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Xinhua News Agency/PA Images Harry Kane celebrates his goal.
# Three and easy
England ease past Senegal to set up defining World Cup quarter-final with France
England overcame a sluggish start to win 3-0.

England 3

Senegal 0

ENGLAND PASSED THEIR final mock exam of this World Cup with a flourish, easing to a 3-0 win over a diminished Senegal.

England’s conditioning for the real thing against France in next Saturday’s quarter-final remains unknown, though this had far fewer worries than it had encouraging signs. 

To start with those concerns: England’s defence went largely untested against a Senegal side shorn of Idrissa Gueye and of course Sadio Mane, but Harry Maguire nonetheless returned to his jittery self on the ball while Kyle Walker struggled against Ismaila Sarr, who, to make the blindingly obvious point, is no Kylian Mbappe. 


Once England shredded Senegal with a gorgeous team move to open the scoring, they relaxed into a slick rhythm, adding another two goals through Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka, their attack attack a whirring blur of danger from all angles until Southgate shut everything down and declared at 3-0. 

And above all England have the magnificent Jude Bellingham. Tonight he assisted the first goal but made the second, capping a performance in which he seemed to glide frictionlessly across every blade of grass at the Al Bayt Stadium. In playing he became only the second teenager to start a knockout game for England since Michael Owen did so in 1998 but his more accurate tournament counterpart is Wayne Rooney’s breakout showing at Euro 2004. His dynamism gives England approximately everything in midfield, which may yet mitigate against the limits of Southgate’s cautious outlook.  

England were truly poor for the opening half-hour: their passing was sideways and their pace was laboured, such that they allowed their opponents grow in confidence.  Maguire’s passing was a real asset to Senegal, and one of his many early giveaways resulted in Ismalia Sarr firing over from close range and a VAR check for a potential handball against John Stones. The ball hit his hand but had bounced up off his thigh, so the referee waved play on. The reprieve didn’t spark England into life, and Pickford was soon forced to use an unbending left arm to bat away Boulaye Dia’s penalty-box shot. 

But with England looking shorn of ideas, Jude took a potentially sad song and made it better. England huffed and puffed but all of a sudden they scythed through Senegal, with Phil Foden’s clever flick to Harry Kane the moment the key clicked in the lock. Kane slid the ball forward for Jude Bellingham, whose square pass was swept into the net by Jordan Henderson. It was a beautiful, flowing move that, to Southgate’s enormous credit, looked rehearsed. 

england-v-senegal-fifa-world-cup-2022-round-of-16-al-bayt-stadium PA Jordan Henderson celebrates his goal with Jude Bellingham. PA

It was a gut-punch for Senegal but they took a heavier blow with the last action of the first-half. Bellingham pounced on a miscontrol by Pathe Ciss and then added another clip to his newsreel, gliding past a trio of challenge and playing the ball left to Foden, whose first-time pass to Kane allowed England’s captain smash home his first goal of the tournament. 

Aliou Cisse made a triple half-time sub but it didn’t staunch England’s flow. The third goal arrived shortly before the hour mark, when Foden skipped balletically over a flailing challenge and crossed low for Saka, who dinked the ball delightfully over Mendy. 

Southgate emptied the bench as the game trundled to a close, ensuring England won’t be affected by fatigue against France next Saturday.

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They have paced themselves perfectly through the tournament thus far but now they must the hit their stride. France will be their defining game: win it and they will be major contenders.

If not favourites. 

England: Pickford; Walker, Stones (Dier, 76′), Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson (Phillips, 82′); Saka (Grealish, 64′), Bellingham (Mount, 74′), Foden (Rashford, 64′); Kane

Senegal: E Mendy; Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs (Toure, 85′); P Ciss (P A Gueye, HT), N Mendy; Diatta (Matar Sarr, HT), Ndiaye (Dieng, HT), I Sarr; Dia (Diedhiou, 72′)

Referee: Ivan Barton (El Salvador)


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