England’s progress from Group B to a World Cup last-16 tie with Senegal on Sunday has ticked a lot of boxes.
They finished top, had six different goalscorers, avoided injuries and were able to give minutes to players who needed them, like Kyle Walker and Kalvin Phillips.
It has put Gareth Southgate’s team up there with Brazil and France as the nations with an eye on the trophy heading into the knockout rounds.
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England’s overall performance in the 3-0 win over Wales on Tuesday was a very good response to the flat display against the USA a few days earlier.
World Cups are all about moments and Marcus Rashford provided ours with a free-kick that opened the scoring and settled any nerves.
Southgate also deserves some of the credit for asking Rashford and Phil Foden to switch flanks at half-time, which changed the game.
The inclusion of Jordan Henderson in central midfield offered Jude Bellingham more freedom to make forward runs and gave the team an extra dynamic.
Harry Maguire continued to look the part in a system that offers him more protection than he gets at club level, improving his form and fitness.
And although he hasn’t scored, Harry Kane has provided two brilliant crosses to set up goals for Foden and Raheem Sterling.
It’s now clear that this isn’t going to be a World Cup where Kane wins the Golden Boot but he still has a vital role to play as the glue in England’s attack.
If there is a gripe it is that we need to start games with more authority and being more aggressive in possession.
This means attacking players taking a risk or two and dragging opposition defenders out of their comfort zone, as Foden did in the second half against Wales.
He committed them and got them out of position, which creates space for others and is what good forward play is about.
Group B wasn’t the hardest at this World Cup but it was an ideal level for England to start the tournament.
There is always angst in the early games so it was good that they didn’t come under too much extra pressure. Southgate wouldn’t have swapped it.
England should stick with Rashford and Foden for Senegal World Cup tie
The difficulty level is about to increase, however. Senegal will be England’s toughest opposition yet in Qatar, without a doubt.
Southgate now has a selection headache over whether to stick with Rashford and Foden or recall Sterling and Bukayo Saka, and whether to keep Henderson alongside Bellingham and Declan Rice in midfield or pick a more attacking option.
I’d stick with Rashford, Foden and Henderson, but either way England have plenty of options from the bench.
Based on what we’ve seen at this World Cup, Senegal are skilful, strong, cover ground well, and won’t be shy about running at our players.
Watford winger Ismaila Sarr has made a good start to the tournament and is capable of those match-winning moments I mentioned.
Chelsea defender Kalidou Koulibaly, whose goal against Ecuador sent them into the last 16, is always going to be a threat from set-pieces.
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Man for man, England are better and, although they are African champions, this will feel like a bigger game for Senegal.
But as we have already seen in Qatar – including against the USA – teams are more dangerous than in the past because they aren’t playing with an inferiority complex.