It was a battle of the lions in the 2022 FIFA World Cup.
England — the Three Lions — took on Senegal — the Lions of Teranga — in a round of 16 contest in Qatar on Sunday.
Stay in the game with the latest updates on your beloved Philadelphia sports teams! Sign up here for our All Access Daily newsletter.
The Three Lions began the game with their usual 4-3-3 lineup with Declan Rice playing in the single pivot role in midfield. Manager Gareth Southgate made multiple changes to his starting XI, however, with Jordan Henderson getting the starting nod ahead of Mason Mount, Kyle Walker for Keiran Trippier at right back, Phil Foden at left wing for Raheem Sterling — who was out due to personal reasons — and Saka at right wing for Marcus Rashford.
On the other hand, the Lions of Teranga opened up with a 4-2-3-1 starting shape, with Nampalys Mendy coming in as a defensive midfielder for Idrissa Gueye, who missed the game due to yellow card accumulation.
It was a quiet start for both teams in the opening 20 minutes. England, as expected, controlled possession but had a iffy time getting through Senegal’s 4-4-2 midblock that pressed high on the center backs and erased the midfield passing lanes to Henderson and Jude Bellingham.
Senegal’s high pressing turned out to be its best chance in creating shot opportunities, with a Harry Maguire giveaway in the 22nd minute leading to chances for both Boulaye Dia and Ismaila Sarr, but neither got a clean look at the ball.
The same issue repeated itself for England when Saka’s backwards pass attempt to Walker in their own defensive third was intercepted by Sarr, who laid it off to Dia but saw his strong left-footed shot saved by Jordan Pickford’s extended left hand.
England woke up from there with its 3-1-6 shape in possession with left back Luke Shaw holding the width high up the left flank. On that same side is how the Three Lions opened the scoring. In the 38th minute, a Bellingham run down the left wing gave way to Henderson’s left-footed finish to break the deadlock.
Bellingham then led the way for England’s second goal when he broke free on a counter attack two minutes into added time of the first half. The 19-year-old midfielder led Foden with a through ball that Foden passed back to an open Kane on a two-on-one situation, and Kane’s thumping shot flew past Edouard Mendy and into the net to make it 2-0 at the half.
England continued to look the more dominating side in the opening 15 minutes of the second half. Senegal still struggled to keep the ball with England’s front-three highblock creating multiple turnovers. That came into play in the 57th minute when the Three Lions pulled off some intricate passing and off-ball movement that saw Foden play the ball to Saka inside the box, who calmly dinked it over Mendy to push the lead to 3-0.
The game stayed pretty even from there. England subbed off its key playmakers and didn’t exert much energy into the attack to focus more on defense, but Senegal just lacked the quality and intensity to claw its way back into it.
It was a valiant effort from Senegal to make it the knockout stage without Sadio Mane, its star player, but England proved to be too much to handle.
The win now sets up an England-France quarterfinal showdown on Saturday, Dec. 10 at 2 p.m. ET, 11 a.m. PT.