On Sunday, clinical England overcame a slow start to cruise to a 3-0 victory against Senegal, as goals from Harry Kane, Jordan Henderson, and Bukayo Saka propelled them into a tantalising World Cup quarterfinal matchup with France.
After taking a while to assert themselves against the African champions—a team they had never faced before—England survived a few close calls before two goals late in the first half altered the atmosphere and made the second half a non-event.
With this impressive win, they are now 21 games—including eight World Cup games—unbeaten against African teams overall. The only remaining African team in the competition is Morocco, which takes on Spain on Tuesday.
Manager Gareth Southgate praised the performance’s “ruthlessness” as great. Every game you play has a unique challenge and a distinct tactical issue to tackle. We have taken the initiative to respond to such inquiries.
“The moves were of exceptional quality, and the finishing was merciless.”
Senegal’s task was always going to be difficult given the absence of injured Cheikhou Kouyate and suspended Idrissa Gueye, both midfielders.
African teams lacked a cutting edge to trouble an England defence that kept a third consecutive World Cup clean sheet for the first time in 20 years because Sadio Mane was out of the competition due to injury.
They were, however, very much involved in the game for the majority of the first half as Senegal had opportunities due to England’s slow and static play and a series of errant passes.
The best of them fell to Boulaye Dia, and only Jordan Pickford’s powerful left arm kept the Africans from taking the lead.
Raheem Sterling’s absence from Sunday’s lineup, which the FA claimed was due to a family matter, appears to be their lone setback.
Next Saturday, they will face a French team that defeated Poland 3-1 earlier in the day, and they are aware that they won’t be able to get away with a similarly sluggish start. However, the holders are also aware that their old enemies have the tools to really hurt them.
Foden, who contributed to all three goals, said: “We all want to participate in the biggest games and there is no greater game than playing France. “When we play at our best, we can generate opportunities and score. We anticipate what will be a significant struggle.”
Man of the match Kane was also a happy man. “We’ve shown great maturity through the tournament … 3-0 here against a really good side,” he said.
“We feel good, we’ve got good players getting forward and we’re solid at the back. A really good day for us.”