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England advanced to the round of 16 by amassing seven points in Group B
Senegal beat Ecuador to go through as Group A runners-up at their expense
England start as favorites but they will have to work hard against tough opponents
The odds for England vs Senegal are supplied by the Caesars sportsbook, which is offering up to $1250 in free bets to new customers.
This could be a tight, low-scoring game and the high stakes mean the first 45 minutes will probably be especially cagey.
Back the first goal in England vs Senegal to come in the second half. (+210)
In the end, it was all pretty comfortable for England. A 0-0 draw with the USA on matchday two of the group phase brought renewed criticism of the team and, in particular, Gareth Southgate’s tactics. But victories over Iran (6-2) and Wales (3-0) saw amass seven points from a possible nine in Group B to win the group without too much difficulty.
It is true that England were below par against Gregg Berhalter’s side, who have a date with destiny against the Netherlands on Saturday. The USA were probably the better team at the Al Bayt Stadium. They restricted their opponents to very few chances and used their energy and dynamism to make England look somewhat labored and pedestrian.
There were similarities between the second match of England’s World Cup 2022 and their second game of last summer’s European Championship when Scotland held their neighbors and rivals to a goalless draw. On that occasion, Southgate’s side went on to reach the final. The best online sportsbooks reckon there is a decent chance of England repeating the feat in Qatar.
There was plenty to be impressed by in their two other outings in Group B. England turned on the style in that 6-2 thrashing of Iran, albeit against opponents who understandably seemed distracted by events back home. They then breezed past Wales, triumphing by three goals to nil without ever really getting out of second gear.
Southgate’s tactical conservatism continues to irk members of the England fan base, but his side scored nine goals in the group phase - more than Brazil, France, and Argentina. Stiffer tests no doubt lie ahead, including this match on Sunday, but when the likes of Germany and Belgium crashed out in the first round, the top spot in a potentially tricky Group B is not to be sniffed at.
Senegal had it all to do on matchday three of Group A. Having beaten Qatar but lost to the Netherlands, they had one point fewer than Ecuador as those two teams competed for second place behind the USA’s upcoming opponents. A draw would have been enough for the South Americans to go through.
Instead, Senegal were triumphant. They played on the front foot in the first half, continually breaking in behind Ecuador’s high defensive line. An Isamaila Sarr penalty gave them a deserved half-time lead on the stroke of the interval. Ecuador equalized after the break, but Kalidou Koulibaly responded with the winning goal less than three minutes later.
Their achievement should not be overlooked. With just over 17 million people living in its borders, Senegal is only the 23rd biggest country in Africa. They did win the Africa Cup of Nations earlier this year but were dealt a huge blow on the eve of the tournament when Sadio Mane was ruled out through injury.
Senegal then lost their opening game 2-0 to the Netherlands, despite matching Louis van Gaal’s side for most of the match. It was the type of result that could have been deflating, but Senegal bounced back brilliantly to qualify ahead of an Ecuador team that had rightly been receiving plenty of attention for their excellent performances previously.
All of this means that England should not take Senegal lightly this weekend. If they do, Southgate and his squad might be on their way home before the quarter-finals.
In knockout soccer, there are no second chances. The group stage brings a certain security, as one result is never terminal. That is not the case in the round of 16 and beyond. One mistake could lead to a team’s elimination from the biggest sporting competition on the planet. As a consequence, that often breeds cautious soccer.
There is reason to believe the two managers involved in this match are particularly likely to be risk-averse. Southgate’s track record at major tournaments cannot be called into question, but his cautious methods are still not to everyone’s taste.
As for Cisse, his Senegal side prioritized defensive solidity at the aforementioned Cup of Nations, conceding just two goals in seven games. The Lions of Teranga do not give much away, even if they failed to keep a clean sheet in any of their Group A encounters.
One goal might be all that is needed to win this match, and we would not be too surprised to see a draw after 90 minutes. Our recommended bet, though, is on the first goal to arrive in the second half. Neither team will want to take any unnecessary risks in the opening 45 minutes, which will probably be tight, tense, and cagey.
Teams: England vs Senegal
Location: Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor, Qatar
Time: Sunday, 4 December 2022, 2:00 PM EST
How to Watch: Fox Sports, Telemundo, fuboTV
Greg Lea is a freelance soccer journalist from London. He is the former editor of The Set Pieces, and has contributed to the Guardian, FourFourTwo, and ESPN. A Crystal Palace fan, he is a long-time subscriber to the belief that it's the taking part that counts. Email: [email protected]More info on Greg Lea
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