, Aliou Cisse, seems to have rekindled the type of team spirit he felt back in 2002. Cisse’s impact on The Lions of Teranga in Japan and SouthKorea, helped them defeat then World Cup holders France by a 1-0 margin.

His team now has echoes of that team from 20 years ago. In Cisse’s defence there are who have the quality to stem the attacking tide that England possess. Chelsea centerback Kalidou Koulibaly starts alongside Abdou Diallo in the heart of the defense. Diallo is a player who has made sizable impact in the Bundesliga for Dortmund, French Champions Paris Saint Germain and recently, RB Leipzig.

Also, Senegal play a midfield with two players sitting deep when they are out of possession. Therefore, Southgate’s men will certainly have to work hard to progress past the Africans.

The positives for England at World Cup 2022

This is where the quick feet and vision of Rashford and Foden could be the key to unlocking a route to the quarter finals for England. Rashford’s abilities can be used in set piece situations, as he proved against Wales and Foden’s skill at finding space while being tightly marked may also need to be called upon. Leaving the likes of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham to be the ball winners and giving the ball to Rashford and Foden to either score, or assist the potentially match deciding goal.

The past results are good for the Three Lions. They’ve never lost to African opposition in the World Cup in seven previous encounters. Although, it’s not so simple. England only reached victory by more than one goal on one occasion. Three of those seven fixtures against African opponents ended in goalless draws.

Past history arguably tells us, while England is brimming with confidence, it still needs all the skill and guile from Rashford and Foden to stand any chance of overcoming their next obstacle on the road to victory at Qatar 2022.