England talent and ambition finally living up to expectation – but there’s still that man Mbappe to come

World

Through the streets of Doha’s West Bay district, a smattering of England fans singing “It’s coming home,” could be heard long past 3am.

For a capital unaccustomed to late-night rowdiness, it was an unfamiliar sound during this unique World Cup.

But reaching a tournament quarter-final is becoming familiar territory for the Three Lions.

It’s now three in a row under Gareth Southgate, thanks to Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Senegal at Al Bayt Stadium, around 30 miles up the Persian Gulf coast from Doha.

England fans at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar Pic: AP
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England’s fans at the Al Bayt Stadium in Al Khor, Qatar. Pic: AP

Talent and ambition are finally living up to expectation.

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - England v Senegal - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - December 4, 2022 Fans inside the stadium wearing Only Fools and Horses masks REUTERS/Marko Djurica
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A truly English celebration

Winning a trophy is the target after reaching the semifinals in 2018 and the Euro 2020 final.

But standing in the way of the last-four place are France.

More on Gareth Southgate

Southgate said: “It’s the biggest test we could face. They’re world champions with an incredible depth of talent and outstanding individual players. They’re very difficult to play against and score goals against, so it’s a fantastic challenge and a brilliant game to prepare for.”

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England’s Raheem Sterling flies back from Qatar after armed intruders break into family home

England have five clear days to recover before returning on Saturday to Al Bayt – the stadium designed inspired by a Bedouin tent.

The last-16 clash with Senegal finally allowed Harry Kane to get off the mark in Qatar after three games without a goal – putting the captain one from Wayne Rooney‘s record haul of 53 for England.

Even Jordan Henderson managed a first World Cup goal at 32.

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - England v Senegal - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - December 4, 2022 England's Jude Bellingham celebrates qualifying for the quarter finals REUTERS/Kai Pfaffenbach TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
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Jude Bellingham celebrates qualifying for the quarter-finals

And the new generation dazzled – with 19-year-old Jude Bellingham the creative spark in counterattacks, leading to both Kane and Henderson netting in the first half.

A slick move from the youngsters created the third after the break. Phil Foden provided the cross and Buyako Saka the deft touch.

After sloppiness nearly gifted Senegal an opener, England cruised to a 3-0 victory.

Soccer Football - FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 - Round of 16 - England v Senegal - Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar - December 4, 2022 General view of England fans shirt displaying the England badge inside the stadium before the match REUTERS/Molly Darlington
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England fans partied until the early hours in Qatar

A third consecutive clean sheet will offer encouragement that, even when there are moments of hesitancy in defence, England has the resilience to prevail.

Any mistakes, though, could prove costly and be punished by Kylian Mbappe and co on Saturday.

There’s time to prevent that.

And England fans will hope to still be dancing through the streets of Doha for another two weeks – with the World Cup then heading home.

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