England produced a clinical performance to beat AFCON winners Senegal 3-0 to set up a quarter final date with defending champions France on Saturday.
The Three Lions weathered a spirited Senegalese outfit in the first 30 minutes but were in full control after scoring two quick fire goals before the break. Gareth Southgate’s side, however, must keep the momentum going and raise their game should they have any chance against the Les Blues.
Here are the three things we learned.
Jude Bellingham key to England’s run
The 19-year-old put on yet another stellar performance dominating in the middle of the park. The Borussia Dortmund star looked calm and composed with passing range, gliding past the opposition players at ease while also making space to drift into dangerous positions in the final third.
Bellingham showed great maturity beyond his years running into the Senegalese penalty box with and providing a fine assist for Jordan Henderson’s opener on the night.
Southgate would need Bellingham at his very best against France to regain possession, making ball recoveries and then transitioning into attack with his deeper runs. Moreover, his excellent ball distribution will be the need of the hour to keep the French defense on their toes. Should the Dortmund youngster be at his best, England will create chances against Kylian Mbappe and co.
Defense still a worry
The 3-0 win meant this was England’s third consecutive clean sheet of the World Cup. However, England did look shaky at the back and Senegal could have taken the lead had goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s outstretched left hand not thwarted Boulaye Dia’s goal bound effort on the 32nd minute. Neither center backs, Harry Maguire or John Stones had a good game, the latter who gave the ball away several times to the opposition when put under pressure. England were lucky not to have conceded a penalty when it looked like the ball had brushed off Stones’ left arm from Dia’s deflected effort.
Kyle Walker, too, was lucky to have escaped a booking after recklessly bringing down Ismaila Sarr and as Senegal kept on targeting the left flank to build their attack. With Mbappe next to follow, Walker must raise his game and keep his discipline, else the PSG star can take the game away from the English very quickly. Luke Shaw, though had an assured game playing as an auxiliary left back and needs to be at his very best coming up against Ousmane Dembele on the wings against France.
Senegal lacked Mane
The AFCON Champions were expected to make a deeper run in Qatar and would be disappointed with their lackluster performance against England. Both of their two stalwarts and Chelsea pair, captain Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had miserable outings which left a lot to be desired from the African side. Sarr should have put Senegal ahead in the 23rd minute but blazed his shot wide from just 6 yards out.
While Senegal would be ruing their opportunities, they never looked as if they could get back into the game. Maybe this was the kind of game tailor made for Sadio Mane, the Bayern Munich star who missed the World Cup campaign through injury.
Had Aliou Cisse’s side scraped past England they would have setup a blockbuster clash against France, whom they shocked in their opening round encounter in the 2002 World Cup. It was not to be for Senegal, and the tournament’s dark horses return home after a disjointed performance.
Photo credit: IMAGO / Agencia MexSport
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