At Links Hospitality, we love a major sporting event. And like all fans, our eyes will be on England this Sunday, as they face Senegal for the first time in the World Cup Round of 16 knockout match.
What chances do Gareth Southgate's team have of making it through to the quarter finals? Who are the players that stand in their way? And — should they win — how far will they get in the tournament? Here's our guide to Sunday's game and (maybe) beyond...
The story so far
England got their World Cup campaign off to a flier with a thrilling 6-2 victory over Iran, before performance levels dipped in a 0-0 draw with the US last Friday. On Tuesday, the Three Lions were back to the best, winning 3-0 against Wales with starring roles from two-goal hero Marcus Rashford and Man City's Phil Foden. That's prompted more confident fans to once again start whispering 'It's coming home.’ But their next opponents certainly won't be a pushover...
The Teranga Lions' emotional win over Ecuador on Tuesday ensured they made it through to the knockout phases of the World Cup for the second time since their debut appearance in 2002. That year they were the surprise package, stunning holders France in their opening game. This time around Senegal are a known quantity; they won the African Cup of Nations for the first time in February and several of their top stars play in the Premier League. They may be missing injured talisman Sadio Mane, but still have the quality to knock England out.
While the countries have never met at senior level, England have a proud record against African opposition — they're undefeated in 20 matches. That said, the last time the Three Lions faced an African side in the World Cup knockout stages, Cameroon forced the game into extra time. England ultimately edged a 3-2 thriler.
The stars to watch
England go into the match with a number of players in excellent form. Borussia Dortmund's Jude Bellingham is only 19 but has emerged as one of the stars of the tournament with a series of mature displays. Rashford is among the competition's top scorers with three goals, while captain Harry Kane (who won the Golden Boot in Russia 2018) leads the assists charts with three.
Meanwhile Chelsea's Kalidou Koulibaly is Senegal's inspirational skipper and defensive rock, while up front Watford's Ismaila Sarr has undoubted class. One way or another, he'll be a Premier League player again soon.
Who will the winners face?
Should England power past Senegal's ferocious Lions, they'll face either France or Poland. Les Bleus are the tournament favourites for many people, mainly because they boast the frankly ludicrous talents of Kylian Mbappe. Didier Deschamps men are widely expected to sweep Poland aside — particularly after the Eagles' limp performance against Argentina on Wednesday evening. But with Robert Lewandowski up front, they have a chance. And it wouldn't be the first time a team has caused a major upset this tournament.
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