England and France set up epic World Cup first in 'clinical' scenes

Pictured left to right, England striker Harry Kane and France star Kylian Mbappe.
England and France both won their round of 16 clashes to set up a first ever meeting between the two countries in the World Cup knockout stages. Pic: Getty

England and France have set up a mouthwatering World Cup first after a pair of clinical displays in the round of 16 set up a blockbuster quarter-final showdown between the fierce European rivals. Holders France booked their place in the last-eight with a history-making 3-1 win over Poland, while England cruised to a 3-0 win over Senegal in the other round of 16 match on Monday (AEDT).

The two commanding victories mean France and England will meet in the knockout stages of a men's World Cup for the first time in history. Considering the pedigree of the two countries and the history between them, it is a peculiar anomaly that has left football fans around the world salivating.

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France were the first to book their place in the quarter-finals after a historic goal from Olivier Giroud and an exquisite brace from Kylian Mbappe sealed the 3-1 win over Poland, who added a stoppage time consolation goal through Robert Lewandowski. Les Bleus had to dig deep but scored on the stroke of halftime as Giroud became the nation's all-time top goalscorer, his 52nd goal for France surpassing the record he shared with legendary striker, Thierry Henry. Mbappe's 74th-minute and stoppage-time screamers sealed Poland's fate.

England were perhaps even more impressive against the dangerous Senegal, with Jordan Henderson, Harry Kane and Bukayo Saka all finding the net against the African champions. Playing in their first knockout match on the world stage since the agonising extra-time 2018 semi-final loss to Croatia, Gareth Southgate’s men showed their quality to progress in Qatar.

Kane became England’s highest ever scorer at major tournaments after Henderson opened the scoring, with Saka superbly wrapping up a comfortable 3-0 win at Al Bayt Stadium. The reward is a return to Al Khor for the historic knockout stage match against France, that has the football world brimming with excitement.

Olivier Giroud becomes France's top scorer of all time

Poland, in the knockout stages for the first time since 1986 and looking for a first quarter-final appearance since 1982, had a huge chance in the first half but the France midfield did a great job at cutting the line to Robert Lewandowski, who only reduced the arrears when it was too late with a last-second penalty.

Keeper Hugo Lloris made his 142nd appearance and is now tied with Lilian Thuram as France's most-capped player, and he made his experience count with a superb quick save to deny Piotr Zielenski.

Poland's poise was close to being rewarded in the 38th minute when the onrushing Zielinski's shot was parried by Lloris. It then came back into the midfielder's path but his second attempt was deflected by Theo Hernandez. Jakub Kaminski followed, only for his shot to be saved close to the goal-line by Raphael Varane.

One minute from the break, though, France's tactics paid off. Mbappe drew the defence to him and slid the ball through into the path of Giroud, who grabbed the inch of space he needed to clip the ball past Wojciech Szczesny and net his third goal of the tournament. The 36-year-old Giroud, who did not score a goal in Russia four years ago, had drawn level with Thierry Henry on 51 goals after netting a double in the defending champions' 4-1 win over Australia in their opening Group D game.

Seen here, Olivier Giroud salutes supporters after France's World Cup round of 16 victory over Poland in Qatar.
Olivier Giroud salutes supporters after France's World Cup round of 16 victory over Poland in Qatar. Pic: Getty

France looked however too casual, especially Mbappe, but the forward came up with a spine-chilling rising shot that went under the bar before curling another jaw-dropping shot into the top corner one minute into injury time. They were his fourth and fifth goals in Qatar, and Mbappe became the first player to score nine World Cup goals before his 24th birthday, having netted as many as Argentina's 35-year-old Lionel Messi.

England show class in comfortable win

Meanwhile, England will know they need to take their performance up a level given some of the problems Africa Cup of Nations winners Senegal were able to cause in a first half that ended with a quickfire England double. Henderson was the unlikely man to open the scoring when coolly directing in the cutback from Jude Bellingham, who played a key role as England also scored with the final kick of the first half.

The 19-year-old led a brilliant breakaway that ended with Phil Foden playing on to 2018 Golden Boot winner Kane, who slammed home his first goal in Qatar to become the side’s eighth different goalscorer and the nation's leading goalscorer in major tournaments.

Saka joined Marcus Rashford – the man he replaced in the starting line-up – with three goals at this World Cup and iced the contest when he delicately clipped the ball over Edouard Mendy early in the second half. England were in cruise control from that point and manager Gareth Southgate rung the changes with progress to consecutive World Cup quarter-finals assured – something the Three Lions last managed in 2002 and 2006.

with agencies

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