In today’s early match, in the Round of 16 at Qatar’s 2022 World Cup, France beat a game Poland 3-1 with two pretty Kylian Mbappe goals (74th and 90+1) and a classic Olivier Giroud center forward’s score (44th) countered by a 90+9-minute retaken penalty score by Robert Lewandowski.
In the second game, England struck twice in under ten minutes as the first half came to a close. Jordan Henderson scored in the 38th minute off a pretty Harry Kane play and Kane himself in the 45+3 off a pretty Jude Bellingham play that saw a wide-open Phil Foden receive Bellingham’s through ball on the left wing and simply cross to the even more open Kane sprinting down the middle for the score.
The two European powerhouses still had to work for their wins as Poland had a few close chances go begging and were resolute in defense until the very end of the first half. It then took the French nearly thirty more minutes to find the goal which would eventually be the winning score, before Mbappe and Lewandowski made things cosmetic in stoppage time.
England found a tougher opponent in Senegal than France did in Poland and the Senegalese were unlucky not to open the scoring thanks to a great Jordan Pickford save off Ismaila Sarr. But the Africans were undone while looking for an opening goal when England calmly and clinically countered for their two scores. As the second half began, the Senegalese moved their lines forward in search of a score and the English lay back and countered. At the 57ty minute, another Kane play led to Bukayo Saka nipping a nice Foden cross into the back of the net for a 3-0 lead and a chance for their coach Gareth Southgate to rest some of his key players for the upcoming quarterfinals match.
The noteworthy issue in the England-Senegal match was the poise and good play of the highest FIFA-ranked African team in the cup. The 18th-ranked Senegalese who are playing without their talismanic best player Sadio Mane looked like a top team this cup. One can only guess what their final 2022 World Cup game would have been like had those missed Senegalese chances been converted by Mane early in the first half.
The two wins set up the expected quarterfinals between the two long-time historical rivals and top-5 FIFA-ranked sides. As of this writing, these two teams are flying high, doing their thing, and with the exception of France’s meaningless loss to Tunisia and England’s hard-fought draw with the USA, the two European giants are hitting on all of their respective cylinders presaging a great quarterfinal ahead.
On the individual player stage, Mbappe, as expected, is leading the pack with five goals, two ahead of six others at three, and two assists one behind Kane. Lionel Messi has scored in every Argentina game, and twelve of the tourney’s top scorers are still playing in Qatar.
Photo: England’s Harry Kane, Shutterstock ID 1241180179, by MDI.