England are approaching the quarter-finals of the World Cup on the night where previous teams may have succumbed

England aim straight for the quarter-finals. And then another. And another. That’s perhaps the best way to describe this brilliant 3-0 victory over Senegal, led by Jude Bellingham and Phil Foden, as Gareth Southgate’s side reached a third consecutive quarter-final at major tournaments.

It’s only the third time England have achieved this in history, which indicates how the manager has made a virtue of navigating the knockout rounds. Harry Kane meanwhile seems to be a match, as this was the second successive tournament in which he got his first goal after the group stage.

Such quality really shouldn’t be ignored given the struggles other heavyweight teams have had, not to mention previous England teams. Some of their predecessors may have panicked under the pressure created by Senegal in the first half hour, but it brought about the opposite response from Southgate players, Bellingham in particular.

They showed their utmost concentration in simply overcoming Aliou Cisse’s side with such conviction, surgically taking advantage of their abandonment just as Senegal seemed to believe they could do something unlikely here.

This came just at a time when there would have been understandable frustration with Southgate’s setup and because it was more of a vindication for its decisions. Jordan Henderson, who had been one of the most debated early inclusions, opening the scoring.

Cisse could very well point to the fact that Southgate had such options, even allowing Raheem Sterling to have to withdraw from the squad for personal reasons. Senegal were missing two of their top three players, and he would always cost the African champions.

It could very well have been different if Sadio Mane had played. Southgate’s critics might even argue that it’s another forgiving knockout match as Senegal were missing their star player, just as Colombia were under James Rodriguez at this exact stage four years ago.

This was too much drive, which England ruthlessly exploited.

That push came with some early scares, mind, as Senegal really beat England for a spell and Ismaila Sarr wreaked havoc. This perhaps offers a warning given what Kylian Mbappe may be able to do on that flank. Sarr should have scored with one chance, and then set up Boulaye Dia for another. Jordan Pickford gave the latter a strong hand, as the Southgate side looked rather fragile.

Jordan Pickford makes a save against Boulaye Dia (Getty Images)

It quickly became apparent that it was applicable to Senegal’s sense of momentum.

As is often the case in this type of game however, the inability to take risks against a team full of quality forwards leaves you at the mercy of them showing you how it’s done.

And both England goals were beautiful, the most elegant kind of rushing move. It was the clean straight lines of the bouts that were so appealing and indicated how clinical they were.

At the heart of this, quite literally, was Bellingham. It was his waves that were critical to both goals.

For the first, Kane played Bellingham, the midfielder then cut him for Henderson to finish the first time.

Jude Bellingham, left, and Jordan Henderson (The FA via Getty Images)

Jude Bellingham, left, and Jordan Henderson (The FA via Getty Images)

For the second, the teenager picked up himself, breaking through the Senegal midfield before playing against Foden. The Manchester City playmaker cleverly turned the tables for Kane, who finally got his first goal of the World Cup with an emphatic finish.

England was far away. The second half was a completely different game. Protected and encouraged by the command, England began to express itself.

The third goal involved another blistering run, but this time an easy-going finish, as Foden cut down the left this time before squaring in for Bukayo Saka. The Arsenal winger cut the ball past Edouard Mendy for one of England’s finest goals of the tournament so far.

This concluded with one of their more controlled performances, the attack releasing brilliantly when called upon.

Many will point to the first period as a warning but, as Argentina demonstrated with Australia, you rarely get to the quarter-finals of the World Cup – and especially against the African champions – without some scares.

More relevant is how England overcame them and how they continue to overtake knockout matches under Southgate.

Next is perhaps the toughest knockout match I’ve ever faced, including Croatia 2018 and Germany and Italy at Euro 2020.

This is who you ultimately have to face if you want to win a World Cup, though. It’s almost never as simple as games like this.

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