Our experts including CHRIS SUTTON and MARTIN KEOWN on England’s big issues… with the four-way fight for two spots either side of Harry Kane top of the agenda
England’s second-half goal flurry against Wales sealed an important 3-0 win on Tuesday, as Gareth Southgate’s side topped Group B to advance into the World Cup knockouts in pole position.
Their prize? A last 16 clash on Sunday with Group A runners-up Senegal, who edged past Ecuador in a narrow 2-1 victory thanks to Kalidou Koulibaly’s match-winning volley midway through the second-half.
Having shuffled the pack against Wales, Southgate has plenty to chew over ahead of his team selection on Sunday, and experts CHRIS SUTTON, MARTIN KEOWN, SAMI MOKBEL and IAN LADYMAN have drilled into all the big talking points
CHRIS SUTTON: I don’t know about you boys, but I keep flip-flopping. One minute, I’m tempted to find a tattooist who can ink ‘It’s coming home’ on my forehead. The next, I’m reminding myself England were only so good because Wales were so bad!
Marcus Rashford scored twice and that is three goals in 107 minutes from him at this World Cup now. Southgate cannot return to Raheem Sterling. Not after Rashford’s performance against Wales.
IAN LADYMAN: I agree, Chris. Rashford has to play against Senegal. He is England’s form player of the tournament and we should look to harness that.
MARTIN KEOWN: England’s options on the left flank do not stop with Rashford and Sterling, though. We have got Jack Grealish and Phil Foden, too.
Foden looked inspired when he swapped with Rashford and moved from the right to the left against Wales. The City left-footer looks comfortable there and although the question is Rashford or Sterling, I’d be tempted to start Foden on that side against Senegal.
His craft and directness might be needed. It’s a difficult decision for Southgate but a nice problem to have!
Phil Foden impressed on his chance in the starting line-up with a well-taken goal against Wales
LADYMAN: It is but Bukayo Saka scored twice against Iran and rarely lets England down. So, he gets back in my team with Foden as an impact sub.
KEOWN: I’d go Foden on the left and Saka on the right, such was his performance against Iran. It’s tough on Rashford. But he is a strong option as a substitute. He will get minutes. Few nations at this World Cup have as many options as England. Like I said, a nice problem.
SUTTON: Saka or Foden is tough. I wouldn’t change the team from the Wales win. You don’t start faffing around when it comes to knockout football. I’d have Rashford on the left — his favourite position — and Foden on the right. It worked well when they swapped wings so if it isn’t working against Senegal, we can try that again.
SAMI MOKBEL: Rashford, Sterling and Foden could all play if Foden is at No 10 and Jude Bellingham drops back next to Declan Rice.
Does it matter that Kane hasn’t scored?
SUTTON: In a word? Nope.
KEOWN: It will matter to Harry, though. Goals are like oxygen for Kane. He will be struggling to breathe until he gets a goal. But then this is a movie we have seen before. Kane didn’t get a goal in the group stages of Euro 2020. Then he scored against Germany in the last 16, Ukraine in the quarters and Denmark in the semis.
Sometimes I’d like to see Kane stay higher up the pitch. But it isn’t as if England’s striker has not been contributing. Some of his assists have been reminiscent of David Beckham. That low cross for Foden was sublime.
Reigning World Cup Golden Boot winner Harry Kane has yet to score in the Qatar tournament
SUTTON: As was the cross for Sterling against Iran, and his set-up for Rashford in the same game. He is essential to England’s play. He is undroppable.
LADYMAN: If there is one thing about England that doesn’t bother me, it is this. Kane remains England’s most important player, the one who would get into every other team at this World Cup.
He doesn’t need to score to be effective. His presence on the team sheet unnerves opponents and his presence on the pitch attracts men to him and leaves space elsewhere for others. And he will score soon enough. He just will. Because he always does.
MOKBEL: It would be a far bigger problem if others weren’t chipping in. Kane is a goalscorer and it will irk him that he isn’t off the mark. But I agree, he will score here — it’s just a matter of time.
One thing England must do better against Senegal?
MOKBEL: Start the game with a quicker tempo. They were slow out of the traps in the goalless draw against the USA and the first half of the win over Wales was like a pre-season game at times. Tensions will rise the longer the match goes without goals. A faster start from England will ease those anxieties.
LADYMAN: I agree. We must produce a 90-minute performance and we must create more chances. The win against Wales was exactly what we needed but it came against weak opposition playing with no belief.
Senegal will not be that. England need their best performance arguably since their semi-final win against Denmark in the Euros — and if they don’t find it they will be going home.
Kalidou Koulibaly’s superb volley handed Senegal a crucial 2-1 win against Ecuador on Tuesday
SUTTON: Stop taking so many touches of the ball. England have had issues playing through the middle of the park. I want to see us moving the ball much faster.
KEOWN: England cannot under-estimate Senegal. They are physical and their 2-1 win over Ecuador was played at an incredible pace. England need to get as many ball players in the team as possible.
We need to play Senegal off the park with our football — punish them with our passing — and Southgate has got the players to do that.
Stick with a back four? Walker or Trippier?
KEOWN: I cannot see Southgate changing systems for Senegal. If we are building towards a quarter-final with France, then Walker needs to start at right back. Kylian Mbappe — possibly the fastest man at this World Cup — would be his likely opponent and we want more vital minutes for Walker.
SUTTON: Back four, for sure, and I would use Walker too. Senegal’s biggest threat is Ismaila Sarr. In those one-v-one situations, who would you back to stop the skilful Watford winger? I would say Walker is better at that. The only downside is you lose that set-piece delivery which comes with Kieran Trippier.
Kyle Walker returned for England ahead of Kieran Trippier having fully recovered from injury
MOKBEL: The back four has got them to the last 16, so there should be little temptation to play a five against a team they will be expected to beat. The minutes Walker played against Wales will do him the world of good. He has to start.
LADYMAN: Yep. Back four please. And play Walker. His pace scares teams.
Pick Henderson again?
MOKBEL: Yes. These knockout matches are bursting with tension — experience will be key and Henderson is as seasoned as they come.
The Liverpool captain brought a control to England’s midfield on Tuesday that was lacking against the USA. Senegal will provide sterner opposition and Henderson’s guile and robustness will leave England’s attackers with a solid platform to wreak havoc.
LADYMAN: Completely right, Sami. The one thing that worked above all against Wales was that midfield triangle of Rice-Henderson-Bellingham.
Henderson is experienced and the captain of Liverpool. Why anyone would not want him in their team baffles me. The base provided by Rice and Henderson on Tuesday enabled Bellingham to play further forward, without the need to look over his shoulder. There is no reason why we shouldn’t ask him to do that again.
Jordan Henderson handed England added protection in midfield alongside Jude Bellingham
SUTTON: Yep. Start Henderson. Senegal are very physical and England will be tested in this last-16 tie. Not only is Henderson good on the ball, he is guaranteed to be up for the midfield battle.
KEOWN: Full house! England missed Henderson’s experience against the USA. After seeing how he replaced Mason Mount for the Wales game, Henderson holds on to his place. I’m not sure he will play the full 90 but I expect him to start.
Do England need to practise their corners?
LADYMAN: Yes. And they will be.
KEOWN: England had six corners against Wales, all taken by Foden. Almost all of them were deep and hung up in the air for Harry Maguire or John Stones to meet. England’s sixth corner in stoppage time saw Maguire head the ball back across the six-yard box for Stones, who should have scored.
It was the same against Iran. Luke Shaw’s deep out-swinging corner was met by Maguire, whose header teed up Saka to score. Maybe England could do with some work on set-pieces, but we still look dangerous from them.
Harry Maguire is a threat for England at set pieces but has yet to find the net at this World Cup
SUTTON: I want England to practise everything, corners included. Nine of England’s 12 goals at the 2018 World Cup came from set-pieces — they are important. But don’t forget to practise your penalties, too, just in case!
MOKBEL: England have scored nine goals so far. So as much as Southgate and his staff spend time working on set-plays, they are unlikely to be concerned about scoring from corners right now.
How far will England go?
KEOWN: You never want to take your eyes off your next opponent and this is a tough Senegal side. But we both said the same in our pre-World Cup predictions, Chris, that England would get to the quarter-finals, where we would potentially meet the holders France. That may now happen.
If so, that could turn into the game of the tournament. I fear the French will ultimately prove too strong for us in the quarters. But like I said at the start of the World Cup, I hope I’m wrong.
Gareth Southgate’s side will play France or Poland in the quarter-finals if they beat Senegal
SUTTON: I’m scared to look beyond Senegal, Martin. If we have learned one thing from Saudi Arabia, Japan and Morocco, it is that there are no gimmes at this World Cup. England are favourites to beat Senegal, especially as they are missing Sadio Mane, but teams have loved making a mockery of the odds in Qatar.
I predicted England would reach the quarter-finals and then for our coats as we head home. But before a potential super showdown with France, we have got to get beyond Senegal first.
MOKBEL: Yep. Quarter-finals. Senegal will provide Southgate’s toughest test so far — but it is one you would expect them to pass. France on the other hand…
LADYMAN: I’m afraid I agree. I have a nagging feeling that this England team doesn’t quite have the consistent level of performance in it that it needs to beat a really good team.