England faced the resilient AFCON Champions, Senegal, yesterday in Qatar. The Winter World Cup has seen some wild results so far, however, The Three Lions didn’t buckle under the weight of great expectations as they made their way to the quarter finals with a 3-0 win.
Southgate made one change to the starting line-up, as Rashford dropped to the bench for Saka, despite the Manchester lad putting in an impressive second half performance against Wales.
Starting XI: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Rice, Henderson, Bellingham, Foden, Saka, Kane (C).
The first half saw a very well organised and high pressing Senegal performance, which frustrated the England backline, leaving a lack of options to move the ball forward. Both Maguire and Stones attempted to play through the lines, however, the lack of space led to a turnover of possession on numerous occasions.
The first chance for England came from a corner taken by Foden, which met the head of Stones in the 21st minute – which was only second to France vs. Tunisia for longest wait for a shot on target in the competition this year.
Senegal created some dangerous chances, with the most significant being saved brilliantly by Everton man, Jordan Pickford, after Sarr latched on to a loose Saka pass just outside of England’s box.
The game saw the first goal in the 38th minute, a lovely move by England down the left and instigated by a clever flick on to Kane by Foden. Bellingham made his run as Kane slipped him the ball, with the NINETEEN-year-old cutting back to Henderson who’d come into the box late.
Liverpool’s man put England 1-0 up, proving further that he deserved his spot after some online criticism about his inclusion in the starting line-up.
England’s second came only minutes later in the additional time of the first half. Another effective link up between Bellingham, Foden and Kane.
As the Dortmund star drove forward into the Senegal half, seeking a counterattacking opportunity, he released the ball to Foden who was making his run into space, Foden then laid it off to Kane who took his shot to score his first of this year’s competition.
After England went 2-0 up before half-time, Senegal made a number of changes before the start of the second half. That was not enough to stop the young Lions, Foden and Saka.
For a second it looked like Kane lost the ball, but Foden wins it back and charges down the left wing, holding off Koulibaly he heads to the by-line and crosses the ball perfectly through the legs of the defender and it’s cutely finished by Saka for his third of the 22 World Cup.
One of our own, Foden, became the first England player to bag two assists in one World Cup knock out game since Beckham in 2002, and the second youngest player (since 1966) to record two assists in a World Cup knock out game after Ronaldo in 1998.
Southgate then made a host of changes, which saw the tempo of the game turn flat. A sign of a truly professional performance which saw no risks taken and a clean sheet intact.
Saka and Foden, both with excellent performances, made way for Grealish and Rashford. Later followed Bellingham and Stones, for Mount and Dier. And finally, Henderson was able to rest when he was replaced by Phillips.
A performance that may have seemed boring to some. However, it was a professional performance, that saw them aim to limit risks and ride out the danger in the first half and capitalise on moments of greatness to seal the seemingly comfortable win.
Next up, England will face France, which will be a different challenge altogether. Posing a unique attacking threat, we may see Southgate revert to his more conservative tactics.
What do you think, blues? Can England beat France?