FIFA World Cup 2022 Preview: England vs. Senegal — December 4, 2022

Al Khor, Qatar; England midfielder Jude Bellingham (22) passes the ball while defended by United States of America forward Haji Wright (19) during the second half of a group stage match during the 2022 World Cup at Al Bayt Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Danielle Parhizkaran-USA TODAY Sports

England takes on Senegal in Al Khor on Sunday, with a place in the quarter-finals up for grabs.

England came through the group stages with flying colors, while Senegal bounced back after an opening-game loss with wins over Qatar and Ecuador.

England Key Player: Jude Bellingham

The Borussia Dortmund midfielder has lit up the World Cup so far, completing 11 of the 15 line-breaking passes he has attempted — including one breaking the defensive line — to earn an 80.1 passing grade in the tournament. With England often building from the back, Bellingham has been key on the receiving end of passes, too, and has received 26 line-breaking-pass receptions, tied for 10th-most in the tournament.

Senegal Key Player: Kalidou Koulibaly

The absence of Sadio Mané was a huge blow for the Senegalese national team, but the captain has stepped up in a big way. A presence in defense and in attack on set pieces, he has won 10 of the 17 aerial duels he has been involved in. He has also won six of his eight 50/50 duels, six of the 12 tackles he has attempted and successfully defended two of the four dribbles he has faced. 

Matchup to watch: The battle in the air

Both of these teams have found success on balls played into the area, so it wouldn’t be a shock to see at least one key moment in the game come out of an aerial duel in either box.

In Harry Maguire (87.1), Harry Kane (85.4), John Stones (83.8) and Raheem Sterling (82.4), England has four players with a PFF aerial duel grade of 80.0 or better. Senegal, on the other hand, has three players above 80.0 in that facet in Ismail Jakobs (90.2), Ismaïla Sarr (83.6) and Famara Diedhiou (82.5).

If Senegal is to upset England in this tie, they will likely need to win the battle in the air.

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