David Hytner was at Al Bayt Stadium, and his report is in. Congratulations to England, commiserations to Senegal, and thanks to you all for reading this MBM. Nighty night!
Gareth Southgate – who after all that pre-match noise, got the big call right, huh – talks to ITV, praising “the ruthlessness of our execution, the way our team worked off the ball and without the ball. We were a bit sticky with the bal in the first 25 to 30 minutes. Our best opportunities came from winning the ball from them, and Jude and Hendo were outstanding in that aspect of the game. They’re both forward-thinking midfield players. Hendo doesn’t get many for us, but he’s been outstanding. He’s such a leader, he knits the team together, around the camp he’s brilliant, and his performances have been top drawer for us. It was important for Harry Kane and for us for him to score. We’ve got some super young players, and it’s been right to give them their head and their opportunity. These games are brilliant life experience for them. Their progress is phenomenal. The team have made a very complicated game tonight look straightforward. France are an outstanding team with a phenomenal tournament record and some outstanding individuals. So without a doubt it’s a game where we’ll have to find our highest possible level.”
As for Raheem Sterling, who is dealing with a family matter, Southgate reports: “We’ve got to wait and see. At the moment, clearly the priority is for him to be with his family. We’re going to support that, and leave him to have as much time as he needs. He’s going home. At the moment it’s a situation that he needs time with his family to deal with, and I don’t want to put him under any pressure with that. Sometimes football isn’t the most important thing, and family should come first.”
Jude Bellingham’s turn, and he’s in the mood to big up a team-mate as well. ““The first 35 minutes were tough. They were really compact, high-energy, athletic. They got in a few times down the sides, and it was one of those games when we needed to get the first goal. We knew when we did we’d be in a good position. The goal was really well worked. [Jordan Henderson] had a brilliant performance today. I see some of the rubbish that was said about him playing. Honestly, it’s ridiculous. He’s so under-rated technically, and he’s delivered again in a big game with a massive goal, so I think it’s time he gets a bit of respect.”
Phil Foden speaks to ITV. “We’re all buzzing with the result. We’re going to celebrate tonight, but it’s knockout football, so we’ll have to recover tomorrow and think about our next opponent, which is going to be really tough. Senegal are a great team. They’d cause some big teams problems. They were very physical. But it’s about buying time and trying to work out where the space was. I’ve always spoken about bringing my club form to international level, and tonight was probably my best England game, so I’m really happy. France look the strongest in the competition. Everywhere you look they have talent. But we’ll back ourselves on the day. We’re confident.”
… and now he’s a senior member of the squad at the grand old age of 22, he’s asked about his precocious 19-year-old team-mate. “I don’t want to big up Jude Bellingham too much because he’s still young, but he’s one of the most gifted players I’ve ever seen. I don’t see a weakness in his game. He’s got everything, and he’s going to be the best midfielder in the world, for sure.”
A clearly delighted Harry Kane speaks to ITV. “Really chuffed, you know. Knockout games are never easy. We’ve showed great maturity through the tournament. It’s 3-0 against a really good side. Credit to the boys. Their mentality was top from the beginning, and we took our chances when they came. We feel good. We’ve got good runners. Good players. We’re solid at the back. Three clean sheets in a row is really important. A really good day for us. We have a great mixture of youth and experience. Another knockout win. It was a very good night. We’ll enjoy this one, but our focus turns to France. It’ll be a really tough game, they’re reigning champions, it’ll be a good battle. We’ll recover nicely and get ready for the game.”
Gareth Southgate was wearing his poker face all evening, but he allows himself a broad, warm smile now! With the not-insignificant exception of a rocky spell midway through the first half – Jordan Pickford had to save well to deny Boulaye Dia – England were much the better team tonight and fully deserved their victory. Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka scored fine goals, while Jude Bellingham was his usual precocious self. France and Kylian Mbappé will offer a much sterner test on Saturday, but the champions of Africa were made to look uncharacteristically ordinary for the most part tonight, so England deserve to bask in the glory for a while before contemplating their game against the champions of the world.
FULL TIME: England 3-0 Senegal
England have beaten the champions of Africa and are into the quarter finals of the World Cup! They’ll face France on Saturday evening.
90 min +3: Dieng blooters the free kick witlessly into the wall but the ball breaks out for a corner kick. Ismaila Sarr takes, and Kane clears. Looks like a third clean sheet on the bounce is on!
90 min +2: Rice connects with the bottom of Dieng’s boot and it’s a free kick 25 yards out, just to the right of centre. Pickford’s clean sheet – and Southgate’s good mood, if his reaction to England shipping two goals late against Iran – in jeopardy here.
90 min +1: Shaw works his way down the left and dinks a cross towards Rashford at the far stick. Rashford can only hook the ball into the side netting. A fine chance to get one goal closer to Kylian Mbappé in the race for the Golden Boot goes begging.
90 min: In four minutes’ time, England will officially be in the quarter finals of the World Cup.
89 min: Pape Sarr flays a wild shot 40 miles over the bar. Meanwhile the England band play Jingle Bells. Good fun and all, but it’s not a patch on the earlier afro-funk.
87 min: A first corner of the evening for Senegal, out on the left. Ballo-Toure floats a cross into Pickford’s hands. It’s been a good day at the office for Pickford, whose strong arm to deny Dia when the score was 0-0 (kind of) turned this game.
86 min: Mount cynically clips the in-flight Dieng from behind, and this referee is laissez-faire all right.
84 min: A cross into the England box from the left. Ismaila Sarr heads harmlessly over. Pickford is furious that the half-chance was given up. A-rollocking he goes.
82 min: Henderson makes way for Phillips. Often under-appreciated, he receives a warm ovation from the England support. Meanwhile the drums and horns of Senegal have fallen quiet now. To be fair, they’d been going at it non-stop since the get-go. A masterclass in the circular breathing technique that John Coltrane would be proud of.
80 min: Henderson sends Rashford scampering down the right. Rashford crosses for Kane, who extends a leg, Gazza-at-Euro-96 style. He can’t poke home either.
78 min: An England free kick out on the left. Shaw curls it into the mixer. Neither Kane nor Rashford can get on the end of it. “England are not letting the country down,” writes John Neal, replying to Paul Griffin (61 min). “They are raising hopes to a fever pitch before the inevitable plucky loss on penalties to France.”
77 min: A double change for England: Bellingham and Stones are replaced by Mount and Dier.
76 min: Koulibaly clatters crassly into the back of Kane, and turns out the referee does have his notebook with him after all. In he goes!
74 min: Everyone lines up on the edge of the box. Pape Sarr tries to shock Pickford by whipping the long-distance free kick towards the unguarded bottom-right corner. Think a mirror image of the free kick Gary McAllister scored for Liverpool in the Merseyside derby back in 2001. Anyway, Sarr isn’t as accurate as McAllister, and the side netting rustles. Also, Pickford was quickly across and had it covered, unlike his Everton predecessor back in the day.
73 min: Diedhiou is into the thick of it immediately, bustling down the middle. He lays off to Dieng, who is bowled over by Shaw. Free kick in a central position, 30 yards out.
72 min: Dia makes way for Diedhiou.
70 min: Ismaila Sarr crosses from the left. The ball nestles harmlessly on the top of Pickford’s net. Senegal haven’t threatened to get back into this game at all. They were on top until England scored their first, at which point their belief went AWOL.
68 min: Mind you, it’s not been a dirty or ill-tempered game, so the referee must be doing something right. Let him feel the love.
67 min: Nampalys Mendy comes crashing into Rice and becomes yet another player slightly fortunate not to go into the referee’s notebook. Assuming the referee’s got one, plus pencil, etc. It would explain a lot.
65 min: With England three up, Southgate takes the opportunity to refresh his front line. Saka and Foden, who have both excelled this evening, make way for Rashford and Grealish.
64 min: Henderson and Gueye accidentally knock knees. Henderson really felt that, but looks like he’ll be good to continue.
63 min: England take it down a notch.
61 min: Bellingham slides in hard on Sabaly, and is lucky he fails to make contact. The referee makes do with a quiet word. “I’m not sure I approve of this ruthless, calm, ferociously kinetic performance,” writes Paul Griffin. “Could it be that by playing in this profoundly un-English way, our lads are in some way letting the country down?”
59 min: England are in full flow. Kane finds Walker down the right. He’s got team-mates to find in the middle, but batters his cross into the startled grid of the first man.
GOAL! England 3-0 Senegal (Saka 57)
Saka rewards Gareth Southgate for his selection! Foden skates down the left, past the sliding Sabaly, then the static Koulibaly, and crosses for Saka, who dinks elegantly, first time, over the sprawling, stranded Mendy. Another lovely goal!
56 min: Kane cuts in from the left and pearls a shot straight at Mendy from 25 yards. It should be an easy claim, but Mendy lets the ball squirt through his legs. The Senegal keeper is extremely lucky that the spin on the ball stops it dead, and he’s able to flop over it. That could easily have flown into the net.
54 min: Kane slips Saka away down the inside-right channel. Saka aims for the top-right corner but the shot’s always heading high and wide. England look extremely comfortable right now. Senegal haven’t put anything together since the restart.
53 min: Foden drops deep in the pocket. He draws a couple of players before flicking a ball down the inside-left channel with a view to releasing Kane. Right idea, but the pass is overhit.
52 min: Senegal may be two down, but their fans are still giving it plenty. They’ve been on the drums and horns all evening. A sensational soundtrack.
50 min: Sabaly cuts back from the byline to the right of the England goal. Pape Sarr has a whack from distance. He catches it well but the ball’s always sailing wide right.
49 min: Bellingham is everywhere. He now races towards the Senegal box but is checked in the no-nonsense manner by Koulibaly. Senegal are living on the brink right now.
47 min: Jakobs’ clearing header is poor, allowing Henderson to make good down the right. He reaches the byline and stands one up into the middle, but there’s nobody there to score England’s third. “I’m just back from the Co-op,” reports Andrew Benton of pre-kick-off fame. Andrew might have some more shopping to do on Saturday evening, the way this is heading.
England get the second half underway. Senegal make three changes: Ndiaye, Diatta and Ciss are replaced by Gueye, Dieng and Pape Sarr. “Whisper it but that run and ball of Bellingham for the second goal was a little reminiscent of Maradona putting in Caniggia for the winner against Brazil in 1990,” opines Adam Hirst. “The one that made the Brazilian girl cry. A lighter version but similar movements and balance. He really is the business.”
Half-time entertainment. A couple of in-form strikers are awaiting the winner of this one.
HALF TIME: England 2-0 Senegal
England started the half well, sagged worryingly, then finally hit their straps to hit Senegal with a late double whammy. Two fine goals, and England have one foot in the quarter finals. They’re 45 minutes away from a showdown with France!
GOAL! England 2-0 Senegal (Kane 45+3)
Senegal have one last probe for an equaliser before the break. But then they’re bit on the break. Bellingham steals the ball in the Senegal half. He draws a few green shirts but holds them off as he dribbles upfield. Then he slides a pass down the inside left for Foden, who immediately switches it back for Kane, romping free down the inside right. Kane enters the box, and he’s always going to slot past Mendy and open his World Cup 2022 account. Finally. What a time to do it!
45 min +1: Saka crudely bodychecks Sarr, but he’s not going into the book either. On this subject, Joe Pearson sent this in a good half-hour ago: “Referee from El Salvador? Concacaf rules, then. Watch for a lot of physical play not being called. Just sayin’.”
45 min: Rice’s low cross from the right is cut out by Koulibaly for another England corner. Foden looks for Bellingham but Senegal clear. There’ll be two added minutes.
44 min: Henderson has by all accounts been mentoring Bellingham during this World Cup. They marked combining for the goal with a curious but sweet nose-to-nose celebration.
43 min: Bellingham slips Shaw into space down the left. Shaw enters the box, thinks about shooting, then thinks about crossing, then manages neither as Mendy ushers him away from goal. Shaw settles for a corner that leads to nothing.
42 min: England suddenly have their tails up. Saka bustles down the right again and curls into the centre for Foden, who can’t get up high enough to send a header goalwards. Goal kick. Suddenly Senegal could do with hearing the half-time whistle.
41 min: It should be two. Pickford launches long. Saka skitters down the right and cuts back for Kane, who leans back and lifts a shot well over the bar from 12 yards.
40 min: Senegal were starting to get on top back there. But now look. That was a simple but lovely move, and it opened up Senegal with ease.
GOAL! England 1-0 Senegal (Henderson 39)
Kane drops deep to quarterback. He finds Bellingham with a sliderule pass down the inside-left channel. Bellingham reaches the Senegal box and rolls across for Henderson, who calmly steers a first-time shot across Mendy and into the bottom right!
38 min: Ndiaye has the opportunity to release Diatta into the England box down the inside-right channel but overcooks the pass. Goal kick. And then …
37 min: Nothing comes of the resulting free kick.
36 min: Sarr picks Walker’s pocket and makes off down the left wing. Walker tugs him back and should go into the book, but the referee only awards the free kick. Senegal coach Aliou Cissé demands Walker be shown the yellow card, but he’s not getting his wish.
35 min: That really was a fine save by Pickford. Not only was the ball unpredictably ballooning up from the turf, Stones was also in the road attempting to block. He’d have seen it late. What reactions.
33 min: Kane works the ball in from the left, looking for Saka in the Senegal box. Jakobs gets in between ball and man, allowing Edouard Mendy to come off his line to claim.
32 min: Saka cheaply gifts possession to Sarr down the left. Sarr cuts infield, thinks about shooting, then plays a cute reverse pass down the inside-left channel. Dia strides into the box and whistles a shot into the ground and across Pickford, in the direction of the bottom right. Pickford sticks out a strong arm to block brilliantly, and with Dia unable to react to the rebound, England are able to clear. Another good chance for Senegal!
30 min: A period of sustained patient Senegalese possession now. One for the purists at the moment, this match.
28 min: England slow the game right down. Again. Stones eventually gets fed up and tries a Hollywood pass. Intercepted. The ball breaks to Maguire who hoicks upfield with extreme prejudice. You’ve seen better periods of play this month.
26 min: England take the sting out of the game with a little bit of sterile professionalism in the centre circle. Not the worst idea in the wake of that close call, Senegal with their tails up. “Just imagine if this possession stat was tracked back in the old Crazy Gang days,” writes Andy ‘Not that one’ Flintoff. “Wimbledon 20%, Watford 20%, 60% in contest.”
24 min: There’s a quick check by VAR for a penalty, but you can’t be penalising Stones for that, and the game is soon underway again.
23 min: A huge chance for Senegal! Maguire’s poor clearance is intercepted by Diatta, who crosses from the right. Dia highkicks on the penalty spot. The ball pings off Stones’ knee and onto his forearm, then breaks to Sarr, who blazes over from six yards. What an opportunity!
21 min: Walker attempts to cut infield from the right. The ball pings off Sarr. Corner, though it takes the referee and linesman an absolute age to award it. More standing around. Eventually it’s fired in by Foden. Stones heads-and-shoulders it wide and high right. Goal kick.
19 min: England suddenly slow down to a virtual halt. Maguire and Stones with the ball at their feet, the incredible standing men. There’s patience and there’s patience.
17 min: … so having said that, Ndiaye bothers Maguire down the right wing and nearly bursts clear. Stones comes across to make sure no serious problem develops for England.
16 min: Senegal are struggling to hold onto possession in the England half. How they’ll be missing Sadio Mané. “What is IN Contest’s xG from all this possession?” wonders Richard Hirst.
14 min: Diallo is a split second late on Kane and earns himself the first lecture of the match.
13 min: England are enjoying a fair bit of joy down the left flank. Kane whips in a cross that again has Edouard Mendy flapping. Saka trots into the six-yard box without too much conviction. A little more, and he might have trundled that home from close range.
12 min: England have enjoyed 60 percent of possession so far. Senegal just 25. The mysterious IN Contest makes off with his usual 15 percent share.
10 min: The ball is switched out. It’s gone flat.
9 min: Edouard Mendy gives Diallo a hospital pass, and Saka nearly steals the ball away in the Senegal box. Mendy makes up for it by reclaiming possession. England come again, Bellingham swinging a gorgeous ball in from the left. Mendy continues to act skittishly, flapping at the cross, but there’s nobody in a white shirt to take advantage.
8 min: England break out a training-ground move. The free kick’s worked short to Walker on the right, then back towards Maguire on the left-hand corner of the six-yard box. Maguire hooks a cross into the centre. Senegal clear.
7 min: Bellingham wins another free kick, this time by working his way down the left only to be skittled by Diatta. England load the box. Shaw prepares to deliver.
6 min: Senegal are pressing England hard in these early exchanges. Ciss gets up in Bellingham’s grille. A garden variety foul, but he’s let the England midfielder know he’s there.
4 min: Dia goes racing at speed down the inside-right channel and makes it all the way into the England box. Neither Maguire nor Stones look particularly happy as they give chase, but between them they manage to shut the door just in time, the ball coming off Maguire’s shin and bobbling into Pickford’s possession. That got the crowd going.
3 min: Henderson steals the ball off a snoozing Nampalys Mendy. For a second, it looked as though he’d tear into a bit of space down the left, but the legs won’t take him there. Henderson keeps probing, though, and nearly releases Foden into the box. The ball flies out for a goal kick.
2 min: Senegal ping the ball around hectically for a minute or so. Pickford blooters it into the stand. A fairly nondescript start.
England take the knee … and Senegal get the ball rolling. Here we go, then!
The teams are out! England in white, Senegal in green. A fantastic atmosphere bubbling up at the Al Bayt Stadium. We’ll be off after the Senegalese national anthem Le Lion rouge, and the English equivalent God Save The [Mumbled Confusion]. Everyone still getting used to it, you see. “The last time I went to the Co-op, England scored two goals in quick succession,” begins Andrew Benton. “I’m now in a quandary of sorts - should I go immediately at 7pm to ensure we get off to a good start and have a nice early dinner to boot, or bear the pangs of hunger until a bit later for a rip-roaring fightback?”
Gareth Southgate is asked about Raheem Sterling’s absence by ITV. “He’s dealing with a family matter. I’ve had quite a bit of time with him this morning, but I’ve now had to pass that on to other people to help him with that. He’s going to go and deal with that matter, and we’ll have to take it from there.”
As for his team selection? “Saka was excellent in our first two matches. Marcus was also very good. It’s great to have him able to come into the game as it opens up. We have an embarrassment of riches in that area of the pitch. We’ve liked Bukayo’s performances, and think Phil and him deserve that opportunity.”
And what do England have to do to win? “We’ve got to play our way. We’ve got to play to our strengths. We’ve shown what we’re about in this tournament, and have to continue that tonight. Resilience, experience. You have to be able to adapt, adjust and respond to everything that is thrown at you. You have to be there with the answers, and we have to do that tonight.
The hotly* anticipated** return of PENNANT WATCH! The trinket Harry Kane will be handing over couldn’t scream THIS’LL DO more loudly if THIS’LL DO was printed on it in 96-point type. The FA may as well print out a sheet of A4 and be done with it.
His opposite number Kalidou Koulibaly will present a much more lively number. Bold without being busy, colourful yet uncluttered. Mind you, a thicker, plusher, more generous helping of tasseling wouldn’t have gone amiss. There’s a thin line between decadence and desolation.
Pre-match postbag o’philosophical pondering. “According to your French fellow MBMer at the RMC Sport, who I’d like to think sips on a lovely burgundy throughout the match, Jules Koundé has said that France don’t have a preference for which side they face. In their shoes I’d be more confident about outscoring the English offence than I would about getting past Koulibaly and company in the Senegalese defence” – Kári Tulinius.
“I think we (and various pundits) need to move beyond the idea that not playing from the start equates to being ‘dropped’, I don’t think that’s how the game works any more. If Southgate has a plan for the whole game, that should include judicious use of substitutes (probably including Rashford). If that plan works, then great. If it doesn’t, then the pitchforks come out. Such is life, but the idea that a starting place always outranks coming off the bench seems outdated” – Tom Hopkins.
“Interesting to know about the intra-African rivalries. On the other hand, with the possible exception of Brazil and Argentina, Latin Americans tend to cheer for whichever one of us is left in the tournament, even if our departure was at the hands of each other. In fact, I would say this goodwill extends even to Spain and the United States. Maybe rather than being continent based, it’s based on a sense of shared identity? I wonder if the world marking us out as Latinos, a grouping which has no basis in race or ethnicity, makes it so we see ourselves as one precisely because the world groups us this way? I wonder” – Casiano Martinez.
Bukayo Saka’s replacement of Marcus Rashford is the one change to the England starting XI from the 3-0 defeat of Wales. Raheem Sterling is absent altogether as he deals with a family matter.
Senegal are without defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye. The Everton man picked up his second yellow of the tournament in the 2-1 win over Ecuador and is suspended. Nampalys Mendy of Leicester City takes over in midfield, while Monaco winger Krepin Diatta replaces Pape Gueye.
England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Henderson, Rice, Bellingham, Saka, Kane, Foden.
Subs: Grealish, Rashford, Trippier, Pope, Phillips, Dier, Coady, Alexander-Arnold, Mount, Ramsdale, Wilson, Maddison, Gallagher.
Senegal: Edouard Mendy, Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs, Ciss, Nampalys Mendy, Ndiaye, Diatta, Ismaila Sarr, Dia.
Subs: Seny Dieng, Formose Mendy, Cisse, Jackson, Moussa N’Diaye, Ballo-Toure, Pape Sarr, Diedhiou, Ahmadou Dieng, Gomis, Name, Loum N’Diaye, Pape Gueye.
Referee: Ivan Barton (El Salvador).
Confirmation that Saka gets the nod over Rashford. In social-media form. The old-school way of doing things via the wires coming right up.
Bukayo Saka for Marcus Rashford: a contentious decision? It’s not, is it. “I’m astonished Rashford isn’t playing,” said Gary Lineker on the BBC. But Gareth Southgate can’t play everyone. Yes, Rashford is best-poised right now to chase down five-goal Kylian Mbappé for the Golden Boot, after scoring his second and third goals of this World Cup against Wales. But then Saka notched twice in an impressive performance against Iran. File this one under: Nice Problem To Have. Of course, as Jonathan Wilson pointed out the other day, if/when it goes the shape of a pear for England, Southgate will get it in the neck whatever he does, so he may as well call it as he sees it.
An update from Our Jacob via That Elon.
Some early team news courtesy of Jacob Steinberg in Qatar. “We’re still waiting for confirmed team news but word at the Al Bayt Stadium is that Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden both start for England. Raheem Sterling has not won his place back. It means likely disappointment for Marcus Rashford, who has three goals in three games.”
The champions of Africa against the runners-up of Euro 2020. It’s a big one, this, all right.
But let’s get it straight: tonight, Senegal will be representing
the whole of Africa Senegal. As Nedum Onuoha explained on Football Weekly a couple of days ago, the notion that the entire continent cheers together as one “needs to be put in the bin” (from 14m 57s). Fans of Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and the Cote d’Ivoire, to pull some random examples out of the ether, may have trenchant views on the possibility of the Lions of Teranga making it to the quarters.
Having said that, from a Lions of Three perspective, it’s still worth taking a quick look at England’s record against African nations at the World Cup. They’ve never lost, which is good news for those who use history as a crutch. However, they’ve never really impressed either. A competent 2-0 win over Tunisia in 1998, a deserved last-gasp Harry Kane-inspired victory against the same opponents 20 years later, and that’s about it.
What else? A goalless draw against Morocco in 1986, during which Ray Wilkins lost the noggin, threw the ball at the ref, and became the first England player to be sent packing at the World Cup. A goalless draw against Algeria in 2010, after which Wayne Rooney’s lid started to rattle disconcertingly, having a pop back at fans who were having a pop at him. A goalless draw against Nigeria in 2002 that was nondescript even by the standards of the Sven-Goran Eriksson era. And then there was Italia 90. England scraped past Egypt 1-0, then against Cameroon in the quarter-finals were, to quote Macka B, “lucky, lucky, very lucky, lucky”.
So it’s swings and roundabouts. A place in the quarter finals against France is the prize on offer. Kick off is at 7pm BST, 10pm at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. انه يحدث! It’s on!