Gareth Southgate confirmed Raheem Sterling will leave Qatar to tend to a family matter, while it was a Liverpool transfer target and a current player that earned the highest praise after England defeated Senegal 3-0.
England booked their place in the quarter finals of the World Cup with a comfortable 3-0 victory over Senegal. The AFCON champions gave as good as they got in the early going and forced Jordan Pickford into a fine reaction save from close range.
However, England’s midfield began to stamp their authority on proceedings, with Jordan Henderson and Jude Bellingham both making big contributions prior to the break.
Henderson burst forward from midfield and calmly tucked Bellingham’s accurate cut-back inside the far post to open the scoring in the 38th minute.
Bellingham was again the catalyst on the stroke of half-time through a powerful and lung-bursting run from deep inside his own half.
The 19-year-old drove past two players before feeding Phil Foden down the left. Foden quickly played Harry Kane through who rifled beyond Edouard Mendy to double the advantage.
Bukayo Saka all but ended the contest just shy of the hour mark with a deft finish to make it three goals in three for the Arsenal ace in Qatar.
Foden grabbed his second assist of the game for Saka’s goal to more than justify his start at the expense of Marcus Rashford or Raheem Sterling who missed the game through personal reasons. The BBC described Sterling’s future at the World Cup as ‘uncertain’.
England’s reward is a quarter-final clash with World Cup holders France next Saturday at 7pm UK time.
Speaking to ITV after the match, Southgate said when asked what pleased him most: “The ruthlessness of our execution and the way the team worked off the ball.
“We were a bit stuck with the ball in the first 25/30 minutes, Senegal had a lot of energy, they pressed well and their shape was good.
“Our best opportunities came from pressing and winning the ball back off them and I thought Jude and Hendo were outstanding in that aspect of the game.”
England’s forgotten man labelled “outstanding”
Henderson was arguably England’s forgotten man after Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips anchored England to the final of the European Championship in 2021.
Bellingham’s rapid rise placed another obstacle in Henderson’s path and there was even speculation he might not make the 26-man squad for Qatar.
However, the 32-year-old showed there’s plenty of fight left and on Henderson and Bellingham’s link-up for the opener, Southgate added: “They’re both forward-running and forward-thinking midfield players.
“Hendo doesn’t get many for us,” the England boss quipped with a wry smile. “But I think he’s been outstanding.
“He’s such a leader, he knits the team together around him, he’s brilliant and his performances have been top-drawer for us.”
On Kane who found the net for the first time in Qatar, Southgate added: “Any centre-forward wants to be off the mark.
“It stops all the questions and I thought he began to find more space in the second half. His link-up play was better as well. Important for both him and us.”
When asked about man of the moment Jude Bellingham, Southgate was keen to also highlight the other young talents making their mark for England.
“We’ve got some super young players who we feel it’s right to give them their opportunity,” he continued.
“Jude, Phil, Bukayo… they’re heading in the right direction and these games are a brilliant life experience for them.”
Sterling due to fly home
On Sterling who missed out through a “family matter”, Southgate concluded: “We’ve got to wait and see.
“Clearly the priority has to be his family. We’re going to support that and give him as much time as he needs.”
When pushed on whether that means Sterling will fly home to deal with the matter, Southgate confirmed the winger will indeed leave Qatar.
Southgate then reiterated he doesn’t know whether Sterling will return.
Foden goes big on Liverpool target Bellingham
Foden also spoke to the press and among the topics covered was the incredible impact of Jude Bellingham.
Where his future lays beyond the 2023 summer window promises to be one of the biggest stories in football next year.
Bellingham counts Man Utd, Man City, Chelsea, Liverpool and Real Madrid among his suitors, with Jurgen Klopp’s side known to be chasing the 19-year-old at all costs.
When asked to sum up the midfield maestro, Foden said: “I don’t want to big him up too much because he’s still young, but he’s one of the most gifted players I’ve ever seen.
“I don’t see a weakness in his game. I think he’s got everything and he’s going to be the best midfielder in the world, for sure.”
Where Bellingham will end up next is a topic of hot debate, with this article examining the pros and cons of every move.