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'That was a cakewalk, the French will be scared': England fans in Qatar steeled after Senegal win

Telegraph, 05 Dec 2022
This was the champions of Africa against the champions of nowhere, the once lost football nation of England, that now for a third successive tournament under Gareth Southgate look again like they are contenders at the business end of it all.

France await on Saturday in the quarter-finals of the World Cup. The defending champions armed with the tournament’s most potent player, Kylian Mbappe - or at least he is for now. There is a teenager from Birmingham with some skin in that game. Jude Bellingham was a revelation anew on this night in the desert at Al Bayt. He ran the game, the first half in particular, as well as any of the greats of England midfield past have done. Except the national team has never quite had a player like this in such a demanding role. So precocious and fresh, and able to make the difficult things look so easy.

There has been a knockout game in each of the Southgate-era tournaments when suddenly his players have found a sweet-spot, and struck open something golden. At Euro 2020 it was the four-goal demolition of Ukraine in the quarter-finals in Rome. Three years earlier in Russia it had been a 2-0 coast in Samara past Sweden at the same stage. Perhaps the nation has come to expect it and yet here it was again - the knockout game that England never looked like losing.

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