DOHA – A brilliant double from Kylian Mbappe fired France into the World Cup quarter-finals on Sunday as England romped past Senegal to set up a mouthwatering last-eight showdown with Les Bleus.
Paris Saint-Germain superstar Mbappe rifled home two blistering second-half strikes as France cruised to a 3-1 victory over Poland.
Veteran striker Olivier Giroud opened the scoring for the defending champions with his 52nd international goal to pass Thierry Henry as France’s all-time leading scorer.
In Sunday’s late game, England turned on the style with a confident 3-0 victory over African champions Senegal, the goals coming from Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka.
It means that France and England will face each other on Saturday in a heavyweight quarter-final collision — only their third meeting at a World Cup tournament after previous encounters at the 1966 and 1982 finals.
The undisputed star of France’s win at the Al Thumama Stadium in Doha was the 23-year-old Mbappe, who took his career World Cup goals tally to nine in two tournaments.
“It wasn’t easy because Poland were well organised and tried to counter us,” France coach Didier Deschamps said.
“Then there is Kylian with his ability to resolve all sorts of problems, and that’s just as well for us.
“This team has been united from the beginning and obviously a result like this one confirms that. The joy is shared among everyone.”
Poland’s lone strike came from the penalty spot deep into stoppage time, with striker Robert Lewandowski converting a retaken spot-kick that was awarded for handball by Dayot Upamecano.
France are bidding to become the first team to win successive World Cups since Brazil in 1958 and 1962 after winning Group D in Qatar.
With Mbappe in blistering form, few would bet against France completing their quest for a third World Cup crown to set alongside their titles in 1998 and 2018.
Bellingham shines in England win
However their route to the final now includes an increasingly confident England, who powered into the last eight with an impressive win over the Senegalese at the Al Bayt Stadium.
Teenage midfielder Jude Bellingham was the star of the show for manager Gareth Southgate’s side, producing another all-action display with an assist for Henderson’s opener before a surging run to help set up a goal for Kane.
Saka, surprisingly recalled to the starting line-up in place of the in-form Marcus Rashford, bagged his third goal of the tournament after a well-worked move in the second half.
Kane’s strike was his 52nd international goal, leaving him just one behind Wayne Rooney’s all-time England scoring mark of 53 goals.
“Knockout games are never easy, we showed great maturity through the tournament,” England captain Kane said after the win.
“3-0 against a really good side, credit to the boys, the mentality was top from the beginning and we took our chances when they came.
“We feel good, we’ve got good runners, we’ve got good players getting forward and then solid at the back. Three clean sheets in a row is really important. A really good day for us.”
Off the pitch on Sunday, Arsene Wenger, FIFA’s football development chief, suggested that the teams who have been successful in the tournament were those who ignored the controversies surrounding hosts Qatar.
Germany’s players covered their mouths before their opening game in a protest against the ban on wearing a rainbow-themed armband in support of LGBTQ rights.
The four-time world champions were later knocked out at the first hurdle.
“The teams (who did well) as well who were mentally ready, who had the mindset to focus on the competition and not on political demonstrations,” said Wenger.
Brazil meanwhile prepared for their last-16 clash with South Korea on Monday boosted by news that star striker Neymar could return.
The PSG forward has not played since limping off with an ankle injury in Brazil’s opening game, but coach Tite said Sunday he was hopeful Neymar would feature against the Koreans.
“Regarding Neymar, he’s going to train this afternoon and if he’s OK, he will play tomorrow,” Tite said. – AFP