England have played well in three of their four matches in Qatar and head into this game off the back of three consecutive clean sheets. However, with a Senegal side missing Sadio Mane the toughest obstacle faced so far, the Three Lions can’t get too carried away from an impressive start that’s seen them bag 12 goals.
During Gareth Southgate’s time at the helm, England have faced truly elite opposition (Belgium, Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands and Spain) on 20 occasions. Only four saw England win, with nine stalemates over 90 minutes, though there certainly has been improvement. The first 10 games produced a poor W1-D4-L5 record, compared to a much better W3-D5-L2 since October 2019, with England truly amongst the world’s elite now and capable of consistently getting results.
France are W9-D3-L1 against those same teams plus Argentina since 2018, including four wins from five unbeaten games since 2020. All but the first game in that run came in competitive action, while there were also convincing wins over Uruguay and Croatia en route to their 2018 World Cup triumph. Playing at home, away or on neutral territory didn’t faze them, whereas for England, only one loss was incurred at home from 11 appearances, but there were five defeats from nine in those encounters with elite sides away from Albion. However, England only lost one of the last five such games on neutral territory or in someone else’s backyard, demonstrating that improvement over time.
Both Teams To Score
England’s primary weakness has long been identified as their defensive options in the middle and in those same 20 games, there were only five clean sheets and just two from the last 14. Harry Maguire has shrugged off the doubters to perform well in this tournament, but this will be a stronger test of his confidence’s recovery, while news that midfield pivot Declan Rice missed training on Wednesday due to illness could potentially be cause for concern.
Olivier Giroud may have bagged three goals topple Thierry Henry as France’s all-time top scorer, but there’s no doubt that it’s Kylian Mbappe who provides the stardust for Les Bleus. The PSG forward already has five goals, netting at least once in three of four games in Qatar, though England will feel they stand as good a chance as any of stopping the 23-year-old with the pacey Kyle Walker available.
Although much attention has inevitably focused on the damage Mbappe company could do to England’s backline, if there is a weakness in France’s team, it also resides at the back. Hugo Lloris remains capable of a clanger, while Jules Kounde, nominally a centre-back, hasn’t been entirely convincing at right-back. With Theo Hernandez replacing his injured brother in the opening game, Raphael Varane only just back from injury and three different right-backs selected so far, France aren’t entirely settled in defence. In fact, they’ve conceded 11 goals in 10 games since June, despite the best teams they’ve faced being Denmark and Croatia, while there was just a solitary clean sheet.
England To Win 2-1
In addition, France lost the likes of Karim Benzema, Christopher Nkunku, N’Golo Kante and Paul Pogba to injuries before the tournament. Their reserves failed to deliver in the final group game as they went down 1-0 to Tunisia, as it’s England who posses the better options from the bench.
Southgate has endured criticism over his in-game management, though he can justifiably point towards his record in this tournament, most notably in switching Marcus Rashford and Phil Foden on the flanks against Wales and selecting Jordan Henderson against Senegal. The biggest dilemma seemingly facing the Three Lions boss is whether to stick with the back four or have the additional security of another man in defence, though with Jude Bellingham showing what he can offer going forwards, the extra man in midfield will likely be here to stay.
England Draw No Bet
Although France and in particular Mbappe will be difficult to supress for 90 minutes, Les Bleus can certainly be gotten at and Southgate can’t blame a lack of options to switch things up.
With the emergence of Bellingham in addition to French injuries to Pogba and Kante, England arguably boast the better midfield, making this tie a real 50/50 despite France holding the tags of favourites.
BOTH TEAMS TO SCORE
ENGLAND DRAW NO BET
ENGLAND TO WIN 2-1
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