England 3-0 Senegal: 3 things we learned

England turned in a clinical performance by beating AFCON winners Senegal 3-0 to set up a quarter-final clash with defending champions France on Saturday.

The Three Lions put up a spirited Senegalese team in the first 30 minutes, but were in full control after scoring two quick goals before the break. However, Gareth Southgate’s side need to keep the momentum going and raise their game if they get a chance against the Les Blues.

These are the three things we learned.

Jude Bellingham key to England’s run

The 19-year-old put in another great performance that dominated in the middle of the park. The Borussia Dortmund star looked calm and composed with a passing range, slipping past the opposing players at ease, while also making room to drift into dangerous positions in the final third.

Bellingham showed great maturity beyond his years by running into the Senegalese box and making a fine assist on Jordan Henderson’s opener on the night.

Southgate would need Bellingham at best against France to regain possession, recover the ball and then move over to the attack with his deeper runs. In addition, his excellent ball distribution will be the need of the hour to keep the French defense on their toes. Should the youngster from Dortmund be at his best, England will create chances against Kylian Mbappé and co.

Defense still a concern

The 3–0 win meant this was England’s third consecutive clean sheet in the World Cup. However, England looked shaky at the back and Senegal could have taken the lead had goalkeeper Jordan Pickford’s outstretched left hand not thwarted Boulaye Dia’s 32nd-minute effort. Neither centre-backs, Harry Maguire or John Stones played well, the latter giving the ball away to the opposition several times under pressure. England were lucky not to have been awarded a penalty when the ball appeared to have wiped off Stones’ left arm from Dia’s deflected shot.

Kyle Walker was also lucky to have escaped a booking after recklessly taking down Ismaila Sarr and Senegal continued to aim down the left flank to build up their attack. With Mbappé alongside him, Walker needs to up his game and maintain his discipline, otherwise the PSG star could take the game away from the English very quickly. However, Luke Shaw played a confident game as an assistant left-back and must be at his best against Ousmane Dembélé on the flanks against France.

Senegal missed 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 pairing, captain Kalidou Koulibaly and goalkeeper Edouard Mendy had miserable performances that left much to be desired from the African side. Sarr should have put Senegal ahead in the 23rd minute, but shot wide from just 6 yards.

Although Senegal would ruin their chances, they never looked like they could get back into the game. Perhaps this was the kind of game tailor-made for Sadio Mane, the Bayern Munich star who missed the World Cup season through injury.

Had Aliou Cisse’s side got past England, they would have mounted a blockbuster clash against France, shocking them in their opening round encounter at the 2002 World Cup. It wasn’t to be for Senegal, and the dark horses of the tournament return home after a disjointed performance.

Photo credit: IMAGO/Agencia MexSport

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