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ROB DRAPER’S TACTICAL BREAKDOWN: Jude Bellingham might be the BEST midfielder at the World Cup

If a certain beer company with catchy advertising lines did World Cup knock-out games, they might look something like this.

England had the game won by 55 minutes, finishing Senegal off in a 16 minute spell either side of half time.

Not only that, all Gareth Southgate’s selections paid off and England are top scorers.

This is unchartered territory for England fans and media: we have literally nothing to grumble about. And, if it wasn’t for Kylian Mbappe, you might be tempted to say nothing to be worried about.

Sportsmail has analysed the tactics behind England’s 3-0 win. 

England cruised to a 3-0 victory over Senegal in the last-16 of the World Cup finals in Qatar

Bellingham might be the best midfielder at the finals

Was that a young Bryan Robson back in an England shirt? It certainly felt like it. Watching Jude Bellingham made you ask yourself: ‘What were you doing at 19?’

Even if he weren’t a world class footballer, you suspect he would be President of the Student Union or some high-flying trader in the City. It’s pretty rare to see a teenager leading a group of such experienced pros.

But Bellingham’s performance was just that. His run into space to release Jordan Henderson for the opening goal was superb. But his tour de force was the second goal on 45 minutes.

Senegal were in on the attack when Pathe Ciss mis-controlled on the edge of the area, which shouldn’t have been a great drama. But Bellingham – or was it Robson? – pounced, nicked the ball and strode away. The strength he showed to thrust Youssouf Sabaly aside was astonishing for a 19 year old.

On and on he ran, with Foden matching him stride for stride. He released the ball into space perfectly for Foden, on to Kane and 2-0.

However, it was much more than the goal interventions. He is the boss man in midfield, setting the tempo, showing for the ball, making runs in behind and leading the press. Best midfielder at the World Cup? He might in the top one.

Jude Bellingham put in an excellent display to mark him as a world class midfielder

Jude Bellingham put in an excellent display to mark him as a world class midfielder

Foden and Saka set to join Bellingham in building England’s future

What kind of doughnut drops the man who was the World Cup’s leading goal-scorer, prior to Kylian Mbappe’s brace just before this game? Southgate is that man.

But Marcus Rashford was slack in possession against Wales, despite his goals. Foden is anything but. Saka – though he had an early aberration – is also very tidy and just as fast.

Foden absolutely justified his retention: for the opening goal, it was his back heel which opened up Senegal and allowed Kane to play in Bellingham. And it was his run supplementing Bellingham provided the cross for Kane to make it 2-0, And there he was again in 55 minutes, pouncing on a loose ball to get ahead of Sabaly and then pass through Koulibaly’s legs to set up Saka for the third.

No easy finish either, that Saka goal, his third of the World Cup. Foden gives you speed and intricacy; Saka even more speed, directness and the ability to go past his man.

Both link play, Foden exceptionally. The pair of them look like England’s first choice wide players in a deep pool of talent.

Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka are also part of England's future stars to build a team around

Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka are also part of England’s future stars to build a team around

This Kane is BETTER than the Golden Boot version

This Harry Kane is significantly better than that Golden Boot winner of 2018. And yet he won’t get near to winning the Golden Boot here. Because Kane is a better all-round player than four years ago.

His reading of the game to drop deep, his strength in holding the ball up and his delivery – as witnessed in releasing Bellingham for the first goal – makes him a nightmare to mark.

Do you put your holding midfielder on him? Or does the centre half come out? But would that leave space for Bellingham to run into? Or Saka? Or Foden? Kane is so much more useful to England than he ever was. And apparently he remains quite a good finisher as well

Despite only scoring one goal so far, Harry Kane is already playing better than at Russia 2018

Despite only scoring one goal so far, Harry Kane is already playing better than at Russia 2018

Southgate’s bold selections pay off again

A coach couldn’t wish for better examples of text book goals. There have been tournaments in the past – as recently as 2018 – when the lack of goals from open play has been a weakness in England’s armoury. Not here.

Playing out from the back can take time. It may look like John Stones and Harry Maguire are having a private passing party at times. But every now and again, England burst from back and create an overload that confuses the opposition. On 39 minutes, it was Harry Maguire to Luke Shaw, as they moved it along the line.

But it is the next moment coaches want beyond anything and which showed why Foden is in. His back heel for Harry Kane is what confused Senegal. It was too quick for them, a pass they hadn’t anticipated. Kane had dropped into midfield and it was he who spread the next quick pass to Jude Bellingham down the left.

Now Senegal were exposed. Bellingham’s run and cross was perfect but Johan Cruyff himself would have approved of the movement going in behind. With Kane deep, Jordan Henderson charged into unfamiliar centre forward territory.

Then there was the perfect counter attack goal, Bellingham doing the hard running beyond the Senegal midfield, leaving them outnumbered. That’s everything a coach works for, seizing moments to create an overload of players. They were both straight from the coaching manual.

Steve Holland and Gareth Southgate should have been in the celebratory huddle: that is why you spend long boring hours on the training ground, repeatedly rehearsing patterns of play. Apparently, Southgate is no good at that kind of thing. Seems he is.

Boss Gareth Southgate was tactically perfect in England's 3-0 win over Senegal on Sunday

Boss Gareth Southgate was tactically perfect in England’s 3-0 win over Senegal on Sunday

How Henderson brings Liverpool’s balance to England

This team has evolved at this World Cup. Southgate has realised that playing with a No 10, as he did with Mason Mount against the USA, is just too much and leaves you short in midfield.

Mount naturally hits attacking areas. So does Bellingham. So do the wingers, whoever they are, It leaves Declan Rice exposed.

So England look much more Jurgen Klopp like now with a proper 4-3-3 rather than 4-2-3-1. You shore up the midfield with solidity (enter Henderson) and you ensure the wingers get enough of the ball to be the creators.

Equally with Kane playing a No 9/No 10 hybrid, you don’t need a midfielder there. And with Bellingham bombing on, there’s enough attacking intent.

Just like 1966, 1990 and 1996, England have found their formation during the tournament.

Jordan Henderson has helped England control the midfield with his vast experience

Jordan Henderson has helped England control the midfield with his vast experience

England march on – what could possibly go wrong?

If you wanted to pick the bones out of the flat opening 35 minutes, you might point to Harry Maguire’s loss of possession on a couple of key occasions, one of which led to Ismaila Sarr’s fantastic chance on 23 minutes.

Maguire is, again, having a great tournament, after all the doubts. But you suspect Antoine Griezmann won’t be as forgiving. And then there was Kyle Walker, a veritable lionheart, England’s world class defender.

Remember this was only his second game since early October and his first 90 minutes. But there were some worrying lapses in possession and early nerves.

Next week’s opponent? That man Mbappe, the player of the tournament. Walker tends to rise to big challenges: right now, they don’t come bigger.

England will be calling on Kyle Walker to help keep France's Kylian Mbappe quiet on Saturday

England will be calling on Kyle Walker to help keep France’s Kylian Mbappe quiet on Saturday

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Read more at DailyMail.co.uk



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