England survived a few early scares as Gareth Southgate’s side convincingly beat Senegal to advance to the World Cup quarter-finals.
Here’s what we made of it.
Sharing the load
England have now had eight individual goalscorers at this World Cup, two more than they have ever managed before.
A defining characteristic of Garth Southgate’s England has been the unity of the squad, a group of individuals who put the group first.
Marcus Rashford was the star with his two goals against Wales, but if you were on social media before the game, you will know there was a minor uproar as Bukayo Saka came back into this side for the round of 16 clash with Senegal.
The decision, just like the one to include Jordan Henderson, was rapidly vindicated as both players were instrumental throughout the performance whilst scoring on either side of Harry Kane’s first goal in this year’s competition.
Player rotation and goal-scoring has been widespread – England have the most goals scored in the competition so far (12) – but the defence has helped share the load, although they had to survive some early scares.
Harry Maguire and John Stones both came into the competition with their fitness and form under scrutiny, but England haven’t conceded a goal since the late consolation penalty against Iran in the opening game.
In France, however, each member of this England squad will be called upon to face their sternest test to date.
AFCON champions bow out
The champions of Africa will leave the competition feeling undoubtedly disappointed but with their heads held high.
One must still ask the question, though, how different could it have been with Sadio Mané?
Anyone who has followed Liverpool for the past couple of years knows the impact Mané can have on a side and was seen as a catalyst behind his nation’s recent international success.
In the opening exchanges, Senegal looked the most threatening with their pace and power, causing all kinds of problems for the English defence.
With the game level, Jordan Pickford was called up to deny Boulaye Dia with a crucial save after Ismaïla Sarr blasted over from close range – how different could that have been if either of those fell to Mané?
One player a team does not make, but some are called talismanic for a reason.
What a gem England have on their hands with Jude Bellingham.
Speaking before the match, the 19-year-old revealed his ambitions to one day wear the armband and lead the Three Lions out on the World’s biggest stage, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder put in a performance to back that up.
Operating in the half-space on the left-hand side, Bellingham won back possession repeatedly before galloping beyond the Senegal defence at every opportunity.
In fact, that’s what led to the first goal, with Harry Kane feeding the young midfielder before setting up Jordan Henderson.
On a night when youngsters such as Phil Foden (who picked up a pair of assists) and Bukayo Saka shone bright, Bellingham blinded all those who watched as he put in the kind of performance that had the world gushing over Pedri in the last Euros.
He and Foden combined well on the left but, for long periods, occupied the same space. If Southgate can tweak that, then their partnership surely knows no limits and can be the bedrock of an English generation.