Although England might have suffered a sluggish start on Sunday night, the Three Lions eventually punched their quarter-final ticket after a thumping 3-0 romp against Senegal at the Al Bayt Stadium.
With Liverpool’s Jordan Henderson eventually opening the scoring after finishing off a slick move seven minutes before the interval, Gareth Southgate’s men didn’t look back as they enjoyed what was an impressive World Cup victory in their first knockout stage showdown.
With Harry Kane doubling England’s lead with essentially the final kick of the first-half as the Tottenham ace opened his World Cup account at the fourth attempt, it was then Bukayo Saka who finished off Sunday’s contest as he racked up his third goal of the winter.
Coming past the defending AFCON champions and without having to break much of a sweat after returning from the break, Senegal could be feeling like they missed out on the chance to spring a major upset in Al Khor.
On a night when Southgate’s superstars managed to lay down a real Middle Eastern marker, we have taken a glance at some of the key talking points.
England demonstrate what they can do
Watching Senegal miss a pair of early chances and failing to find much fluidity across the pitch in the opening 35 minutes, it almost appeared certain that England faced a real test on Sunday night.
However, while some might have been shocked to see Marcus Rashford lose his place in Southgate’s starting XI, the shackles certainly came off once Henderson opened the scoring seven minutes before the half-time break.
Although the Three Lions might have come under some scrutiny for their toothless 0-0 stalemate against the USA on November 25th, the European giants have proven that was just a minor blip and they are gaining a reputation for their free-scoring displays in the final third.
Opening their World Cup adventure with an action-packed 6-2 victory against Iran last month, England’s trio of strikes on Sunday night now means that Southgate’s squad have notched 12 World Cup strikes from their first four appearances.
With many starting to feel that the 2018 semi-finalists are one of the leading contenders in Qatar this winter, the Whites will be desperate to use their performance here as a platform to build on.
With no side recording more than England’s 12 World Cup strikes so far this festive period, Southgate’s high-flying squad couldn’t have wished for a better display here.
Bellingham is already a superstar
While Jude Bellingham might have failed to bag his second World Cup strike on Sunday night, the Borussia Dortmund ace put in a real Man of the Match performance as he once again showed why he is one of Europe’s most sort after prospects.
At the heart of both of England’s first-half goals and involved in everything positive that the Three Lions showed here, the ex-Birmingham prodigy has only continued to demonstrate that he is a key part of Southgate’s plans this winter.
Enjoying what has been another stellar season in the Bundesliga and with his stock at an all-time high, the 19-year-old plays with a maturity years above his age and it almost appears certain that a blockbuster move is on the cards in 2023.
Spearheading England’s youthful charge alongside Saka and Phil Foden, there is no doubt that links to the likes of Real Madrid and the rest of Europe’s elite will only continue to intensify over the next few weeks.
With it reported that Dortmund are seeking a record-breaking fee in the region of €150million for Bellingham next summer, Southgate’s midfield superstar will have to play a crucial role in England’s charge for Middle Eastern glory this month.
Mbappe & Les Bleus await
While England might have moved one step closer to claiming a first piece of international silverware since 1966 on Sunday night, the Three Lions will know that they face a huge challenge against another European heavyweight next week.
Although Southgate might find the mood in his camp at a real high when they return to the Al Bayt Stadium in six days time, a showdown against defending champions France will prove a huge test for England and their budding young superstars.
Although Les Bleus might have opened their Qatar quest last month in the midst of their own extended blip, Didier Deschamps’s men have laid down a real marker in the Middle East and they have one attacking talisman who is enjoying another record-breaking World Cup adventure.
Bagging a brace as France breezed their way to a routine 3-1 victory against Poland earlier on Sunday, Kylian Mbappe has only continued to cement his place as one of world football’s greatest talents.
Although Deschamps might have seen newly crowned Ballon d’Or winner Karim Benzema withdraw from Les Bleus’ squad last month due to a muscle injury, the 23-year-old has already notched five World Cup strikes this year – two more than any other player has recorded in Qatar.
England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Rice, Henderson, Bellingham, Foden, Saka, Kane
Subs: Grealish, Rashford, Mount, Dier, Phillips
Senegal: Mendy, Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs, Ciss, Mendy, Sarr, Ndiaye, Diatte, Dia
Subs: Matar Sarr, Dieng, Gueye, Toure, Diedhiou
Goals: Henderson (38′), Kane (45+3′), Saka (57′)
Yellow Cards: Koulibaly
Red Cards: N/A
Referee: Ivan Barton