Rashford’s redemption in Qatar
Marcus Rashford has been a man in form in Qatar. Three goals in three games has taken England through to the knockout stages.
England vs Senegal: Line-ups
Senegal Not Ready for England’s Quality
Under oft-maligned manager Gareth Southgate, they ventured to the World Cup’s final four in 2018 before falling just short on home soil at last year’s Euros, so certainly have a track-record to support hopes of claiming a first global title since 1966. Now set to meet Group A runners-up Senegal in Al Khor, England have yet to lose in 20 matches against African opposition, so Southgate’s current crop surely start as favourites to progress on Sunday.
Their quest for an elusive second World Cup started in the aftermath of an awful run of results through 2022 – during which time they were relegated from the top tier of UEFA’s Nations League – but a return to form for Manchester United pair Rashford and Harry Maguire has played its part in building momentum behind their Qatari campaign.
Cisse, supported by assistant El Hadji Diouf – another hero of Senegal’s legendary 2002 campaign – now aims to lead his nation into the quarter-finals; perhaps setting up an emotional re-match with France, who they slayed in the finals’ opening game some 20 years ago.
The former Birmingham City midfielder may be without star man Sadio Mane in Qatar, but since his appointment in 2015 has nurtured a spirited and tactically aware squad – the bulk of which lifted a first Africa Cup of Nations trophy in February, after winning the final on penalties.
While African teams have lost eight of nine World Cup knockout matches against European opponents to date – the sole exception being a Senegalese win over Sweden – if it comes to spot-kicks the Lions of Teranga could therefore hold a distinct edge over their English counterparts, who have so often seen shootouts result in painful failure.
Having conceded at least once in all three matches so far, Senegal are ill-equipped to survive an onslaught from England’s exuberant front line – provided Southgate’s side play to their full potential. Though well-organised and offering a clear threat on the break, the absence of integral players may see Africa’s top team slain by the Three Lions in Al Khor.