Sports Mole previews Sunday’s World Cup clash between England and Senegal, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.
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.
They struck twice within 98 seconds at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium, with Marcus Rashford breaking the deadlock via a 50th-minute free kick, before Phil Foden netted the second soon after. A rejuvenated Rashford later added the final flourish with a third – his nation’s 100th World Cup goal.
Following an uninspiring performance in their draw with the United States just a few days before, the Three Lions more closely resembled the side which tore ruthlessly into Iran in their first fixture, and such attacking intent has confirmed their credentials to match recent runs at major finals.
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 the glory days of 1966.
Now set to meet Group A runners-up Senegal in Al Khor, England have yet to lose in 20 matches against African opposition to date, so Southgate’s current crop 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 surely 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.
The centre-back’s controlled volley was required after Ismaila Sarr‘s first-half penalty had been equalised by their South American opponents, but Aliou Cisse‘s side ultimately backed up a victory over Qatar. The latter result came after a disappointing loss to the Netherlands in their first fixture.
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 by upsetting a talented England side and perhaps setting up an emotional re-match with France, who they slayed in the finals’ opening game 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 after winning the final on penalties back in February.
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 have a distinct edge over their English counterparts, who have so often seen shootouts result in painful failure.
England World Cup form:
England form (all competitions):
Senegal World Cup form:
Senegal form (all competitions):
While Gareth Southgate inevitably enjoyed having his faith repaid by Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Jordan Henderson and Marcus Rashford – all of whom were introduced to the starting XI against Wales – their success presents England’s head coach with something of a quandary to resolve.
Not only will he consider returning Kieran Trippier, Bukayo Saka and long-time favourite Raheem Sterling to the lineup on Sunday, but there remains an outside possibility of switching from a back four to a flexible three-man defence.
In either case, Borussia Dortmund star Jude Bellingham – who became the second-youngest English player to reach 20 senior caps last time out – should join Declan Rice and Henderson in a central-midfield trio. Both Kalvin Phillips and James Maddison remain short of full fitness.
Captain Harry Kane – Russia 2018’s Golden Boot winner – still seeks his first goal at this year’s finals, and will once more lead the Three Lions up front.
Meanwhile, Senegal must make their attempt to reach the final eight not only without injured talisman Sadio Mane, but his former club rival on Merseyside, Everton’s Idrissa Gueye.
The midfield workhorse is suspended after receiving a second booking of the finals versus Ecuador, while Cheikhou Kouyate sustained an ankle injury in their first fixture and has since been ruled out of training. Nampalys Mendy of Leicester City should therefore deputise.
In Mane’s glaring absence, Watford winger Ismaila Sarr and Sheffield United’s Iliman Ndiaye have picked up the slack – Famara Diedhiou and Krepin Diatta are also contenders to feature on Sunday – with Salernitana striker Boulaye Dia providing the main goal threat.
Chelsea pair Edouard Mendy and Kalidou Koulibaly are stalwarts of the Senegalese defence, which is set to remain unchanged by coach Aliou Cisse.
England possible starting lineup:
Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Henderson, Bellingham; Rashford, Kane, Foden
Senegal possible starting lineup:
E. Mendy; Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs; P. Gueye, N. Mendy, Ciss; Ndiaye, Dia, Sarr
We say: England 2-0 Senegal
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.
For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.