England and Senegal will face off for the first time in history when they meet at the Al Bayt Stadium for their Round of 16 match.
England enter the fray as Group B champions. Senegal bounced back from their opening day defeat with two back-to-back wins against Qatar and Ecuador. It was enough for the reigning African champions to secure the second spot in Group A and progress to the knockout phase of the competition.
The Three Lions reaffirmed their status as favourites with a dominant 3-0 win over Wales in the final Group C match.
Two Marcus Rashford goals sandwiched a Phil Foden strike as England made light work of seeing off their British rivals.
It was a much needed response to silence the naysayers after England scraped a goalless draw against the US in their second match. England’s lifeless showing against the Star and Stripes eclipsed their brilliant 6-2 win over Iran in the opening match.
Gareth Southgate has been a divisive figure throughout his England managerial tenure. But the 1966 world champions have had two deep runs in two major tournaments under his watch. England did fall short on both occasions, but their tournament experience, combined with their unbeaten record against African oppositions, will put them ahead in the tie.
That said, Senegal are not a team to be taken lightly. They don’t have the stardust of Sadio Mané in Qatar, but that couldn’t stop them from extending their World Cup journey to the knockouts.
This is the first time since 2002 that Senegal managed to make it to the Round of 16. Aliou Cissé, a member of the iconic Senegal side that progressed to the quarterfinals, will try to recreate the magic of 2002 as the Senegal manager.
African teams don’t have an excellent record in the knockouts against European sides. In nine Euro-African pair ups so far, the Africans had the last laugh eight times.
The only exception happened in 2002, when Senegal eliminated Sweden from the Round of 16. Les Lions de la Téranga will be hoping to maintain their 100% win record in this phase of the competition at the expense of England.
Gareth Southgate chose to bring Phil Foden, Kyle Walker and Jordan Henderson to the starting XI against Wales.
All three players repaid the faith put on him.
But keeping out the likes of Kieran Trippier, Jude Bellingham, and Bukayo Saka will be a difficult decision to make. So, Southgate has to return to the drawing board and decide which players suit his plans the best against a dynamic Senegal side.
Senegal will have to make do without Idrissa Gueye.
The Everton midfielder picked up his second yellow of the tournament in the Ecuador game.
Cheikhou Kouyaté has been out of the squad since the opening match against the Netherlands.
He is not expected to recover from his ankle injury before the game, leaving Aliou Cissé’s midfield options further depleted.
Senegal have conceded in each of their previous three games.
So, it seems unlikely thay they would be able to keep out the attacking might of the Three Lions who have world class forwards like Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Bukayo Saka, and Phil Foden among their ranks.
Senegal do possess threat on the counter, but that might not be enough for outscoring England. We say England 3-1 Senegal.
Date: 5 December
Kickoff: 12:30 AM
Venue: The Al Bayt Stadium