England vs Senegal today. 🏆⚽️🏆⚽️ pic.twitter.com/WrhMKQI7PF
— Danny Morley (@DannyMorley2) December 4, 2022
Vying for a place in the World Cup quarter-finals, England and last-16 opponents Senegal go head-to-head at Al Bayt Stadium on Sunday.
After Gareth Southgate’s side topped Group B by beating Wales, a first-ever meeting between the nations sees the Three Lions tackle the Lions of Teranga, who made it through to the knockout rounds thanks to a crucial intervention from their captain.
Defying their doubters again, England’s second-half showing in Tuesday’s final group game saw them not only sweep aside their Welsh neighbours, but also reach the last 16 of Qatar 2022 as Group B winners…
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.
Despite their near misses, England have also accrued plenty of tournament experience over the past few years, so will kick off their last-16 clash brimful of confidence too.
Senegal should not lack in that most precious of commodities either, as they arrived in the Middle East as African champions and have since negotiated safe passage to the knockout phase for just a second time.
Edging out Ecuador in a winner-takes-all contest, they were indebted to captain Kalidou Koulibaly for his 70th-minute winner at Khalifa International Stadium on Tuesday…
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.