England vs Senegal Prediction
4th December 2022
22:00 Qatar Time/19:00 GMT
Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Referee: Iván Barton (El Salvador)
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World Cup Head-to-Head Record
England vs Senegal Prediction Match Overview
England vs Senegal sees the winners of Group B (England) pitted against the runners-up from Group A (Senegal). England started their World Cup campaign in emphatic fashion with a 6-2 victory over Iran, before receiving something of a reality check in the form of a dour 0-0 draw with the USA. A routine 3-0 victory over a disappointing Wales side saw them close out the group stage as comfortable group victors, with the incoming Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden impressing to stake their claims for inclusion in Southgate’s starting XI.
Senegal held the Dutch at 0-0 until the final 10 minutes whereby they fell apart and lost 2-0. A not-wholly convincing 3-1 victory over group minnows and tournament hosts Qatar preceded a much-improved performance in a decisive match against an impressive Ecuadorian team. The Senegalese ran out as 2-1 winners and England will need to be wary of the African champions as they are seemingly finding some momentum as the tournament progresses.
Both sides will have one eye on a potential quarter-final clash with the winner of France vs Poland, but first, they must take care of business here.
Injuries and Suspensions
Might not play:
Will not play: White (England); I. Gueye, Kouyate (Senegal)
England vs Senegal Prediction Analysis
Injury and suspension has hollowed out the Senegal midfield somewhat, so we expect them to deploy a midfield destroyer in Leicester’s Mendy to avoid being overrun in the middle of the park. Typically, the English enjoy playing between the lines in attacking midfield, with Harry Kane dropping deep to provide a further option there, and Phil Foden was impressive last time out against the Welsh in this regard, and therefore it’s vital that Senegal line-up approach this game with the idea of breaking up the play in these areas wherever possible. They used Rayo Vallecano defender Pathe Ciss in this role last time out, but here they’ll likely need the additional security of Mendy with Idrissa Gana Gueye suspended for this one and Cheikh Kouyate out injured.
England will most likely retain their midfield base of Declan Rice and Jude Bellingham. Both players have started all three games at this World Cup and though Kalvin Phillips in particular will be vying for a starting berth, we feel that Southgate prefers a consistent lineup. The question dominating footballing discourse in England is whether or not England will start Phil Foden at the expense of Mason Mount. While Mount does have his positives as a footballer, namely his ability to successfully link up with England’s wide men as he rarely operates in a solely central position, Foden’s direct play and his willingness to make timely runs into the box paid dividends for England against the Welsh last time out. England may need to force a breakthrough against a Senegalese side who are expected to be solid even with injuries and suspensions hampering their team selection, and Foden’s inclusion enabled Harry Kane to get on the ball in deeper areas without compromising the team’s shape.
With England making several changes ahead of their third group match, we got to see Marcus Rashford operating off the left-hand side ahead of Raheem Sterling, and the Manchester United man grabbed his chance with both hands with an impressive display. Although the listlessness of the Welsh, in general, must also be taken into account, Rashford has managed to play his way into contention when few expected him to make an impact at the tournament. Southgate now has an important decision to make – does he show faith in Raheem Sterling who was ineffectual against the USA, or does he go with the man in form? It’s also possible that Southgate will turn again to Bukayo Saka, who is more defensively responsible out wide than England’s other options. Kieran Trippier has not had a particularly impressive tournament, so they may look to the Arsenal man to provide additional reinforcement.
The reason for the need for additional reinforcement may come in the form of Senegal’s Ismaila Sarr. The Watford winger has generally been one of Senegal’s top performers in the highly publicised absence of Sadio Mane, and we expect Sarr to be heavily involved throughout. Luke Shaw has improved for both club and country this season following a poor season for a Manchester United side in crisis, and his ability to play as more than a flying wing-back, cutting inside whenever the opportunity allows it will be crucial in providing the England attack with another dimension. Senegal also possess another wide threat from Sheffield United’s Iliman Ndiaye, who earned his spot following an impressive cameo against Qatar and was rewarded with a start in their crucial final group match against Ecuador.
Breaking Down Senegal/Stopping the Play Between the Lines
This is an absolutely key area of this round of 16 match, and both sides will be desperate to get the upper hand here. England enjoy playing in this area of the pitch anyway, with Kane rarely playing as an out-and-out striker and looking to get on the ball at every opportunity, and also the likes of Mason Mount and Phil Foden operating as unconventional attacking midfielders who like to use the channels a lot. Senegal are likely to construct their attacks somewhat differently, preferring to use their midfield as a conduit to get their dangerous wide men involved, whereas the English, while possessing wide threats of their own, have been making use of the space between the opposition defence and midfield to pull their opponents out of position and make use of their inside-forward threats.
This necessitates Senegal playing mostly defensive-minded midfielders who will look to smother, disrupt and generally make playing through the middle an unattractive option for the English. While England do possess proficient crossers of the ball from both full-back positions, the Senegalese would be happier for England to pursue these attacking options rather than risk being carved upon by neat interplay in the middle of the park.
England Key Players
With the centre of midfield likely to become incredibly congested, it falls to England’s wide players to make themselves available in space and create, and Shaw, particularly with the national team, has demonstrated his ability to provide another attacking outlet at left-back. Capable of bringing the ball inside to carve out a better opportunity on occasion as opposed to simply operating in the channel, Shaw also brings a goalscoring threat if left unattended. Shaw can be relied upon to be in the right position at the right time, which is a testament to his improvement as a player following some well-publicised shaky performances in the past.
We think England are likely to reintroduce Saka following his rest against the Welsh. While Foden and Rashford were both impressive last time out, Saka has had a good tournament and he is something of a manager’s favourite for his ability to perform his defensive duties to a high level. England will be keen to ensure that the Senegal attack is starved of service, and Saka is the most proficient defensively. We’re keen to stress that this isn’t all that Saka brings to the table, however. Saka plays at his best bursting into space to both create for others and to get on the end of dangerous situations and England may feel that his inclusion is necessary because they’re not sacrificing a lot in attack.
Senegal Key Players
With Sadio Mane missing for Senegal, they required somebody to step up and be a threat from an inside forward position and Sarr has done so in an admirable fashion so far. Sarr will constantly be looking to get on the ball and drive at England’s defenders, who despite having kept two clean sheets in a row will still be regarded as somewhat frail when compared to some of the meaner defences in the tournament. Senegal will need to attack England quickly and directly to take advantage of any positional lapses and to make it difficult for the English to get defensive cover in there from the likes of Rice and Bellingham, and Sarr’s direct approach to attacking will be vital for Senegal’s chances.
Used last time out by Senegal as a midfield destroyer, the Rayo Vallecano defender can expect to be deployed in a similar role against the English, even with the likely inclusion of Mendy in the middle of the park. The reasoning for Ciss’ inclusion as a key player here is simple – England play between the lines a lot, and having a competent defensive midfielder here forces England to reassess their plan of attack. Ciss and Mendy will be required to firefight in this area of the pitch as England will pick and probe their way into creating an opportunity for a through ball or an overload, and Ciss will need to remain disciplined throughout.
England vs Senegal Prediction
We’re expecting a tight game here, with a congested midfield and the Senegalese penalty area is likely to be packed with bodies to prevent any clear England opportunities. Eventually, something will give – a mistake will be made, or a moment of improvisation will ensure that England will eventually generate a few clearer opportunities. Senegal will likely have their moments too, but for the most part, they may find it difficult to carve out enough possession. England, much like in their game against the USA, will be wary about giving the Senegal side an avenue into the game and will remain positionally disciplined. England showed more in attack against an admittedly poor Wales side, and we think they’ll make their breakthrough here in normal time.
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