Pre-match postbag o’philosophical pondering. “According to your French fellow MBMer at the RMC Sport, who I’d like to think sips on a lovely burgundy throughout the match, Jules Koundé has said that France don’t have a preference for which side they face. In their shoes I’d be more confident about outscoring the English offence than I would about getting past Koulibaly and company in the Senegalese defence” – Kári Tulinius.
“I think we (and various pundits) need to move beyond the idea that not playing from the start equates to being ‘dropped’, I don’t think that’s how the game works any more. If Southgate has a plan for the whole game, that should include judicious use of substitutes (probably including Rashford). If that plan works, then great. If it doesn’t, then the pitchforks come out. Such is life, but the idea that a starting place always outranks coming off the bench seems outdated” – Tom Hopkins.
“Interesting to know about the intra-African rivalries. On the other hand, with the possible exception of Brazil and Argentina, Latin Americans tend to cheer for whichever one of us is left in the tournament, even if our departure was at the hands of each other. In fact, I would say this goodwill extends even to Spain and the United States. Maybe rather than being continent based, it’s based on a sense of shared identity? I wonder if the world marking us out as Latinos, a grouping which has no basis in race or ethnicity, makes it so we see ourselves as one precisely because the world groups us this way? I wonder” – Casiano Martinez.
Bukayo Saka’s replacement of Marcus Rashford is the one change to the England starting XI from the 3-0 defeat of Wales. Raheem Sterling is absent altogether as he deals with a family matter.
Senegal are without defensive midfielder Idrissa Gueye. The Everton man picked up his second yellow of the tournament in the 2-1 win over Ecuador and is suspended. Nampalys Mendy of Leicester City takes over in midfield, while Monaco winger Krepin Diatta replaces Pape Gueye.
England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw, Henderson, Rice, Bellingham, Saka, Kane, Foden.
Subs: Grealish, Rashford, Trippier, Pope, Phillips, Dier, Coady, Alexander-Arnold, Mount, Ramsdale, Wilson, Maddison, Gallagher.
Senegal: Edouard Mendy, Sabaly, Koulibaly, Diallo, Jakobs, Ciss, Nampalys Mendy, Ndiaye, Diatta, Ismaila Sarr, Dia.
Subs: Seny Dieng, Formose Mendy, Cisse, Jackson, Moussa N’Diaye, Ballo-Toure, Pape Sarr, Diedhiou, Ahmadou Dieng, Gomis, Name, Loum N’Diaye, Pape Gueye.
Referee: Ivan Barton (El Salvador).
Confirmation that Saka gets the nod over Rashford. In social-media form. The old-school way of doing things via the wires coming right up.
Bukayo Saka for Marcus Rashford: a contentious decision? It’s not, is it. “I’m astonished Rashford isn’t playing,” said Gary Lineker on the BBC. But Gareth Southgate can’t play everyone. Yes, Rashford is best-poised right now to chase down five-goal Kylian Mbappé for the Golden Boot, after scoring his second and third goals of this World Cup against Wales. But then Saka notched twice in an impressive performance against Iran. File this one under: Nice Problem To Have. Of course, as Jonathan Wilson pointed out the other day, if/when it goes the shape of a pear for England, Southgate will get it in the neck whatever he does, so he may as well call it as he sees it.
An update from Our Jacob via That Elon.
Some early team news courtesy of Jacob Steinberg in Qatar. “We’re still waiting for confirmed team news but word at the Al Bayt Stadium is that Bukayo Saka and Phil Foden both start for England. Raheem Sterling has not won his place back. It means likely disappointment for Marcus Rashford, who has three goals in three games.”
The champions of Africa against the runners-up of Euro 2020. It’s a big one, this, all right.
But let’s get it straight: tonight, Senegal will be representing
the whole of Africa Senegal. As Nedum Onuoha explained on Football Weekly a couple of days ago, the notion that the entire continent cheers together as one “needs to be put in the bin” (from 14m 57s). Fans of Nigeria, Ghana, Egypt and the Cote d’Ivoire, to pull some random examples out of the ether, may have trenchant views on the possibility of the Lions of Teranga making it to the quarters.
Having said that, from a Lions of Three perspective, it’s still worth taking a quick look at England’s record against African nations at the World Cup. They’ve never lost, which is good news for those who use history as a crutch. However, they’ve never really impressed either. A competent 2-0 win over Tunisia in 1998, a deserved last-gasp Harry Kane-inspired victory against the same opponents 20 years later, and that’s about it.
What else? A goalless draw against Morocco in 1986, during which Ray Wilkins lost the noggin, threw the ball at the ref, and became the first England player to be sent packing at the World Cup. A goalless draw against Algeria in 2010, after which Wayne Rooney’s lid started to rattle disconcertingly, having a pop back at fans who were having a pop at him. A goalless draw against Nigeria in 2002 that was nondescript even by the standards of the Sven-Goran Eriksson era. And then there was Italia 90. England scraped past Egypt 1-0, then against Cameroon in the quarter-finals were, to quote Macka B, “lucky, lucky, very lucky, lucky”.
So it’s swings and roundabouts. A place in the quarter finals against France is the prize on offer. Kick off is at 7pm BST, 10pm at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor. انه يحدث! It’s on!